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The Youth of Prophet Yusuf (peace be upon him)


© Jamia Al-Karam | PDF Download a printer-friendly PDF of this article | Email Email this article to a friend

By Shaykh Muhammad Imdad Hussain Pirzada, July 2007

IN THE STORIES of the noble prophets lies much guidance and counsel for us. Just as Allah (most high) in Surat Yusuf said, “There is certainly advice in the stories of the noble prophets for those who have understanding.” (12:111)

Prophet Yusuf (Joseph) is the first prophet of Banu Isra’il (Children of Israel) and Prophet ‘Isa (Jesus) is their last prophet. Allah (most high) has declared the story of Prophet Yusuf (peace be upon him) to be the ‘best of stories’ (ahsan al-qasas).

Prophet Yusuf (peace be upon him) spent his youthful years in a land whose citizens were non-Muslims in terms of their belief and doctrine and in terms of their character, immorality was their norm. In other words, wrong was not considered to be wrong. The Muslim youth today in the West are also facing a similar situation and circumstance. Therefore, they need to pay careful attention to this story and attempt to gain guidance and advice from it.

The Story in Brief

Prophet Ya‘qub (Jacob) had twelve sons and one of them was Prophet Yusuf (peace be upon him). In respect of physical beauty and moral character, Prophet Yusuf (peace be upon him) was exceptional compared to his other brothers and as a result Prophet Ya‘qub (peace be upon him) loved him dearly. This then lead to jealousy entering the hearts of the other brothers who began saying that their father was mistaken and committing wrong by loving Prophet Yusuf (peace be upon him) more. Consequently, under the pretext of a recreational outing, they managed to take Prophet Yusuf (peace be upon him) to a deserted area and threw him in a well. Fortunately, a trading caravan from Syria was passing by the area heading towards Egypt. When people from this caravan came to the same well to take water from it, they were able to take Prophet Yusuf (peace be upon him) out of the well. Prophet Yusuf (peace be upon him) was taken along with the caravan and eventually sold as a slave in Egypt.

Egypt’s State Treasurer, al-‘Aziz, bought Prophet Yusuf (peace be upon him) and kept him at home. The wife of al-‘Aziz, Zalikha, fell in love with Prophet Yusuf (peace be upon him) and invited him towards committing wrong with her, however, he refused. Zalikha then called her female friends to influence the situation and intercede on her behalf.

This highlights the fact that immorality was not considered evil in that society and that is why the women said to Prophet Yusuf (peace be upon him) that Zalikha was his owner and he was her possession. As such he needs to listen to her and obey her command. At that time, Prophet Yusuf (peace be upon him) was merely eighteen years old and these years of youth are known to be full of passion and frenzy. However, he responded to the women saying, “My faith does not permit me to become immoral and sinful, thus, I cannot fulfil her wish.”

To this, the women continued to urge him and commented that if he listens to them, he will enjoy a lavish life, full of respect, in this house and if he is persistent in his refusal, he will become disgraced and dishonoured and will be locked up in prison.

At that moment, Prophet Yusuf (peace be upon him) made a supplication saying, “My Lord! Prison is preferable to me than what these women are inviting me to.” (12:33) Prison would be far better for me so that I can be protected and kept away from your disobedience. When Prophet Yusuf (peace be upon him) clearly refused, he was imprisoned.

Ponder over the conduct of Prophet Yusuf (peace be upon him) in prison. Prophet Yusuf (peace be upon him) used to console the saddened prisoners, inquire about and assist the sick, fasten bandages over the injuries of the injured, invite the prisoners towards the oneness of Allah (most high), interpret dreams in such a manner that his interpretations would be completely accurate, offer prayers and spend the nights crying and weeping out of the fear of Allah (most high). Due to his knowledge and beautiful character, all prisoners began adoring him dearly and would sit beside him to attain tranquillity and peace in their hearts.

In this manner, Prophet Yusuf (peace be upon him) spent twelve years in prison. Then, one night, the King of Egypt had a dream in which he saw that seven lean cows were eating seven fat cows. This dream was a cause of anxiety and worry for the King. He began asking his courtiers for an interpretation, but none could provide a satisfactory interpretation of the King’s dream. In prison, Prophet Yusuf (peace be upon him) was questioned about the dream and he stated that after seven years, the land of Egypt will be struck by a severe and long drought. If today corn and grain is not stored away and no means of protection are determined, then all people will die of hunger.

The King preferred this interpretation and brought Prophet Yusuf (peace be upon him) out of prison, seated him beside himself on the throne and said, “I cannot find anyone in my land who can face this huge challenge.” At that point, Prophet Yusuf (peace be upon him) said, “Make me the State Treasurer for I know how to protect, preserve, record and calculate.”

Eventually, the King became so impressed with the knowledge, character and sincerity of Prophet Yusuf (peace be upon him) that he passed on all remainder powers of the Egyptian rule to Prophet Yusuf (peace be upon him). After assuming all the powers of Egyptian rule, Prophet Yusuf (peace be upon him) established such an atmosphere of justice and fairness that followers of other faiths and ideologies began loving and adoring him. The King himself became so devoted to Prophet Yusuf (peace be upon him) that upon his hands he accepted Islam. With the passing of time, other people of Egypt also became Muslims.

The story of Prophet Yusuf (peace be upon him) is very detailed and still continues further from this brief outline; including within it how the brothers of Prophet Yusuf (peace be upon him) and Prophet Ya‘qub (peace be upon him) arrived in Egypt. However, I will comment only in relation to the outlined parts of the story above. In doing so, I wish to draw the attention of the youth; their minds and their hearts.

The Outcome

Egypt at that time was a non-Muslim state. Citizens of that land were idolaters and immorality was their norm. Prophet Yusuf (peace be upon him) entered that country as an immigrant, but not by his own choice and free-will, rather, forcefully as a slave.

Pay close attention! Can I ask; how did an immigrant, who was sold into slavery in Egypt, become the ruler of all Egypt after twelve years? Prophet Yusuf (peace be upon him) was imprisoned by the State Treasurer of the land, how did the King of the same land take him out of imprisonment and appoint him as the State Treasurer?

There may be many reasons for this, however, I will comment briefly on only four of them.

1. Prophet Yusuf (peace be upon him) remained steadfast upon his Islam in a non-Muslim society. As a result, he endured twelve years of prison life, but did not become disobedient to Allah (most high). The lesson here is that we need to attempt to remain steadfast and determined upon our faith of Islam in this non-Muslim state and, by the grace of Allah (most high), this steadfastness will one day bear fruit.

2. Through his God-given knowledge, Prophet Yusuf (peace be upon him) presented such an interpretation to a dream that was able to rescue the non-Muslim populace of a non-Muslim state from the destruction that a drought would have brought.

Any person who benefits the human race and positively contributes becomes more beloved to Allah (most high). As the noble Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said that all creation (whether a human being or an animal, Muslim or a non-Muslim) is the family of Allah (most high) and that person is most beloved to Allah (most high) who benefits His family more. This does not mean that someone needs to benefit you in some way first and then you may give benefit in return. Rather, O Muslim! Whether someone benefits you or not, you need to strive to benefit others. Whether someone is good to you or not, you need to strive to do good for all, because all creation is the family of Allah (most high).

3. When the King of Egypt became unable to find a suitable, capable and reliable person who could carryout practically the interpretation of his dream, then Prophet Yusuf (peace be upon him) presented and offered his services. For this reason, people of knowledge write that it is permissible for a Muslim to accept any position given by a non-Muslim ruler so long as the tasks and duties do not include anything contrary to Islam.

On this basis, I sincerely congratulate Shahid Malik MP on accepting the role of Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for International Development) and Sadiq Khan MP on accepting the role of Assistant Government Whip at the House of Commons, and I hope that both these youthful individuals will play their role in bettering the image of the Muslims.

4. When Prophet Yusuf (peace be upon him) was appointed as the State Treasurer, he presented a very great character and carried out his work with utmost sincerity. As a result, the King himself and the general populace were greatly affected and thus became Muslims. Therefore, we need to work with pure sincerity and present a great character wherever we work. By seeing our character and personality, even if nobody accepts Islam, they would certainly affirm the greatness of Islam.

[For footnotes and references please consult the PDF of this article]

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