Lecture by Yasir Qadhi | Transcribed by Sameera
[The following is the video playlist and transcript of part 2 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.]
Last week, we discussed the first three ayat of Surah Yusuf. In these three ayat, Allah (subhanahu wata’ala) introduces the importance of the Qur’an. The point of these three ayat is that Allah is telling us: “This is the holiest Book, the clear Book (kitabal-mubeen). This is the Book that is very clear, and We have given this to you in simple Arabic language so that you can understand. And We have narrated to you the best of all stories (Nahnu naqussu ‘alayka ahsana’l-qasas), and that is the reason why We have revealed this Qur’an to you even though before it came down, you were not of those who knew and were of the ghafileen (i.e. you didn’t know the story of Yusuf, you didn’t know the details of right and wrong, you didn’t know the reality of Islam) until this Qur’an came down.”
These three verses set up the story. Immediately in the fourth verse the story begins.
“Idh qala Yusuf…”
The word idh occurs in the Qur’an usually right before a story begins. In English, what this means is ‘remember when / recall when.’ This is usually how stories begin in the Qur’an.
Lineage of Yusuf (‘alayhi salaam)
“When Yusuf said to his father…”
Yusuf is the son of Ya‘qub who is the son of Ishaaq who is the son of Ibrahim. Yusuf ibn Ya‘qub ibn Ishaaq ibn Ibrahim. The prophet, the son of the prophet, the son of a prophet, the son of a prophet.
Once a companion came to the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) and said, “Who is the most noble of all men?” The Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) said, “The most noble is the one who has the most piety.” The man said, “I did not mean in that sense.” The Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) said, “Are you asking about the tribes? Are you asking about nobility, meaning the lineage? In that case, the most noble person is Yusuf ibn Ya‘qub ibn Ishaaq ibn Ibrahim (the prophet, the son of a prophet, the son of a prophet, the son of a prophet).”
The bedouin had come and wanted to know which qabeelah was the best. Is it Quryash? Is it Thaqif? Is it Kinanah? Which tribe is the noblest tribe? As you know, Islam came to eradicate this type of racism. Basically, it is translating into: which race is the best? Is it the whites, is it the blacks, is it the browns? This is the mentality. This person is coming and asking, “Which tribe is the best?”
Initially, the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) did not understand and said the best person is the best Muslim and the best righteous man. The man said, “I don’t mean in that sense.” Immediately, the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) understood and said, “You mean in the sense that you guys are used to? If you really want to look at lineage, then who do you think you are in comparison to the lineage of Yusuf (alayhi salaam)?”
Lineage in and of itself has no role in the akhirah. Your father could be the greatest scholar or ‘alim or even a prophet. The son of Nuh had a father who was a prophet. When Nuh (alayhi salaam) called out to his son to come and ride the ship, he said no and that he would save himself, and Allah said he was of those who were destroyed. Your husband or wife could be the worst human being. Wasn’t the best lady on earth, Asiyah, married to the worst human being (Firawn)? Lineage plays no role in the akhirah.
In a hadith in Al-Tirmidhi, the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) said, “The one whose deeds pull him back, his lineage will not push him forward.” On the Day of Judgment, if your good deeds push you back and you do not have enough good deeds to go forward, then just because you are the son of so-and-so, it will not push you forward. The Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) is saying to the bedouin that lineage the way he is thinking of it does not matter, but if he really wants to know, then he would tell him that the most noble person is Yusuf, the son of a prophet who is the son of a prophet who is the son of a prophet.
The story of Ibrahim is well known, and we do not need to repeat all of it over here, but to summarize for those of you who may be hearing it for the first time, Ibrahim (alayhi salaam) is considered to be one of the greatest of all prophets, and he did not have any children until old age. He was maybe 90 or 100 years old before he had any children. He was making du’a to Allah. Allah blessed him first with Isma‘il from his servant Hajar. When Isma‘il became a teenager then Allah blessed him with Ishaaq from his wife Sarah. He had two sons: Isma‘il and Ishaaq.
Isma‘il is the father of the Arabs, and Ishaaq is the father of Yaq‘ub who is the father of the children of Israel. Ya‘qub’s title is Isra’il or Israel (i.e. Israel is Ya‘qub), so the children of Israel are the children of Ya‘qub. Bani Isra’il are Bani Ya‘qub. Ya‘qub and Isra’il are the same person. Ya‘qub’s children are the Jews.
Isma‘il is the father of the Arabs. Ismail’s progeny had no prophets other than our Prophet Muhammad (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam). There were no prophets in the whole line from Ismai’l up until our Prophet Muhammad (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) other than one, and that is our Prophet Muhammad (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam). As for Ishaaq, the Prophet Ibrahim made a du’a to Allah: “Make me the imam to all of mankind.” He wanted to be the leader of all of mankind. This du’a of his was accepted, and all future prophets came from him. No prophet came after Ibrahim except that he was from his lineage. Because we just said Isma‘il only had one prophet in his lineage (the Prophet Muhammad (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam)), so this means that all of the prophets after Ibrahim other than the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) came from the lineage of Ishaaq. Ishaaq and Ya‘qub and all of the prophets after him – there were hundreds of prophets or at least dozens for sure. From Ya‘qub to his son Yusuf to the children of Yusuf, all the way there was a continuous line of prophets. This is something many Muslims are not aware of, but Christians and Jews know this because it is a part of their culture and their books mention this.
From the time of Ya‘qub all the way up until the time of the Prophet ‘Isa (alayhi salaam), there was a continuous string of prophets that was not interrupted, one after another. The Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) said, “The prophets managed the Bani Isra’il.” Every time one prophet died, another prophet came in his place. This is a great blessing from Allah, and this is why Allah says in the Qur’an: “I have preferred you [the children of Isra’il] over all the nations.” In this sense, Allah preferred them even over us – and that is that they always had a continuous prophet amongst them. Overall, we believe that Allah’s Favor finished upon them with the coming of Jesus Christ. When they rejected ‘Isa (or Jesus Christ), then Allah’s Favor lifted from them and went to the followers of the Prophet Muhammad (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam).
We are talking about Ya‘qub, who is the grandson of Ibrahim, and the son of Ya‘qub, and that is Yusuf. It is said that Ya‘qub had two wives, and some people say that he also had two maidservants. Before we get into more detail, we have to mention that the scholars say that we should restrict our information to the Qur’an and Sunnah as much as possible. To look to the other sources, in particular the Old Testament and New Testament, is not haram, but it is problematic because you are not sure if it is right or wrong. It could be right or it could be wrong. We will try our best in these series of lectures to minimize turning to other sources. When I do quote you these sources, then I will inform you that this is a source that is not part of our religion.
Somebody may ask ‘Why then do you even quote it? Why don’t we just completely rely on the Qur’an and Sunnah?’ The response is found in Sahih Bukhari. The Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) said, “You may narrate from Bani Isra’il – from the Jews and Christians. [You can narrate their stories, and there is no sin in doing so.] When you narrate from the children of Isra’il, don’t believe it but do not deny it.” (i.e. be neutral). It might be true; it might not be true.
According to certain reports in the Old Testament, the Prophet Ya‘qub (alayhi salaam) had four consorts, two were wives and two were maidservants. From these four, he had twelve sons. Yusuf and Benyamin (his brother’s name) were from one wife, Rachel. This woman was the mother of Yusuf and Benyamin – two sons only. The other sons were from other women. According to most reports that we have, and even Ibn Abbas said this, the mother of Yusuf died while giving birth to Yusuf’s younger brother Benyamin. Benyamin was born at the death of his mother. It was simultaneous; in other words, she died in childbirth in labor. It is said that Ya‘qub married Rachel’s sister. He married Yusuf’s khalah (aunt), and she became the woman who took care of Yusuf and Benyamin. He did not have any children from this lady.
Yusuf (alayhi salaam) at this point in time is living in Filistin. This is the holy land that Allah chose for Ishaaq and his progeny. Allah (subhanahu wata’ala) started two holy lands with Ibrahim. The first of these was the Ka’bah, which was before Jerusalem. We know this because the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) said, “There were 40 years between the establishment of the Ka’bah and the establishment of Jerusalem.” Ibrahim built the Ka’bah first. Most likely, it was Ya‘qub who really built Jerusalem or perhaps Ishaaq, but we know that it was not Ibrahim. Ibrahim did not make Palestine holy, but the children of Ibrahim did. It was holy, and we believe that it is still holy. Allah calls it in the Qur’an ‘ard al-muqaddas‘, a holy land. Ibrahim and his progeny began two holy lands: Isma‘il in Makkah and Ishaaq in Filistin. Ishaaq’s son Ya‘qub is in Filistin, and Ya‘qub has children. Yusuf is in Filistin. We are going to learn now that Yusuf will leave Filistin, but for now, they are in Filistin.
Yusuf sees a dream. “Idh qala Yusuf…” “When Yusuf said to his father…”
How old is Yusuf at this stage? Most scholars say he is seven years old. “Recall when Yusuf said to his father, ‘I saw eleven stars and the sun and the moon. I saw them prostrating to me.’” He repeats the verb ra’aytu twice because first he is setting up the picture of the eleven stars, the sun, and the moon, and then he repeats that he saw all of them prostrating to him. The story of Yusuf begins with a dream.
Before we go on, we need to talk about dreams. What is so important about dreams? Why do dreams play a role in the story of Yusuf? We learn in the Qur’an and Sunnah that dreams can occur from Allah (subhanahu wata’ala), and they can occur from Shaytan, and they can occur from your own imagination. Dreams fall into three categories. Dreams can occur from Allah, and this type occurs to the prophets. The prophets don’t get the other two types of dreams. The only type of dreams that the prophets have are from Allah. Allah has protected their dreams from Shaytan, and Allah has protected their dreams from their own imagination; therefore, every time a prophet sees a dream, it is wahy (inspiration from Allah).
We have already seen this in the family of Ibrahim before. Ibrahim (alayhi salaam) sees a dream about Isma‘il and that he is sacrificing him. The Prophet Ibrahim has already told us the reality of dreams. Now, his great-grandson Yusuf sees a dream. Dreams are something related to the prophets of Allah, but they are not only related to the prophets. It is possible that people who are not prophets also get these types of dreams.
In one hadith in Al-Tirmidhi, the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) said, “Nothing has been left of nubuwwa other than mubashiraat.” The Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) was asked, “What are mubashiraat , ya Rasulillah?” He (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) said, “A dream that you see. Either you or somebody else sees you in it.” You see yourself in it, or somebody else sees you in it and comes and tells you, “Akhi, I saw you in a dream, and this is what I saw.” This is a mubashir. What does mubashir mean? Mubashir means ‘good news.’ From this we learn that the dreams that Allah blesses a person with always have something positive. There is a positive message in what Allah tells you in your dreams.
To talk about dreams a little bit more – we said dreams are of three types:
1. Hadith’l-nafs – Dreams from your imagination.
For example, if one of us wants a very fancy car and wants to by the latest model of the Mercedes or Jaguar and is thinking about it and daydreaming, and when you go to sleep, lo and behold, you are driving that car. This is your hadith’l-nafs and imagination.
There is a special group of scientists who study dreams. I find it very tickling that masha’Allah if they fall asleep on the job, they are the only group of people that can say, “We are working while we fall asleep.” There are scientists who study dreams, and these scientists tell us that this type of dream occurs every night. There is a phase in our sleep called REM (rapid eye movement) when everybody dreams. The sign of this dream is that when you wake up, the dream is absolutely fresh but within a few seconds it is gone. This is the indication that it is this type of dream; it is your imagination.
External impulses affect this type of dream. If somebody throws water on your face, then you dream that you are drowning. If you hear your alarm clock go off, it will somehow affect your dream. If somebody is calling you, “Wake up! Wake up! It is time for fajr!”, in your dream, it will be translated that somebody is waking you up.
This type of dream has nothing to do with good or bad and is your own imagination. The sign of it is that you do not remember it at all. You wake up and by the time it is the middle of the day, you don’t remember anything about it.
2. Huloom – a nightmare / evil dream
Huloom is an evil dream, and in English, we call it a nightmare. These types of dream are from Shaytan. The sign of this dream is that it terrifies you. You see something evil or disgusting. You see a loved one die a miserable death. You see yourself in a car accident. You see yourself being chased by evil aliens or beasts or something like this.
This type of dream is just the shayateen wanting to irritate you. They are playing a practical joke on you. They are irritating you. Why? Because you are a Muslim, or even if you are not a Muslim. The non-Muslims have nightmares as well. This is the shayateen playing with you at your expense. These types of dreams are never, ever true. Nobody should believe these dreams. Nobody should believe nightmares. The Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) said that nightmares should not be told to anybody. If you see an evil dream don’t go tell other people about it. Why? Because Shaytan is making a fool of you. Once a man came to the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) and said, “Oh Messenger of Allah, I saw my head cut off in a dream and it was rolling like a ball and I am running after it to pick it up.” The Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) said, “Don’t tell other people how the Shaytan played with you last night.” He is laughing now when you go tell other people because you believe this dream.
What is the sign of this type of dream? The sign of this type of dream is that you wake up terrified and in a sweat. Shaytan does not know the future. If you see yourself in a car accident and the next morning you call and say that you are not going to go to work because you do not want to drive, then Shaytan is the one laughing at you because you believed him. You have to reject nightmares. There is not an element of truth in them. If you follow it and believe it, Shaytan is the one who will be the winner.
The Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) said that if you wake up from a nightmare, then seek refuge in Allah from the Shaytan and you are allowed to spit on the left hand side as you do this. This spit that the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) talked about is where the noise is made and nothing comes out. This is to expel Shaytan from you. Say: a’oodhu billahi min al-Shaytan al-rajeem. Also, the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) said to turn from whatever side you are on to the other side because when the Shaytan is teasing you, he is around you or sitting on you, so when you say a’oodhu billah and turn around, he has to flee and run away. If it is really bad, then the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) said to stand up and pray two rak’ah to seek refuge in Allah from the Shaytan and to establish that relationship with Allah. Whatever you do, you do not tell anyone: not your loved ones and not your spouse and not your friends.
Dreams of a vulgar nature (wet dreams) are also from Shaytan. A man or woman is not sinful from these types of dreams. The fiqh is that when you wake up from this type of dream, then you must perform an entire ghusl. This dream is from Shaytan even though there is no sin on you because you do not control your dreams. None of the prophets have wet dreams because this is from Shaytan. There is no reason for us to feel guilty about this type of dream. It is natural for a person to go through this, and it is not something to feel any issue about. We should realize that this type of dream is coming from Shaytan, and the Shaytan is showing us such images in our head and causing this to happen. We wake up in the middle of this freezing cold weather and have to go take a shower, and this is not something that is from us or from Allah, but this is from Shaytan. This is another type of evil dream. Once again, we don’t tell people about these dreams, but if we wake up in that state, then obviously we have to do ghusl.
3. Mubashiraat / ru’yah – Vision from Allah
The third type is mubashirat, or it is also called ru’yah in Arabic, which is a vision from Allah. It is a positive dream. No dream from Allah will cause you to wake up in a frightened state. You will not wake up terrified, or else it would not be a mubashir. What does mubashir mean? It is from bashir and bashara. Glad tidings, good news, something optimistic. Even if it is not positive, it will be a factual statement. It will be something true and not something terrifying.
What is the sign of this type of dream? You will wake up and remember the dream vividly, so it is not hadith’l-nafs. You will not wake up in a terrified state. When these two conditions are met, then it is very possible and likely that it is a mubashir. Sometimes you will wake up in a positive state because you saw something positive. Sometimes you will wake up in a neutral state (not scared and not happy) and you may be confused about what you saw, but you will never wake up terrified. If you wake up terrified, it is not from Allah, but it is from Shaytan.
Dreams from Allah are one of two types:
1) The first of them, which is less common, is that you see an actual event with you in it without any symbolism. You see something that will happen in the future, and there is no symbolism in it. It is an enactment of the future. The Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) saw a dream that he was doing tawaf around the Ka‘bah in the sixth year of the hijrah. There was no symbolism, and when he saw the dream, he knew that it was not a symbolic dream. He (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) said, “Oh Muslims, I saw a dream that I was doing tawaf around the Ka‘bah. Let’s go make umrah.” That year they were stopped from entering Makkah, and the Treaty of Hudhaybiyah took place.
[That we will talk about in perhaps maybe one or two years from now insha’Allah if Allah gives us every Wednesday to come, there will be long time ahead to the Treaty of Hudhaybiyah. Maybe even actually three or four years, but we will get there sometime insha’Allah. We will talk about in detail where the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) was prevented from going into Makkah.]
The Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) saw a dream with no symbolism. He saw himself doing tawaf and shaving his hair and it would happen. Allah said in the Qur’an: “This dream that you saw is a true dream. You will enter Masjid Al-Haram.” It happened in the next year.
This first type of dream where you see an actual enactment of what will happen. This is rare but happens. It is more common to the prophets. The Prophet Ibrahim saw himself sacrificing his son – there was no symbolism, and it was clear cut.
With regards to such types of dreams, Aisha (radhi Allahu ‘anha) tells us that the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) narrates that for six months before the revelation of the Qur’an, every single night, the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) would see one of these dreams. For six months non-stop, every time our Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) would go to sleep, he would dream what was going to happen tomorrow. He might dream being in the souq buying and selling, and the next day the exact same thing happens. He dreams he is going to meet somebody and the next day that person comes and he meets him. He sees the dream, and the next morning it happens. For six months non-stop, why? Allah (subhanahu wata’ala) is telling him that something special and great is going to happen, and He is preparing him for the revelation of iqra. For six months, this happens, and then iqra is revealed.
This is the more common type. Sometimes the prophets have this type of dream. More commonly, non-prophets have this type of dream. In this type of dream, every object that you see symbolizes and represents something else. For example, an ear of corn represents a year of water according to the story of Yusuf. A very fat cow and a very thin cow represent a year of surplus and a year of drought. A tree represents this, or the Ka‘bah represents that. Light represents something else.
In one hadith, the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) said, “I saw men wearing robes of different sizes, and some of the robes were up to their necks and some were up to their stomachs. I saw Umar ibn Al-Khattab and his shirt was dragging behind him.” They said, “How did you interpret this?” He (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) said, “The religion.” People have different sizes of religion. The religion of some is small and the religion of some is big. Umar’s religion was so strong, it was going all the way back there. A shirt means religion in this dream. By the way, this does not mean that in every single dream a shirt symbolizes religion, but in this dream it did. This type of dream is a symbolic dream.
We see it right now in the story of Yusuf because he sees eleven stars and the sun and the moon. This is symbolic. Every color, animal, image, plant and inanimate object that you remember represents something. Not everybody can unlock or explain this type of representation.
This leads us to the topic of interpreting dreams (tafseer ar-ru’ah or ta’wil of dreams). Contrary to common perception, interpreting dreams is not something that you can simply look up in a book and practice. Many books say The Dictionary of Interpreting Dreams, The Encyclopedia of Dream Interpretation. There is a fabricated book attributed to Ibn Sireen titled “Ibn Sireen’s Dictionary of Dreams,” which is a fabrication. Ibn Sireen never wrote any such book. It was written 700 years after Ibn Sireen passed away. This book is not correct. In any case, if you go to any Islamic bookstore, in Arabic, Urdu, Farsi, or English, you will find books about interpreting dreams.
Let me be very clear here: The interpretation of dreams is not a science that can be taught by men to men. It is one of the few sciences that Allah blesses you with innately. There is no way you can study the science of interpreting dreams. For example, I studied in Madinah and some scholars studied in Azhar and some scholars studied in Deoband. There are classes there for tafseer, hadith, fiqh, and there are classes for history and seerah and for Arabic language, but there are no classes for dream interpretation. I studied for ten years there, and I never heard of any class being offered even privately on interpreting dreams. Why?
Dream interpretation is not a ‘book science’. It is a blessing from Allah, which Allah clearly says in these verses, “I will teach you how to interpret dreams.” He says it to Yusuf [12:6].
Therefore, dream interpretation is something that Allah blesses the chosen of His servants with. Some people have it, and some people don’t. If you don’t have it, you cannot learn it. You can ask Allah to give it to you and you can make du‘a, but you cannot read a book. It is not like engineering, and it is not like hadith, and it is not like fiqh, and it is not like medicine. These are sciences that are codified. Dream interpretation is real, and the prophets of Allah, especially the Prophet Yusuf knew this science fully. Of course our Prophet Muhammad (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) knew this science.
Not everybody is blessed with it. How do you know if somebody’s interpretation is true or not? By experience. Another point here is the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) said, “When you see such a dream from Allah [the beautiful dream, mubashirat], don’t tell anyone except someone whom you trust.” You only tell the good dreams to those whom you trust because people might get jealous – like we learn right now in the story of Yusuf – and because people might think evil thoughts. Only tell the ones who are close to you. You are allowed to tell, and you should tell, but you only tell those whom you trust.
When you tell those whom you trust, if you do not know how to interpret dreams, then you should be quiet. There is a danger for incorrectly interpreting dreams. In one hadith, the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) said, “A dream that has not been interpreted is like a bird flying above you. As soon as someone interprets it, the bird will fall down.” You only want the most qualified person to interpret the dream. You may tell your loved ones, but the loved ones who are not knowledgeable of dream interpretation should be quiet. You should only go to those whom you trust who are knowledgeable to interpret the dreams.
As we said, this is known by experience. In the community, there might be a person who is masha’Allah muttaqi and praying five times a day – by the way, generally speaking, the more righteous you are, the more likely you will have this knowledge. The closer you are to Allah, the more this knowledge will be innate and natural to you. You go to those people and they interpret the dream, and then you will find out whether the dream was true or not.
If somebody sees a dream, the dream interpreter tells him this dream means that he will pass the exam he is studying for, and lo and behold, he passes the exam, or this dream means that such and such will happen, and lo and behold, it happens. From experience we learn that this person masha’Allah knows dream interpretation.
However, nobody’s dream interpretation can be 100% accurate other than the prophets of Allah. It is only the prophets of Allah who have 100% accurate dream interpretation. What is the evidence for this? A long hadith in Sahih Bukhari. The Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) saw a dream and he told it to the people. Abu Bakr (radhi Allahu ‘anhu) raised his hand and said, “Oh Messenger of Allah, I beg you by Allah to let me interpret the dream!” The Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) said, “Okay, interpret it.” Abu Bakr took every symbol and said this means this, and this means this, and this means this and then asked, “Am I right, oh Messenger of Allah?” He said, “You are right in some and you are wrong in others.” If Abu Bakr Al-Siddeeq could not fully master the science of dream interpretation, then no other human being after the prophets can. This means that even the greatest dream interpreter doesn’t have 100% solid dream interpretation.
One of the reasons why dream interpretation is not book knowledge is because symbols vary from society to culture to place. Therefore, you cannot just open up a book and look up what this symbol means. To give you a funny example, what a coconut symbolizes to a person living in a desert island is not the same as what it symbolizes to a person living in the city. For the person on the island, the coconut symbolizes life, water, and food. For me, a coconut does not symbolize any of those things. It is a very different thing.
For example, in our culture in India and Pakistan, a white elephant symbolizes something – those of us who are from there, we know that – but if an American sees a white elephant, it doesn’t symbolize to him what it symbolizes to people of other cultures. The point being symbols will be relevant to the culture of the people because Allah is communicating to him. There is no concept of a universal dictionary of dreams or a universal encyclopedia of dreams. Rather, dreams are very personal, and you go to the local people who know you and your background and tell them your dreams, and if they know they will interpret it.
A very interesting hadith: The Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) said, “Dreams from Allah are the only thing that remain from prophethood, and they represent 1/46th of prophethood.” It is a very precise fraction. He (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) is saying that to be a prophet, you need 46 things, and one of them is true dreams. The door has been shut for the other 45 things, and they will not happen anymore in mankind. Maybe Jibreel coming down was one of them and seeing the angels was another, but we do not know the list.
There are 46 things that all prophets do, and 45 have been shut for everybody until the Day of Judgment except for one door, and that is the door of good dreams. Where did this fraction come from? Scholars say that if you look at the life of the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam), he received wahy for 23 years (13 in Makkah and 10 in Madinah), and for six months before the wahy began, he saw true dreams. Six months is half a year, and 0.5 / 23 years = 1 / 46. This is the exact fraction. This is exactly what our Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) said that nothing is left of prophethood except dreams, and these dreams are 1/46 of prophethood.
The Dream of Yusuf (‘alayhi salaam)
After this tangent into dreams, let us go back to the story of Yusuf:
Yusuf says, “I have seen eleven stars and the sun and the moon. I saw them…” He repeats the verb ‘I saw’ to emphasize that something occurred in the middle of the dream. First they were stagnant (“I saw them”), and then: “I saw them move and prostrate to me.”
Yusuf was a child and did not understand the meaning of the dream. He is seven. Right now, Allah has not taught him to interpret dreams. When he becomes older and in the prison and the king of Egypt sees the dream, he interprets it immediately. Right now he is a kid, and he doesn’t know, so he goes to his father and says, “Ya abati.” Abati is a polite way to say father. In the Qur’an, it is generally always abati. Ibrahim tells his father ‘ya abati.’ It is the most polite way to say father.
He says, “Oh my dear father, I have seen eleven stars and the sun and the moon prostrating to me.” We all know the interpretation of this: The eleven stars represent his brothers, and the sun and the moon represent his parents. Some scholars say the father is the sun and the mother is the moon, so “I saw the sun and the moon” meaning ‘my father and mother.’ However, a lot of scholars say, and perhaps this is the majority opinion of earlier scholars, that the mother represents the sun and the father represents the moon because the right of the mother is more than the right of the father. A lot of early commentators say that the sun represents the mother of Yusuf and not the father because the right of the mother is three times more than the father. A minority says that the sun represents the father.
What do the sun and the moon and the stars represent? They represent celestial objects and high individuals and individuals of nobility. They represent individuals who are shining stars. Even in English, we call somebody who is famous a ‘star,’ meaning someone who is worthy to be looked up to. These are the stars, and the sun and the moon are even brighter than them. All of these indicate very high beings. The fact that they prostrate indicate that there is a being that is higher than them. There is a being that is nobler than all of them and that is Yusuf. Yusuf in his dream sees that these are not normal people prostrating to him and these are not average human beings prostrating to him. These are stars and the sun and the moon and the height of humanity at that time prostrating to him. Who else was better than Ya‘qub at that time? Nobody. Who else was better than his parents? Nobody. This means that eventually Yusuf will outshine the sun and the moon and the stars. Yusuf will become more famous and will rise to higher ranks and reach a level of nobility that even his mother, father, and brothers did not reach.
When his father hears this, he says, “Oh my dear son, don’t tell this dream of yours to your brothers. They are going to plot against you a severe plotting.” One of the problems of doing tafseer in any language other than Arabic is that you lose a lot of the balagha.
This type of double cannot really be translated into English. “They will plot against you a plotting.” It loses the whole beauty. “They will plan against you a planning.” There is no eloquence in English to say that. The meaning here is: “They will plot against you a very mighty / very severe plot.” The emphasis is a powerful plot and a strong plot and an effective plot.
“Verily Shaytan is an open enemy to mankind.”
Benefits of this Ayah
From this ayah, we derive many benefits. We can summarize them into seven points:
1. We only tell dreams to those whom we trust. Yusuf went to his father. The first thing his father said was, “Do not tell your dream to others.” We only tell our dreams to those whom we trust because telling dreams to those whom we don’t trust can backfire.
2. We see the dangers of jealousy and envy. This is a common theme throughout this whole surah. We are going to come back to this point over and over again. What is jealousy and envy? It is a burning desire that a man or woman has to be given something that somebody else has. It is a burning desire that ‘why was he given that? I should be given that.’ It is some type of evil desire that the other person is not worthy of it but that you are more worthy of it than that person.
The Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) said, “I warn you against having jealousy. Jealousy eats up your good deeds like a fire eats up twigs.” This is a very interesting hadith because jealousy is a feeling, and the general rule is that we are not accountable for feelings and thoughts, but some feelings and thoughts we are accountable for and the number one is jealousy. Why? You must fight jealousy. If you do not fight jealousy, then the feeling of jealousy will eat up your good deeds because it is a feeling that emanates from an evil heart. Anybody who is jealous is accusing Allah (a’oodhubillah) of being ignorant.
This is what my shaykh said to me – Shaykh Ibn Uthaymeen (rahimahullah). He said, “Anybody who is jealous is accusing Allah of dhulm and ignorance.” How so? The jealous man is thinking, “He doesn’t deserve this. I deserve it. Who does he think he is to have that? I am more worthy to have it than him.” What he is basically saying is ‘O Allah (astaghfirullah), you have done an injustice and should not have given that to him. I am more worthy of it than him.’ Anybody who is jealous has a problem in his ‘aqeedah (theology) and iman, and that is why jealousy destroys your good deeds. You cannot be a true believer in Allah and allow this jealousy to grow. This is why jealousy has to be battled.
This is a disease in men and women. Generally speaking, men are jealous of wealth and power and women are jealous of beauty. This is just a fact, and I’m making a factual statement here. In either case, this feeling of jealousy is a contradiction of iman in Allah because you are saying, “O Allah, why did You make her so beautiful? O Allah, why did you make him the president or the prime minister or give him so much money? I deserve this as well.” It is a problem of iman. Here in this ayah, we learn of the dangers of jealousy.
3. The third benefit of this ayah: A believer should be wise and not make problems for himself. Do not boast about any type of blessing. We shouldn’t go and flaunt the blessings that Allah has given us because this type of flaunting and this type of boasting will cause people to be jealous even though it may be halal.
That is why when later on in the story, we will learn when Ya‘qub tells his children to enter Egypt, he tells them, “Don’t enter from one door. Enter from different because you are all young, handsome men and it is obvious that you are all from one family, and everybody is going to get jealous.” In those days, they liked lots of kids. In these days, the norm is to only want two kids generally speaking. In those days, they wanted lots of children, and for one man to have twelve sons who are masha’Allah grown up and handsome and young and powerful, Ya‘qub is worried people are going to get jealous of them. There is nothing haram for twelve brothers to walk in from one door, but this is wisdom. You don’t need to go flaunt to make people feel jealous of the blessings that Allah has given you.
There is either a hadith (scholars have differed about its authenticity) or a statement of one of the sahabah: “Help yourselves to achieve your goals by secrecy.” In other words, do not publicize what you are doing to everybody. If you want to purchase a business, or if you want to do something and you are worried other competitors are going to come and it is halal what you are doing, then don’t cause problems for yourself by telling everybody and telling people whom you do not trust. We learn this as well in this ayah.
4. The fourth benefit is clearly mentioned: Shaytan is a clear and open enemy to you. Shaytan is an enemy, and we don’t need to go into a whole tangent about why this is the case. Allah warned the very first human being about Shaytan. Allah (subhanahu wata’ala) says in the Qur’an, “We said, ‘O Adam, this being [He didn’t even mention him. Over here, there is an element of despicability.] is an enemy to you and to your wife.’” The very first human beings are told this, so make sure that they do not cause you to be expelled from Jannah.
Allah tells us in the Qur’an: “Shaytan is an enemy to you, so make sure you treat him like an enemy.” Shaytan is ever eager to persuade you and cause you to go astray. One thing we need to be very clear about is Shaytan does not have control over you. In the Qur’an, Allah tells us that on the Day of Judgment people will come and blame Shaytan and say, “O Allah, it is all Shaytan‘s fault. He is the one who caused me to go astray.” In the Qur’an, Allah tells us Shaytan‘s defense: “I had no power over you. I had no control over you. I could only do one thing – I called you and whispered and enticed. You were the ones who responded. Don’t get angry at me. Don’t criticize me. Go criticize yourselves. You were the ones who followed me. I did not force you. I whispered and enticed and made it alluring, but you were the ones who actually did the action.” Shaytan is not used as an excuse for committing sins. Shaytan is an ever open enemy to us.
5. The fifth benefit of this ayah: Ya‘qub (alayhi salaam) as a father is well aware of the nature of his children, and he acts to prevent this type of rivalry between them. Even though he is a father and loves all of them, he knows that they are not all the same, so he takes active steps to make sure that the siblings do not fall into fighting one another. If this is what he does as a father, then we should do the same not just with our children but also with our friends and relatives. Take an active role to make sure that no problem happens. This is the sign of a good Muslim and a sign of a prophet. He was concerned about equilibrium and peace and harmony. He does not want fitnah and does not want the breaking of ties of kinship, so he works actively and proactively to make sure the brothers do not fight with one another.
6. The sixth point of benefit is very deep. Ya‘qub says, “Your brothers will plot against you. Shaytan is an open enemy.” He blames two entities: brothers and Shaytan, but the primary blame is to Shaytan. He does not call the brothers ‘enemies’ or ‘evil’, but he says that they will plot and the Shaytan is the culprit. This is very deep because when it comes to criticizing others, it is of the Islamic etiquette to remove the blame from them and transfer it over to Shaytan as much as possible. This opens the door for them to repent and come closer to Allah. But when criticizing the self, you cannot use the Shaytan as an excuse.
I repeat: When you criticize others for something they are doing, it is the perfection of Islamic etiquette to bring along Shaytan in that sentence I.e. ‘Shaytan caused you to do it, and I know it is not your fault.’. Imagine if you made a mistake and your brother / your father / your wife / your child comes to you and said, “I know you got angry and it is not your fault. Shaytan caused you to do it.” How does that make you feel? It makes you feel calm and better and more open to apologize and more open to move on. This is of the Islamic etiquette. When you criticize others, blame it on Shaytan as well.
They do have some fault. “Fayakeedoo laka kayda.” They are the ones plotting; Shaytan is the one who is going to entice it. When you blame yourself and criticize yourself, do not say that Shaytan made you do it. That’s not the time to do so.
Therefore, later in the story, when the wife of Aziz who tries to seduce Yusuf is finally forced to confess, and the king asks her, “Did you or did you not?” What does she say? She says, “The soul commands me to do my own evil.” She does not say that Shaytan told her to do it even though Shaytan was also a part of that, and there is no doubt that Shaytan was the one who primarily enticed for her, but she does not blame Shaytan and knows it is her fault.
At the end of the story when Yusuf talks about his brothers, he says, “Shaytan was the one who caused me and my brothers to go apart.” Are you guys following this point here? Yusuf is criticizing Shaytan for what his brothers did even though his brothers actually did it. He doesn’t criticize his brothers, and he says, “Shaytan was the one who split between me and my brothers.” Why? Because Yusuf is the one telling his brothers they did it. When the brothers come to the father at the end, they don’t say that Shaytan caused them do it. You see the difference here, right? The brothers say, “Father, we made a mistake. Father, it is our fault.” This is being a Muslim: you cannot blame Shaytan. When you are accusing, you let your brother off, and you give him the way out, and you bring Shaytan into it. This is a very beautiful point that we learn from this ayah.
7. The final point of this ayah that we can benefit from is also a very interesting and profound point. Regardless of whether Ya‘qub is represented by the sun or the moon, in the dream, Ya‘qub prostrates to Yusuf. This shows that Yusuf will be higher than Ya‘qub. Does Ya‘qub feel any jealousy? No, even though he is going to be prostrating to Yusuf as well.
He feels no jealousy. Why is this? Because of the miracle of creation that Allah (subhanahu wata’ala) made the father so perfectly that the only human being who has no jealousy of you will be the parent. No other human being will be completely empty of jealousy. It is not possible for the father to be jealous of the son. Why? Because the father always considers his son to be an extension of him. He feels: “This is my son. This is my child.” Yusuf (alayhi salaam) tells his father, and his father feels no jealousy. Rather, his father feels protective – “I want to protect you. Masha’Allah you are going to go higher than me, and I want to make sure your brothers don’t harm you.”
SubhanAllah, this shows us the beauty and miracle of creation that parents are so loving and so selfless and so perfect in that love that no other human being will want to see somebody eclipse them and go higher than them other than their parents – not a brother, not a spouse, not a friend. There is always going to be an element of negativity (sometimes more and sometimes less), but for the father and the mother, there is no such element. This shows us the perfection of Allah’s creation.
Another point we can derive from this: When Ibrahim (alayhi salaam), the grandfather of Ya‘qub, is arguing with his father Adham, he puts a phrase in there that is very strange: “Ya abati (O my father), I have been given knowledge that you have not been given, so follow me. I will lead you to the right path.” This is in the Qur’an. If any person comes to you and says, “You are ignorant and I know more than you. I am the ‘alim. Allah gave me knowledge and not you.” Even if Allah did give him knowledge, would you want to take it from him? No. What type of daw’ah is this? This is the daw’ah that only the son can give to the father in the proper way. (i.e. Allah has blessed me, so be proud of me. I am your son, and Allah has given me a knowledge. I am your son.) Ibrahim (alayhi salaam) is evoking the fatherly feelings of being proud inside his father and the feeling of: “Be proud! I have this knowledge that Allah has given me. I am your son!” Unfortunately, his father was deaf, dumb and blind and said to his son, “Get out of here! Leave me alone, and I will stone you if you continue saying this.” Why did Ibrahim say this? He wants to bring out the feeling of protection and feeling of pure love that only a father can have for a son.
We see this in this ayah as well. Instead of getting jealous, Ya‘qub wants to make sure that Yusuf fulfills the dream. He wants to make sure that his brothers do not prevent it from happening and that eventually they will prostrate, and this is exactly what happens.
There is one point here we can also add, and then we will open the floor for questions. Yusuf did not tell his brothers about the dream, and despite that fact, they still plotted against him. This shows that had he told them the dream, the plotting would have been even worse. Without the dream, they almost killed him but they let him live in the end as we will come to insha’Allah next week. He didn’t tell them the dream, and they basically let him go in the well. Imagine if he did tell them the dream, it would have been even worse. With this, we come to the conclusion.