- Maulana Wahiduddin Khan
The Best Story. Surah Yusuf (Joseph)
Surah Yusuf is very unique, because it is the only Surah that narrates the story of a single prophet. There are many lessons of importance in the story of Prophet Yusuf.
First of all, the Quran says at the beginning of this Surah: “We recount to you the best of stories (ahsanul qasas).” (12:2) We need to understand why it is the “best story”. This indicates that there are profound lessons in there for all of us. We need to discover these lessons. Jealousy. Joseph and Benjamin were the sons of Jacob from the same mother. Jacob had ten other sons from a different woman. Jacob preferred Joseph of all other sons as he realized that he was bestowed with a personality and traits that showed he would have a great future ahead. This preferential treatment by their father caused jealousy in his ten step-brothers. They plotted and conspired to do away with him to let their father’s affections be solely focused on them. The Quran tells us that they took him away and cast him into a well. They left him alone and went back home. A very critical message we get from this incident is that jealousy is a negative trait. It is equivalent to not accepting God’s will. Now, God in His wisdom and full knowledge bestows His favor upon some person. If we become jealous and engage in negative activity against him to bring him down, we are working to conspire against God’s planning and seeking to change God’s decision, which will never be successful. The Prophet Muhammad, pbuh, has said: “Beware of jealousy, for verily it destroys good deeds in the way fire destroys wood.” One of the rights others have upon us is to have feelings of compassion and well-wishing for them. Jealousy prevents that. Not only this, a person with a jealous mindset cannot have sublime spiritual feelings. It becomes an obstacle for nurturing those feelings and emotions which bring a person nearer to God. Jealousy is a kind of self-deprivation. Possibilities. Joseph remained in the dry well for three days. Until one day a caravan passed by and one of its members let his bucket down into the well to draw water. Joseph held on to it. When the bucket was pulled up, the people of the caravan were very happy to see a boy emerge, as it was age of slave trade and Joseph was sold off to an Egyptian for barely 20 dirhams! This Egyptian nobleman did not have a son of his own. So, he told his wife to rear and bring up Joseph well as he might be able to manage their family’s affairs in the future. So, here we see that Joseph’s brothers hatched a plan against him. They closed a door for him. But that very situation opened new possibilities for him. This tells us that every problem comes with an opportunity. This shows us that there is indeed no end to possibilities and scopes in the world. Apparently, you may see a door closing upon you, but at the same time God Almighty is opening other doors for you. You need to be able to positive to realize these new opportunities and avail of them. One should never be dejected. Shocks of Life: Preparation. After serving him for 20 years, the nobleman’s wife had Joseph imprisoned on false charges. He had to spend a few years in prison while being totally innocent. If we see Joseph’s life in retrospect, we’ll realize that he faced several shocks: he was thrown into a well at a relatively tender age separated from his beloved father, he was sold off as a slave for a paltry price, then he was imprisoned for wrong reasons for some years. This has been termed as the ‘best story’. To a person who sees superficially this might seem the worst story. But why does the Quran call it the ‘best story’? Here we need to understand a very important divine principle. When God decides something great for a person, He makes him go through situations that develop him and prepare him for the task ahead. The shocks and difficulties in a person’s life make him come out stronger and more resilient to face adversity. Moreover, during these trying times, we must imagine what Joseph must be going through – we must try to understand the state of his mind, his feelings and emotions. He must be turning to God so very often. He showed extraordinary patience at God’s plans when he was thrown into a well and did not protest at all; he exhibited deep sense of fear of God when he was being seduced by a woman but avoided it entirely for God’s sake; he gave proof of unshakable trust in God while spending years in prison on false charges. Surely in these years of solitude in prison, he must have turned to God and strengthened his bond with God thinking in silence and quiet. He didn’t protest, complain or speak to people about his situation of injustice. Rather, he continued to perform his duties in the prison. Rather than telling his prison companions that he was unjustifiably imprisoned, he said spoke to them about God and the Day of Judgment. All these were stages which God was making Joseph go through so that he is spiritually and intellectually prepared for the great responsibility to come ahead. If you are going through difficulties, it is preparation for you. You must see the stages in your life as God’s plan for your spiritual growth. You must learn to see God’s hand in your life. God has not created you and abandoned you. He is guiding you as well. Destiny. Joseph then got access to the royal palace due to his special ability to interpret dreams. He interpreted the king’s dream which impressed him a lot. He gave charge to him of the granaries, or the food ministry. Here we learn that in spite of the intrigues and plots that people did against Joseph, what God had destined for Joseph did finally come about. No one even though they had gone to extremes in eliminating him and unjustifiably destroying him, could harm him when God has decided something in one’s favor. Joseph showed that protesting against the injustice one has suffered is not the way out. Rather, working hard and being firm in faith is the solution. Then God will surely make you go ahead. Non-confrontation, political management. The king of Egypt was not a believer nor a follower of Joseph’s religion. This tradition of the Prophet of God shows that instead of confronting with the ruler of his time, he accepted a post under him and continued to perform his duty in that capacity. This was a principle of political adjustment and non-confrontation. Forgiveness and everything from God’s point of view. Joseph forgave his brothers, forgot all bitter experiences and again entered into brotherly or fraternal relations with them. His family came back to him and settled with him in Egypt. The one who rejects the truth looks at everything from the point of view of the human being, while a believer looks at everything in relation to God. Joseph received a high administrative post and he ascribed it to God’s generosity. He had the ability to interpret dreams but said that God had taught him all he knew. His own near and dear ones caused him trouble; even then he looked at this from the point of view that these were subtle devices of God by means of which He planned his intellectual and spiritual development.