Lecture by Yasir Qadhi | Transcribed by Sameera
[The following is the video and transcript of part 11 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.]
We had reached in our story of Surah Yusuf the point in time where Binyamin is now being held by Yusuf, and the brothers are shocked and in astonishment – “What are we going to do now when Binyamin has been taken?”
The first thing they did was disconnect from Binyamin: “He is not of our tribe. He is not of our mother. He has a different mother, and his brother has been known to steal, so we expected him to steal.” Then, they realize that they are in serious trouble because they have promised their father out of all of the brothers only for Binyamin, and out of all of the brothers, it is Binyamin who has been discovered to have stolen. They realize that they are in trouble now.
What are they going to do? Their first tactic is that they say, “O ‘Aziz,…” – and from this, some scholars have derived that Yusuf became the ‘Aziz that was his master because they are using the same term. His master was also called ‘Aziz, and now he is being called ‘Aziz, so from this a number of scholars have said that Yusuf took over the position of his master, and other scholars have said ‘Aziz means ‘person of honor,’ so it is just ‘O minister’ or ‘O his excellency.’ We will never really know for sure. It oculd be that he took over the position, and if this is the case, then no doubt, Allah ‘azza wa jall had planned this that Yusuf was a slave in the house of the person whose job eventually he would take, and so he saw firsthand how to run the ministry. It is as if Allah is preparing Yusuf for what is about to happen. And if it is just a position of honor, then this too is permissible.
They said, “O ‘Aziz, verily he has a father who is a shaykh and is very old.” Why did they say ‘he has’? He is their father, so they should have said, “We have.” Two reasons can come. The first is to bring about extra sympathy that the one that he has chosen, it is his father. The second goes back to the issue that they didn’t feel that much connection as much as Yusuf and Binyamin did. In the first interpretation it is as if they are making Yusuf more sympathetic – “the one that you took, his father.” The second interpretation is as if they don’t feel that level of love that they want to feel, and so they dissociate and say “he has a father” and not necessarily “our father.”
They say, “He has a father who is a shaykh and kabeer.” They use three adjectives: ab, shaykh, kabeer. All of them are meant to derive more sympathy. The first is: this is his father. The second is: he a shaykh. What does a shaykh mean? A shaykh can, in their time, can mean ‘the elder of our tribe, the leader of our tribe.’ He is not just any person. He is the son of the leader. Another interpretation of shaykh in our time is somebody of knowledge. A third interpretation of shaykh is somebody of elderly age. All of them are equally valid in Ya‘qub. Ya‘qub is the leader of the tribe, a person of knowledge, and an old man. They use a term that will bring about sympathy: he is the son of a nobleman, he is the son of a leader, he is an elderly man, an old man. All of this is used to extract sympathy from Yusuf (‘alayhi salaam).
“Take one of us instead because it is his old father who is a shaykh and beloved of the tribe. We see you to be of those who have great, excellent character.”
Once again, we find the characteristic of Yusuf being a muhsin over and over again. From the prison and from the witnesses in the palace, he is being called a muhsin. Everybody is testifying to the character of Yusuf. As we said over and over again, this is part of being a Muslim. You have to establish your character before you are going to open your mouth. Even these brothers don’t know that this is their brother and say, “You are such a generous man. Surely you will have sympathy for this old person, and surely you will have sympathy for his aban, shaykhan, kabeera. Why don’t you take one of us instead of Binyamin?”
Ma‘adhallah means ‘the one in whose refuge is sought is Allah.’ He didn’t say a‘udhubillah, which is the verb and means ‘I am seeking refuge in Allah.’ He is saying “ma‘adhallah,” meaning ‘the one in whose refuge is sought is Allah.’ This is more powerful than saying a‘udhibillah. Just like we say subhanAllah – we don’t say usabihullah but say subhanAllah, meaning ‘the one who should be exalted is Allah.’ Regardless of whether I exalt Him or not, He is worthy of being exalted. When we praise Allah, we say subhanAllah, alhamdulillah. This is a fact. If I don’t praise Allah, it doesn’t diminish the fact that Allah deserves to be praised. If I don’t seek refuge in Allah, it doesn’t change the fact that it is in Allah that refuge is sought. Ma‘adhallah – this is the fact. It is more powerful than saying a‘udhubillah.
“He said, ‘The one in whose refuge is sought is Allah. We seek Allah’s refuge in taking anyone other than the one upon whom we found our belongings.’”
Notice that he was accused of stealing, but Yusuf cannot say ‘the one who stole’ because his brother didn’t steal, so he makes a much longer phrase: the one from whom our belongings was found amongst. Yusuf cannot say ‘the one who stole’ because that is a lie and his brother didn’t steal. Yusuf makes it much longer, but they are not going to catch on. This shows us that even in difficult times you cannot lie and are not allowed to lie. That is why the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) never once in his life uttered a lie. It is allowed to give double meanings (tawriyah) – we will talk about this when we get to the seerah. You can give a double meaning that you intend one thing and person intends something else. This is a type of tawriyah here because what Yusuf said was understood by the brothers to mean stealing, but he didn’t say stealing. He said ‘the one who had the belongings.’
“‘If we were to do this, we would be of those who are guilty of committing injustice.’”
“How could we keep anybody else if Binyamin is the one who did the crime [allegedly]. He is the one who must be punished.”
Istayasu: It is difficult to talk about Arabic eloquence, but sometimes you have to. Allah could have said “falamma ya’isu minhu” meaning ‘when they despaired of him’ but He said “falammastayasu” and the sin and the ta are for seeking it more. It means they tried and they tried and they tried and then they gave up. Just by adding the sin and the ta, you get the connotation of them having tried repeatedly to get Binyamin out. Allah does not need to go into detail – just two letters gives us a whole imagery that this isn’t the only tactic that they tried. They tried another and they tried another and they tried another until finally there was no alternative and they gave up hope after a long period of time.
When they completely despaired of trying to get Binyamin, they continued different tactics and then they despaired.
“They broke away and held a private gathering.”
Khalasu – they broke away. And that is why ikhlaas is ikhlaas because you break away from others to Allah (subhanahu wata’ala). The word naja means to have it secretly. That is why Allah (subhanahu wata’ala) prohibits to have munaja – don’t have secret talks unless it is for something good.
They broke away and they had a secret gathering, meaning other people are not hearing. They need to discuss what they should do and what the tactic is.
“The eldest amongst them said, ‘Don’t you know that your father took a solemn promise from you [meaning in regards to Binyamin]? He took from you a covenant with Allah’s Name, and before this, we had already fallen short and committed a mistake with regards to Yusuf. I will never leave this land until my father gives me permission or Allah judges something else in my case. And Allah (subhanahu wata’ala) is the best of all those who judge.’”
Farratah means ‘to be less than what is required.’
The eldest one is the one who begins to speak, and this shows that he is feeling guilty and righteousness has now begun. The change has begun, and now the guilt is catching up to him. This person is the same person, according to most of the scholars, who was the one who said, “Don’t kill Yusuf. If you have to do something, throw him into the well.” When Allah describes him in the beginning of the surah, what does He say? “One of them said.” It was unspecified. It was assumed that he was the eldest, and that is what the majority say as well. Here, Allah is saying, “The eldest said.” Now Allah specifes.
In the beginning, Allah doesn’t mention who (‘one of them said’). Now Allah is specifying ‘the eldest said.’ Why? The response: A part of our religion tells us that we hide the faults of others, but we should mention the good. If somebody does a mistake, we try our best to hide the fault. Back then, they were doing a crime, and even if the crime of the eldest is a lesser crime than murder, it is nonetheless a crime. He is not doing something praiseworthy when he is saying, “Go throw him in the well.” It might be better than killing him, but it is still a crime, so Allah (subhanahu wata’ala) covers him up, and there is no need to mention. Now, he is doing something positive, and he is showing his penitence and remorse, so Allah mentions him by name basically – “the eldest amongst him said.”
This is the Sunnah of the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) as well that when someone committed a crime or did something bad, then the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) would say, “Why do some amongst you do this?” He would never say ‘why do you do this’. He wouldn’t mention names. He would say, “Why do some people do this?” When some good would happen, then he would praise the person. This shows us the Islamic methodology that when a sin or mistake occurs, we hide the mistake as much as possible. We already talked about this before. We hide the mistake as much as possible. We do not mention specifics, and we do not mention names unless there is a strong need to do so. We gave examples many halaqat ago. When a good occurs, we should praise the person behind his back. We should say, “Do you know so-and-so masha’Allah gave this much / built the masjid…” We praise people because this encourages good, and when evil happens, we cover it up, and this clearly shows this.
“The eldest amongst them said, ‘Don’t you know…’”
This is a rhetorical question. “Don’t your remember? Don’t you know?” Of course they know. A rhetorical question is used in order to emphasize something that is known. A rhetorical question is more effective than a statement and that is why I gave the example last time when a father is rebuking his son and says, “Don’t you know I am your father?” The rebuke is stronger and brings the point home more. Similarly, he is saying, “Don’t you remember? Don’t you know what we have done? Your father [meaning: all of us] took a strong covenant with Allah’s Name. We have a problem now. Before this, we have also fallen short when it comes to Yusuf.” Now he mentions the name after so many years of not mentioning. Now the guilt is brought up. “This is going to be devastating. So what is the solution? There is nothing I can do, but I will send a sign to my father that I am innocent of this, and I didn’t do anything wrong. I shall impose a self-exile upon myself.”
A lot of us don’t understand the connotation here because we are so used to moving and traveling. The fact of the matter is that leaving your land and culture and going to a different land and culture is actually a type of punishment and type of torture. That is why some penalties in Islam require one year of exile according to some madhabs – we will not go into detail here. Some penalties require one year of exile, and you must leave your land and go to another land because it is torture and a type of punishment to be away from family. His wife and children are back home, and he is alone here, and it is not his culture. He is being singled out as a foreigner, and he will be treated differently, and there will be discrimination. This is not like our times when this is now politically incorrect. This was a different time; discrimination was open and clear, and everybody discriminates against other people.
He is a foreigner and a stranger, so he is going to impose exile upon himself to send a message to his father that “O father, I’m not doing this for personal gain. O father, I’m not doing this to get something. Something happened beyond my control. Something happened that I didn’t know was going to happen, and I want you to know I feel guilty about this, so until you give me permission to return and until you are content with me, I’m not going to return, or unless Allah judges something.” What is Allah’s judgment here mean? Either a revelation comes down to Ya‘qub because he is a prophet or that something else happens that is beyond his control. For example, if he is kidnapped and taken somewhere else, then that is beyond his control. He allows one other way out which shows his wisdom. If he said ‘until my father allows me,’ then what if his father passes away or what if he passes away? He allows one way out: ‘or Allah ‘azza wa jall allows something for me.’
“And He is the best of all those who pass judgment.”
This shows he has accepted the judgment of Allah. It is as if he is saying, “O Allah, I know I am guilty for what happened with Yusuf, and I know Your Judgment will come. I put my trust in You, and I know You are forgiving. I know You are the best in judgment. You know my heart. O Allah I put my trust in You.” Clearly we see the change beginning and the leaf turning over. The first of them to change is of course the eldest because he is the most mature and the wise amongst them.
Being the eldest and being in charge, he now instructs them what to do. “I have put this exile upon myself, as for you, you all go back to your father and tell him, ‘O our father, your son committed a crime and stole and we only testified to what we knew.’”
What is this testimony? The testimony that Binyamin stole, and they saw this. Or it is that they testified to Yusuf regarding the punishment of the thief. “Our shahadah to Yusuf when Yusuf asked us what should the punishment be, we gave the shahadah (testimony) that the thief is punished according to becoming a slave. This is what you taught us. This is your ‘ilm you gave us. This is our religion, and we testified according to our religion.”
“And we could not have possibly known the ‘ilm’l-ghayb. We could not have known when we testified that the thief should be taken a slave that our brother was the thief.” Another interpretation is: “We gave our promise to you based upon what we knew. We didn’t know that our own brother would commit a crime.” The point being they are making a legitimate excuse that: “We did our best. We tried to fulfill the promise but we couldn’t predict the future. We did not know ‘ilm’l-ghayb.”
Of course they know that their father is not going to believe them, so he tells them that when they go back, tell them:
Ya‘qub knows his son is not a thief. Even the brothers would never have thought that he stole, but they saw clearly, and he is quiet. You can imagine that if he was ‘set-up,’ then he would be protesting, “I didn’t put it there. I don’t know how…” But he is quiet because Yusuf has told him to be quiet, so the apparent scene is that Binyamin is a thief. There are ten brothers clearly seeing that the item is found in his merchandise, and he is standing there quietly not protesting. This is the confession of guilt. They are saying, “We testified to what we saw, but we didn’t know what would happen in the future, and if you don’t believe us, go ask the city that we were in.” This either means ‘you go yourself’ so it is a type of exaggeration that ‘you can go yourself to the city’ or it means ‘if you think we are lying, send somebody to the city and ask them.’
“Or at least, even easier, ask the caravan that we returned with. They were all there. They all saw.” You can imagine that there are trading caravans that are coming and going all the way. “Ask the caravan as well. Get other witnesses; it is not just us. We are telling you the truth.” Just like the case of the boy who cried wolf too many times, they have lied before about Yusuf, and now they are saying something which to them is true, and they are trying to get their point across, but they have established their character as being liars.
Ya‘qub is excused for saying the exact same phrase he used for Yusuf. There is a reason for this. “I know you tricked me back then. I know you are tricking me again now because I know my son. He is the most righteous amongst you. He would never steal. There is no way he would steal.” He is certain that something else is going on. He knows that something is beyond his understanding, so once again he says, “You have all done something. I don’t know what it is, and I don’t understand what you have done. You have the whole town talking and the whole caravan on your side. I don’t understand, but I know my son is not a thief.”
“Rather, you have all come together to do something in your minds. You have plotted a plan. As for me, I will have a beautiful patience.”
Once again this is the same phrase: fasabrun jameel. Just like last time, we say this shows us that patience is of different types. You can have a low patience or a mediocre patience, which is good and that’s ok, but the best patience is sabrun jameel – the most perfect patience or the most beautiful patience What is the most beautiful patience? Now we will find out. This is the description of the most beautiful patience.
‘Asa here is harfu tamanni. “I hope, I am optimistic.” In English, we will say insha’Allah – that is how we say it. “I am optimistic that Allah will bring all of them.” There are three missing kids: Yusuf, Binyamin, and the eldest. The scholars say that after Yusuf and Binyamin, his favorite was the eldest, and this also shows he was the most righteous. So his three most favorite sons are now all out of his sight, and his optimism is so high that he says, “I hope all three of them will come back to me. Verily, He is the One who is the Most Knowledgeable. He knows what He is doing. He knows why this is happening, and He is Al-Hakim (Wise). I trust His Judgment and His Wisdom. He has a wisdom I don’t understand, so He knows why this is happening, and He has a wisdom that I don’t understand.”
It is absolutely amazing to look at the optimism of Ya‘qub. There is one disaster and one calamity after another despite the fact that he tries his best to avoid the calamity. SubhanAllah it is as if he senses something is happening, and he tells his children, “Promise me by Allah, and enter in through different gates, and protect him, and…” Still the thing that he is worried about happens.
Can you imagine? When we are scared about one particular thing and then that thing happens, the pain is worse. It’s not a complete surprise, but it is worse because you were trying to avoid it and yet that very thing happens. His son goes missing. Not just that, but a calamity he didn’t expect, and that is the eldest.
Now what does he say? “My optimism is so powerful, insha’Allah Allah will return all three of them.” This shows us what true faith does to a person. Faith (iman) in Allah (subhanahu wata’ala) causes you to be optimistic, and it is a sign of iman to be optimistic. Ya‘qub never loses optimism in Allah ‘azza wa jall – he loses optimism in his sons, and he has given up of all good from them, but in Allah (subhanahu wata’ala), it only increases. SubhanAllah – to put it in a very blunt manner – the more the mu’min is tested and tried, the more he reads in positive into what is happening.
I repeat this again because this is a key point in this story: the more the tests and trials fall upon the mu’min, and the worse the situation becomes, the closer he comes to Allah (subhanahu wata’ala) and not the opposite. The opposite happens to one of weak faith. One museebah happens and he says, “Why is this happening to me?” A second museebah happens and he says, “Oh my God, something must be wrong” and then he accuses Allah (subhanahu wata’ala), “What is the wisdom? I don’t deserve this.” A third one happens and some people turn their back to religion and leave saying, “Why is this happening? What type of religion is this? What type of god is this that he is sending down calamity after calamity?”
The more calamities that happen to a mu’min, the closer he becomes to Allah and the more optimistic he becomes and says, “There must be a wisdom. Allah is ‘Aleem and Allah is Hakeem. I don’t know the wisdom, but Allah knows the wisdom.” The one who doesn’t have iman begins doubting Allah and begins rejecting Allah and begins getting more arrogance and pride just like Iblis and Adam and the difference I mentioned many times before.
He turned away. He doesn’t know what to do. He will not get any sympathy from them, so he turns away. He wants privacy. He wants solitude. He says something he doesn’t intend for them to hear because Allah says, “Wa tawalla ‘anhum…” but he says it from his heart, and it just comes out, and so they hear it.
“And he says, ‘O woe to me, how my grief is for Yusuf. ‘”
Ya asafa is like saying ya hasrata in Arabic – you are invoking the concept of grief. ‘Ya‘ means you are calling somebody. Ya Ahmed, ya Mustafa, ya Zaynab – you call out. So here, you are calling grief – ya hasrata – and you are adding an alif at the end, which is invoking the image of this grief. It is as if what has happened to you is so worthy of grief that grief himself or herself is personified and it is in front of you and you are calling, “O my grief.” This is the Arabic, and there is no equivalent in English as far as I know. In Arabic, ya hasrata and ya asafa are invoking a concept, and you think that the concept should be right here because it is as if what is happening to you and that concept is a person in front of you, and you are invoking the person. Hasrata means ‘my grief.’ He is in such grief that he is invoking the concept of grief as if the grief and the trouble should be in front of him.
Notice subhanAllah that he has just received word that Binyamin and the eldest are missing. Who does his heart go out to? Way back twenty-five, thirty-five years. Look at the love he has for Yusuf. The memory of the other two sons has in fact invoked the memory of Yusuf, subhanAllah. Isn’t it amazing that the brothers thought that by getting rid of Yusuf their father’s love would be given to them. It did nothing but increase his love for Yusuf. SubhanAllah this shows us that when we commit a sin thinking that it will bring about some type of good, this is the classic delusion from Shaytan.
When you commit a sin saying, “Okay, just one time this will happen and Allah will forgive after that,” that sin will get the exact opposite of what was intended. They wanted to do the sin in order to make Ya‘qub forget about Yusuf. Allah punished them by making the exact opposite happen, and that is that Yusuf overtook his heart, so much so that when he just hears that the other two sons are missing, he is sad but his heart goes back to Yusuf.
“And his eyes became white because of grief.”
Some scholars have interpreted this to mean that he became blind. Allah knows best, but it doesn’t appear to be that he became totally blind, rather it appears that his eyesight became weak and literally white. If Allah ‘azza wa jall had wanted to say that he became blind, He would have said ‘became blind.’ But rather, He used the word ibyadhdhat, which means ‘became glazy, became white.’ This most likely shows, and Allah knows best, that he didn’t actually become blind. Even the fact that he turned away and walked away – even though of course blind people can do this – but I am saying the actions given to him seem to suggest that his seeing has now become blurred and his seeing is not fully powerful and has become weak but he is not totally blind.
His grief is so much. He has been crying for twenty-five, thirty-five years and his eyes have become affected. SubhanAllah, is this even medically possible? I don’t know, but for him it happened. Just by crying he went half-blind meant that in his case the crying was so excessive and the grief was so excessive that it affected his eyes.
Kadheem comes from kadhama which means ‘to cover up, to hold back.’ Allah praises those who can hold back their anger. Kadhim means the one who holds back and controls and is hiding it. Allah is saying his eyes became white with grief. Allah could have said ‘huwa kaadhim‘ meaning ‘he is withholding,’ but Allah said ‘huwa kadheem.‘ Just like Allah’s Names Al-Sami‘ Al-‘Aleem and not saami‘ and ‘alim. Allah’s Name is Baseer and not baasir. What is the difference? Saami‘ means ‘the one who hears.’ Sami‘ is the One who hears all. Baasir is the one who sees, and Baseer is the One who sees everything. There is an emphasis in the verb.
Allah describes Ya‘qub as ‘he has concealed, he has withdrawn, he has protected, he has not shown his grief.’ He has not shown his grief. Allah praises him for not showing his grief and for controlling his emotions. Why? Of the perfection of one’s faith in Allah is that you don’t turn to others for their sympathy. You turn to Allah (subhanahu wata’ala). This is a part of perfection that you don’t go begging from other people.
Again, I have to be clear: it is not wrong, in fact it is the average human being. His faith is mediocre and average and he needs to turn to other people for some support and for some help, but as your iman increases and as it reaches the level of these people (and how few amongst us can reach that level?), you realize what good is the sympathy of my fellow men. What benefit is it if somebody gives me his pity? In fact, it is humiliating for my iman at that level to get pity of these people. What is their pity going to do to me? If I feel good when other people pity me, then I have not put my trust in Allah the way that He deserves.
When you get to this level – and understand that it is not a sin to not be at this level; this is a person who is a prophet of Allah – then you cut off hope of any good from humanity because their good will not benefit you. You don’t want their good, and you don’t want their pity. What am I going to do with your pity? I don’t need your sympathy. Even a man sometimes says, “I don’t need your sympathy.” It is a sign of manliness that they say this.
It is a sign of iman to cut off sympathy from the creation. You keep it to yourself. Fahuwa kadheem. He is keeping his sympathy to himself. He is expecting Allah (subhanahu wata’ala) and only Allah (subhanahu wata’ala) for that reward.
Notice that expressing grief by crying is not going against sabrun jameel because Allah describes him as having beautiful patience, but he is still crying, so much so that his eyes have gone white. To cry or to show some natural emotions between you and Allah (subhanahu wata’ala) and not doing it to get the sympathy of the people, but it just happens, this is not wrong and doesn’t go against the perfection of iman.
When his son Ibrahim was in the hands of our Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) wheezing and gasping the last few breaths that he had, the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) could hear the wheezing and began crying. The sahabah had rarely seen him cry. In the whole seerah, we come across two or three times when he cried in public. One of them is when he (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) visited his mother’s grave. When he visited Aminah’s grave, he cried so much that his beard became wet, and the sahabah had never seen him cry and they all began crying when he was crying in front of his mother’s grave.
The second time is when his son Ibrahim died in his arms. He began crying. The sahabah who had never seen him cry said, “You cry as well, ya Rasulullah?” They thought that this was something not perfect or not appropriate for him. So he said, “Crying is a sign of mercy that Allah places in the hearts of his believers, but we only say what pleases Allah. And we are very sad, O Ibrahim, that you have passed away. Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji‘un.” Then he said the du’as that you say when somebody dies. Crying is a sign of mercy, and it is nothing wrong to cry, but we only say what pleases Allah (subhanahu wata’ala). He is saying crying is not a problem, and here as well Ya‘qub is crying despite the fact that Allah describes him as sabrun jameel and as controlling his emotions, meaning he is crying because he cannot control himself. He is not crying to get the sympathy of his sons.
The famous scholar Al-Hasan Al-Basri was the student of many of the sahabah and one of the greatest tabi‘i. When his son died, he also began crying, and so one of his students looked at him disapprovingly. For their culture, this was not a sign of manliness to cry in public. Al-Hasan Al-Basri said, “Verily, Ya‘qub cried, and Allah ‘azza wa jall did not rebuke him for that crying.” Ya‘qub cried when his sons were taken away, and Allah did not rebuke him for crying and that did not diminish the status of Ya‘qub. At that time, the Arabs had the culture of not crying, so one of his students said, “How can you cry, O Al-Hasan Al-Basri?” He said, “What do you mean? Ya‘qub is better than me and he cried and Allah did not rebuke him for doing this.”
Crying, even amongst men, is a sign of mercy when the need arises. When there is a need for this, the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) cried, Ya‘qub cried, and the great scholars cried. And of course crying for the sake of Allah is a religious ‘ibadah and Allah praises that. It is something beyond, and of course men should cry. They should cry the most when they are making du’a to Allah for forgiveness. Here we are talking about crying for the sake of grief and we say that this is in fact a sign of iman and does not show any weakness in iman.
He turns away and he says, “O my woe, O my grief for the sake of Yusuf,” and he loses his sight or his sight becomes white, and he tries to suppress his sorrow and his grief.
“They say, ‘By Allah, you are going to continue to think of Yusuf. Tafta’u tadhkuru Yusuf. [Are you never going to stop thinking of Yusuf? Won’t the time come when Yusuf leaves your head? You are going to always mention Yusuf until you are going to go senile thinking of Yusuf, or you are going to die and perish thinking of Yusuf.”
As we said last time, tallahi, wallahi, wa billahi are all ways you can give an oath to Allah, and you use each one in a different context, which is a bit advanced.
This is clearly not the politest thing to say, and this shows that not all of the brothers have reached the level of the eldest, so some of them in their frustration and exasperation say something not very polite, and it is in fact rude. They say to him, “Are you never going to stop thinking of Yusuf? You are going to go crazy thinking about him.” Haradha means ‘to start blabbering / you are going to lose your head / you are going to become senile with old age.’ “The stress of Yusuf will cause you to go mad, or you will perish in this grief. It will cause you to die.” They get a little bit irritated that “We are just telling you about Binyamin. We are telling you about the eldest, and you are still going back to Yusuf. When will you stop thinking about Yusuf?” Again, this shows us how Allah ‘azza wa jall tested them with the exact opposite of what they intended. They intended one think and in a way Allah punishes them by increasing the love of Yusuf, and he can never stop thinking about Yusuf.
Anyone who thinks that by committing a sin will cause him to arrive at a halal goal has deluded himself. Their goal was halal and they wanted their father’s love. Anyone who thinks that by committing a sin you will gain something of benefit that is halal even if it is worldly benefit (the love of their father is worldly benefit) and anyone who thinks that he will gain money through haram or gain ‘izzah through haram or gain anything of this dunya through haram, learn through this surah that Allah will humiliate you and give you the opposite of what you wanted if you try to do it through the haram. It is only through the halal that you will get what you want.
When they said this harsh statement, which clearly shows that at least some of these brothers have some ways to go to repent, he said:
This means: “I didn’t intend your sympathy. This just came out. I don’t need your comments and your analysis. I am not getting your sympathy. I am only complaining to Allah (subhanahu wata’ala).” Bathth here is the worst type of grief and is from the verb batha which means ‘to dissipate and to spread out.’ When a person is at that level of grief, he is always babbling and spreading and mumbling.
It is as if he is mocking their analysis of him, and he uses a word that is very harsh but it is true in that “I know that I’m mumbling all the time. I know that I am always talking about Yusuf, but I’m not doing it for you. You don’t have to listen.”
“And my grief is only to Allah. I am doing it for Allah (subhanahu wata’ala).”
This also shows us that complaining to Allah is a sign of iman. A lot of us have an incorrect concept of this issue. What does it mean to complain to Allah? Complaining to Allah means you bring out Allah’s sympathy by talking about your situation. This is something that is completely permissible because who else with sympathize with you other than Allah? Who else will show you mercy other than Allah? The sign of iman is to complain only to Allah and not to others. You don’t want their sympathy.
Innama is exclusivity – “The only being I am complaining to is Allah (subhanahu wata’ala). I don’t want your sympathy. I don’t need anything from you.” This shows us that when you are afflicted with any problem, any museebah, it is allowed for you to raise your hands up and say, “O Allah, you see my pitiful state. O Allah, you see how difficult this is for me.” This is complaining to Allah (shikaya ila Allah).
You are allowed to complain to Allah in a positive manner. What is a positive manner? You don’t question the Wisdom of Allah. Questioning the Wisdom of Allah is off limits. “O Allah, why are You doing this?” – this is not complaining; this is ‘itiraad and refuting Allah’s Wisdom. Complaining means you express your grief to Allah, and you try to elicit sympathy from Allah by your miserable state and not by what Allah has done. This is what complaining is, and this is what Ya‘qub is doing here.
As I said, an example of this is: “O Allah, you see my state. O Allah, you see finances are difficult and I have a family to feed. O Allah, only You can save me from this situation.” This is complaining to Allah, and it is part of iman. You do it to Allah, and you don’t do it to the rest of the creation.
And that is why the scholars of the past never tried to show their pain and their suffering to other people. They tried to conceal it because they don’t want other people’s sympathy. They want the sympathy of Allah. The way that they looked at it – and this is our iman: When you get sympathy from others, it shows that your iman is imperfect because their sympathy will not benefit you. If you feel good at their sympathy, then this means that your iman is not the way that it should be. Our scholars of the past and the ‘ulema, and of course the prophets are the best example of this – they restricted this feeling to Allah.
“I only want Allah’s Mercy. I know from Allah (subhanahu wata’ala) that which you do not know.”
What does he know? He knows that Yusuf must be alive. Notice that we know that Allah did not inspire Ya‘qub for a Wisdom known to Him. Allah did not inspire Ya‘qub about where Yusuf is, but he remembers the dream of Yusuf, and he believes that Allah must fulfill that dream. He has iman in Allah. This is a test of his iman: “Do you believe or not? You have seen the dream, and you know the dream, will you believe this will happen or not?”
We can estimate that for maybe forty years, he has not heard one whiff of Yusuf. Does he have faith in Allah that Allah has protected his son as he saw the dream? He does have faith, and he says, “I am certain. I know from Allah that which you don’t know.”
“O my sons, go out and through your senses (your hearing, your seeing) go and search for Yusuf. Hear anything, see anything, taste anything, smell anything. Do anything you can to find Yusuf and his brothers. Find information about what really happened.”
Hashasa means ‘through your senses (your ears, your hearing, your seeing).’
And now he explicitly says what we have been saying for the last four verses:
“And never give up hope of Allah’s Mercy.”
Roh is from the same as ruh because ruh gives you spirit. Roh is the saving and that which will save you from the stress that you are in and the mercy of Allah. We get ruh from the same verb because ruh gives us the spirit and energy that we need. Allah is saying, “Never give up hope / never despair of Allah’s Saving and Allah’s Mercy.”
“No one can give up hope of Allah’s Mercy except a people who don’t believe in Him.”
Notice, subhanAllah, if you have iman in Allah, you must be optimistic about Allah. This is what he is saying. If you truly have iman, you must be optimistic. He cannot imagine a person who believes in Allah and is pessimistic. Only if you are a kafir can you be pessimistic. How can you give up hope in Allah? How can you not believe that there is a wisdom why Allah is doing this? Have you given up hope of Allah? Only a kafir can give up hope.
If you truly believe in Allah, Allah is arhamu’l-rahimeen, Rahim, Malik, Qudoos, Dhi’l-jalaali wa’l-ikram. Why will Allah test you for no reason? Why will Allah punish you just for the sake of punishment? There must be a Divine Wisdom that you will taste the fruits of in this world and the next.
He is saying, “Never give up hope of Allah’s Mercy.” In other words, be optimistic. The Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) said, “A part of iman is to have husn’l-dhan in Allah ‘azza wa jall.” Husn’l-dhan means you think the best thoughts of Allah. For a person to think bad thoughts of Allah is a weakness in his own iman because Allah is not evil and Allah is not bad. For you to think, a‘udhubillah, “Why is this happening to me? What is the wisdom behind this? O Allah, I don’t deserve this.”
There is a bestseller in America Why do Bad Things Happen to Good People. We are all good people, why do these bad things happen to us? This is a bestseller on The New York Times bestseller list. This mentality is an incorrect mentality and a mentality of arrogance – “O we are so good, we don’t deserve this.” This is not the way of the mu’min. The mu’min realizes that Allah has a Wisdom why this is happening and puts trust in Allah.
As I said before, the more the trials come, it is amazing the more optimistic you become that there must be a reason. We see it in Ya‘qub over and over again. Notice again – we go back to the first halaqah – when was this surah revealed? It was revealed after the three most depressing things happened to the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam). Here, Ya‘qub has lost his three most precious sons. The three things were the death of Abu Talib, the death of Khadijah, and the incident of Ta’if. These were the three most depressing things that happened one after the other. Allah is telling our Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam), “Don’t give up hope of the Mercy of Allah.”
This is a subliminal message to our Rasulullah (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam): “Cheer up. We have a reason for doing this for you. There is something happening beyond your control. Only the one who has no hope or no belief in Allah is the one who gives up hope of the Mercy of Allah.”
The Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) said in an authentic hadith in Imam Ahmad’s Musnad: “The biggest of all sins that a man can ever do is shirk and then to give up hope of Allah’s Mercy and to despair at Allah’s saving you.” SubhanAllah. You know, you would think murder, genocide, but no, if you think that Allah has no good planned for you, then you have committed the biggest sin in the book because you have assumed the worst thoughts about your beautiful Lord. You have assumed the most evil things about Allah, and this is a sin that is equivalent to and in the same list as: 1) shirk and 2) to give up hope of Allah’s Mercy.
And that is why sometimes you hear – and my skin shudders when I hear somebody say this: “Oh, I’m too sinful. Allah will never forgive me.” A‘udhubillah. La hawla wa la quwatta illa billah. Do you realize what you have just said? You puny little being are so powerful that you can destroy Allah’s Mercy? That you are greater than Allah’s Mercy? Have you lost your senses that you think that your sins or your desperation or your pessimism is so much that Allah cannot save you and that Allah cannot do what He wants with you? This is a bigger sin than any sin that you have committed – to claim that “oh, there is no hope for me.” You hear this sometimes, right? “I’ve committed so many sins. I’ve done this and I’ve done that. There is no hope for me, so I might as well live an evil life.”
Wallahi, that statement is a worse sin than the whole life of sins that you have done because you have assumed a cheap assumption, an evil assumption of Allah (subhanahu wata’ala). Allah says, “They didn’t estimate Allah. They didn’t put Allah in the level He deserves.”
Allah ‘azza wa jall says in a sahih hadith qudsi: “I am as My servant thinks of Me. So when he thinks good thoughts of Me, I will give him good. And when he thinks bad thoughts of Me, then he will get what he thought.” SubhanAllah, we understand this even in our own dealings with other people. If you think that somebody is going to be cheap and stingy, why should he be generous to you? He is going to be stingy to you. If you assume bad thoughts of somebody else, “I didn’t expect good from you anyway” – well, then he is going to treat you that way.
If you thought that somebody would be generous and you assumed it, then the person who people thought would be generous then feels that he should be generous because people think we will be generous. If this is the case, we understand it in our limited minds. To Allah belongs the perfect example.
Allah is saying, “I do with My servants as they think I will do with them. If My servant has good thoughts of Me, and He is optimistic in Me…” This is like Ya‘qub. He never loses hope, and he puts his trust in Allah. He tells his sons, “Go and search. All three of them will come back.” SubhanAllah, he has just lost one-two-three, and his optimism increases. And look, he gets back the three and he is taken to Egypt and given a high position. When he put his trust in Allah and he was optimistic, what happens? He gets all of it and more. This is a sign of iman.
This leads us to one point, not directly related, but the question arises, and it has already been asked in this series as well: When these museebahs (calamities) happen, how do we know that this calamity is in fact a means of raising our ranks (as in the case of Ya‘qub) or it is simply the precursor to Allah’s adhab and Allah’s anger and just the beginning of more punishment? How do we know? The response: Look at your own attitude to Allah. If your attitude towards Allah becomes positive through negative situations, and your attitude to Allah becomes better and you become more optimistic and you have a stronger relationship, then the fact of the matter is, all of these trials are a blessing in disguise. In the end of the day, anything that brings you closer to Allah is good for you.
If these trials and these museebahs take you away from Allah and cause you to lead a carefree, irreligious life, then this is the beginning of more punishment later on. The response to how do you know if it is a precursor to more good or a precursor to more bad is: it is in your hands, it is in your reaction, it is in your attitude. If you have a positive attitude like Ya‘qub and you keep on saying, “Insha’Allah, Allah will make it easy. I put my trust in Allah,” then this is a sign that everything will be better in the future, and if it is the opposite, then the opposite will apply.