Lecture by Yasir Qadhi | Transcribed by Sameera
[The following is the video and transcript of part 6 of Shaykh Yasir Qadhi’s lecture series “The Best of Stories: Pearls from Surah Yusuf.” The transcript includes slight modifications for the sake of readability and clarity.]
We were discussing the section of Surah Yusuf in which the wife of ‘Aziz was attempting to seduce Yusuf (‘alayhi salaa). We mentioned that the murawada is a continuous verb, which means that she was attempting to seduce, attempting to flirt and attempting to persuade. “The one in whose house Yusuf was.” As we mentioned last week, this is a very powerful phrase. Allah didn’t say ‘ the wife of ‘Aziz tempted him.’ Allah says, “The one in whose house Yusuf was tempted him.” As we all know, generally speaking it is a man who attempts to seduce a woman and opens up the flirtation with a woman. It is very rare that the woman is the one who begins this act, and when it does happen, then psychologically it is very difficult for the man to say no. In this case, the master, the wife of ‘Aziz, and the one in whose house Yusuf was began to continue to seduce him.
Finally, she attempted to do the very deed itself and said, “I am ready for you (haytalak).” Some scholars have said that this means in a vulgar way “come on” or “let’s do it.” The word hayta is confusing, as I said. Another interpretation is hayta means “I am ready for you / I have prepared everything for you.”
Yusuf sought refuge in Allah (subhanahu wata’ala) and mentioned that Allah has protected him so far. “Innahu rabbi ahsana mathway.” We said the strongest opinion is that “rabbi” does not refer to the husband of the one who is seducing him and does not refer to his master, but it refers to Allah (subhanahu wata’ala). Allah (subhanahu wata’ala) then says, “She desired him, and he desired her.” We said that so many scholars of the past said that this was very problematic – how could Yusuf desire her? Yet, the fact of the matter is that human psychology dictates that the average male and person in this situation would be tempted, and the fact that he rose above the temptation is what is praiseworthy for Yusuf (‘alayhi salaam).
The Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) said in a very important hadeeth we didn’t have time to quote last time: The Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) said, “Whoever hamma (intends to do a sin) but stops himself from doing it, Allah (subhanahu wata’ala) will write for him a reward instead of the sin.” Intending to do a sin and then stopping yourself from doing it is in fact something that is praiseworthy. We are not talking about somebody who wants to do a sin and then something comes between him and the sin. For example, we are not talking about someone who wanted to commit an evil, and he is driving to commit the evil but a cop pulls him over and gives him a speeding ticket, so he cannot do what he wanted to do. We are not talking about that.
We are talking about somebody, like the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) said, who really wanted to do evil but then his conscience got the better of him. Allah (subhanahu wata’ala) will reward him for something he didn’t do even though this reward will not be given to somebody who did not have that temptation. For example, we are all sitting in this masjid and alhamdulillah none of us are drinking or committing any other major sin. Are we getting reward for every single second that we are here by not committing a sin? We are getting a reward for being in a masjid and listening to Islam. Are we getting a reward for not committing a sin? No, because there was no desire and no choice.
My point here that I am trying to stress is that the majority opinion found this phrase problematic, but it is in fact not problematic. As I said, sometimes some of our classical scholars tried to make prophets superhuman and above who they are. Allah keeps on emphasizing that prophets are human beings. No doubt they are the best and the elite and do not commit major sins, but Yusuf did not commit a sin. This is the whole point. In reality, there is nothing problematic at all with affirming exactly what Allah says: “He also had a desire for her, and he also wanted to do something, but he saw the burhaan (clear evidence) from his Lord.” We said that the strongest opinion about this burhaan is that it refers to the knowledge of Yusuf and refers to his prophethood.
“Wastabaqa’l-baab… (The two of them raced for the door…)”
What this means is that when Yusuf said no, he must have turned around to leave. Again, as we have said over and over again, the Qur’an does not provide details that are unnecessary. The Qur’an does not provide graphic detail because it is not appropriate to talk about this story in such explicit detail. Allah (subhanahu wata’ala) only tells us what we need to know.
We learn from this over and over again that we should not narrate and spread titillating details and scandalous stories. We should keep it Islamic and clean. If there is a moral, as there is in this story, even then there is no need to go into juicy details.
Nonetheless, the message is given. So much is said that doesn’t need to be said. By these two words, Allah ‘azza wa jall gives us the whole picture. There are two people in the room, and the rooms are bolted. Remember: wa ghallaqati’l-abwaab. All of the doors from the door of the house to the door of the bedroom had been shut. Yusuf stands up to race out, and inside of him, he is fleeing away from sin and fahsha. He is fleeing literally, physically, and spiritually away from this evil. There is the wife of ‘Aziz (his master’s wife), and she is fleeing towards sin.
They are both running physically in the same direction, but spiritually and emotionally, they are exactly opposite. She wants to reach the door before him so that she can bypass him to get to the door to once again attempt to seduce him. She does not want him to open the door, and she wants to keep it shut. He is going towards the door to open it and exit.
“wa qaddat qameesahu min dubur… (his shirt was torn from the back…)”
In the process, his shirt was torn. Qaddah means a slit occurred from the back, meaning in her zealousness and crazed mind, she held onto Yusuf’s shirt and was physically pushing him and begging him to come back into the room. In his eagerness to leave, he darted out, and the shirt tore from the back.
“Wa’l-fayaa sayyidahaa lada’l-baab… (and surprisingly her master returned home unannounced…)”
The word alfayaa has the connotation that they did not expect it and it was not something they were planning. As we have said, her plotting and planning from the very beginning shows that she was not expecting anyone to return. She had planned in it in such a way that she assumed that everything would be fine for her, and just to be on the safe side, she added a few extra locks.
Now notice here the beauty of the Qur’an. Allah says “sayyidaha” even though to say “sayyidaho” would be more appropriate here. To say zawjaha would be more appropriate here. In other words, the man is the husband of this lady and the man is the master of Yusuf. If Allah had said they found her husband at the door, it would have made sense, and if Allah had said they had found his master at the door, it would have made sense. Allah (subhanahu wata’ala) merged the two together and said, “They found her master (sayyidaha).” It is not incorrect to call a husband a sayyid, but technically speaking the sayyid means the master, and the man was more of a master to Yusuf than to his wife.
Instead of saying ‘her husband’ or instead of saying ‘his master,’ Allah said, ‘her master.’ The profundity here is to show how depraved she had become that someone like her husband who is in fact a type of figure and somebody she has to respect and give authority to, she betrayed that trust. By calling her husband her master, Allah is emphasizing what an evil act she committed without being so explicit. Allah does not speak in fahsha and vulgarities. By simply using the term ‘her master,’ Allah is emphasizing what an evil act she committed without being so explicit. We said that Allah does not speak in fahsha; Allah does not speak in vulgarities. By simply using the term ‘her master, Allah is emphasizing how depraved she was even though the whole Qur’an does not say that, but the meaning is given. As we have said over and over again, this is the methodology of the Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam).
This also shows the importance of the husband by calling him sayyid. The Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) said, “If a woman protects her chastity and guards what Allah has protected and is a good wife to her husband, she will enter Jannah from any door she pleases.” In other words: protecting what Allah (subhanahu wata’ala) has protected. This is one of the meanings of why Allah used the term ‘master.’
“…they found her master at the door. Immediately she said, ‘What is possibly the penalty for somebody who wanted some evil on your wife except that he be put into jail or be punished?’”
This shows the immediate response and the simultaneous excuse that she invented. This shows her cunning nature. A more innocent person caught in this act would be speechless and have no idea what to do. Her cunning mind is demonstrated. We know this from our experiences in society that some people are very slick and are able to get out of difficult situations quite fast.
She was not expecting her husband and had not calculated a plan B. If her husband actually entered the room and she was successful, can you imagine what would have happened? If she had been successful and the husband came in, she would have basically been killed. There is no question that she is not planning for the husband to come back.
The immediate, instantaneous excuse shows her cunning mind. Many times cunning minds can be used for good, but she uses it for evil. She instantaneously thinks of an excuse.
She says, “What is the punishment for someone who intended evil against your wife?” Notice that she doesn’t say ‘someone who intended the act,’ and she doesn’t say ‘someone who intended to rape’. She doesn’t use a word but simply says ‘an evil’.
Also notice she cannot accuse Yusuf of doing a crime. She accuses him of wanting to do a crime. This is for a number of reasons. First, nothing has actually happened. Second, if she says that something has happened, then she is also in trouble. She doesn’t accuse Yusuf of actually committing a sin. She simply accuses Yusuf of wanting to commit a sin.
It is the methodology of the people of dhulm to accuse others of injustice. This is a standard tactic: accusing others of doing an evil. Allah ‘azza wa jall says in the Qur’an, “One of the worst sins is to accuse an innocent person of a crime.” This is a major sin according to the text of the Qur’an. To accuse an innocent person of a crime is something she has fallen into. This is one of the problems of committing sins. We already talked about the brothers of Yusuf getting into more and more sins. Now we look at the wife of ‘Aziz. She wanted to commit one sin and she ended up committing ten or fifteen sins. She wanted to do one evil, and now she has to cover up her tracks and lie. Because of her lies, eventually, as we know, Yusuf ends up in jail.
This is one of the problems of committing sins. Shaytan comes and says, “Come on, do one sin. No big deal.” There is no such thing as one sin. Every sin is a domino. Every sin leads to other sins.
Her intention to commit an evil now causes her and forces her to commit slander and to go to the next level. It will force her to go again and again, as we will see, more and more. She says immediately, “He is the one who intended to do an evil.” It is not only this woman who accuses falsely. Wallahi it is the methodology of every wrongdoer starting from Iblis. When Iblis did not prostrate to Adam (‘alayhi salaam), he immediately accused Allah (subhanahu wata’ala) and said, “Oh Allah, You are the One who caused me to go astray!” He could not take the blame himself. Blaming other people is a sign of Satanic tendencies. Blaming other people for your own sin is of the earliest evils we have recorded in human history. She said, “Yusuf intended to do some harm to me.”
Sidepoint: On his deathbed, the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) accused some of his wives of being like these women of Yusuf. This led to the question: What does this mean? Realize that nobody knew the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) to die, and they expected this to be a bad sickness but that he would recover. During the very last days of his life, literally two or three days before he passed away, his sickness became very bad. It was so bad that he could not lead the salah. You can imagine that when the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) is there, nobody dares to lead the salah in his presence, and if he comes late to the masjid, everybody waits for him. Imagine – he is not just any imam, but he is Rasulullah. Nobody has ever led salah in Masjid Al-Nabi other than the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) unless he was not physically present in Madinah, and then he would tell Ubayy ibn Ka’b or Ibn Abi Makhtoum or others to be the imam. Never had the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) prayed in his own masjid with somebody else leading the salah. He tried to stand up to go and pray, and he fell down unconscious. They threw some water on him, and he made wudu’ again and they tried again and he fell down. For the third time when he could not go because he was physically weak, he said, “Go tell Abu Bakr to lead the salah.”
He was in the house of Aisha, and Aisha is the one taking the command. Aisha does not want to tell her father to lead the salah because she is dreading that this might be the last few days of the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam), and Abu Bakr will be for the first time in the history of Madinah leading the prayer while the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) is in his house. If he (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) were to pass away in that time, then she thought that people would associate Abu Bakr and his imamah with the death of the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) because it would be a direct indicator (not a causal relationship). The only time Abu Bakr is leading the prayer is when the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) basically passes away. This is what Aisha is worried about. She is worried that for the rest of Abu Bakr’s life, he would always be associated with the death of the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam).
Regardless of how true or not that was, this was her mentality. She said, “Ya Rasulullah, why don’t you tell Hafsa to tell ‘Umar to lead the salah?” Aisha kept on insisting, and he kept on insisting until finally he said, “Go command him to lead the salah! Wallahi, you are like the women of Yusuf!” How is Aisha like the women of Yusuf? Scholars have tried to read in. It seems pretty clear. The Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) understood that she is attempting to blame somebody else (i.e. Hafsa and ‘Umar). She is attempting to shift the blame and does not want to take any ‘responsibility.’ The Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) saw through her plot and accused her of being like the women of Yusuf, meaning that: “You are thinking that you will get out of it and that by shifting the blame things will get better,” so he called her like the companions of Yusuf. He (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) used the phrase ‘the female companions of Yusuf’, and this is what that refers to.
The wife of ‘Aziz says, “What is the punishment of somebody who attempted to do evil except that you put him in jail or punish him severely. For any man to attempt any evil on a woman is a sin, but especially for a slave and against his own master’s wife. This would have been a very evil crime. She is saying that something has to be done and that he has to be punished or tortured and thrown in jail.
Immediately Yusuf responds and says,
“She was the one who attempted seduce me.”
Notice that Yusuf (‘alayhi salaam) immediately defends himself, and he does not allow the accusation to go unchallenged. This shows us that it is permissible to defend your honor and reputation. Later on in the story, Yusuf will be accused of another crime, and he does not his honor, and he remains silent. That shows us that it is also permissible to remain silent. Look at the situation. You will be accused of crimes and people will say bad things about you – this is human nature. At times, you should respond back, and if the situation dictates you stand up and defend yourself. At times there is no need to, and you don’t have to do so. Look at the overall situation. It is not waajib to defend your honor each and every time. In this situation and scenario, Yusuf (‘alayhi salaam) defends himself. Later on, he is accused of something else and remains quiet and doesn’t defend himself. We will show once again that it is permissible to defend your honor, and it is permissible to remain silent.
The irony here is that he defends his honor when he is a slave. When he is the minister, he does not defend his honor. His brothers accuse him of stealing when Binyamin was found with the cup and said, “If he was a thief, then his brother was a thief as well.” Allah says in the Qur’an that when they found Binyamin with the cup, the other brothers said, “If he has stolen, then his brother has stolen as well.” Yusuf did not respond back to that charge.
SubhanAllah at times of lowliness, Yusuf valued that honor and wanted to defend it. Why? Being charged with a crime at that time would be physically harmful. At times of ‘izzah and power, when his brothers said something, it would not harm him. In fact, to expose himself at that time would be more problematic, so he didn’t defend himself and he let it go. SubhanAllah Yusuf (‘alayhi salaam) looked at the consequences. Right now he needed to defend and be on the defensive. We learn from this that when Islam is attacked, and Islam will always be attacked and people will always make fun of Islam and find problems with Islam and Muslims, at times it is almost waajib to stand up and defend, especially at times of weakness and humiliation because we need that honor and ‘izzah. At times when Islam is at its ‘izzah and glory and some nobody comes blaspheming, then we do not care because he will not harm anything. Look at the situation you are in.
In this case, Yusuf (‘alayhi salaam) immediately responds back and says, “She was the one who sought to seduce me.” Notice Yusuf accuses her of a specific crime. It was not general like she did. She said, “He wanted to do some bad.” Yusuf is specific and said, “She attempted to seduce me.” Generally speaking, the one who accuses specific crimes knows more about what is happening and is more truthful than the one who responds in generalities. She is speaking in generalities, and he is speaking in specifics. From human psychology, the one who speaks specifics and tells the details knows what is going on and is the one who is truthful. Generally, in human nature, someone denies saying, “Nothing happened” or “I don’t know what he is talking about.”
Yusuf (‘alayhi salaam) accuses her of a specific crime. Yusuf says, “She attempted to seduce me.” He did not accuse her in the first person, and did not say, “You attempted to seduce me.” Rather, he speaks in the second person even though she is standing in front of him. Some scholars have derived – and I don’t see any problem from this derivation – that even though she is the criminal and the one doing this evil, nonetheless, at the end of the day she is a woman and deserves some modicum of respect and a little bit of not being so accusatory. Rather, he appeals to the husband as if she was not present. He speaks to the husband in the second person. And Allah knows best. It does make sense that there is a reason why Yusuf didn’t use the direct even though she was standing right there and he speaks to the husband as if she was not present there.
At the end of the day, there are two people accusing each other of the crime. The husband, the master, the ‘aziz has to make a decision. On what will he make a decision? What will he base is decision on? Every single day, we are also put in a situation of making decisions and people are lying and telling the truth in our jobs, social networks, and our family areas. Allah (subhanahu wata’ala) says, “A witness from her family testified saying…”
It is clear that the torn shirt is lying on the floor, and they can see that the shirt has been torn. Somebody testifies and says, “If this shirt has been torn from the front, then she is the one telling the truth, and he attempted to seduce her, and he is a liar.” Why? If a man is attacking the woman, then if she is defending herself, she will be defending from the front of the man, and the front of the shirt will be torn.
“And if the shirt has been torn from the back, then she is the one who is telling a lie, and he is the one who is speaking the truth.’”
This phrasing has a number of issues and benefits. First and foremost, Allah says, “wa shahida shaahidun min ahliha,” so the question arises, who is this shaahid? Here, so many mufasiroon have given so many stories. Some have said it was a supernatural testimony. Some of them even said that the shirt began to speak even though the Qur’an has given no such indication and clearly, it is a human being because Allah says “someone from her family,” and the shirt is not from her family. Sometimes the scholars of tafsir went into a little bit too much imaginative detail.
It is reported that some of the sahabah and tabi‘un said that this was a baby who spoke from the cradle – a baby of one of the servants or members of the household, but obviously not their child because ‘Aziz and his wife did not have a child, which is why he had said they might want adopt him. It is reported that Ibn Abbas also said that this was a baby. They bring the hadeeth: “Four children spoke from the cradle…” One of them is ‘Isa (‘alayhi salaam), another is the son of the prostitute who attempted to seduce Jurayj, another is the child of the one who used to comb the hair of Firawn’s daughter, and they say that the other is this baby (the shaahid of Yusuf (‘alayhi salaam)). This is a hadeeth that allegedly says this. This hadeeth is not mentioned in the six books; it is mentioned in the more obscure books. The majority of scholars say that this hadeeth is not authentic and rather is a statement of Ibn Abbas and later narrators mistakenly raised it to the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam). The Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) did not say this.
In an authentic hadeeth in Sahih Bukhari, the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) said, “Three children spoke from the cradle,” and the three are those mentioned except for the shaahid of Yusuf. This hadeeth is in Bukhari, and we have no doubt about it. They are: 1) ‘Isa (‘alayhi salaam), 2) the child in the story of Jurayj, and 3) the son or the daughter of the woman who used to comb the hair of the daughter of Firawn. When Firawn wanted to kill all of the male children and those who believed in Musa, one of them was the woman who used to comb the hair. She had accepted Islam and was a follower of the prophet. When Firawn attempted to kill her with her child, she almost stopped and went back to the religion, but the child spoke from her hand and said, “Proceed, oh mother. You are upon the truth.” This hadeeth is in Bukhari.
We have these three children that spoke from the cradle. Ibn Abbas said four people spoke from the cradle and added the shaahid of Yusuf. This is why it became a very popular misconception, and I say it is a misconception because the fact of the matter is, the wording of the Qur’an indicates that there is nothing that supernatural about the shaahid. In other words, if a child spoke, there would be no reason to say, “A witness from her family said.” It would have been a miracle in and of itself. Additionally, what did the witness say? The witness said a simple rule: If the shirt is torn from the front versus if the shirt is torn from the back. If a child speaks, it is a miracle and it doesn’t need to give you rules, so if it were a child, then the child would not have to go into the rules of law. If the child speaks, and khalas, we know that Yusuf is telling the truth. So really, it makes no sense that this was a baby. Rather, it was an elderly man and a normal human being, most likely a cousin or some relative of hers. How do we know that it is a relative? Allah says so: min ahliha. Why does Allah say min ahliha? To show us that he had no bias against her, but rather his bias was for her. Generally speaking, people of a family stick together and help one another out. Allah is saying that this was a man from her family. He is not a biased person and not somebody who had a vendetta or grudge. Generally, he should have supported her. The fact that he is making the statement shows that he is neutral and looking for the truth.
Somebody testified from her house. Here is an interesting question: Allah says, “A witness testified from her family.” Was he a witness? No. Allah uses the word shaahid. What does shaahid mean? Somebody who saw. Now in this case, the man obviously did not witness anything. How can Allah call him a shaahid when he is not a physical shaahid? Shaahid in the Arabic language would not be used for the modern terminology of an ‘expert witness.’
Some scholars have said that Allah called him a shaahid even though he wasn’t a shaahid because Allah was the shaahid, and what the man said was the truth, so he might as well have been a witness. Allah was the shaahid, and the man spoke the truth, so Allah is testifying that this man spoke the truth even though the man is not a shaahid. Others have said that Allah called him a shaahid because he gave a simple rule. The rule being valid, regardless of who is right or wrong. Allah called him a shaahid because the rule was a valid rule.
What was the rule? In kaana qameesuhu qudda min qubulin fasadaqat wa huwa mina’l-kaadhibeen. He begins with her innocence because he wants her to be innocent. The first half of the rule is for her benefit: ‘let’s hope that the shirt is torn from the front.’ He wants him to be the liar and her to be the one who is safe. This shows that he is a shaahid min ahliha and that he is a shaahid who is neutral and unbiased, and if anything, he wants his own cousin to be scot free.
Qudda here – and the precise meaning only Allah knows – it doesn’t seem like there was a physical tear on the ground. In other words, it doesn’t look like the shirt tore apart, rather, there was a tear within a shirt, and the shirt itself had torn in a vertical manner; this is the general connotation.
The man is saying, “We know that his shirt has been torn.” How did they know that? Perhaps the outer shirt was on the floor. Perhaps it was given in the conversation that Allah did not mention. We can only assume, and we don’t know. He gives the testimony: “Let us examine the shirt, and the let us see if the shirt is torn from the front or from the back.” This clearly shows us that in Islamic law, it is permissible to base judgment and testimony on what we call in English circumstantial evidence. This is a controversial point, and I don’t want to go into too much detail in fiqh, but most of our scholars in our history have said that for any crime to be prosecuted, you must have two adult witnesses, except for the crime of zina which requires four, who saw the crime. According to that law, fingerprints or video testimonials would not be considered valid in a court of law. In those days when they formulated that law, they didn’t have fingerprints and they didn’t have all of this detective science. The Shari‘ah came and it said two witnesses.
There were a very few people – of them are Ibn Taymiyyah and Ibn Al-Qayyim, who were intellectual giants who thought outside of the box all of the time – who argued that two witnesses are good but not necessary if there is enough circumstantial evidence that clearly shows the crime occurred. Not every crime has two witnesses. What if we don’t have the two witnesses? Are we allowed to base the verdict on other types of evidence? Believe it or not, mainstream fiqh would say that we are not and that we still require the two witnesses. There has always been a healthy minority, and in our times, many of the Muslim judges across the Muslim world are arguing for the position of Ibn Taymiyyah and Ibn Al-Qayyim, which is that you look at DNA evidence, fingerprints, and detective work. This incident here would be used as one evidence that shows that you can use supporting evidence because Allah called it a shahadah even though it was not a shahadah. This is the key that Ibn Al-Qayyim uses. Allah called it a testimony even though it was not an eyewitness testimony.
The man gives his general rule: look at the front and look at the back of the shirt, and let us see which was torn. There is other circumstantial evidence as well, which a number of scholars mentioned. This helps to make Yusuf’s case more solid. Of them is that Yusuf is a slave, and generally speaking, slaves would never have the audacity to commit this type of crime. This is a very unheard of thing even in jahiliyy and early Islamic society. The people looked at slaves – astaghfirullah – as if they were sub-human or not fully human, so they don’t have these desires and wouldn’t dare do this, or else they would be in serious trouble. The fact that Yusuf is making this accusation really shows that this is a very big thing, and it would be very difficult for society to imagine a slave attempting to do this.
Number two: Yusuf is the one seeing exiting the door first. Number three: The wife of ‘Aziz is dressed up and perfumed because she had prepared. Qaalat hayta lak. “I am prepared for you.” Clearly she has prepared herself, decorated herself, perfumed herself and was wearing those types of attire. This sends of warning bells as well. Number four: Yusuf (‘alayhi salaam) has been living in the house for so many years and his character, conduct, and akhlaq are well known. This is not ever expected from him. Number five: Yusuf accuses her of a specific crime whereas she accuses him of a generic crime. Generally speaking, the one with the more knowledge is the one who is more truthful. Yusuf accuses her of seducing, and she says he wanted to do some evil. Generally speaking, this shows who has more authority. These are other factors that show who is telling the truth.
Now before we go on, two interesting motifs: racing and shirts. We have seen this before. Where did the first race allegedly occur? It didn’t actually occur, but the brothers said, “We went racing,” and they then brought back the shirt. The scholars say that it was the shirt that alerted Ya‘qub to the fact that his children were lying. The shirt was bloodstained without a single scratch on it. Ya‘qub said, “What a gentle wolf this was that it ate up Yusuf without touching him. The shirt saved Yusuf’s memory in Ya‘qub’s mind. Here, once again there is a racing and a shirt. The shirt saves Yusuf’s reputation. There is this motif of Surah Yusuf of the shirt being symbolic in this regard and literal in that there was a literal shirt there.
“When they all saw that his shirt had been torn from the back, he said, ‘This is of your plotting. Your plotting is indeed very mighty, very powerful.’”
There are four people here now: the wife of ‘Aziz, ‘Aziz, Yusuf, and the witness. The husband knows that he is not supposed to be back at this time and that the doors have been extra locked. All of these are qara’in (hints) now, and all of the alarm bells start going off and everything fits into place. He says, “What a dastardly plot, what an evil plot you did. Indeed, your plot is very mighty.”
One of the scholars of old made a comment, and only Allah knows if he meant it in jest or not, but we will take it as a joke insha’Allah. He said, “When Allah described Shaytan and the plotting of Shaytan in Surah Al-Nisa’ v. 76, He says, ‘The plotting of Shaytan is very weak,’ and when Allah describes the plotting of women, He says, ‘The plotting of women is a very big thing.’” One of the scholars of the tabi‘un said, “I fear women more than I fear the Shaytan because the plotting of Shaytan is weak, but the plotting of women is mighty.” We hope he meant it in jest. Perhaps what can be derived is that the seduction of women is far more difficult for a man to repel and save himself from on average more than the most of the seductions of Shaytan. This is something that I think everybody would understand and agree to.
The husband realizes his wife is lying, and he tells Yusuf, “Oh Yusuf, turn away from this.”
“Yusuf, turn away from this…”
This means: don’t tell anybody, ignore it, imagine that this never happened. “There were only four people, and it is a small thing, and I know I’m not going to tell anybody what happened, and I know my wife is not going to tell anybody, and I trust this man because he is a part of her family, and he would not bring dishonor to his own family.” The only person left is Yusuf.
“As for you, ask forgiveness for your sin. Make up for this sin. You were of those who committed a major sin.”
The question arises, why did the husband basically let her off with a tap on the wrist? This is a serious crime here. May Allah protect all of us. If any man, Muslim or non-Muslim, found even a fraction or even a portion of this from his own wife, you can imagine what would happen. Why did this man overlook all of this? Scholars have struggled to come up with a reason. Some of them have said he was an imbecile and completely out of it. This doesn’t make any sense because he clearly understands what is going on and pronounces a verdict and knows who is right and wrong.
Others have said that he simply had too soft and too innocent of a heart, and he did not think that it would get any worse. Again, he accuses his wife of plotting a heinous crime and plotting an evil plot, saying, “This is a major plot. You have committed a sin. Seek forgiveness.” It doesn’t make sense either.
Some of them have said it seems like he had lack of gheerah, meaning a type of protective jealousy that a husband feels for his wife. Once again, the fact that he is angry and showing that he is very hurt doesn’t make sense with this opinion.
The opinion that really resonates with me – and Allah ‘azza wa jall knows best – and it makes complete sense from what we know about human psychology is that the reason why he wanted to keep this affair and matter secret was because it harmed his own reputation. He had his own ego and prestige in society. Scholars point out the dangers of one’s ego and the dangers of one’s prestige that you are willing to allow filth to corrupt your own household as long as it is private. “I cannot allow the people to speak about me.” We know in our times that this is one of the problems of the rich and the famous that they are willing to overlook a lot of filth and evil as long as it doesn’t get into the public eye and as long as it remains private. They will go to bribery and corruption and scandal and do a lot worse just so that it is not printed in the media. This is, I think, a very logical reason why we can say that the husband ‘Aziz undertook no action. The main point that comes to his mind is: “What will people say? What will people think? It is going to destroy my reputation and my honor, so I cannot let this continue.” He simply said, “Yusuf, turn away from here.”
Perhaps he reassigned the household chores and tried to reprimand his wife internally, but it is clear here that he underestimated her passion. He thought that khalas, it was a one time mistake and that it was not going to happen again. No matter how, if you like, eager he was to protect his reputation, in the end he didn’t sell Yusuf and didn’t get rid of Yusuf and didn’t do something that was more drastic. He did not fully take into account and underestimated the danger of the situation.
Another interesting point here is that ‘Aziz and his wife are not Muslim, yet he tells her, “Istaghfiri lidhanbiki. (Seek forgiveness for the sin you have committed).” He wants her to seek forgiveness from his gods and not from him. He knows that infidelity is a sin despite the fact that they don’t believe in our Shari‘ah.
SubhanAllah, it is amazing that to this day, people consider so many fahshah to be permissible (i.e. premarital, and in our days we have the same genders doing whatever they want), but the one thing that is impermissible is extramarital. Think about this. You cannot marry more than one. You can engage in premarital, and premarital is now completely permissible and not even a sin at all. With the same gender it is completely permissible and no big deal, and anybody who opposes it is the backward person and the person with negative stereotypes. All of this is completely okay and legit. Astaghfirullah, they even have group partners if you are not married. The key is that you are not married. They don’t have a Shari‘ah in this society, but once you get married, khalas the big sin is infidelity and having an affair. SubhanAllah, this is engrained in human fitrah. It is engrained in human beings that you do not cheat and do not go outside the bounds of marriage, and therefore, even in their old customs and culture of Egypt, the husband did not appreciate this and said, “You have to make it up to our gods. You have to seek forgiveness. You are of those who committed a sin.”
“The women of the city began speaking, ‘The wife of ‘Aziz is attempting to seduce her own slave. She has loved him a violent, passionate love. We see her to be in such manifest and clear error.’”
Despite the attempts of ‘Aziz to keep the matter hush-hush and quiet, the news spreads. SubhanAllah this is the Sunnah of Allah ‘azza wa jall, and this is what happens. This type of gossip and slander and innuendo people just love to spread. How did people find out? Most scholars say that it was from the household of Yusuf and the slaves in the house other than these four. They don’t blame any of these four. Of course we know Yusuf would not have said anything. ‘Aziz himself was too embarrassed, and the wife would not say anything, and the shaahid was from her own family. Most likely the news spread amongst the slaves of the house other than Yusuf. It might have been also that in her passion she is so obvious in her flirtations with Yusuf that the other slaves clearly see this. They might not know the full details and might not know of that incident, but they do know that she is in love with Yusuf. The other slaves spread it to the other slaves’ households, and they spread it to the mistresses and the masters. Slowly but surely, gossip spreads.
As we said, gossip is the bane of society and the social network of society. Every society is immersed in gossip. Often, gossip spreads, and as it spreads it gets bigger and larger. As it spreads, a small tale is made ten times larger. In our Shari‘ah, the door has been shut and sealed on gossip and slander and backbiting. In our Shari‘ah, we don’t get involved with any of this.
Gossip is of many types in the Shari‘ah: gheebah, nameemah, buhtaan; all of this comes under types of gossip. Gheebah means saying something about someone in his absence that he doesn’t like, even if this is the truth. What you are saying is true. You are putting him down and mocking him and making fun of him and spreading something he does not like to be mentioned in his absence. Gheebah is one of the sins that will be punished in the adhaab’l-qabr (the punishment of the grave). We know what Allah has called it in the Qur’an and compared it in the Qur’an.
Worse than this is buhtaan. Buhtaan means spreading a blatant lie about somebody; this is a slander, and it is worse than gheebah. Gheebah means you are telling the truth. Spreading the gheebah and buhtaan back to the person is called nameemah.
Nameemah means: you are in a gathering and somebody mentions brother Yasir, and he starts saying something about Yasir that he shouldn’t say in public. Yasir wasn’t there, and the damage that has been done was between him and Allah (subhanahu wata’ala). Now somebody comes back to Yasir and says, “You know what happened in that gathering when you weren’t there? Fulaan ibn fulaan said this about you.” How will Yasir feel? The damage is done when the news comes back to him. This is called nameemah. The one who tells the news back to you – even that is haram. The obligation is to defend the brother in his absence. When gheebah or buhtaan is done, you defend him in his absence.
The least you should do is remain quiet and hate it in your heart. There is no iman lesser than this. For you to go back and spread the news to him intending to cause damage between the two people is called nameemah. The Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) told us about the punishments of the nammaam. The Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) said, “The one who does this will not enter Jannah.” This is not somebody who is doing the gheebah and not somebody who is doing the buhtaan. All he is doing is being truthful, but there is no need to spread this truth, is there? What is your niyyah for this?
I don’t want to go into a long fiqh discussion. Once in a while, in some exceptional scenarios, there is a reason to go and tell the person. The better thing to do is cause reconciliation, and if there are people fighting or having a problem, then you get in the middle and solve the problem. To get in the middle to cause damage, this person the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) said, “The one who goes and tries to break these friendships, he will not enter Jannah.” The one who makes it a habit to spread nameemah, and his reason for doing so is to cause problems in society – this person has a major threat of being punished in the fire of Hell.
This is very relevant in every single society. It is relevant to the story here. It shows us human nature. We can talk about it in the story of the slander of Aisha as well. In the slander of Aisha, when the munafiqoon said something about Aisha, Allah criticized the munafiqoon for saying it, and then Allah criticized the sahabah for spreading it. Both are worthy of criticism. The first group Allah said will go to nar’l-jahannam. They have invented a blatant lie. If they don’t repent, Allah says they will go to the fire of Hell. The second group Allah says, “Why didn’t you keep quiet? Why did you throw it from tongue to tongue?” Tallaqa means it came to your tongue and you threw it back at somebody. It is as if Allah is giving an imagery that this evil rumor is spread from tongue to tongue like wildfire. Allah says, “Why did you do it? Why did you have to go and tell other people? You should have simply stayed quiet and said, ‘This is an evil lie, I’m not going to say anything.’ Just be quiet about this.”
This shows us again and again that a Muslim society and a Muslim character and a Muslim akhlaq rises above gossip and rises above innuendo and slander. A Muslim does not get involved in these matters. The Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) said, “Of the perfection of one’s Islam is that he leaves what does not concern him.” If somebody comes and tells you, “Oh, so-and-so said this,” then say, “I don’t need to know. Why are you telling me?” You don’t go and tell other people.
Once somebody came running up to one of the famous scholars of the past and said, “Shaykh, do you know? Shaykh, do you know? So-and-so said that about you.” The scholars said, “Couldn’t Shaytan find somebody better than you to use as his messenger to come and tell me?” He criticized him. You are rasool of Shaytan when you say this. My point is, brothers and sisters, wAllahi it is human nature that gossip spreads and it will exist until the Day of Judgment. It is human nature. Every one of us should strive to overcome it in his or personal life. Every one of us should strive to rise above gossip in our daily life.
In particular – and I have to say this because Allah ‘azza wa jall Himself says this – in the context of Surah Hujurat which talks about buhtaan and spreading gossip and what-not, Allah specifically mentions women because it is true – and I’m not making a sexist statement – that generally speaking, women are more involved with gossip and with spreading these types of tales than men are. And even here, it is the women who did the talking. And in Surah Al-Hujurat, Allah has a specific commandment. Generally Allah only speaks in the masculine because it suffices, but when it comes to this topic, specifically Allah mentions in Surah Hujurat the issue of women. This is because we know from experience, and it is a simple fact that it is more predominant that women do talk about other women and other groups and other people in matters that are simply not beneficial.