The Qur'an was sent down to mankind by Allah to serve as a guide, it contains the very truest accounts, bringing glad tidings to man, warning him and instilling fear in him. It is a great mercy and the sole Divine Book. For that reason, it is the Qur'an that people must read and study above all else.
As well as containing the commandments of Allah, the Qur'an also gives people the most accurate information on a number of subjects.
Allah teaches us important wisdom in those sections that describe the lives of the prophets of the past. The life story of every prophet furnishes us both with lessons in faith and with examples of how we should behave in the time and society in which we live. Studying these life stories in detail, trying to grasp the wisdom they contain and praying to Allah that we might do so, is the duty of every Muslim.
In this text we shall be examining the life and struggles of one of these prophets of the past, Yusuf (as), and considering the knowledge that Allah imparts to us concerning him.
Prophet Yusuf (as), known in the Bible as Joseph, is one of those prophets about whose life the Qur'an has most to say. Almost all of Surah Yusuf, one of the longest in the Qur'an, is devoted to his life and that of his family. Early on in this surah, Allah reveals that his life story contains important indications, proofs and wisdom:
In Yusuf and his brothers there are Signs for every one of those who want to ask. (Surah Yusuf: 7)
Since Allah devotes a lot of space to the details of the life of Prophet Yusuf (as), we may be sure that believers have a great deal to learn from it. In fact, the final verse of the surah stresses that the life stories of the prophets contain important lessons for those who possess wisdom and reason and are capable of grasping the essential meanings inherent in creation:
There is instruction in their stories for people of intelligence. This is not a narration which has been invented but confirmation of all that came before, a clarification of everything, and a guidance and a mercy for people who believe. (Surah Yusuf: 111)
One of the great examples of wisdom in the life stories of the prophets is the way the verses do not merely describe events in the past, but also provide lessons for people of future generations while pointing to events that have yet to take place. In this sense, the life of Yusuf (as) has several meanings. When we look at his life we see that Muslims have faced similar difficulties in all ages, that they have been subjected to unfounded allegations by people who do not share their religion and that they have experienced a great many situations in which they have needed to exhibit patience and resignation before the will of Allah. We are told that at an early age Prophet Yusuf (as) was thrown down a well by his brothers and left to die, that he was later sold into slavery and spent long years in prison as a result of false accusations, and that he was tested with a number of difficulties. So when believers look at his life they find a great many similarities with their own lives. It is the immutable design of Allah that believers over the ages have faced similar situations. Allah makes this clear in a number of verses:
That was the pattern with those We sent before you as Our Messengers. You will not find any changing of Our pattern. (Surat al-Isra': 77)
That is Allah's pattern which has passed away before.You will not find any changing in the pattern of Allah. (Surat al-Fath: 23)
In addition to this, after all the traps that had been set for him; the way he was thrown into a well, slandered, unjustly imprisoned and left there for years, Allah eventually made Yusuf (as) head of the Treasury. He gave him power, rank and wealth. The unalterable pattern of Allah applies here, just as it does in every other field. Allah promises in several verses that the faithful will be delivered after all their tribulations:
Allah has promised those of you who believe and do right actions that He will make them successors in the land as He made those before them successors, and will firmly establish for them their religion with which He is pleased and give them, in place of their fear, security. "They worship Me, not associating anything with Me." Any who disbelieve after that, such people are deviators. (Surat an-Nur: 55)
Just as with the other prophets, believers who read the life story of Prophet Yusuf (as) will encounter many glad tidings and learn a great many lessons. That being the case, every believer must read these stories and attempt to grasp the wisdom they contain. A thorough understanding of the life of Prophet Yusuf (as) will provide believers with the kind of insight that will be of use to them in their daily lives and throughout their lives.
THE SINCERE PRAYER OF PROPHET YUSUF (as)
Throughout this text we have discussed how exceedingly devoted to Allah Prophet Yusuf (as) was, how well protected he was by Him, and how often he called upon and gave thanks to Him. This can be seen in the following verse in which Allah inspires him with the following words:
"My Lord, You have granted power to me on earth and taught me the true meaning of events. Originator of the heavens and earth, You are my Friend in this world and the Next. So take me as a Muslim at my death and join me to the people who are righteous." (Surah Yusuf: 101)
As we have seen, Prophet Yusuf (as) was aware that all the attributes he possessed, both the material benefits and his knowledge and reason, had been given to him by Allah . Those who deny true religion, on the other hand, believe that they acquire everything through their own efforts, thus magnifying themselves in their own eyes and displaying ingratitude for Allah's blessings.
Prophet Yusuf's prayer (as) as recorded in the above verse is another expression of his faith and fear of Allah. Despite being a prophet chosen by Allah, he wishes to die as a believer and join the community of the righteous. Nothing is taken for granted with respect to his position in the hereafter. He has a genuine fear of Allah and calls upon Him in his need.
This is the kind of understanding and behaviour befitting a believer. Those who regard themselves as worthy of the Garden, who claim that as beloved servants of Allah they will definitely be saved in the hereafter, and who belittle other people in their pride, are in a heedless state. The true believer, on the other hand, is always submissive in the face of Allah , is always mindful of jeopardising His good pleasure, and acts with the humility this awareness brings with it.
The duty of every Muslim is to be a sincere, submissive, devout and humble believer, just like Prophet Yusuf (as) and to pray with all sincerity, "So take me as a Muslim at my death and join me to the people who are righteous."
Throughout this book we have been examining the life of Prophet Yusuf (as) in the light of the details given in the Qur'an. Our only reliable source of knowledge about his life is that provided for us by Allah. Beyond that, we have absolutely no right to add or subtract even a single word. Allah has in fact indicated this, revealing that everything that has been related regarding Prophet Yusuf (as) actually consists of unknown things. The story of Prophet Yusuf (as) concludes with these words:
This is news of the Unseen which We reveal to you. You were not with them when they decided what to do and devised their scheme. (Surah Yusuf: 102)
In revealing this information to us, Allah both teaches us important wisdom, which we can use in our own lives, and has also made it easier for us to take the prophets of the past as role models by allowing us to become acquainted with them. With the exception of true dreams (which as we have seen from the evidence of Prophet Yusuf's own life, are not ordinary or everyday occurrences), we have no opportunity of actually seeing Prophet Yusuf (as), Prophet Ya'qub (as) or any other prophet while we remain in this world. However, careful reading of the Qur'an and deep consideration of the lives of the prophets, seeing the environment they lived in and their exemplary behaviour clearly in our minds' eye and striving to understand it, may allow us to become acquainted with the prophets and to make use of their superior perceptiveness, spirituality and nearness to Allah.
Everyone who reads this book must therefore reflect upon it carefully. They must consider the wisdom of the prophets Ya'qub (as) and Yusuf (as) and work out how to make that wisdom part of their daily lives. If a person abandons hope in the face of the troubles and woes that befall him, or if he says, "This is going to be very difficult to put right, there is nothing we can do," when he sees the plight of Muslims, then we should know that this is terrible heedlessness. We should remember the patience, determination and firm, unshakeable faith in Allah of Prophet Yusuf (as), who was thrown down a well, then sold cheaply as a slave, slandered, imprisoned for no crime and abandoned there for years. That is how to rid oneself of defeatism and despair. We must remember that in spite of the calamitous events that befell Prophet Yusuf (as) that seemed to be so great on the surface, he was freed from them in a moment by the generosity and mercy of Allah, and secured a great blessing.
Never forget that in the present day, just like in the time of Prophet Yusuf (as), there is a flawless Divine plan operating in every single event, and that Allah creates everything that happens under His good auspices and wisdom. Do not forget that Allah has power over all things, and that He always helps those who have faith and are sincerely devoted to Him, who devoutly seek to serve Him and follow His Messenger (saas). He gives believers blessings at times when they are least expected, and helps them in unforeseen ways. A human being's sole duty is to worship Allah on the basis of these truths, and to live his life accordingly.