Lecture by Yasir Qadhi | Transcribed by Sameera
[The following is the video playlist and transcript of part 5 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 reached the place where Yusuf (‘alayhi salaam) was in the well. The travelers came by and they sent their water carrier. He sent down the bucket, and when he pulled it up, he said, “What good news! Here is a boy!” They hid him as merchandise, and Allah ‘azza wa jall knew well what they were doing.
Bakhs means an insignificant price. They sold him for a price that was far less than what he was worthy of. Bakhs means they made a loss on him. This has two meanings. Firstly, Yusuf is invaluable, and no matter what price they had placed on him, it would not have been enough. This is Yusuf (‘alayhi salaam), and you cannot put a price on how much he is worth. Even if they had sold him for 10 million, it would not have been sufficient. Allah ‘azza wa jall is saying here they have a treasure, and no matter what they sold him for, it would not have been worth what Yusuf is worth. Allah ‘azza wa jall is indicating that Yusuf is priceless.
Secondly, Allah is saying that what he would have gotten as a normal slave, they went far less than that anyway. Suppose the market value may have been 400 silver coins, they sold him for a fraction of that, maybe 1/10th of that. Ibn Abbas said they sold him for a fraction of that – maybe a tenth of that, for 40 coins. They sold him for a miserable loss.
“Dirhams that you can count…”
To emphasize the point, Allah said, “Dirhams that you can count.” The fact that you can count them shows that it is not a lot of dirhams. If you have thousands or hundreds of dirhams, then you are not going to count them. If you have only a handful, then you can count them.
“And they were regarding him not very eager.”
They considered him to be insignificant. They did not consider him to be a great prize.
This ayah tells us a number of things. First and foremost, there is a human psychology that when you get something for free, you do not value it. Had they purchased Yusuf on the legal market, he would have been worth a fortune because the most expensive slave is a young boy, but they found him for free. It is human nature that you trivialize what you get for free.
SubhanAllah the best example for this is our religion of Islam. We were born Muslim, and we do not value it. Those who convert to Islam have to search for it and find it. They value it.
Allah ‘azza wa jall is saying they didn’t consider him to be very significant because he was stolen merchandise. Also, Allah is saying that because Yusuf was stolen merchandise, they wanted to get him off of their chest as fast as possible. When people sell stolen merchandise, they do it quickly. The classic is that they show you a watch on the street and want you to quickly buy it because they are guilty. These people are guilty because they have captured an innocent boy who doesn’t deserve to be captured. They have hidden him but should have announced him in the marketplace and said, “We found a boy. Is there any boy missing?” but they stole him and kidnapped him, and when they got to Egypt, they sold him for a miserable price, a very paltry sum. They were very trivial about who Yusuf was.
Who did the selling? Common sense and the context tells us that the people who were part of the caravan did the selling. However, some of the early scholars of tafsir said that the selling was done by the brothers of Yusuf. In other words, they say that after the brothers of Yusuf returned, one or two of them kept coming to the well to monitor what would happen. When the caravan went by and they found the boy, they said, “This is a runaway slave,” and they sold Yusuf to the caravan. They seem to have gotten this from the Biblical stories, and this is one of those areas where the Qur’anic story does not conform to the Biblical story. The story in the Old Testament tells us that the brothers of Yusuf sold Yusuf to the caravan. The Qur’an does not seem to suggest that. The Qur’an says that the caravan traders sold Yusuf to the people in Egypt. Allah ‘azza wa jall knows best. We will go with the Qur’anic story because the context clearly shows that the people who did the selling are the people of the caravan
“Daraahima m‘adoodah (A very insignificant amount of daraahim).”
Daraahim is the plural of dirham. Dirham is the coinage that was used by the Persians, and it was made out of silver. It comes from the ancient Greek darakham. The first people to coin it were the Greeks who had a coinage called darakham. From darakham it went to Persia and the Persians called it dirham. When the Arabs began to trade, they traded with the Romans and the Persians. The Romans minted their coinage in gold and called it dinarus, so the Arabs called the gold coins dinar. The Persians minted their coins in silver and called it daraham, so the Arabs called it dirham. The Arabs did not have their own money at the time of the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam). They had the money of the Romans and the Persians. They had two currencies. Until today in this world, there are places where the dollar may be more powerful than the currency of the country. In many third world countries, the dollar is more powerful than the currency of the country, but all countries mint their own coins. In the time of jahiliyyah and in the time of early Islam, the Islamic state was new, so they used these coinage.
A side point: The first people who began to being minting coinage for the Muslims were the early Ummayyads, especially AbdulMalik ibn Marwan who was the first khalifah who began minting gold and silver. He called the gold dinar and the silver dirham. To this day, in many countries of the world such as Iraq and Libya and other countries, they call the coins dinar and dirham from this original.
The Qur’an is using it in ancient times, which shows us that the word dirham as we now know from historical usage goes back thousands of years. The people at the time of Yusuf were selling and buying with dirhams. This is something that modern science has shown that the term dirham goes back thousands of years.
“They sold him.”
We say that the strongest opinion seems to be that they sold him, meaning Yusuf, in Egypt to the minister ‘Aziz. There is a fiqhi point to be made here: Yusuf is stolen merchandise, which means that he is illegal and not a legitimate item. How then can they sell the illegitimate item when they don’t own it?
Do you understand the point here? If I steal your watch and then sell it to you, technically speaking this is a void transaction because I wasn’t supposed to steal, and I do not own the watch, so how then can I sell it to you? We are going to derive many fiqh points from the story of Yusuf and insha’Allah maybe in a later lecture I will explain why we can derive fiqh from a story that goes back thousands of years, but for now, we will just leave it that we will derive fiqh rulings from the story of Yusuf.
The scholars say here that if somebody sells you an item and it appears that he owns the item, then your transaction with that man is valid. If he did not own it, then the sin goes to him. Imagine now if we had to verify if every single person owns something. If it appears that this person is an owner and all of the supporting evidence indicates that he is the owner, then the transaction is valid.
Had Yusuf had been a regular kidnapped boy, he would be screaming, “I am a kidnapped person! I am not a slave! These people have kidnapped me!” Why didn’t he now do so? Because his brothers are going to kill him, and he can’t go back home, so what is he going to do? Also, perhaps he is also terrified. Also, perhaps Allah has told him to be quiet because the wahy or ilham has already begun. Regularly speaking, if a 13 year old boy is kidnapped, he is going to be screaming his head off that he is not a slave and not to buy him. The fact that he is quiet in the marketplace and these people are saying that they have a slave, all of the supporting evidence is that Yusuf is a slave owned by this group.
Scholars say, and this is the general fiqh rule, that if a transaction is made and later on it turns out the person who sold you the item didn’t own it, you are scot free, and you don’t have to defend yourself, and you will get your money back because you didn’t do anything wrong. The one who did wrong was the one who cheated you and the one who did dhulm.
“The one who purchased him from Egypt said to his wife, ‘Make his stay comfortable. Perhaps he will benefit us or we might even adopt him.’ And this is how We established Yusuf in the land so that We may teach him the interpretation of events. And Allah has full power and control over all of his affairs but most of mankind do not know.”
“The one who purchased him from Egypt…”
Now we get to Egypt. Allah ‘azza wa jall indicates that from the land of Filistine they have now moved to Egypt. The caravan has taken Yusuf (‘alayi salaam) over the Sinai peninsula and into the land of Egypt.
“The one who purchased him from Egypt said to his wife, ‘Make his stay comfortable…’”
Mathwaa means ‘where a person rests.’ The man tells his wife to make his place of rest comfortable. In other words, treat him nicely and give him all that he needs.
“‘…Perhaps he will benefit us or we might even adopt him.’”
Allah later on calls this man ‘Aziz, which simply means the honorable man. Many scholars say that because Yusuf himself is called al-‘aziz later on in the story, this man was the minister of finance. We know that Yusuf becomes the minister of finance. Because the terms are the same, there is an indication that Yusuf eventually takes on the role of his master. This seems to make sense because the terms used are the same.
This man was at the rank of ‘Aziz, meaning noble minister and one level below the king. He is the one who purchases Yusuf, and he senses in Yusuf something above and beyond the ordinary. He senses that this is not your regular slave or average person. He tells his wife to treat him honorably and not like the regular slaves of the house. Why? “I have a feeling that this person may benefit us later on or we might even adopt him as a son.” Scholars say that this shows that they did not have a son, and they thought that maybe they could adopt this child.
Some of the scholars of the past such as Ibn Mas’ud said that three people showed depth of firasah (intuition / gut instinct). Three people excelled in firasah when they made their decisions. The first of them was this man ‘Aziz when he chose Yusuf. He saw something in Yusuf. The second was the daughter of the shepherd when she told her father, “Hire this man. He seems to be a noble man.” She was talking about Musa (‘alayhi salaam). The third was Abu Bakr As-Siddiq when on his deathbed he chose ‘Umar to lead the khilafah after him. Ibn Mas’ud said three people perfected their firasah and before something happened, they showed that they knew that this was the right man for the job, and one of these three was the minister. “Be generous in his hospitality. He will benefit us or perhaps we will adopt him later on.”
“And this is how We established Yusuf in the land….”
How? By having the most generous and kind host. By having a very rich patron (the minister) and by having the person whose job he would eventually take over find him in the marketplace. If Allah had willed, he would have gone to a hard labor camp or the field or have been in very horrible circumstances. Allah ‘azza wa jall is saying, “This is how We took him from the depths of the well, and We put him in the mightiest palaces one level removed from the king.” Notice that had he not entered this household, he would not have been so close to the king. When the situation gets bad and worse, the minister and his wife appeal to the king immediately. It is the king who then extracts Yusuf from the prison and talks to him directly. Had he not been in the house of the minister and had he been in some ordinary businessman’s house or had he been in a very rich man’s house but not a political figure, he would have been treated nicely, but he would not have been established in the land.
Allah is saying, “We gave him power in the land so that We may teach him the interpretation of events.” Notice that in three separate verses, Allah says mentions that ‘We will teach him the interpretation of dreams, and I am doing all of this in order to fulfill the dream that he himself saw that his brothers would prostrate to him’ and ‘I am doing this in order that he will interpret the other dreams, including the dream of the king.’
“And Allah has full power and control over all of his affairs but most of mankind do not know.”
SubhanAllah, Allah is saying, “I know what I am doing, and I am doing it with a plan. No one can outsmart Me. The brothers thought that they are doing a crime, but all of this was planned. Yusuf went from the deserts of Filistine and would have been a shepherd and the son of a shepherd even if he was a prophet, but what would he have done over there? I will take him now to one of the most powerful kingdoms that ancient mankind ever knew, which is the kingdom of Egypt.” At that time, there was no Rome and no Greece, and this was the mighty empire: the empire of the ancient pharaohs and the ancient Egyptian kingdoms. Yusuf goes as a young child, and Allah ‘azza wa jall transports him to the mightiest land at the time. Allah is saying, “I shall overcome all others, and My Command shall be done. No one can outsmart Me and no one can outwit Me but most of mankind do not know.”
This really shows us that if we had tawakkul in Allah and put our trust in Allah, then we would resign ourselves to His Decrees and Command. If we truly understand that nothing happens except if Allah wills and that not a leaf falls except that Allah has told it to fall and we put our tawakkul in Him, then we would not feel the agitation, worry, and grief. The problem is that we don’t have that tawakkul. We fall short in having this ‘ilm that Allah ‘azza wa jall has decreed everything. Everything is running in accordance with Allah’s Plans.
“And when we reached his ashudd We gave him hukm and ‘ilm. And this is how We reward the muhsineen.”
“And when we reached his ashudd…”
Ashudd means his manhood and full powers. The scholars of the language say that the term ashudd applies anywhere from 18 to 40. In the Arabic language, ashudd is not just a few years, but you are a full man anywhere from 18 to 40. After 40, you begin old age or shaykhukha. Some scholars say that Yusuf was 30 years old when this incident occurred, but many say that it is when he reached the age of manhood around 19 or 20 and some say 22. We do not know the age, but no doubt he was a young boy when he was captured by the traders and is sold into slavery. He spends probably a decade or less and reaches his adulthood in the house of ‘Aziz.
“…We gave him hukm and ‘ilm.”
Hukm here primarily means wisdom, but there is another meaning of hukm and that is power. Right now Yusuf has no power, but within 10 to 15 years he shall also have power. Allah is saying that when he reached his manhood He gave him power, but at this stage when he reached his younger manhood, He gave him hikmah.
Hukm has two meanings. The first meaning is power. At this stage, Yusuf does not have power. We understand then that he shall reach power when he is still a young man, and this is exactly what happens. The second meaning of hukm is hikmah, which means wisdom. Allah is saying, “We gave him wisdom and ‘ilm.” Allah combines both of these because one without the other is incomplete; put together, we have the perfection.
‘Ilm is knowledge. Hikmah means you know how to act upon that knowledge because you can have knowledge but you do not know how to teach it properly or you do not know how to act upon or you do not know what to do with it. Hikmah means that you have the knowledge and know how to act upon it. It is a level that is higher than just having ‘ilm. Many people have ‘ilm but they might act foolishly or they do not act upon that ‘ilm or they do not know what to do with that ‘ilm. Allah is saying, “We gave Yusuf hukm and ‘ilm.” This means that Allah made him a prophet. The perfection of Allah giving ‘ilm is not like my ‘ilm and your ‘ilm. The perfection of Allah giving him ‘ilm is that He made him a prophet.
“And this is how We reward the muhsineen.”
Muhsin is the one who is excellent and the one who practices ihsaan. Our Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) explained ihsaan and said, “Ihsaan is that you worship Allah as though you see Him because even if you don’t see Him, He sees you.” The meaning of muhsin is the one who has reached the highest level of excellence in iman.
Think about this. Allah is saying, “We gave him wisdom and knowledge, and this is how We reward those who are very righteous.” What this means is when you strive to be righteous, Allah will bless you with wisdom and knowledge. Have the taqwa of Allah, and Allah will give you more ‘ilm. There are two types of knowledge. There is book knowledge, which you need to study to obtain. There is an inner knowledge that Allah blesses people with. There is a knowledge of a deeper understanding that you will not find in books. How do you get this knowledge? By your piety and ikhlaas. We already spoke about one type of specific knowledge that is not found in books and that is the interpretation of dreams. You cannot study interpretations of dreams from books. This is a gift from Allah, and it only comes to those whom Allah ‘azza wa jall chooses. “And this is how We reward those who have perfected the level of ihsaan.”
The benefit for us here is that if you want to be blessed with wisdom, then make sure you are of those who practice ihsaan. If you want to be blessed with knowledge, then make sure that your righteousness and level of taqwa is high. The more righteous you are and the more iman that you have, the more Allah ‘azza wa jall will give you back in return.
This finishes the first section and another section begins. Allah ‘azza wa jall has mentioned that Yusuf has gone from the deserts of Filistine to the lands of Sinai and is now in Egypt. As a side point, some scholars say that the city ended up in is called Memphis. The city of Memphis is named after an ancient city in Egypt. This ancient Egyptian city was the capital of one of the ancient dynasties of the upper middle kingdom. Egypt was divided into two kingdoms: the upper and the lower. The lower had its own capital, and the upper had its own capital. The capital of the upper kingdom was Memphis. A lot of scholars opine – this is not in the Qur’an or Sunnah, but they get this from other sources, and we have no problem. The Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) said that you may quote from those other sources, and don’t believe and don’t deny; Allah knows. The other sources tell us that Yusuf (‘alayhi salaam) ended up in Memphis.
One interesting thing here, which we will come to later on, is that Allah (subhanahu wata’ala) describes the rulers and the kings of that time with the term malik, and He never uses the term ‘firawn.’ Surah Yusuf never has the term ‘firawn’ in it. When it comes to Musa (‘alayhi salaam), Allah uses the term ‘firawn’ throughout. Firawn is not a proper name; it is ‘his excellency’ and a title. We will talk about the wisdom of this later on.
We now get to the story of the enticement.
Rawadah means ‘to seduce / to entice’. The verb structure fa’ala means that she continued to do so. In other words, it was not just a one-time thing. It wasn’t just that she started one day and that was it. Rather, one can imagine that as Yusuf is growing older and increasing in his jamaal, handsomeness.
The Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) said, “Allah divided beauty into two halves. Half of beauty was given for all of mankind, and one half of it was given to Yusuf (‘alayhi salaam).” This is really mind boggling. Thing of every single person who is handsome and beautiful who you know, and then add that to those who have been since time began and add that to Yawm Al-Qiyamah; that equals on 50%. Fifty percent of all of that was given to one person. According to another version: to Yusuf and his mother. Even if you say 25% was given to Yusuf, subhanAllah.
It is amazing. This really shows us – and I especially address the sisters – that Allah knows who to give beauty to and who not to. The beauty that you are given or not given might be a fitnah for you and might be a temptation that will destroy you. Yusuf (‘alayhi salaam) was given beauty and he was tempted, and because of his iman, he rose up from the temptation. How many amongst us could strive to that level? Accept what Allah has made for you and know that Allah has a better plan and Allah loves you more than you love yourself. Allah ‘azza wa jall knows you and your weaknesses, so be content with what Allah ‘azza wa jall has given you.
The same applies for men in primarily power and money. As I said in a previous lecture, men are generally greedy about power and money and fame, and women are generally jealous of beauty. These are the two main motivational factors that cause jealousy amongst the same gender. I have said over and over again that a Muslim accepts the decree of Allah and is content with what Allah has given him, and this story illustrates that over and over again.
Allah does not say ‘the wife of ‘Aziz seduced him.’ Allah says, “The one in whose house he was living” to emphasize how difficult it must have been. He could have said the wife of ‘Aziz, but He didn’t. Allas said this is a man living in another woman’s house. Every single day he has to serve her. Every single day he has to do all of the chores and household affairs, and the man is going for work. She is alone in the house, and he is the main servant because the husband said to treat him special and don’t let him do the other stuff. This is the personal attendant of the wife. Allah is driving the point home that this is not the average enticement. This is a man who is living in the house of a woman, and he doesn’t seduce her, but she, the owner of the house and the one who is in charge and the one who controls, seduces him.
The point being here that we can imagine – and Allah ‘azza wa jall does not go into details – that she begins with flirtation and insinuation and innuendos and she goes more and more. Yusuf is ignoring all of this and pretending nothing is happening. Finally, she has to make the first move and a clear-cut move that she is not just flirting but wants to do more than this.
There is a shaddah here to show that she did not just close the door but she locked it and double locked it. There is an extra emphasis, and there is a shaddah and there is no need for a shaddah. Wa ghallaqah means she made an extra effort to bolt not just a door but the doors. She has a plan now. The beauty of the Qur’an is that Allah does not go into details when there is no need. Just mention what needs to be mentioned and leave the rest. Why does Allah do this? We mentioned this last week: because mentioning these details is of no benefit and brings about feelings and imagination and scenarios that have no need to be mentioned. This is the Qur’anic methodology and the Sunnah methodology in contrast to modern pop culture, modern news, and magazines. Every single detail whether it is of a fahishah, murder, or crime, it is better that people’s imaginations are not flooded with such evil because then evil is trivialized and evil becomes second nature and then everybody wants to do it. You don’t tell people.
Allah clearly says in the Qur’an in many verses: “Why didn’t you hide this? Why didn’t you go to the people in charge? Why didn’t you go to those in authority instead of spreading it?” With regards to other rumors, Allah says, “When you heard it, why didn’t you close your mouth and be quiet? [regarding the rumors of Aisha] Why did you throw it from tongue to tongue?” Gossip, innuendo, slander – this is not the way of the believer, and we don’t talk about these things. Brothers and sisters, when a scandal happens in our communities and in our extended families, wallahi it is not of the akhlaq of the believer to gossip even with his own family. It is not of the manners of the one who fears Allah (subhanahu wata’ala) to tell titillating tales and to talk about juicy gossip. It is not of the akhlaq of the believers. Notice that this is a factual account and is not gossip or slander but Allah only mentions what you need to know.
She locked all of the doors. The rest we can understand. She has been planning for days, and finally the opportunity presents itself. Perhaps her husband is going out on a longer trip, or perhaps she knows that now is the time when there are no other servants, so she starts locking all of the doors from the outer door to the inner door all the way to the door of her chamber. She must have arranged for him to come to present something or do something.
“Wa qaalat hayta lak.”
“Hayta lak” or in another qira’a “Hiyta lak.” Scholars of the Arabic language were trying to explain the word ‘hayta’ because it is not a common Arabic word. The bottom line is Allah (subhanahu wata’ala) is using an obscure word intentionally to show that she is using a type of flirtatious talk that was very vulgar and clearly gave the message across. There might not be a perfect equivalent in Arabic. Allah uses a word that is not very common. What it basically means is ‘come on, let’s do it.’ This is not a common word in the Arabic language, but Allah is using a word that perhaps gives the best indication of her vernacular. She is using a crude terminology that gives the message across.
Ibn Abbas says that she had prepared herself and beautified herself. These are details that Allah does not mention because there is no need to, but it is understood. Of course if she is going to do this deed, then she is not going to be dressed normally. She is already making sure that Yusuf is ready to receive her, so much so that Ibn Abbas said that she was lying down waiting for him.
Notice that this is not an ordinary seduction. As it is, for a woman to seduce a man is a fitnah in and of itself. This is a problem in and of itself. How few are the men who can avoid this. Usually it is the man who seduces the woman and who flirts and continues and attempts. When a woman does this, the man’s defense system is almost zero, and he has almost no control and when a woman comes up to him, then khalas he is just going to go for it.
This is not just any seduction. Rather, this is a rather difficult seduction. Why? First and foremost, Yusuf is a stranger in the land. He is not from the people from Egypt. He is from a far away place and a different culture and a different religion. He is not amongst his family and his kith and kin, and he is not amongst people who know him. What reputation does he have? Zero. If you go to a foreign land, nobody knows you. If you do something who is going to report? Your father doesn’t know and your mother doesn’t know and your sisters and brothers don’t know. You are all alone. It is a different culture and a different religion. He is the only Muslim in the whole country. The people are used to fahishah. In this land, if you do it, then it is not that big of a deal, and it is not a crime that goes against humanity. He is all alone.
Secondly, he is a slave. Slaves as it is don’t have any honor – I am saying that society expects slaves to behave in a dishonorable manner. It was the culture.
Thirdly, she is not just any woman. She is a free person, and in the days of slavery, a free person thought himself better than a slave. We alhamdulillah do not have slaves any more. When there were slaves, men and women who were free thought themselves a different class and a different level to the slaves. What does that mean? Some societies have untouchables, but it was not to that level. They feel slaves to be beneath them, which is why a free man would not have intercourse with a slave that was not his own because it was beneath him. He would want to find a free woman. A slave would never think of seducing a free person. It would get him into extra trouble. There is this category difference, but it is not the slave who is seducing. It is the free person seducing the slave.
To add to this, it is not just any free person, but it is his own mistress and owner. It is not a stranger and not someone who has no relation to him. It his own mistress, which means that she has power over him and is interacting with him on a daily basis. She has been flirting with him for months or perhaps even years. It is not a stranger doing this, and if he were to have done this, who would have found out? Who would have known? It is his own mistress, and it is in her own house. That is why Allah says, “The one whose house it was seduced him…” Powerful messages are being sent in the Qur’an here.
Lastly, as if this was not difficult enough, Yusuf has just reached manhood. As we all know, a young man 17 / 18 / 19 is the most difficult to control. When you are 50 / 60 / 70 that is a different story even though it is also difficult. We don’t know how old he was, but definitely he has just reached his young adulthood. We all know at that age it is the most difficult to control your desires and your shahawat. To add to that, the plotting and planning and the bolting of the doors. “Wa ghallaqati’l-abwaab.” All the doors have been shut. This is why our Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) forbade a man from being alone with a woman who is not a relative of his because he said in an authentic hadeeth, “Any time a man and a woman are in khalwah (a place where nobody can see them), then they are never alone and Shaytan is the third of them.” We are not supposed to be alone in a room with a woman who is not our relative because this is what leads to temptation. Yusuf (‘alayhi salaam) has been for years serving this lady and becoming close to her as her slave. This has led to this lady being infatuated with Yusuf.
“And she said come. Qala ma‘aadha Allah.”
Immediately, he said, “ma‘aadha Allah.” It is difficult sometimes not to speak about the Arabic eloquence. It is very difficult to try to explain balaghah in English. He could have said “a‘oodhu billah”, but he said, “ma‘aadha Allah.” There is a difference, which is difficult to explain in English.
“A‘oodhu billah” means ‘I am the one seeking refuge in Allah.’ This is jumlah fi‘liyyah. “Ma’aadha Allah” is jumlah ismiyyah. Generally speaking, jumlah ismiyyah is more powerful than jumlah fi‘liyyah. “Ma‘aadha Allah” means ‘the One whose refuge is sought is Allah.’ “A‘oodhu billah” means ‘I am going to seek refuge in Allah.’ What he is saying is, ‘regardless of what I do or don’t do, Allah is always Supreme, and His refuge is always sought.’ He gives a statement of fact, and this is powerful because it is as if he is saying, ‘even if I cannot get to that level of actually seeking isti‘adhah, Allah is always ma‘aadha Allah.’ In English, it is difficult to explain the balaghah. He is basically saying, “Allah is the One whose help is always sought, and Allah is always the One I turn to for protection.”
“He is my Rabb, and He has made my stay [or my livelihood or my life] so comfortable.”
A lot of scholars for some reason understand this phrase to mean ‘he’ meaning ‘your husband is my master, and he has made my life so comfortable.’ In my humble opinion, this does not make any sense because he says “ma‘aadha Allah innahu”. “Refuge is sought in Allah, He [meaning Allah] is my Rabb.” The word ‘rabb’ can mean ‘Lord,’ and it can mean ‘master.’
Is he saying, “Allah is my Rabb who has made my life comfortable,” or is he saying, “My master (i.e. your husband) has treated him so nicely, how could I do this?”? A lot of scholars seem to suggest the second. However, and Allah knows best, it does not make sense because he is talking about Allah and he is a prophet and what difference does it make how the husband treated him. This is a crime in his own law. Even if the husband was mean, does that mean that it is then permissible for him? Allah knows best, but I personally do not find myself agreeing with this interpretation, and I do firmly believe in the other interpretation, which is that he is speaking about Allah. What clearly proves this point is the ending of the verse.
“Those who are evil will never be successful.”
This is a statement of fact regarding Allah and not regarding the husband. Those who are evil will never be successful. This is a statement that is talking about Allah’s Laws and not about the laws of the husband. The beginning of the verse and the end of the verse are clearly talking about Allah, so why should the middle phrase talk about the husband? Allah knows best, but it is clear that it is talking about Allah (subhanahu wata’ala).
“He said, ‘Refuge is sought in Allah. Allah is my Lord. He has been so kind to me.’” This means ‘How could I sin? How could I do this after all that Allah has done for me? He has saved me from my brothers, and He has saved me from the well. He has taken me to this great land. He has made me live such a comfortable life.’ Remember his life was closer to that of a luxurious servant rather than a slave. He was living a very different type of life, and probably no other slave in the city had as much luxury. He was sleeping in the house and palace. He is saying, “After all that Allah has done, how could I possibly disobey him?”
“Verily, Allah (subhanahu wata’ala) will never cause the evil people to be successful.”
This shows us the instantaneous reaction of Yusuf (‘alayhi salaam) that he turns to Allah (subhanahu wata’ala). This shows us what we should do when we are tempted with evil. We will never be able to overcome evil ourselves. It is not possible. We do not have that much strength in us to fight evil whether the evil is our passions or anger. We cannot fight it ourselves. The first thing Yusuf does is: “I need to turn to Allah. I need Allah’s Help. Verily, my Lord is the One who will help me against this.” This is the methodology we need to follow. Allah says in the Qur’an, “Any time Shaytan gives you some evil thought, seek refuge in Allah. Verily Allah is the One who Hears and Knows all.”
This is perhaps the most commented on verse in the whole surah, and we could literally spend the entire next halaqah just on this ayah, which we are not going to do. It has caused a lot of problems amongst the classical scholars.
Let us translate this verse verbatim:
“And indeed she desired him, and he desired her had he not seen the evidence that his Lord gave.”
Why is this problematic? The main reason why so many classical medieval scholars and even modern scholars found this problematic is the phrase ‘and he desired her.’ This has led to so much consternation and worrisome commentary about how could Yusuf have desired her when she was an evil lady and she was not legitimate for him and not lawful. How could a prophet of God have gone down to this level to actually have a desire of her? They say that this is not possible, and they re-read the verse: “She desired him. He would have desired her had he not seen the evidence from Allah.” So he did not actually desire her. He did not actually have the hamm for her.
What does hamm mean? Hamm is the strongest level of niyyah before it reaches the level of ‘amal. I will repeat that in simple English: Hamm is the strongest will before any action is done. Will has levels. You have a khatirah and an imagination and a fleeting fancy. You have a desire, which is just a fanciful desire. Hamm means that you have made the strongest possible desire that you are going to do this, but you haven’t actually physically done anything yet. This is the level of hamm. What this means is that she had a burning desire or a strong inclination to do something, and she was adamant that she was going to do it. The only thing preventing her was the actual act. Hamm is a very hard word, meaning it is something that you are actually very close to physically doing. She desired him, or she had that inclination for him, and he would have desired her.
Which of these two then is correct? Should we say that Yusuf had the hamm or should we say that Yusuf did not have the hamm? The majority of scholars lean towards the fact that Yusuf did not have a desire because they find it difficult to swallow that a prophet would desire a woman who was not lawful for him. They say that it is not possible and he is too holy, high, and noble to actually have a hamm. A slight majority says he didn’t have a hamm.
A healthy minority – if we were to do percentages, maybe 45%-55% just off the top of my head roughly – and a very strong minority (maybe 40-45%) said that there is no problem. Hamm is a desire without action, and what would be sinful is the action and not the desire. The very fact that he conquered the desire is a means and a manner or praising him. In fact, if there is no desire, then he is not worthy of praise.
This to me is common sense and logical. Some of us have absolutely no desire for some sins. Alhamdulillah, I have no problem saying that I have no desire to do drugs and alcohol. Alhamdulillah, there is not even the slightest inclination. Alhamdulillah, there is no fitnah at all. Now, the sad part of it is that I am not rewarded for having free wine in the hotel room and not drinking it. Why? Because there is no battle. For some amongst us, maybe they have had drug or alcohol problems, and they go to a hotel room and have the mini-bar and know that nobody is looking, and they know that they can drink it, and they are tossing and turning at night fighting that desire. I am, masha’Allah, sleeping away and get zero reward.
The one who is tossing and turning and fighting that desire, subhanAllah his status and rank and ajr cannot be compared to mine. And I thank Allah because we don’t want to be tested. The point is that the one who is tested and overcomes it is worthy of praise and not the one who has no inclination. To me it is pretty obvious then, and I don’t see a problem that he did have a hamm. In fact, people have a tendency to make prophets super-human. In my humble opinion, the Qur’an does not tell us that the prophets are super-human; the Qur’an tells us that prophets are the best of humans.
There is a big difference between the best of humans and super-human. They are not super-human; they are simply the best of men. If we look at the lives of the prophets and what the prophets have done, it leads to a very deep theological question: Can the prophets of God commit mistakes and what we call sins? There is a huge theological debate, and there are over eight or nine opinions. We don’t have time for all of those opinions. The strongest position seems to be that the prophets of Allah are protected from major sins and also from sins of a nature that impugns their character such as lying or cheating, which are very mean, cheap sins. It is possible that the prophets of Allah do mistakes out of a human emotion such as anger or doing something out of a basic sense of wanting something that is otherwise permissible.
Our father Adam (‘alayhi salaam) wanted life, and so he did what he did and ate from the tree. Wanting life is a human desire. It does not corrupt your morality if you want life. So to take a regular desire or a regular emotion and impulsively act upon it once, it seems that the prophets can do this. But any time a prophet does do it, immediately Allah corrects him, and immediately he stops. Prophets do not commit repetitive sins. It is possible that the prophets of God do commit minor sins.
In this case, we do not have to worry about that because Yusuf did not commit any sin because he did not do anything. Allah simply says he was a regular 19-20 year old male. It is common sense that when you have a rich and powerful man, he will choose a pretty wife. It is understood that Al-‘Aziz had a beautiful wife. When you have this wife tempting you for years and years, and you are a young man, well Yusuf is a human being. He would have desired it, and any one of us would have desired it. Our Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) has said, “I have not left any trial that is more difficult and unbearable for men than women.” This is an authentic hadeeth. It is the most difficult trial, and all men amongst us know this.
Allah mentions six things in the Qur’an that men are greedy for and desire. Of them is gold and silver and horses and wealth, but number one is women. This is human nature that men are attracted to women like they are attracted to nothing else. The fact that Yusuf is attracted to her and wants what any man wants does not in any way belittle his rank. Rather, if anything, it makes him a normal human in this regard and the best human in that he overcomes it. How does he overcome it?
“The two would have done something, but he saw a sign from his Lord.”
What is a burhaan? Burhaan means a clear, unambiguous evidence; an evidence that is crystal clear and there is no doubt about it. What was this burhaan? There are seven or eight opinions, and some of them are ludicrous. This really shows us that when you read a book of tafsir, have some common sense as well, and don’t be afraid to ask questions from other people of knowledge because what happens is a lot of books of tafsir become storytellers. Storytellers exaggerate or just add on details.
Some of these stories is that the burhaan was that the roof broke up in the house of Al-‘Aziz, and Yusuf could see his father Ya‘qub staring down at him in anger. Where did they get this from? No idea. This is not in the Qur’an or anywhere else. Another interpretation is that Jibreel himself came down and told Yusuf to stop. If you accept this, then where is there a burhaan or a test? If we saw an angel before we were about to commit a sin, is any one of us going to continue? Where is the test then? It doesn’t make sense.
One interpretation is that when she went on her back to lie down, she covered up her idol, and Yusuf asked her why she was covering it, and she said, “Because I don’t want it to see me in this state,” so then Yusuf thought, “My Lord is more worthy than this idol.” This might theologically be a little bit better, but again, there is no evidence for this at all.
Another interpretation is that Jibreel came down and smacked him with his wing, and when he smacked him, then all of the desire left Yusuf. Once again, if we believe this, where is the trial and where is the test and where is the praise?
One interpretation, and this is the one that I think makes the most sense, is that the burhaan that Allah gave him was his own knowledge and his own certainty that Allah is watching him because that is where the praise comes. The burhaan is that he has yaqeen. He has certainty that Allah is watching him. He does not need Jibreel to come and smack him. He doesn’t need some type of miraculous sign. He is a prophet of God, and he has that sense of iman and sense of yaqeen that Allah is watching him. The burhaan that he saw is the knowledge that Allah ‘azza wa jall gave him and the iman that he had. Allah calls it burhaan to show how it clear it was. It has reached a level where it is not mere iman but is higher than even iman and is a yaqeen.
Burhaan means an evidence that you cannot dispute. It is the strongest word you can use for certainty and is higher than yaqeen, and you cannot get higher. Allah uses the highest word possible. He was so sure of something, and that is why he did not do this. What could this possibly be? He is so sure that this is a sin and that if he does it, Allah will watch him and know what he is doing. This is the burhaan.
“This is how We will turn him away from evil and fahsha.”
Kadhaalik means ‘this is how.’ Suu’ is any type of evil, and fahsha is in particular evil of a sexual nature (lewdity and vulgarity). Allah is saying ‘this is how’ meaning the knowledge that he has.
“Surely he was of our servants who was mukhlaseen.”
There are two ways of reading the verse. For those of you who are not aware, the Qur’an has many recitations (qira’at), and the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) recited it in different ways. We recite it in one of them, which is called Hafs and Asim, and other places of the Muslim world have other recitations (qira’at), and there are minor differences in fatha, kasra, and dhamma, and all of them come from the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam). This is a science that is called the science of qira’at. Sometimes if you listen to AbdulBasit, and he starts reciting slightly differently than what you are used to, and this is differences in qira’at. All of these are authentic, and this is a science in and of itself.
Some qira’at have mukhlaseen and some qira’at have mukhliseen. Mukhlaseen means ‘Yusuf was of Our servants whom We chose.’ Mukhliseen means ‘Yusuf was of our servants who had ikhlaas (sincerity).’ Both of them are authentic. Because Yusuf had sincerity, Allah chose him. How do you become Allah’s chosen? By having sincerity. This verse is very, very powerful because the verse says:
“This is how We averted evil away from him because he was a sincere servant.”
What does that mean for us? If we are sincere to Allah and if we are truthful to Allah, Allah will avert evil away from us. We will never be able to conquer evil alone. Many of us say that we cannot do it and are addicted and have a problem. Many of us say that we cannot become a better person. You cannot by yourself, and I agree with you completely, but the reason why you fail is because you don’t turn to Allah. If you turn to Allah with ikhlaas, Allah will then avert the evil away from you. Notice Allah is saying, “We averted this evil because he was sincere.” Without Allah’s Help, he would have fallen into this.
Similarly, if you are facing any problem or have any issue and don’t turn to Allah (subhanahu wata’ala), you are not going to get it resolved. There is no way you can fight it by yourself. If he didn’t have that ikhlaas or Allah had not chosen him, it would not have happened.
Of course, we also know that fighting temptations is one of the primary purposes of iman and of our religion, especially the temptation of illegal and illicit affairs of this nature. This is one of the highest and most difficult, and that is why our Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) said, “Seven are the people who will be sheltered in the Shade of Allah when there is no shade other than His Shade.” These are seven categories of people who have done magnificent things. One of them is a man who has been invited by a woman of nobility and beauty. If a slave or a woman of corrupt nature does the inviting, a man of ‘izzah would feel disgusted.
In the case of Yusuf, both have been combined. The Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) said, “A man who was invited by a woman of nobility and beauty to do that deed and he said, ‘I fear God, and I cannot do this. The only thing preventing me is the fear of Allah.’ He is one of the seven people who will get that shade.”
Yusuf has perfected it to a level that we ask that none of us is even tested by a fraction of all of these tests. Imagine being in the case of Yusuf (‘alayhi salaam) where nothing would have happened and in fact, more lavishment and nourishment and money would have poured on him in a strange land and in the house of his mistress and in the privacy of the room in the house. Nobody was seeing this except for Allah. The Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) was saying that the average person who refuses a woman will get this, so how about the prophet Yusuf (‘alayhi salaam)?
And with this, we have come to the end of tonight’s halaqah.