Yusuf (Joseph) was the beloved son of Prophet Yaqub (Jacob), who also had 11 other sons. Binyamin, who was youngest, was from the same mother as Yusuf, while the rest were older half-brothers.

Yusuf, still a young boy, awoke one glorious morning delighted by a pleasant dream he just had. He ran to his father in excitement and said, “O my father, indeed I have seen eleven stars and the sun and the moon; I saw them prostrating to me.” Yaqub was overjoyed in realisation that his dear son was indeed chosen by Allah to be bestowed with Prophethood. However, Yaqub was concerned about his older sons’ possible reaction to this narration, for even though he treated them the same, they harboured jealousy towards Yusuf. He therefore warned Yusuf against relating his dream to his brothers, lest they plot for his downfall.

With the passage of time, the malice in the hearts of Yusuf’s brothers kept growing. They envied Yusuf because they felt he was special and they were not. Unable to handle their emotions they devised a plan to get rid of Yusuf by throwing him into a well. So, one day they approached their father and suggested that he send Yusuf to come with them on an outing. A very reluctant Yaqub said, “Indeed, it saddens me that you should take him and I fear that a wolf would eat him while you are unaware.” But the brothers insisted that they would take extreme care of him and that they Yusuf would enjoy himself.

The next day, Yusuf set off with his brothers. They traveled far, in pursuit of a well deep enough to throw their brother in. When they finally reached the well, on the pretext of drinking water they led him to it, grabbed him, and removed his shirt. Yusuf began struggling and pleaded with them to let go. The brothers eventually outpowered Yusuf and threw him down the well and rushed back home.

The brothers ran to their father carrying Yusuf’s shirt that was smeared with sheep’s blood. They cried, “O our father, indeed we went racing with each other and left Yusuf with our possessions, and a wolf ate him.” Yaqub’s was suspicious of their story, he in his heart believed his son was still alive and that the brothers were likely enticed by Shaitan (satan) to do evil. He remarked that the wolf was indeed merciful to have eaten his son up without tearing his shirt! He bore the bereavement with patience and prayed for his son’s safe return.

Meanwhile, Yusuf managed to cling onto a stone ledge, he prayed fervently to Allah to grant him salvation. Soon, a caravan bound for Egypt stopped at this well to fetch water. The water drawer hauled up his bucket and was shocked to see the handsome boy clinging onto the rope. The caravan people immediately shackled Yusuf and took him along to Egypt. Here, he was auctioned and sold as a slave to the highest bidder who happened to be the treasurer, Al-Azeez. Yusuf’s new master, who had no children, was completely taken with Yusuf. He told his wife to take good care of Yusuf and they could either use him as slave or take him for a son.

Yusuf not only grew up to be a handsome young man but was also blessed with exceptional knowledge and wisdom by Allah. His honesty won the heart of Al-Azeez, who placed Yusuf in charge of his household. During this period, Yusuf was confronted with his second trial. Zulaika, Al-Azeez’s wife, who watched Yusuf day after day, began to feel passionately about him. Her obsession heightened to a degree where she was desperate to fulfil her desire. 

One day, when her husband was away from home, she closed the doors and invited Yusuf to her. Yusuf, fearing Allah, replied, “[I seek] refuge in Allah. Indeed, he is my master, who has made good my residence. Indeed, wrongdoers will not succeed.”He turned away and run towards the closed door to escape. Zulaika chased after him in desperation and grabbed his shirt from the back which caused his shirt to rip. The door opened and Al-Azeez entered. Ashmed, she ran to him and cried, “What is the recompense of the one who intended evil for your wife but that he be imprisoned or a painful punishment?”Yusuf was baffled. He continued to deny his mistress’s claim saying, “It was she who sought to seduce me.”

Al-Azeez was a fair man. He was confused and unsure of whom to believe. So he consulted his wife’s cousin for advice. “If his shirt is torn from the front, then she has told the truth, and he is of the liars,” advised the cousin. Thus, Yusuf’s innocence was proven. Al-Azeez apologised for his wife’s indecency and swore Yusuf to secrecy.

Nevertheless, the story of Zulaika’s pursuit spread. Other women began ridiculing her character. Distressed, Zulaika planned to prove to them her helpless reaction to Yusuf’s extraordinary handsomeness. Hence, she invited these women to a banquet at her residence one day. There she served them fruit along with knives. When the women were happily chatting away while slicing fruits, Zulaika summoned Yusuf. The women looked up at him. Astonished at such angelic beauty, they cut their hands without even realizing they had. Zulaika seized the moment to announce that this was the man for whom she was blamed. She then warned Yusuf that if he denied her again he would be imprisoned, to which Yusuf replied, “My Lord, prison is more to my liking than that to which they invite me.” That night Zulaika convinced her husband that the only way to safeguard her honor and his prestige was to imprison Yusuf. Thus, Yusuf was thrown into jail.

During Yusuf’s time in jail, he was bestowed with the ability to interpret dreams. Two of Yusuf’s cell mates, mesmerized by his piety, sought him to have their dreams explained. One dreamt that he was serving the king wine and the other was carrying bread on his head which two birds were eating up. Yusuf initially called them to Allah, then interpreted, “O two companions of prison, as for one of you, he will give drink to his master of wine; but as for the other, he will be crucified, and the birds will eat from his head. The matter has been decreed about which you both inquire.” And he said to the one whom he knew would go free, “Mention me before your master.” But Shaitan made him forget the mention [to] his master, and Yaqub remained in prison several years.

One day the king of Egypt had an odd dream. He summoned his men and said, “Indeed, I have seen seven fat cows being eaten by seven [that were] lean, and seven green spikes [of grain] and others [that were] dry. O eminent ones, explain to me my vision, if you should interpret visions.”The cupbearer, who immediately remembered his companion in prison, informed the King of Yusuf and his impeccable dream interpretations. The King sent off his cupbearer to prison to meet with Yusuf and inquire about the peculiar dream.

Yusuf was overjoyed at the sight of his companion and knew that this was indeed the plan of AllahHe narrated to him, “You will plant for seven years consecutively; and what you harvest leave in its spikes, except a little from which you will eat. Then will come after that seven difficult [years] which will consume what you advanced [saved] for them, except a little from which you will store. Then will come after that a year in which the people will be given rain and in which they will press [olives and grapes].”

Amazed, the king ordered Yusuf to be presented before him. Yusuf, however, refused to leave prison until his innocence was proved. The king thus summoned the women relating to Yusuf’s incident. The women who had their hands cut, spoke of Yusuf’s innocence before the King, “Allah forbid! We know about him no evil.” 

verse 51 from Surah Yusuf

The wife of Al-Azeez was trapped. She confessed to the King, “Now the truth has become evident. It was I who sought to seduce him, and indeed, he is truthful.”

Thus, Yusuf’s innocence was proven. Released from prison, Yusuf stood before the King to thank him for his generosity. The king who was greatly impressed by Yusuf’s honest mannerisms and his pleasant personality led him to being appointed as the storekeeper over the storehouses across his land.

Yusuf harvested and stored crops during the seven years of fertility. Then there approached the years of famine, that also reached the household of Yaqub in Canaan. Yaqub sent all his sons except Binyamin to Egypt to purchase provisions. Yusuf immediately recognized his brothers and provided for them, but kept his identity disguised. He casually inquired about their family. The brothers informed the storekeeper of their house back in Canaan and their father and brother back home. Yusuf informed them to bring their younger brother along next time, or they shall receive no further provisions. He also placed the money they had paid with their supplies as an incentive to return.

The brothers returned home and said, “O our father, measure has been denied to us, so send with us our brother [that] we will be given measure. And indeed, we will be his guardians.” Yaqub was enraged. How could he trust them when they had failed him terribly with Yusuf before? After some time, however, their needs pressed Yaqub to send Binyamin with them for more provisions. He took their solemn oath to safeguard him. When they reached Egypt, Yusuf drew Binyamin aside and whispered into his ear, “Indeed, I am your brother, so do not despair over what they used to do [to me].”

The following day, Yusuf filled his brothers’ bags with grain. He then secretly planted the King’s golden bowl in Binyamin’s bag.

On departing, the brothers were stopped by the King’s soldiers who were looking for the King’s missing cup. The bags of the brothers’ were searched and the missing cup was retrieved from the bag of the youngest brother, Binyamin. The soldiers cried, “O caravan, indeed you are thieves.” The brothers were shocked! The brothers immediately remembered their sick father back home, and their vow to safeguard Binyamin at all cost. They begged the soldiers to release their younger brother and take one of them instead but the soldiers refused. The eldest among the brothers said, “I will never leave this land until my father permits me or Allah decides for me.” So the rest of the brothers left Egypt leaving the eldest behind.

When Yaqub learnt of his youngest son’s predicament he wept and wept until he became blind. He resorted to prayer for comfort for he knew that only Allah could ease his pain. Soon, he instructed his sons to return to the King’s land and inquire about their brother.

The sons returned to Egypt once again. They met with Yusuf and pleaded that tragedy had befallen them. Yusuf then spoke to them in their native language, “Do you know what you did with Yusuf and his brother when you were ignorant?”  It didn’t take long for the brothers to realise that this was indeed their long lost brother and began to tremble in fear. But Yusuf comforted them saying, “No reproach on you this day, may Allah forgive you.”  He then said, Take this, my shirt, and cast it over the face of my father; his eyesight will return.”

As instructed, the brothers cast Yusuf’s shirt over their father’s face and Allah miraculously restored his eyesight! They beseeched their father to seek Allah’s forgiveness for them. Together, they all set off to Egypt where Yusuf warmly welcomed them. Yusuf raised his father upon the throne and said, “O my father, this is the explanation of my vision of before. My Lord has made it reality. And He was certainly good to me when He took me out of prison and brought you [here] from bedouin life after Satan had induced [estrangement] between me and my brothers. Indeed, my Lord is Subtle in what He wills. Indeed, it is He who is the Knowing, the Wise.” Thus, Allah reunited father and son.

Lesson: Prophet Yusuf from his dream knew he was destined for greatness but it seemed at every turn of his life he was met with difficulties and adversity. He was betrayed by his brothers, sold as slave, and unjustly imprisoned. Yusuf could have chosen to be bitter and question Allah by saying, “I thought you had ordained for me greatness”. He could have easily complained and ask “why do these things keep happening to me”. But he knew better, he knew Allah had a plan for him and he had to just keep faith. Yusuf knew by just focusing on being the best he could, treating people right and with respect, doing more than what was requested that Allah would take care of him.

“There was certainly in their stories a lesson for those of understanding. Never was the Qur’an a narration invented, but a confirmation of what was before it and a detailed explanation of all things and guidance and mercy for a people who believe.” 
Surah Yusuf Ayah 111

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