Lecture by Yasir Qadhi | Transcribed by Sameera
This lecture is brought to you by the Memphis Islamic Center (MIC). For more information about MIC, please visit www.memphisislamiccenter.org
[The following is the video and transcript of part 12 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 are now on the last phase of the story of Yūsuf (‘alayhi’l-salām) and what is left after this is the conclusion of the sūrah. We actually finish the story of Yūsuf (‘alayhi’l-salām) today. As we were talking about last week, we had finished where Ya‘qūb (‘alayhi’l-salām) told his children, “Go forth and search for Yūsuf, and don’t give up hope of the Mercy of Allāh [and] don’t give up hope of the Help of Allāh. The only people who can become pessimistic and can lose hope of the Mercy of Allāh are those who don’t believe in Him.” From there, the story then begins today.
“So then when they entered in upon him…”
This is the third time they are undertaking the same journey from Canaan, the ancient name of Filistine, to the land of Egypt. This is the third time they are visiting Yūsuf (‘alayhi’l-salām).
“They said, ‘O noble minister, our families and ourselves are in a severe crisis. A hard time has hit us. A calamity has hit us, and we have only managed to come with merchandise that is second-rate (not very good, poor quality of merchandise). So give us what is worthy of this merchandise, and give us extra charity. Verily, Allāh (subḥānahu wa ta‘āla) will reward those who are charitable.’”
The brothers now enter in and they have dwindled down now to ten because Yūsuf is the twelfth and Binyamin is the eleventh, and both of them are now stuck. The tenth one is remaining in Egypt, and now the nine come back and the ten of them enter into the palace for one more time. They say, “O ‘Azīz, our family was struck by a calamity.” They demonstrate their poverty, and they excuse the poor quality of merchandise.
The meaning of muzjāt is something that is second-rate or poor in quality. They are saying, “We are bringing merchandise that we are embarrassed about.” It is not the top-notch goods. What was it? We don’t know. Maybe it was poor quality leather because this was primarily what they had back then. Maybe it was other types of merchandise that was not of a high price.
Notice here, subḥānAllāh, that by now we are entering in close to the seventh year of drought. Every single time the brothers are coming again and again and again. Look at the surplus of Egypt that over and over again people from neighboring lands have to come to Egypt. Egypt gave so much produce. To be more precise, Yūsuf managed to save the produce and guard it to such an extent that he can export in times of drought.
So now, once again, the brothers come, and they ask in such a beautiful manner. It is human psychology here. They firstly mention that they are in a distressing situation. Massana, [meaning] they are in a bad situation. Then they mention the families because it is human nature that when you bring in wife and children, the person’s heart becomes softer, so they beg in their own situation and then their family situation.
Then they say, “We are not coming for free handouts. We brought something. It is not as if we are coming as beggars, and we have brought something, but this thing is second-rate. And our excuse is that we don’t have money right now. We purchased something, so give us what is worthy of this. Give us the full measure of this second-rate merchandise, but then give us more as well.”
They are not asking for free handouts, but they are asking for generosity. Generally speaking, generosity is easier than begging and asking for free handouts. To be extra generous is easier than to come with nothing. They lay the situation and present their case and plead and beg and conclude by being spiritual and religious. There is an irony here that the brothers of Yūsuf are reminding Yūsuf about Islam and the benefits of remembering Allāh. There is a little bit of irony here. “If you are good, Allāh will reward you.” As if Yūsuf needed this reminder. But they conclude by reminding them that anybody who is generous, Allāh (subḥānahu wa ta‘āla) will respond and give them that back.
Now is the time in the story when Yūsuf reveals himself to the brothers. The translation here would be:
“He said, ‘Do you remember / recall what you did with Yūsuf and his brother while you were jāhill?”
The question arises: Why is he revealing himself at this stage in the story? Why so late, and why not before? As I said and hinted at before, there are two scenarios that we can derive. The first scenario is that there is no known reason other than Allāh telling him so. We simply say that this was the point in time [when] Allāh told him, “You are allowed to reveal your identity.” We need to understand that the lives of the prophets of Allāh are not like our lives. The prophets of Allāh are not allowed to undertake any major decision without getting permission from Allāh. It is not like me and you who can just commit sins and do this and that. Because the prophets of Allāh are role models, they are not allowed to do anything without asking Allāh. So one scenario would be that Yūsuf is always asking Allāh, “Can I reveal my identity? Can I tell them?” and he is not being given permission until now.
The other scenario is that there is a worldly reason. What is this worldly reason? There seems to be something mentioned in some of the ancient books of tafsīr and that is that when Yūsuf came to power, the king at the time was the senior king and the elder of the family. By this time in the story, seven years later, that king has died, and his younger child has now taken over. As is commonly the case, when the youngster takes over, the senior ministers actually have more power than the new king because the senior ministers know how to run the country and have expertise. This is the law of the earth that when people don’t know how to do things, they will give precedence to those who are in power already.
So by this time, Yūsuf has the upper hand over the king, and the king is giving him deference. The story in the Old Testament supports this version of reading. By now, Yūsuf can tell the king, “I want my family to come,” whereas seven years ago, he doesn’t have that power. As we said already, this is a small land and country, and they don’t want seventy, eighty, ninety foreigners to come populate it. This is a big number for them, and they don’t want a foreigner population to come, but now Yūsuf has more power and more clout, so he can dictate the demands to the king. This is an interpretation that has a worldly understanding, and there is no problem in combining both of them and saying there is an element of truth to both of them.
So now Yūsuf reveals himself, and he says, “Do you not remember what you did with Yūsuf and his brother when you were ignorant?” Some books of tafsīr mention that he took off his robe, and he was wearing the garments of his people underneath, and he showed them other signs at this time. Some ‘ulemā’ even said that he smiled at them in a friendly manner for the first time being brotherly and not being kingly and ministerly, showing them who he was.
When he did this, for the first time it clicked because nobody in the world other than Yūsuf and the brothers knew what they did to Yūsuf. For him to ask the blunt question “Do you remember what you did to Yūsuf?”, there is only one person other than those ten who would know that, and that is Yūsuf himself. Nobody else in the world – not even Binyamin because he was a baby at that time – would know what they did to Yūsuf, so by asking the question and by then revealing something more personal and friendlier, it is clear now. The age would match and the characteristics would match.
At the end of the day, Yūsuf is not an Egyptian. He is a Canaanite (Filistini). His ethnic features and facial features, and maybe he even spoke to them in their language, according to one opinion. He gave signs away. This is not the minister that they thought. This is their blood brother. Finally it clicks, and they say:
The Arabic here is very beautiful. In English, it would be: “Are you really, really that Yūsuf?” There is a triple emphasis here that cannot be translated into English. They are shocked now that this is really Yūsuf.
One point I forgot to mention: Notice Yūsuf says, “Do you remember what you did to Yūsuf and his brother while you were jāhill?” Some scholars have said that it is as if he is criticizing them that they were jāhill and did this, but the stronger opinion is that he is actually giving them a way out even before he begins the story. He is actually making an excuse for them because he says, “while you were (in the past) jāhill (ignorant),” meaning that now they are not jāhill and now they know better. It is like we say now, “You were a kid back then.” That type of attitude is being demonstrated. Even before Yūsuf moves on, in the very first sentence he opens up the excuse for them. In the very first phrase he allows some laxity and leeway. “You were jāhill at that time.” It is not as if he is saying it in a harsh manner. He is actually saying it in an excusing manner. This is of the perfection, which is just beginning. In these lines we will see Yūsuf never directly criticizes his brothers.
Notice he didn’t even say, “Do you remember that you kidnapped me, threw me in the well, and left me to die?” No – he leaves it vague. “Do you remember what you did to Yūsuf?” He doesn’t mention details. This is of the perfection of Yūsuf’s character that never once does he explicitly mention what happened and never once does he explicitly criticize them. Wallāhi, this takes a real man to do this because he has the power and upper hand and there is nothing to prevent him from even throwing in one jab – as we say in English – or one criticism. Not even the slightest ‘uff in these words.
“Do you remember what you did to Yūsuf and his brother?” Notice he says ‘Yūsuf’ and not even ‘me’ because when you say ‘me’ here, it is more personal. It makes you feel guiltier. He uses the third person to even try to minimize that. “Do you remember what you did to Yūsuf and his brother back in those days when you were jāhill?”
They say, “Are you really that Yūsuf?” There is no other person that could know, and the signs have been shown. Of course by now it must have dawned on them that the characteristics, the ethnicity, the looks, and maybe the language, as we said, and the age as well because they know how old Yūsuf was and how old he would be now, so everything clicks in, and they say, “Are you really that Yūsuf?” He said, “I am Yūsuf, and this is my brother.” He called him to come out at that time, which means he was hiding behind the curtains in the other room and when this conversation takes place, he calls Binyamin out. “I am Yūsuf, and this is my brother.”
Qad mann Allāhu ‘alayna. Immediately he attributes all good to Allāh. “This is not my power. I didn’t do this. I’m not gloating that I have the upper hand. I am not showing you who is richer and more powerful.” As soon as he acknowledges that he is Yūsuf, the very next phrase is: “This is not from me. Allāh has given us all of this.” Manna – it is a gift. It is not even earned or deserved but something that He gifted because of His Generosity.
“Verily, whoever has taqwa and patience, Allāh (subḥānahu wa ta‘āla) will never cause to go to waste the rewards of those who are good.”
Notice here that he ascribes the blessings directly to himself from Allāh. “Allāh blessed us.” Then he says in the third person, “Whoever is righteous and patient, Allāh will reward that person.” He doesn’t say, “I was righteous and patient so Allāh rewarded me.” Wallāhi, each word and each phrase shows the humility of Yūsuf. You could not think of a more humble paragraph than this.
He says, “Allāh blessed me without anything deserving” because manna means to give without recompense – there is no reason to give and it is just giving from generosity. You didn’t earn it; it is a gift. He is acknowledging: “Allāh has gifted this to me.”
Then he says, “Verily, whoever (third person, generic) has righteousness and patience, Allāh will reward the efforts of those who are good.” The understanding is that Yūsuf was muttaqi and was patient, but it wouldn’t be humble of him to say this. Also, this is tazqiyyat’l-nafs and ascribing piety to yourself, which is not the way the Muslim talks. So he makes it generic and he says, “Whoever has taqwa and ṣabr, Allāh will never cause that good to go to waste.” Notice he ascribes two characteristics that he truly had because the only thing that will protect you from zina in the case of Yūsuf and in that scenario when there is temptation and a woman is there and calling and beckoning you and nobody is watching, the only thing that will possibly save you is taqwa. What saved him from the well and caused him to stay in prison for so long, so much so that when the crier came, he says, “Go back to your master and ask what happened to those women.” The Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said, “May Allāh have mercy on the ṣabr of Yūsuf. Had I been in his case, I wouldn’t have lasted and would have immediately rushed out.”
He mentions ṣabr because it was ṣabr that allowed him by the blessings of Allāh to remain in the well and to remain a slave and to remain in jail until finally Allāh rewarded him with becoming the minister. He mentions taqwa and ṣabr because these two are the two Islamic principles that have characterized him throughout the entire story. The whole message of the story is summarized right here. “Whoever truly has taqwa of Allāh” – and we talked about taqwa many times before in these series of lectures, and it means that you build a protection against Allāh’s punishment through Allāh’s commandments. Taqwa means you protect yourself from Allāh through Allāh. You turn to Allāh to protect yourself against Allāh. Only Allāh can protect you from Allāh. This is what taqwa means.
Ṣabr of course is to control yourself and be patient. The theme of the whole sūrah is this line: “Whoever has taqwa and is patient, Allāh (subḥānahu wa ta‘āla) will give them all that they desire and more.” Of course, there is a subtle message here as well.
Notice that all of the message to the brothers is not direct and not in your face and not gloating. It is for them to benefit and not for them to feel bad. The message is: You tried to gain what you wanted through ḥarām and didn’t get what you wanted. You tried to get what you wanted by disobeying Allāh, which is why you didn’t get what you wanted. As for me, I was patient and put my trust in Allāh and had taqwa and Allāh gave me more than anyone could even imagine.
This is the subliminal message, which is not flouted in their face; it is for them to ponder and become better and more righteous. Also realize that, subḥānAllāh, it is as if Yūsuf is giving them a khuṭbah. It is as if he is giving them religious advice. Instead of going into the story of what happened and how he got there, the first thing on his mind is: I need to benefit my brothers religiously and bring them closer to Allāh and cause them to repent from that sin and be better people. This is always on the mind of every righteous person that any opportunity he sees to bring about religious feelings and to bring about love of Allāh, fear of Allāh, and religious remembrance, he will take that opportunity.
He is giving them a khuṭbah at the family reunion. He is giving them a reminder at the family reunion because what better place for that reminder to sink in. When they see the effects of piety and the effects of sins in their own lives, what better place to remind them? Notice what is on his mind is to remind them of Allāh.
They said, “By Allāh! Allāh (subḥānahu wa ta‘āla) has preferred you over us and chosen you over us. And we certainly have been sinners.”
Tallāhi is one of the ways that you give an oath or swear. The in here is zā’ida – even though some scholars don’t like calling anything zā’ida in the Qur’ān – it is for emphasis.
Notice now that this khuṭbah and religious advice has had the desired effect of making them feel guilty and cause them to repent to Allāh (subḥānahu wa ta‘āla). That is exactly what has happened.
He said, “There shall be no blame on you today.”
Tathrīb means to be reminded of one’s sins and to feel guilty over it. It means to humiliate and to basically flout it in your face and make you feel guilty by remembering the sin over and over again.
He doesn’t even say, “I will not blame you.” He makes it third person and neutral and removes himself from the picture. Saying “I will not blame you” would make them feel extra guilty. He makes it generic and says, “There shall be no blame on you.” This is completely neutral.
You can stop on two different places here. The first is to say: “Qāla la tathrība ‘alaykumu’l-yawm. Yaghfirullāhu lakum.” This translates as: “Today there shall be no blame on you. Allāh will forgive you.” Today your sins have been made manifest. If you are not going to be blamed today, then you will not be blamed afterwards.
The second way is: “Qāla la tathrība ‘alaykum. Al-yawma yaghfirullāhu lakum.” This means: “There shall be no blame on you. Today Allāh will forgive your sins.” Both are valid. From today you shall not be blamed anymore. Why? Because today Allāh has forgiven your sins.
Both meanings are complementary, which shows us some of the beauty of Arabic. As I said many times, simply analyzing the Arabic phrases and the Arabic words and the structure of the Qur’ān shows us that this is not the speech of a man and it is a divine speech. Every single precise wording, letters and ḥarakahs are miracles in and of themselves.
Yūsuf is saying, “Today there shall be no blame on you. Allāh will forgive you.” How can Yūsuf say, “Allāh will forgive you”? What right does Yūsuf have to say this? There are two responses to this. Firstly, because the wrong was done to Yūsuf, when he forgives, then they are forgiven because the ẓulm or injustice was done to Yūsuf. As we know in our religion, when you commit a crime against a human being – when you steal someone’s money, dishonor them, backbite – then forgiveness is in the hands upon whom ẓulm (injustice) has been done, and until he forgives you, you will not be forgiven. Allāh’s Forgiveness is easier than the forgiveness of this person because Allāh is Merciful and Al- Raḥīm. When Yūsuf has forgiven them and they have repented, he can be certain that Allāh will forgive them because he has forgiven them.
The second interpretation is: “I hope inshā’Allāh that Allāh will forgive you.” There is a missing phrase and the meaning is: “I’m optimistic that Allāh will forgive you.” Both of these interpretations are valid, and there is no contradiction in them.
“And He is the Most Merciful of all those who show mercy.”
Remember that Sūrah Yūsuf was revealed when our Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) was undergoing the most difficult period of his life: the year of sorrow. It was the year when Abu Ṭālib died, Khadījah died, and the incident of Ṭā’if took place. This is the lowest of the low. Allāh revealed to him Sūrah Yūsuf in order to make him optimistic and encourage him. SubḥānAllāh, at the pinnacle of his career and prophethood when he marched into Makkah, finally conquering the city that expelled him, he was reciting Sūrah Yūsuf. When he stood on the Ka‘bah and called the people around and asked them, “What do you think I will do to you today after all that you have done to me and after persecuting and killing so many of my followers and after expelling me and my people from this land?” They are all begging and pleading for mercy and saying, “You are our noble brother and son of our noble brother. You are our relative.”
What does he do? He recites this very verse of Sūrah Yūsuf. This was the purpose of Sūrah Yūsuf – to cheer him up and give him optimism and hope and to make him realize that: You are not the only one whose people have persecuted him and you are not the only one whose relatives and blood brothers have expelled him from their homes. The brothers of Yūsuf expelled him and threw him into the well. Your people are not the first and they are not going to be the last.
When it was the turn of our Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) and he was sitting on the symbolic throne of the Ka‘bah, he now has the upper hand. The people are now around him. He cannot help but remember the exact same sūrah because of which Allāh revealed this sūrah. He recited this very verse to them. “There shall be no blame on you today. Allāh will forgive you. And He is the Most Forgiving and the Most Merciful.”
By this, Yūsuf (‘alayhi’l-salām) once again is showing his perfection by not mentioning any crime by name and by not saying, “I am not going to blame you anymore.” When we forgive somebody, we say, “I forgive you.” What did Yūsuf say? He didn’t even mention the ‘I’ because in this there is ego. He said, “There shall be no blame on you. Allāh will forgive you. He is the Most Forgiving, Most Merciful.”
“Go with this shirt of mine and throw it on the face of my father and he will gain his vision back. Bring me all of your family.”
Now they shall leave the valley of Canaan and immigrate to the land of Egypt. He tells his brothers, “Go with this shirt of mine.” SubḥānAllāh, once again notice the theme of the shirt, which is a common theme in this story. It has been mentioned three times. The first time the shirt is mentioned when it comes to the story of the wolf. The second time the shirt is mentioned is when it comes to the seducing in the palace. Now [for] the third time the shirt is mentioned.
Every time the shirt is a sign of life. The shirt is what gives hope to Ya‘qūb that his son is alive. When the brothers came to Ya‘qūb with the bloody shirt, he looked at it and said, “What a merciful wolf this is that it eats up my son but doesn’t scratch the shirt!” The shirt gave the plot away that the brothers had plotted something.
In the seduction story, the shirt saves Yūsuf, and it makes him innocent. Now the shirt once again is a sign that Yūsuf is alive and well and the brothers are coming back with the truth. Scholars say it was the sight of the bloody shirt that caused Ya‘qūb to go blind and now seeing the beautiful shirt that Yūsuf was wearing will bring the sight back to him because the cure and the disease are always opposites. It was the sight of the shirt that caused him to go blind, and it will be the shirt, by the blessings of Allāh, that will bring his eyesight back to him.
“When the caravan departed [from Egypt] their father said, ‘I can smell the smell of Yūsuf, but only the fact that you will think that I am a senile old man I would tell you even more or I would walk out to meet him.’”
There is a missing phrase here: ‘otherwise I would do even more.’ Notice he smelled it when the caravan left Egypt. They are still a thousand miles away. When it leaves Egypt and he is in Canaan, he smelled the scent of Yūsuf. SubḥānAllāh, there is no doubt this is a miracle from Allāh ‘azza wa jall that He has given to Ya‘qūb; otherwise, it is not even humanly possible to smell the smell at that distance. Allāh has given him a miracle, an optimistic sign, and a hope that something is changing. He remembers the smell of his son Yūsuf. SubḥānAllāh, it has been forty or fifty years, and he remembers how Yūsuf smells. Look at the love that he had for his son. When he smelled that smell, he knew that this was the smell of Yūsuf.
They [the grandchildren and great grandchildren] said, ‘You are still in your ways of old.’”
“When the bearer of glad tidings came…”
Many scholars say Allāh calls him bashīr here, and he was the same one who came with the bloody shirt in the beginning. Once again, Allāh mentions the good and ignores or neglects the bad. As we said, this is a standard motif. When the praise is due, Allāh mentions specifically, but when there is criticism, Allāh tries to cover it up unless there is a need to mention it. Here Allāh praises him, and most of the scholars say he was the same one. He insisted and said, “Since I am the one who caused the harm, I am now going to bring the shirt back.” Allāh calls him the bearer of good tidings and the one who came with the good news.
“…he threw the shirt into his face, and he regained his eyesight. He said, ‘Didn’t I tell you after all these years that Yūsuf is alive? I told you go find him. I told you don’t lose hope in Allāh, but you kept on trying to deny this. Didn’t I tell you that Allāh has told me that I know something that you don’t know?’”
“They said, ‘O our father, ask Allāh to forgive us. We have committed an evil sin.’”
Here they say the exact same thing for a second time. They said it once to Yūsuf and now they say it to their father. Clearly they are repentant. SubḥānAllāh, the number one stepping stone to repentance is acknowledgement of guilt. You cannot repent until you acknowledge guilt. This is why the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said, “Feeling guilty is the essence of repenting.” Unless you feel guilty and acknowledge the sin, there is no repentance. If you simply say “I’m sorry” but there is no genuine guilt, this is not tawbah. We can clearly see the brothers are feeling guilty. They have asked Yūsuf to forgive, they have asked their father to forgive, and they have admitted they made a mistake. Until you admit to making a mistake, you are not repenting to Allāh (subḥānahu wa ta‘āla).
That is why the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said, “The best du‘ā’ for seeking forgiveness…” It is a long du‘ā’ and you should all memorize it. There are two phrases that relate to us: ‘O Allāh, I acknowledge all of your favors upon me, and I acknowledge that I have committed a sin.’ This is sayyid’l-istighfār and the pinnacle of seeking forgiveness. How do you do that? The first phrase in it is: “I acknowledge my mistake.” Without acknowledging the mistake, there is no tawbah. Here we have the brothers of Yūsuf going to Yūsuf and their father and they say, “O our father, ask Allāh (subḥānahu wa ta‘āla) to forgive us for our sins. Verily, we have been sinners.” They are asking Ya‘qūb because Ya‘qūb is the senior prophet. Yūsuf is still their younger brother even though he is a prophet. They seek forgiveness directly from Yūsuf because he is the main person they have done wrong to.
As for Ya‘qūb, because he is the older prophet, they say, “O our father, ask Allāh to forgive us.” There is a difference here. For Yūsuf, they ask directly because they committed the wrong to him. They also committed a wrong to their father, but their father isn’t just their father but is also the prophet of Allāh on earth, so his status is very high up. They are feeling guilty and want Allāh to forgive them, so by asking their father to ask Allāh to forgive, they are getting forgiveness from both because their father would not ask unless he has forgiven. They could say, “O our father, forgive us,” but it is more eloquent and more powerful to say, “O our father, ask Allāh to forgive us” because they are getting both the forgiveness from their father and Allāh (subḥānahu wa ta‘āla).
They say, “O our father, ask Allāh to forgive us. Verily, we have committed a grievous sin.”
“He says, ‘I shall ask Allāh (subḥānahu wa ta‘āla) to forgive you. Verily, He is the Forgiving, the Merciful.’”
“I shall” means that he will in a while but not right now. Why did he delay? Pretty much all of the scholars say that he delayed the du‘ā’ until the last third of the night in his tahajjud prayer. This seems to be the unanimous opinion of all of the scholars, and this is how they understood this. Ya‘qūb (‘alayhi’l-salām) wanted to delay the du‘ā’ to the most blessed time. He wanted to ask Allāh in the best state, which is sajdah, and at the holiest time, which is the last third of the night, and many scholars add that it was on the Friday as well, the holiest day of the week. We know that our Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said that Allāh ‘azza wa jall descends down to the lowest heavens in the last third of the night in a ḥadīth in Bukhāri and Muslim. He descends down to the lowest heavens in the last third of the night and says, “Who amongst My servants is asking Me, so I shall give him what he wants. Who amongst My servants is seeking refuge in Me, so I shall protect him. Who amongst My servants wants his sins forgiven, so I shall forgive them.” Making du‘ā’ in the last third of the night is the most blessed time to make du‘ā’. There is no time that is more blessed than this in our 24-hour cycle.
When Ya‘qūb is saying “I shall do it,” meaning in a while, he is simply delaying it to a time that is more conducive because he wants them to be forgiven.
One of the scholars of the past, ‘Ata (the student of Ibn ‘Abbās), said, “It is easier to ask a young man for something than to ask an old man because when they asked Yūsuf to forgive them, he immediately said he had forgiven them, but when they asked Ya‘qūb, he said wait a while and he would do it in a bit.” This is a little bit tongue-in-cheek and humorous, but there is an element of truth to it that generally speaking youngsters are more easy going whereas elders are more set in their ways and accustomed to how they want to live their lives.
One of the main lessons of the whole story for us is that a person’s final status is dependent upon how he ends his life and not how he begins it. This is a huge optimism for us sinners. A person’s status in the eyes of Allāh is dependent upon his end and not the beginning. Here are the brothers of Yūsuf who are basically would-be murderers almost. In a court of law in our times, they might be accused of manslaughter, attempted murder, and kidnapping. In this story, the end result is that they are forgiven and not just forgiven, but according to the majority opinion, they even become minor prophets in their own rights – not to the level of Yūsuf and Ya‘qūb but minor prophets. That is why in the dream, Yūsuf compares all of them to the stars in the sky because they are literally stars – they are not as high as the sun and the moon, but nonetheless they become stars.
As one of the scholars of the past said, if this story will not give sinners hope, then what story will give hope? Have you ever attempted to kill your brother or kidnap your brother or thrown your brother in a well? I hope not. If Allāh can forgive them, then surely my sins and your sins are more worthy of being forgiven. If Allāh can allow them to become prophets after they have done this crime, then how about forgiving me and you? But what is the condition? Turning over a new leaf and having a new beginning and having a sincere intention and new relationship with Allāh (subḥānahu wa ta‘āla).
They return now to Yūsuf, and this is the fourth time the brothers have made the journey. It shall be the last time for over 500 years that they make this journey. They will make it once again in the opposite direction in the exodus. Now they are leaving the Holy Land of Canaan or Palestine, and they are making their way to Egypt.
“So when they entered upon Yūsuf, he took his parents to himself / sheltered his parents / gave his parents comfort.”
The scholars say that he led a procession of the cavalry or army to greet them and there was celebration and a lot of jubilation. Of course this is well deserved at this point in time. He himself led the delegation to welcome them. He led the delegation outside of the city to greet his parents, as any dutiful son should do.
“He said, ‘Enter into Egypt. With the permission of Allāh, all of you will be safe.’”
The meaning of ‘inshā’Allāh’ here is ‘in the Name of Allāh, you shall be safe.’ This is difficult to translate into English. Our Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said, “When you make du‘ā’, don’t say ‘inshā’Allāh’ at the end” because you don’t make du‘ā’ by assigning it to Allāh. Let me give you an example. You don’t say, “O Allāh, forgive me inshā’Allāh” because Allāh will forgive you if He wants to, and your saying ‘inshā’Allāh’ won’t change anything. You have to beg and plead because you need Allāh’s forgiveness. You say, “O Allāh, I need your forgiveness, forgive me.” You don’t need to add ‘inshā’Allāh’ because Allāh will forgive you inshā’Allāh. If Allāh wills, He will forgive you. You do not relegate it to Allāh’s Will. You say, “O Allāh, I need this.” The Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said, “When you make a du‘ā’, be firm in your request.” Don’t be wishy washy and add the inshā’Allāh because Allāh will not change the decree because of your inshā’Allāh. Nobody can force Allāh. Allāh will give you if He wants, inshā’Allāh.
The reason I’m saying all of this is because some people may ask why Yūsuf made a du‘ā’ and said “inshā’Allāh.” The response is, to put it simply, that this “inshā’Allāh” is not that “inshā’Allāh.” This “inshā’Allāh” is “with the blessings of Allāh” and “in the Name of Allāh.” Yūsuf promised them safety, and they were safe, but their descendants were not safe, and that is what happens centuries later when Fir‘awn comes and starts persecuting the children of Israel, which is a story taken up later in the Qur’ān. Now he says, “You will be safe.”
When you go to the Egypt airport and get out of customs, you find a big sign there saying “Udhkulu miṣra inshā’Allāhu āminīn.” That is the only country in the world that can cut and paste from the Qur’ān and say “let us enter Egypt inshā’Allāh āminīn.”
Yūsuf (‘alayhi’l-salām) tells his father and his brothers that they shall enter into Egypt inshā’Allāh and will be safe and secure.
“And he put his parents on the throne…”
What throne? Perhaps he had a throne or perhaps, as we already said, he actually has more power than the ruling king and has access to the palace and can also visit the palace at will, and so this is more likely he actually put his parents on the throne of Egypt to symbolically show them that this is the respect he gives them. He put his parents on the throne of Egypt. Being bedouins and peasants in a barren land, overnight he is putting them on the throne of the mightiest kingdom at the time to show them respect as his parents. When he did that, they came off the throne and prostrated to him, and the brothers all fell into prostration.
Some scholars say they actually fell onto their faces, and some scholars say that they bowed down (i.e. rukū‘), but the meaning of sujjada in Arabic can mean both. Even if you lower your head to a great extent, you also call that sājid even though for us when we say sājid we mean on the ground, but the Arabic term sujjada or sājid can also imply lowering the head. Whatever they did, they are showing respect.
We have to mention here that lowering the head for respect was something that was allowed in the previous legislations if you did it to show respect. In our Sharī‘ah, in our legislation, this has been made forbidden. We are not allowed to lower our head in front of any created object out of respect. Lowering your head out of worship has always been forbidden except for Allāh. Even in the previous Sharī‘ahs, you couldn’t lower your head out of worship. You had to lower it out of worship only to Allāh. When Allāh told the angels to prostrate to Adam, what type of sajdah is this? This is the sajdah of respect. In this sūrah as well, the brothers of Yūsuf and the parents of Yūsuf fall into a prostration of respect. In our Sharī‘ah, this is forbidden. We are not allowed to bow down in respect, and if we do so, this is not shirk, but it is a sin and ḥarām.
There is a beautiful ḥadīth in the Sunan of Abu Dāwūd in which Mu‘ādh ibn Jabal, the famous companion, came back from Syria and entered the masjid, and the first thing he did was fall down in front of the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) in prostration. He fell down facing the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) in prostration. Can you imagine the scene? He is literally falling in prostration in front of the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam). The Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) became shocked and amazed and said, “Ya Mu‘ādh, who told you to do this? Where did you get this from?” Mu‘ādh ibn Jabal said, “I just came back from Syria (the Roman Empire), and I saw that the Romans would prostrate to their priests and leaders, so I felt that you have more right to be respected than they did. I felt that I should respect you more than they respect their elders.” The Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said, “Do not ever do this again!” It is not allowed for any human being to prostrate or to lower his head in front of another human being.” Our Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) made it forbidden. It is now ḥarām in our Sharī‘ah to do this.
It was allowed in the previous Sharī‘ahs, which is why to this day – although I think now the custom has gone – but once upon a time when a fair lady passed by, a man would bow his head down as a sign of respect. This type of bowing down was something that the previous Sharī‘ahs allowed. For us, our Sharī‘ah has not allowed this. We only lower our head to Allāh (subḥānahu wa ta‘āla). Allāh says in the Qur’ān, “Don’t prostrate to the sun or to the moon or to anything created. Prostrate only to Allāh who has created them.”
Ya‘qūb and the brothers all fall down. A quick point here – the āyah says that he put his parents on the throne. We already said that the strongest opinion is that his mother had already died and that his father had married Yūsuf’s maternal aunt (i.e. his wife’s sister). Allāh calls them “parents” even though she is actually his khālah (mother’s sister). This shows us that the mother’s sister has the same rights and equivalent status of the mother because Allāh called them “parents.” In fact, our Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said in a ḥadīth in the Musnad of Imam Ahmad that the mother’s sister has the same rank as the mother. SubḥānAllāh, it is amazing – and all of us who have maternal and paternal aunts – and we know that the love that a maternal aunt shows is different than the love that the paternal aunt shows. The love of the mother’s sister is different and more motherly than the love of the father’s sister even though both have their own types of love. This is something that the Qur’ān clearly indicates that our Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) explicitly said. The khālah is at the same level as the mother.
“Yūsuf says, ‘O my father, this is the actualization of my dream that I saw so many years ago.’”
The word ta’wīl here means actualization. How many years has it been? We have no idea but some scholars say forty-five years have gone by. A lifetime has gone by.
“My Lord made it a certainty.”
As we said, the dreams of the prophets are all true.
“And how generous He has been to me.”
Once again he is ascribing the blessings to Allāh. When they are showing him so much respect, he feels awkward and ascribes all of this to Allāh. When they prostrate to him, he reminds them of Allāh and says, “Allāh has been so generous to me when He caused me to be saved from the prison and caused you to come from the barren lifestyle after Shayṭān caused some problems between me and my brothers.”
SubḥānAllāh, once again amazing phrases. He is saying, “How generous Allāh has been to me when He caused me to leave the prison.” Notice he doesn’t mention when He caused him to be saved from the well even though to be saved from the well is a bigger blessing than to leave the prison because you are going to die in the well but you are not going to die in the prison. You are going to starve in the well but you are not going to starve in the prison. In the prison there is humanity around you and light and air. In the well it is much different. In the prison he was an adult, and in the well he was a child.
Why doesn’t he mention the well? By mentioning the well, he is reminding his brothers of what they have done, so he completely glosses over it. He had said, “You are not going to be blamed.” So when he is recounting the favors of Allāh, he doesn’t even mention that because if he were to do so, it is as if he is putting some salt on their wound, and he is not going to mention that. He says, “How generous was Allāh to me when He caused me to be saved from the prison. How generous Allāh has been to you when He has caused you to leave this bedouin lifestyle…” The bedouin lifestyle is much harsher and more difficult than the lifestyle of the city and the villages. That is why, by the way, our Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) forbade a bedouin who has settled in the city from returning to the bedouin lifestyle. It is actually a fiqh ruling. Once you move into the city, your lifestyle, mannerisms, and culture increase. Once a person comes to the city, he should remain there.
Also, Allāh ‘azza wa jall tells us in the Qur’ān that: “We only sent before you prophets who were from the cities.” All the prophets of Allāh were city-dwelling folk, and there were no bedouin prophets. Therefore, when Allāh sent prophets to the bedouins, they were from the cities. Why? Because when you live in the city, your level of civilization and mannerism is much higher and more refined. When you live in the plains and the deserts, you don’t have that lifestyle. You all know what the bedouin did when he came to the Prophet’s (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) masjid – that is his lifestyle and his way of looking at the world. The people who live in the cities are at a higher level.
By causing Ya‘qūb and the children of Ya‘qūb to be saved from the harsh lifestyle of the desert and enter into Egypt is a blessing.
“After Shayṭān caused problems between me and my brothers.”
Notice once again you cannot think of phrases that are more beautiful. It is not even humanly possible. He is recounting the favors of Allāh, and of the biggest favors is that they are all one family together after they were split up and after Shayṭān caused problems. Notice he didn’t say his brothers caused the problems. It was all Shayṭān. All evil is his fault and not his brothers. He says, “between me [sharing the blame 50-50] and my brothers.” What did he do that he has to mention his name? He didn’t do anything, and he mentions himself first. Isn’t this amazing? He doesn’t even say “after Shayṭān threw some evil into my brothers.” It is as if he has something to share in the blame even though he has zero.
SubḥānAllāh when you phrase it this way, there is no reminding of the evil that they have done. It is as if they get of scot-free because that is the promise to them that they are not going to be criticized after that.
“My Lord is Laṭīf to whomever He pleases.”
What does Laṭīf mean? Laṭīf, as you know, is one of the Names of Allāh ‘azza wa jall, and it is a beautiful Name to use here. Yūsuf is saying, “My Lord is Laṭīf to whomever He pleases.” Laṭīf actually means ‘the One who is aware of the most intricate and hidden secrets.’ From this, there is a secondary to meaning to Laṭīf, which is to have a protective care, a nourishing care around somebody because you are very familiar with their faults, weaknesses, and problems. Because you know it, you will protect them. The original meaning of Laṭīf or the ‘aṣl of Laṭīf is to know the hidden, secret, and ghayb of something. It is stronger than khabīr, which means you know, because laṭīf means you know the hidden. Khabīr means you know the open, and laṭīf means you know the secret.
Because you know the secret and know that which is hidden, you are able to fill in any gaps, protect any weaknesses, take care of any issues. People think you are okay; Al-Laṭīf knows you are not okay and because He knows this, He will take care of you. This is a beautiful Name to use. Laṭīf means because Allāh knew his state, He took care of him. Because Allāh knew what was going on, He was nourishing and guarding over him.
“He is Laṭīf to whomever He please. Verily He is Al-‘Alīm Al-Ḥakīm.”
He is the One who knows everything and the One who is All-Wise. Once again two Names of Allāh ‘azza wa jall that are very relevant. He knew all along what was happening. He was Ḥakīm. He had a wisdom – Yūsuf didn’t know it, they didn’t know it, but now we see that wisdom. Ḥakīm means there is a wisdom of why He is doing all of this. Allāh knew everything that is happening to all of them. He was doing everything for a wisdom, and now we see that wisdom in front of us.