Lecture by Yasir Qadhi | Transcribed by Sameera
[The following is the video playlist and transcript of part 3 of Shaykh Yasir Qadhi’s lecture series “The Best of Stories: Pearls from Surah Yusuf.” The transcript includes slight modifications for the sake of readability and clarity.]
In our last halaqah, we mentioned the dream of Yusuf (alayhi salaam) and the fact that his father understood immediately that this was a dream of importance and significance and that Yusuf would rise much higher than his brothers. He realized immediately that his brothers would wish to harm him because of that jealousy, so he told him, “Don’t tell your brethren. Keep it secret. Don’t tell anybody about this dream.”
Allah (subhanahu wata’ala) then says,
“And this is how your Lord has chosen you and has taught you the interpretation of dreams so that He may perfect His blessings upon you and upon the family of Ya‘qub just as He perfected His blessings upon your two fathers before you – Ibrahim and Ishaaq. Verily your Lord is All Knowing and All Wise.”
Allah says, “And this is how…” When Allah says, “Wa kadhalik…,” it can mean one of two things: Either through this dream Allah will protect you and Allah will choose you, or Allah is saying through this protection of you not telling the others your dream. In the ayah before this, the father says to Yusuf, “Don’t tell your dream.”
As we said last week, if Yusuf had told the dream to his brothers, then much worse would have happened. He didn’t tell the dream so much less happened. They still tried to do much harm, so imagine if he had told the dream what the harm would be.
Allah is saying, “Wa kadhalika yajtabeeka rabbuk [and this is how],” meaning “through you not telling the dream your Lord will yajtabeeka.” Ijtiba means to sift through and get the best.
Three things are mentioned:
1) Ijtiba is sifting through and choosing the best. Allah is saying, “We will choose you.”
2) “Wa yu‘allimuka min ta’weeli’l-ahaadeeth. [We will teach the interpretation of dreams.]”
3) “We will perfect Our blessings on you and upon the family of Ya‘qub as We perfected it upon your two fathers Ibrahim and Ishaaq.”
What are these blessings that Allah ‘azza wa jall is perfecting upon Yusuf? Allah says, “We will protect you and give you these blessings.”
1. The greatest blessing right now is prophethood.
2. Of being the most noble of all human beings in one sense and that is the sense of lineage. As we mentioned two weeks ago, the most noble of all people in terms of lineage is Yusuf (‘alayhi salaam).
3. “We will choose you above the rest.” Allah chose Yusuf by making him the one whom his brothers turn to for help even though he was the one whom the brothers abandoned and threw into the pit. Even though his brothers abandoned him, Allah chose Yusuf and forced the brothers to come back to Yusuf.
When did they come back to Yusuf? When he was the minister of finance, the minister of grain, and the minister of agriculture. At that point in time, the brothers of Yusuf were forced to come back. And no doubt, as the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) said, the upper hand is better than the lower hand. Yusuf had the upper hand because he was giving, and his brothers had the lower hand.
4. Also, of the ways that Yusuf was chosen, Allah mentions this: Wa yu‘allimuka min ta’weeli’l-ahaadeeth. “He is teaching you the interpretation of dreams.” And as we said last week, the interpretation of dreams is not a science that can be taught man to man, and this ayah proves it. Allah is the One who teaches this science directly. In fact, it can be said that this is one of the very few sciences that cannot be taught.
We as Sunni Muslims believe that all sciences of Islam can be taught from person to person through books. This is a difference between us and some of the mystical groups of Islam who say that you cannot teach any science and that all sciences are directly from Allah (subhanahu wata’ala). They make fun of people studying fiqh and hadeeth and tafseer, and they say, “This is backward. This is knowledge of the books, and we have the knowledge of the heart.” This is something that generally speaking, academic Islam and Sunni Islam looks down upon because we are a structured religion and a religion of science and a religion of academics and that is why the first ayah is iqra‘.
There are a few sciences that we agree cannot be taught by men, and of these is the science of dream interpretation. This shows us that Allah is saying, “I will teach you how to interpret dreams.” This is why I said, those books that you find and the encyclopedias you find on dream interpretation are by and large fabricated and just money making things. The fact of the matter is dream interpretation is something that Allah blesses His chosen servants with.
The scholars say that the more righteous a person is, the more likelihood he has to learn this science from Allah. This is proved by many verses in the Qur’an including in one of the last verses of Surah Al-Baqarah where Allah (subhanahu wata’ala) says, “Have taqwa of Allah and Allah will teach you ‘ilm.” When we have taqwa of Allah, this ‘ilm will be given to us.
5. What else has Allah blessed Yusuf with? Allah says, “I will bless you and choose you above others.” One thing we all know: Yusuf was blessed with beauty and looks. Our Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) said, “Yusuf and his mother have been given half of all beauty.” In another version, he says, “Yusuf has been given half of all beauty.” The point of this hadeeth is that it is as if all of the beauty of mankind was split into two, and half of it was divided by the billions of human beings and one-half of it was given just to Yusuf or just to Yusuf and his mother. This really shows us how handsome Yusuf was.
6. Also of the fulfillment of Allah’s blessings, Sa‘id ibn Jubayr, the most famous student of Ibn Abbas, said, “When Allah is saying He will fulfill His blessings, of the perfection of blessings is that Yusuf shall enter Jannah because Allah will never fulfill blessings until the person enters into Jannah.” You cannot have the completion of ni’ma without going to Jannah. In this verse, automatically Yusuf is given the good tidings or bashara of entering Jannah.
“And this is how your Lord has chosen you and has taught you the interpretation of dreams so that He may perfect His blessings upon you and upon the family of Ya‘qub…”
Allah says, “Allah will choose you and teach you the interpretation of dreams and perfect His blessings upon you and upon the family of Ya‘qub.” Yusuf is from the family of Ya‘qub; he is from the children of Ya‘qub. Allah is showing the special status that Yusuf has. It is as if Yusuf is one and all the rest put together are also one. All the rest do not equal the blessings of Yusuf, soYusuf has a separate category.
We know in the Qur’an that the aale of Ya‘qub (the family of Ya‘qub) is also called the asbaat, and the asbaat were also prophets. These brothers, who we are going to talk about, were also prophets. The question arises: How can these brothers be prophets and they are going to do the crime that they are going to do? The response is that the scholars agree that when this incident occurred, they had not yet been made prophets. They were going to be made prophets later on. When this incident occurred, they are still young, and they have not become prophets. How do we know that eventually they will become prophets? Allah says, “Say, ‘We believe in Allah and what has been revealed to us and what has been revealed to you and to Ibrahim and to Isma‘il and Ishaaq and to Ya‘qub and the asbaat.’” Who are the asbaat? These are the asbaat. The asbaat are the sons of Ya‘qub. Allah is saying, “I will choose all of you and fulfill my blessings upon you and upon the aale Ya‘qub just like I did it to your two fathers.”
“…just as He perfected His blessings upon your two fathers before you – Ibrahim and Ishaaq.”
Allah (subhanahu wata’ala) mentions, “Just like I fulfilled My favors to Ibrahim and Ishaaq.” What are the favors of Ibrahim (‘alayhi salaam)? This is worthy of a few hours lecture. We know so many things just from the Qur’an, and what is from ‘ilm al-ghayb Allah alone knows. The Prophet Ibrahim (‘alayhi salaam) was the father of all nations and the father of all future prophets. The Prophet Ibrahim (‘alayhi salaam) was the first khalilullah, and he was one of only two khalilullahs, the second being our Prophet Muhammad (sal Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam). The Prophet Ibrahim (‘alayhi salaam) was saved from the fire in this world, and of course he shall be saved from the fire in the next. The Prophet Ibrahim (‘alayhi salaam) was blessed with prophethood when there were no other Muslims on this whole earth. All of the prophets came from his progeny after him.
Isma‘il (‘alayhi salaam) was saved from Allah (subhanahu wata’ala) from the dhabh (slaughter), and he was saved by the sending of the sacrificial ram, and Allah (subhanahu wata’ala) made him and his progeny a great nation, and that is the nation of the Arabs. In fact, there is more than one nation coming from Isma‘il. For example, the Nabati’oon (Nabateans) are descendants of Isma‘il as well even though they are not the descendants of the Arabs. The Arabs are a separate category than the Nabati’oon.
Ibrahim (‘alayhi salaam) was chosen that all future great nations came from Ishaaq and Isma‘il, his two sons.
Allah says, “We will perfect My favors upon you as We perfected it upon Ibrahim and Ishaaq.” In this, there is an allusion (isharah) that if a father is righteous, the children generally speaking shall also share in that righteousness. This is from the wording: “I gave Ibrahim favors, I gave Ishaaq favors, do you think I will deny you the favors?” This shows us that one of the best ways to guarantee that your children are righteous after you is for you to be righteous yourself.
This is proven not just in this verse but in many other verses, most significantly in Surah Kahf and the story of the wall. Khidr and Musa pass by the wall, and the wall is broken. Khidr builds the wall, and the people were rude to them. Musa says, “Why did you build this wall when they were so rude to you? What was the purpose of this?” Khidr at the end of the story says, “This wall is in a land belonging to two orphans, and their father was a righteous man. These two orphans are babies now. If the wall collapsed and the treasure underneath it was known, the villagers would take it, but I built the wall so it will last 15-20 years and the kids will grow up and then when they will rebuild the wall will find the treasure.” What will happen? They will get their treasure that their father stored there. The point being the righteous father blesses the children in this world and the next.
In this verse we also find the allusion that Ibrahim and Ishaaq are so great, do you think that Ya‘qub and Yusuf are not going to be great? Father to son and mother to daughter are generally speaking how religiosity and Allah’s Favors are passed down. Of course, this is a general rule, and there are hundreds and millions of exceptions. We as Muslims understand that one of the best ways to guarantee our children are good after us is by us being good and by us being good Muslims.
“Verily your Lord is All Knowing and All Wise.”
Also, Allah (subhanahu wata’ala) concludes this verse by saying, “Your Lord is ‘Aleemun Hakeem.” Allah uses two Names. Al-‘Aleem means the One who knows everything. Al-Hakeem has two meanings to it. The first meaning comes from hikmah, which means the All-Wise. The second meaning comes from hukm, which means judgment. Allah is the One who is All-Wise and Allah is the One who judges. Why does Allah end this verse with Al-‘Aleem Al-Hakeem? It is as if Allah is saying, ‘I know what I am doing, and I am doing everything with a wisdom. Realize that whatever is going to happen to you, realize that I am Hakeem. I have a divine plan. Don’t give up. Don’t think that I am doing things randomly or haphazardly. I know the past, and I know the future. I have saved your grandfather Ishaaq from being slaughtered, and I have saved your great-grandfather Ibrahim from the fire, and I shall save you also from the well. I am Al-‘Aleem. I am Hakeem in that I put them through trials and tribulations, and they became who they became. I will put you through trials and tribulations, and you will become who you will become.” Allah is saying, “I know what I am doing. Put your trust in Me, and know that everything I do is done for a wisdom.”
As a side note here: Allah (subhanahu wata’ala) calls Ibrahim and Ishaaq the ‘father’ of Ya‘qub – ‘ala abawayka. Abb means father, and He does not call them jadd, which means grandfather. From this, some of the scholars of fiqh have derived – this is a side note of fiqh not related to ‘aqeedah or tafseer – that the grandfather takes the place of the father when the father is not alive. This is generally true in issues of becoming wali. Some scholars have even said that the grandfather takes the place of the father in inheritance when the father is not there. This is a longer chapter of fiqh not related directly to this. The point being this verse is one of the evidences used because Allah calls the grandfather father. The scholars say that when a person dies and has brothers and sisters and a father, then by unanimous consensus, if the father is alive, then the brothers and sisters will not inherit because the father gets the money. The father blocks the brothers and sisters. There is an ikhtilaaf that comes if the father is dead but the father’s father (the grandfather) is alive. Does he also block the brothers and sisters? Some of the scholars, including Ibn Taymiyyah and Abu Hanifah, say that the grandfather does block. Again, we are getting into inheritance, but the point being that they use this verse as one of the evidences: Allah calls Ibrahim and Ishaaq the ‘father’ of Yusuf even though they are not the father; they are the grandfathers.
Allah (subhanahu wata’ala) then says, “Indeed verily there is in Yusuf and his brethren [meaning in the story of Yusuf and his brethren], ayat for those who ask.”
We already talked about what ayah means, and Allah already mentioned ayah before this. The meaning of ayah is a sign, lesson, miracle to ponder over.
In some places in the Qur’an, Allah (subhanahu wata’ala) says there are lessons for those who think and in other places, Allah says there are lessons for those who reflect, and in other places, Allah says there are lessons for those who use their ‘aql. This ayah is one of the only places in the Qur’an where Allah says there are ayat for those who ask (aayaatu li’l-saa’ileen). There are a number of points here. What is the meaning of ayah in this context? Why did Allah restrict it to those who ask? In other verses Allah said: la aayaatu liqawmin ya‘qiloon, liqawmin yatafakkaroon, liqawmin yadhdhakkaroon. In this ayah, Allah says, “aayaatu li’l-saa’ileen.” In this ayah, Allah says, “aayaatu li’l-saa’ileen.”
An ayah is an indication. Scholars say that this story is an indication of primarily three things:
1. The indication of the Power and the Sunnah of Allah (subhanahu wata’ala).
2. The indication of the truth of the Messenger.
3. The indication of the lessons and morals within the story of Yusuf.
Let’s talk about each one of these briefly:
The Sunnah of Allah ‘azza wa jall. An ayah about who Allah is and how He deals with His servants.
From this, we learn that Allah is ever watching the servants, and in the end, victory is always given to the righteous and sincere. The ayah is that the righteous shall always inherit, and the righteous shall always be the victor. The reason why the surah was revealed was a consolation for the Prophet (sal Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) that: “Just like right now you are being ridiculed and humiliated and just like you had been thrown into the well of ignominy by your nation, so too was Yusuf before, but the end result is for those who have taqwa.”
This surah is also an ayah for the truthfulness of our Prophet Muhammad (sal Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam).
We already mentioned the story of the Yahud that the Quraysh asked the Yahud, “Give us a trick question that nobody would know except a prophet.” The Yahud said, “Nobody knows the story of Yusuf except us.” They were in a land – we kept on mentioning this before – that does not have books. They were in a land that does not have an encyclopedia. They were in a land where the people were not the children of Ya‘qub. They were from the children of Isma‘il and had nothing to do with this branch.
The Yahud said, “None of you know this story. Only we know it because we are the chosen people. Go ask your prophet if he knows the story of Yusuf.” Allah says, “In this story there is an ayah that this prophet is a true prophet because he would not know the story otherwise.” Allay says in another verse, “You and your people before you did not know this story. You were not standing on the western side of Mount Sinai when We spoke to Musa. You were not in the room when Zakariyyah and the people were arguing over who would take care of Maryam.” Once again, all of these stories have nothing to do with the Arabs. You need to understand, the Arabs had no knowledge of these stories because it was not their people. They were uneducated and illiterate and had no books and no madrassas. When we read these stories, for us we know the Old Testament and the New Testament has them, but the Arabs of the time never had the Old Testament and the New Testament. This is an ayah that our Prophet (sal Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) is truthful.
The third we said is the lessons we learn from the story itself.
This is the whole point of the tafseer that we are doing: what are the lessons we derive? Allah is saying in the story of Yusuf and his brothers there are many lessons (aayaat).
What are the rest of the aayaat? Through the rest of the tafseer, we will derive these aayaat. So we have said that there are three types of ayat in this story: 1) the Sunan and Powers of Allah, 2) the truthfulness of our Prophet (sal Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), and 3) the lessons and morals of the story of Yusuf, which is what we are talking about through these halaqat.
Here Allah is saying: “These aayaat are for those who ask.” Asking is the least indication of inquisitiveness. It is the lowest level of being inquisitive. Thinking, contemplating, yatafakar, and yaqib are higher levels because you ask the one who thinks, and you ask the one who knows. In most verses, Allah says ‘in these are aayaat for a people who think, for a people who ponder.’ In this, Allah is saying, ‘in these are aayaat for those who ask.’ This is the lowest level. The meaning here is these aayaat are so clear you don’t need to be a grandiose, magnificent scholar and you don’t need to be a high-powered intellectual. All you need to do is turn to the surah and ask, ‘What are the miracles? What are the signs? How can I benefit?’ This is why when every one of us reads Surah Yusuf, it just appeals to us. We learn so much; even if we don’t know Arabic, we read the translation and benefit so much from this surah. Allah is saying, “aayaatu li’l-saa’ileen” – all you have to do is turn to the surah and ask. Of course, no doubt, the more you ask, the more you will learn and know. In this there is an indication that asking is of benefit, and you should ask.
Asking is of benefit, and our Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) himself commanded us to ask. The Qur’an is full of ‘yasalunaka (they ask you about this and they ask you about that).’ In a hadeeth in Sahih Muslim, our Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) said, “Saluni, saluni. (Ask me. Ask me.) I will answer you.” In one hadeeth, the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) sent an expedition out to a ghazwah to fight. It was in the middle of the desert night and very cold. One of the men became injured in the war, and he woke up one night in a state of janaba. He was in a state of janaba and had an injury on his head, and the people were wondering if he should do ghusl or not. One of them said, “I think he must do ghusl. I don’t see any excuse for him.” They did not have any knowledge and were just thinking – as we find so commonly people say, “I think Islam says this, and I think Islam says that.” So this man says, “I think he should do ghusl.” The man did ghusl, but the wound in his head was not fully healed and so the cold killed him. When they came back and informed the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam), he became so angry, and he said, “Why didn’t they ask when they were ignorant? Verily, they killed him! May Allah curse them. Verily the cure to ignorance is asking.”
Asking is something that is generally speaking encouraged. Of course – I have to point out here – sometimes asking is discouraged in Islam, and that is when the asking becomes takalluf and too much detail and going beyond what you need to know. Asking generally speaking is praiseworthy, and this verse shows it, but sometimes, Allah says in the Qur’an, “Don’t ask about things that will cause you harm or grief.” There are examples given in the seerah and the athar of the sahabah. This is more common amongst students of knowledge or amongst people who don’t have much knowledge when they ask about that which doesn’t concern them. For example, ‘what is the verdict on those group of Muslims?’ or ‘what is the verdict on this or that?’ when they themselves don’t know the basics of fiqh or taharah. This shows that their questions are going too far.
Once one of the students of Aisha (radhi Allahu ‘anha) came and would ask a lot of questions of this obscure nature and this minutia. She said, “Oh my nephew, have you perfected your salah? Have you prayed your tahajjud regularly? Have you done your ibadah the way that it should be done?” The man began giving one hundred and one excuses as we all give. Then Aisha said, “Then don’t increase Allah’s evidences against you by asking about these things.” Don’t increase these minutia knowledge and then Allah will ask you even more about why you didn’t practice what you knew. Don’t increase all of this. Asking is generally speaking praiseworthy, but sometimes it becomes negative.
Allah ‘azza wa jall is saying that anybody who is eager to derive benefit from the story of Yusuf and approaches the story of Yusuf will be able to do so. “Aayaatu li’l-saa’ileen.” How much more so when we study this with contemplation and with tadabbur? This is the point that if you are a sa’il then you will benefit, so how about if you are tadabbur or ta’kiloon or tatafakarun? You will benefit even more. And that is insha’Allah the goal of this series of classes – we will go into a lot of detail.
“When they [meaning the brothers] said, ‘Yusuf and his brother indeed are more beloved to our father than all of us, and we are usbah (a gang / group). Surely our father has made a grievous, clear error.’”
“Idh qaaloo…” (“Remember when they said…”)
Remember, we said that ‘idh‘ means ‘recall’ or ‘remember.’ Idh is how you narrate a story in Arabic. In English, we don’t have this; therefore, for the English reader, the word idh doesn’t really make sense. “Remember when, remember when” – we don’t have this narrative. In English, we start a story with ‘once upon a time’ and go to the end of the story. In Arabic, idh is how they narrate a story, and so in the Qur’an, you always find the word idh (i.e. idh qala rabbuka…). The idh here is simply ‘remember’ or ‘recall,’ and it is one of the ways that the Arabs would tell their stories.
Idh qaaloo: when they said (meaning the brothers)
La Yusufu wa akhoohu: The extra laam is for ta’kid or emphasis, and it is as if they were saying: “This is an undeniable fact / we know this to be real / there is no dispute / indeed (we say this in English) / there is no question Yusuf and his brother…”
They were all his brothers, but by unanimous consensus, they are talking about his full brother. As we said two weeks ago, Yusuf (‘alayhi salaam) only had one full brother from their mother, and the name of the full brother was Benyamin. Some say that Yamin is the Hebrew for ‘power’ and Benyamin means the one of power. Others say that Yamin is pain and because his mother died in childbirth and in pain, he is called the one who is born in pain or anguish. Benyamin is the Hebrew and Arabic for Benjamin, which is the English version. There was no ‘j’ sound in ancient Aramaic. There was no ‘Jesus’, it was ‘Isaw in Aramaic and ‘Isa in Arabic. The name ‘Jesus’ came from Latin, Greek, and other languages.
Benyamin and Yusuf were the ones who were from one mother, and they were younger than the other brothers. Benyamin was still a newborn baby and not talking at this stage. Most scholars say that Yusuf was 7 to 10 years old – in other words, a young child.
“When they said, ‘Yusuf and his brother indeed, without any denial or doubt about this, are more beloved to our father than all of us, and we are usbah…”
Usbah here means a gang or a group. The meaning of a gang or a group is not a negative gang but: ‘we are large in number and they are just two.’ The brothers were 10 and Yusuf and Benyamin were two, so they were saying, “…we are usbah…” Not only that, but they were saying, “We are older than them, and we are more useful to our father and take care of his needs and irrigate and take out the sheep. What can Yusuf do? What can his baby brother do? What is the problem with our father? We are the majority, older, and stronger, so how can he love Yusuf and his brother more than us?”
“‘…Surely our father has made a grievous, clear error.’”
“…Inna abaanaa lafi ddalaalin mubeen.” Once again, inna and la add emphasis. “Surely – there is no doubt – our father has made a plain mistake, a grievous, clear error.” Remember that Ya‘qub is a prophet, and to consider a prophet to be dhalal is a type of kufr, but the sons were not saying that their father was dhalal in righteousness and Islam but were saying that their father was misguided in something of this world. Had they considered their father to be misguided overall, then they would not be Muslim anymore. The scholars interpreted this phrase and said that the brothers are saying that their father is mistaken in this one issue of this world and not to do with the religion.
Immediately, we see that the brothers are not to the level of Yusuf; otherwise, they would not be speaking like this. We already see that Yusuf and his brothers are not at the same level because they are thinking about something that Yusuf is not thinking about, and they are getting angry about something that Yusuf is not thinking about. These brothers are inherently less righteous than Yusuf. Automatically, by this statement of theirs, we see that the father loves the more righteous of the children; otherwise, they would not have been jealous. Had they truly been righteous, they would have ignored this and overlooked this. They are not as righteous, and the father loves the more righteous of the children, and that is Yusuf.
Also notice that they are saying ‘our father loves.’ Love is an emotion, and they know that he loves Yusuf by the tenderness and by how he looks at them. They cannot accuse the father of giving Yusuf more than the other children. This is the point here. In our Shari’ah, we are obligated to be equal with our children. We cannot prefer one child over another in material blessings. As for the heart, it is not in our control.
When it comes to material blessings and physical blessings, all children must be equal. Once a man came to the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) and said, “Oh Messenger of Allah, I want you to bear witness that I am giving this son of mine one of my servants as a gift.” The Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) said, “Do you have other children?” The man said, “Yes.” The Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) said, “Did you give all of them the same gift?” He said, “No.” The Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) said, “Don’t you wish that all of your children love you the same? [In another version: treat you the same, give you the same good].” The man said, “Of course.” He (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) said, “Then don’t do this. Don’t give one child a gift that you are not going to give to the other children. Fear Allah and be fair amongst your children.” [Hadeeth in Bukhari and Muslim] Fear Allah, and be equal amongst your children, and don’t give one child a gift that you don’t give to the other children.
The point here is the brothers of Yusuf could not say that their father gives Yusuf more because that would be unfair. All they could say was that their father loves Yusuf more. Loving is an emotion of the heart, and Allah does not call you to task for the emotions of the heart. You cannot be blamed for loving one more than the other. They simply know this by the gentleness and mercy and the look in his eyes and not by physical gifts.
“Kill Yusuf or throw him to some [unknown] land. The face of your father will become solely dedicated to you and after this become righteous, good people.”
Ardaa here means ‘some land we don’t care about / some unknown land.’
The extent of their jealousy is so much and it is burning them so much that they reached the level of thinking ‘why don’t we kill Yusuf?’ Remember, they are talking about this when Yusuf is not there, and as for his brother Benyamin, he is too young and still a baby at this time.
We have talked about the dangers of jealousy. The Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) said, “Beware of jealousy because jealousy consumes good deeds like a fire eats up twigs.” We learn from this that jealousy drives people insane and makes them do things that are absolutely ridiculous.
What is really sad here is that they were jealous for something noble and not for something evil. They were jealous for their father’s love, which is something generally speaking a good thing. You want your father to love you. Even a jealousy for something good can lead you to do something evil. It is not just jealousy for wealth or fame or power, but jealousy for something positive can drive you insane.
They said, “Let’s kill Yusuf.” Another one said, “Let’s exile him (i.e. kidnap him and take him to a faraway land or an unknown land).”
“…and after this become righteous, good people.”
“…wa takoonoo min ba‘dihi qawman saaliheen.” (“…and after that become righteous people.”) This is an interesting phrase. “Let’s do the deed and then let’s be better after it. Let’s do the worst of all evils [killing], and after we murder, we can be good people.” These thoughts come to us from Shaytan. It is so common that when we think of something bad, Shaytan says to us, “Let’s just make it up afterwards.” You are not the first person Shaytan is deluding in this manner. You are not the first one who is thinking of bad thoughts and then thinks, “Let’s make it up afterwards.”
We can see from this story that this is an age-old tactic of Shaytan. He dangles the bait and then says, “Don’t worry, eat it and afterwards you can live good lives. You are not the first one to do so.”
As we shall see, sins lead to other sins. They thought that they would do one deed and that would be the end. They didn’t realize that once they did one deed that then they need to lie and swear upon the lie and build upon the lie and do more things after that and cover it up. They don’t realize that sins lead to more sins and evil leads to more evil. There is no way that when you do a deed that it would then be the end of the story. This is the tactic of the Shaytan, and Allah ‘azza wa jall warns us about this through the story of Yusuf.
Some of the commentators of the Qur’an mention here that these brothers were still young and hadn’t reached puberty. They say that because they are trying to get out of the problem of knowing that these people are eventually prophets of Allah. The question is: How can prophets of Allah do this? The minority said that they did this when they were pre-puberty (i.e. 11, 12). As we know, when we do a sin or a crime pre-puberty (i.e. 6 years old, 5 years old, 10 years old), Allah does not write it for you in your hisab because you haven’t developed the mind yet and are not mukallaf yet. Others refuted this and said that the brothers of Yusuf were adults and this verse shows it because had they still been children, they would not be thinking in this manner.
The first group refuted them again and said, “The brothers asked for Yusuf and they said they were going to go play. Do adults play?”
The debate amongst classical scholars is whether the brothers of Yusuf were kids or adults. A minority says that they were still children and were going to play. The response from the majority is that it is allowed (mubah) for people to play. They can go racing and do this and that. Aisha and the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) played. There is nothing wrong with playing if it is a mubah or an allowed playing. Also, – and this is what really proves the point completely – at the end of the story, the brothers say, “Oh our father, forgive us. We made a grievous mistake.” Had they been children, they would not made a khata and nor would their father have had to ask for forgiveness for them because in our Shari‘ah, a child is not mukallaf. Quite clearly, they are adults.
Another interesting point here: Religiously, their motivation was that they would do the deed and then they would do something good so that Allah would forgive them. In terms of this dunya, what was their motivation? Their motivation was that if they got rid of Yusuf, then their father’s attention would be on them. Did this even come true? By getting rid of Yusuf, did they get their father’s attention? No, they lost both things. Both of their goals were not met. The first goal was to make one mistake and that they would be fine after that, but this did not happen because one mistake led to another problem and another problem. The second goal was this dunya: “Let’s get rid of Yusuf. Our father will forget about Yusuf, and we will become number one.” What happens? Their father turns away from them. The Qur’an says that literally, their father turned away from them, and there is a metaphorical meaning that we will discuss when we get to that verse. “Tawalla ‘anhum (He turned away from them)…”
What they did actually defeated their goal rather than aided it. Had Yusuf been there, the father would have loved the other children to a reasonable level. By depriving him of Yusuf, the father turned away from them completely. This shows us that you cannot get the halal through the haram. You cannot get blessings by turning away from the commandments of Allah. If you want happiness and richness, you will not get it by doing the haram.
These people wanted something halal that human nature and one of the most desired goals of every man: that his father loves him and his father is proud of him. This is human fitrah – Muslim or non-Muslim – and they wanted this noble goal that their father would love them, but the way that they approached it was through the haram. From this, we learn that you will never get the halal and the blessings of Allah through the haram. Rather, by turning to the haram, the very goal that you seek will be lifted up, and you will not get it. They wanted two things, and both of them were lifted.
In the middle of the story, the father is so grieved that he goes blind. He keeps on saying, “Woe to me! Where is Yusuf? How much I miss Yusuf!” He goes blind because of Yusuf. The brothers are so irritated and say, “When will you stop mentioning Yusuf?” The brothers wanted him to stop mentioning Yusuf by killing Yusuf, but he never stops mentioning Yusuf, and in Yusuf’s absence, the mentioning of Yusuf increases. This really shows us that the Promise of Allah is true and the promise of Shaytan is false.
Some scholars say – and this is a deep point [Allahu ‘Alam], an interesting point: No doubt that this is the deception of Shaytan that when they wanted to do this, they said that they would be good afterwards. There is no doubt that any time when we think of an evil deed and then think that we will just do it and then make up for us that this is the Shaytan whispering to us. Some scholars have said that at least this attitude is better than the one who does not even think of tawbah at all. At the end of the day, these were children of a prophet. They were not completely jahill. Yes, they did a major sin, but their father did raise them to be good Muslims.
This is a point that requires a little bit of thought – but I guess overall it is worthy of attention: Having regret even before you do the act is better than having no regret at all. This also shows us that Allah’s Mercy is so vast. These brothers were plotting a dastardly deed and said, “Allah will forgive us,” and in the end, Allah did forgive them. This is a powerful message. Their attitude was so flippant and unbecoming of a Muslim (‘I’ll do a bad deed and kill Yusuf and be good after that’).
Imagine if someone did something like this to you [i.e. ‘I’m going to steal his money but he is good and he’ll forgive me’], how angry would you be when you heard that? Allah is telling us that this is how they thought and this was their frame of mind. Despite that fact, eventually Allah did forgive them. This really shows that Allah is the Most Forgiving and the Most Merciful.
One amongst them said, “Don’t kill Yusuf, but throw him into the ghayaab (recesses) of the well. Some travelers will find him, and they will take him.”
Ghayaab here means recesses / crevices / bottom; from ‘ghayb‘, you don’t see it. The jubb is a type of well that doesn’t have a built wall around it. A bi’r is a more constructed well while the jubb is a more primitive well. Because they said “throw him into the jubb (well),” they know exactly which well they are talking about. There is a well that is well-known and famous which they know. This is a rudimentary well and not the well that they are regularly using. If it was the well that they were regularly using, then it would be the built-up well. This is a faraway well, which some of the travelers would use, and not frequented by the local people, otherwise it would be built up. This is a well that everybody knows of but is not used on a daily basis.
Sayyara here doesn’t mean a car but means those who are travelers. Iltiqaat means ‘to pick up’ or ‘to find.’ The word is very precise. Iltaqata means you pick it up / found something you didn’t expect. Some travelers will find him, and they will take him.
“One of them said…”
Some people say that this was the oldest because he will come again and again in the story. Others say that this was another brother. Regardless, this is the perfection of Allah’s storytelling in that He does not give us details that are useless. If you read the Old Testament or any book of history, you get bored so fast because there are so many details that are irrelevant. The beauty of Qur’anic stories is that you never get bored because Allah tells you what you need to know and does not tell you what you do not need to know. Who cares which brother it was? How do we benefit? There is no relevance at all. If we were to say, “Simon said this or Rubiyal said that or Raqiem said that” and then in the next story another one and then the next version, we would all get confused who did what. In Allah’s Mercy, He said, “One of them said.” This is perfection.
No doubt, the one who said this is the one who has more intelligence and more piety than the others.
“…if you must do something,…”
This shows that he doesn’t like what is going on, but he does not oppose it. His evil is less than the evil of the other nine. If this is the oldest brother, and this is the strongest opinion, then it appears that he is trying to minimize the evil and make it lesser than what they wanted to do. They want to kill him or exile him alone in the desert while he is saying to put him in the famous well that the travelers and caravans go by which has water, and he will stay there for a day or two and eventually somebody will pull him out. In that day and age, that boy would automatically become a slave, or they would take him to the next stopping post and leave him there. He would be looked after and at least would not die and would not be killed.
This brother suggests the lesser of the two evils. This is a well-known principle in our religion. There is a rule in usool al-fiqh that if you must take one of two paths – or more than two – and all of them are negative or haram, then you must choose the lesser evil of the two. This is something that we can apply in so many situations, especially in the times that we live in. Sometimes you are forced to do some type of evil or some type of thing that you do not like, and the scholars say the lesser of the two evils is to do this.
A classical example – I don’t want to get too controversial, but it is always used in our times: The issue of voting in the elections. People are going to be elected regardless of whether we vote or not. Some hardline scholars say that you should not vote and it is haram to vote. I personally don’t agree with this, and one of the reasons being we apply this rule. If you don’t do anything, regardless of what you do, somebody will get into that position. By getting involved and petitioning and campaigning and getting the Muslims to see which of the two candidates is better – nobody is going to be perfect, especially in politics – then you can get the lesser of the two evils, even if you have to pollute your own hand a bit in the process. This is a rule that we find we have to use a lot in America. There are certain things that are going to happen, and we are going to just have to choose the lesser of the two evils. We get this from the story of Yusuf and his brothers.
Notice here that Allah (subhanahu wata’ala) is describing their evils, and their evils are numerous:
1. They are breaking the ties of kinship. This is their brother.
2. Yusuf is not just a brother but a young brother and a child. They are breaking the bonds of the young child.
3. They are going against the rights of their own father because the one they are harming is not just related to them by blood but is also the son of their father. It is not just that they are harming a stranger, but they are harming their father and brother simultaneously. The Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) said, “Whoever does not show mercy to the younger of us and respect the older of us is not one of us.” This is a beautiful hadeeth. By doing what they are doing, they are breaking both of these commandments. They don’t have mercy for the younger Yusuf, and they don’t have respect for the older father.
4. They are also ignoring the love that their father has for that son.
Because Ya‘qub is a prophet, all of these sins are magnified. This is not just any person but a prophet of Allah. Once again, this shows the dangers of hasad and evil. In another hadeeth about hasad, which is very relevant here, is in Tirmidhi; the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) said, “One of the diseases of the people of the past has crawled amongst you as well.” They said, “What is this?” He said, “Being jealous and hating others.” Jealousy and hatred are diseases, and unfortunately they have crawled into us as well. And then the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) said, “And these are the things that shave. I’m not saying that they shave the hair, but they shave the good deeds, and they shave the religion.” Shave the religion means that you do not have the religion left. Too much of hasad and jealousy and enviousness will destroy you. And then he said, “I swear by the One in whose Hands is my soul, you will never enter Jannah until you love one another. [This is the opposite of hasad.] Should I not tell you about something that if you do it you will love one another? Spread the salaam amongst you.” The point is once again that jealousy, hasad, and enviousness will destroy the deen.
“They said, ‘Oh our father, why don’t you trust us with Yusuf? Why don’t you give us Yusuf? Indeed we are going to be his well wishers. We are going to wish him the best. We do not want for him any harm.’”
They devised the plan and agreed that they would take Yusuf and throw him into the well that was known to them. They know their father will be suspicious, so they already present the excuse and get rid of it. They say, “Oh our father, why don’t you trust us with Yusuf?” They didn’t come to him and say “send him with us,” but first they say, “Why don’t you trust us?” They catch their father off guard; this is human psychology. They immediately get rid of the suspicion and say, “We are eager to protect him and are sincere to him.”
“Send him with us tomorrow. He will play and enjoy himself. We will of a surety guard him.”
Once again, they set up the stage by calming their father down and by firstly disarming his suspicion, showing him that they are so good and will not do anything. The petition comes after allaying their father’s fears. “Send him with us tomorrow. He will play.” In another qira’a, it says ‘he will eat and he will play.’
“…and we are going to protect him.”
The Arabic here is very precise. I don’t want to go into too much ‘irab because I will lost most of you, but the point here is that there is a triple emphasis: wa innaa lahu lahaafidhoon. There are three ways that there is an emphasis here. They didn’t say “nahfadhuhu,” which would be the bare minimum. This is a chapter in Arabic which simply does not exist in English, and when you translate it into English, it sounds very dry: “Indeed, verily, surely we will guard…” – this doesn’t work. In English, we do not really have this emphasis too much. There is no emphasis in English; it is a rather dry language whereas in Arabic, there are ways to emphasize, and generally speaking, the triple emphasis is the highest. They are speaking in the most eloquent, pressing, and sincere manner possible. They have already plotted and planned and are convincing their father saying, “Trust us and we are going to be fine. We love him and he is our brother. Let him go and enjoy. Tomorrow we are going to eat and have a good time and we will protect him and we will take care of him. We want his best interest. He is our younger brother. We want him to enjoy and have a good time, and we are the elders, so we will protect him.”
We will stop the story here and insha’Allah we will resume next week.