Lecture by Yasir Qadhi | Transcribed by Sameera
Note: Due to technical difficulties during the recording of Part 7, the video is not yet available. Insha’Allah once the video becomes available, the transcript and video will be posted.
[The following is the video and transcript of part 8 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.]
He calls him ‘my brother’ because all the prophets are brothers, meaning the same religion of God. “I am amazed at the patience of Yusuf and at his generosity and Allah will forgive him.” Yaghfirullah meaning Allah will forgive him.
The Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) said, “When he was asked to interpret the dream, I would not have done so until I put a condition on them that they let me out.” Notice this is our Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) saying, “May Allah have mercy on Yusuf. May Allah bless him for his patience, and Allah will forgive him. I could not have done that. I would have put a condition that I am not going to interpret the dream until I am let out.” And then he repeated the phrase, “I am amazed at the patience of Yusuf and his generosity and Allah will forgive him.”
When the messenger came – we are talking about two verses later when the messenger comes and the messenger says, “The king is calling you.” – the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) said, “He refused to go until he made sure that his excuse was well known. Had it been for me and had I been in his case, I would have rushed to the door.” In other words, the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) is saying, “I could not have done this.”
Does this mean that Yusuf is better than our Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam)? As we said, firstly all comparisons are general. We don’t make comparisons to put any prophet down and any prophet above. As we believe as Muslims, we don’t draw distinctions between the prophets. We respect and admire all of them.
Secondly, as we said last week, some prophets might have one blessing that other prophets don’t have, and this is a blessing in a particular area, and it still could be that overall one prophet is higher than another even if that other has one particular blessing or issue that the one does not have. So we respect all the prophets and put them in their places that they deserve.
The point being that even our prophet is amazed and surprised, and he says, “I am amazed at how patient Yusuf was. Had I been in his shoes, I would not have been able to do this. I would have rushed out. I would have put a condition that they release me before I interpret the dream.”
Yusuf (‘alayhi salaam) hears the dream and immediately understands it. The man says, “Tell me the interpretation so that I can go back and inform the people.” Inform them about what? Two things:
- The interpretation of the dream
- “I need to inform them about you as well.”
Now the man says, “I will inform them about you so that they may know your state and your condition.”
This is a statement of fact: “For seven years you shall sow your grain.” But this statement of fact is actually intended as a command. Yusuf (‘alayhi salaam) as a prisoner in jail is commanding the people that this is what they need to do. He is offering them a solution even though he wasn’t asked for one. He was simply asked to interpret, and the interpretation would have been: “You will have seven years of luscious produce and seven years of drought.” End of story; that is the interpretation.
But how can a prophet of God not want good for the people? How can he be stingy and miserly on benefitting humanity? They have come to him to find out about the interpretation of the dream. He not only interprets, but he tells them how to protect themselves. He tells them what to do to guard their own interests.
He tells them, “Whatever you harvest, leave it in its covering except for a little bit and a small amount that you have to eat.”
He tells them not to touch 80 to 90% of the harvest and to store it and leave it in the cover so that it doesn’t spoil and rot so that they can use it later on.
This is the interpretation of the seven thin cows eating the seven fat cows. In other words, by the time the seven years are over, all of the silos and storage facilities would be completely empty except for a few grains left.
Yusuf (‘alayhi salaam) is telling them, “This is what you need to do. And then there shall come seven years of blossoming and seven years of drought.”
After these fourteen years there shall come a year in which there shall be abundant rain, and in that year, they shall be able to press grapes in order to make wine.
In other words, the produce will be so abundant. Wine is a luxury. You need to eat before you can eat. “You will have so much; you will eat, and then you will even have enough to drink. You will have enough to fill your stomachs and then you can enjoy and live a luxurious life and even be allowed to drink.”
We understand, therefore, where Yusuf (‘alayhi salaam) got this interpretation from. The seven fat cows symbolize the seven years of plenty and abundance. The seven thin cows symbolize the seven years of drought. The dream was strange because you would expect the heavy cows to devour the thin cows, but in this case, it was the thin cows that devoured the fat cows, so Yusuf (‘alayhi salaam) automatically understood that the seven thin cows would make up and get rid of the seven fat cows. Yusuf is telling them to fatten up their cows even more and store their grain because the thin cows will eat up everything that they have, and they need them, so the interpretation of the cows eating one another symbolizes that the grain or produce or harvest will be completely taken up by the next seven.
The grain symbolizes what they need to do. The grain symbolizes that these cows are in fact, if you like, the grain. The dream is telling Yusuf (‘alayhi salaam) the keys to unlocking the symbol of those dreams.
We understand the seven years and the seven years. The question arises: where does the dream mention the one year of abundant produce and pressing wines? Where does the dream mention that? There doesn’t seem to be any indication. Where is the fifteenth year mentioned in the dream? This is something that shows the full understanding of Yusuf (‘alayhi salaam) and that is because after seven years of drought, the only way to overcome drought and for the drought to come to an end is to have complete surplus of rain, or else the drought would not finish. If you had mediocre rain, you are not back to normal and are not back to status quo. In order to be back to status quo, there has to be a deluge of rain and a complete soaking of the soil.
Yusuf (‘alayhi salaam) understood that the fact that there is a limit being set of seven years must mean that the eighth year would not be like any average year. It must be an amazing, far above average year in order to wipe out the seven years of drought. This is exactly what indeed had happened.
We have been saying this from the very beginning of our entire series that Yusuf (‘alayhi salaam) is concerned and cares for the people around him. He doesn’t look at the fact whether they were Muslim or not. They were not even believers in Allah; they were idolaters and pagans and used to worship statues, yet Yusuf (‘alayhi salaam) cared enough for them to tell them how they should live their lives and to tell them how to protect the grain and store the crop and to make sure that they are fed. SubhanAllah, this is exactly what our religion requires of us. We care about the people around us and care about human beings regardless of whether they are Muslim or not, and we better their lives and bring about mercy and feed them. Yusuf (‘alayhi salaam) was not obliged to give them a solution, was he? He wasn’t even obliged to answer them. He was a prisoner in jail. Not only does he give them a response, he in fact tells them how they would save themselves, and if Yusuf (‘alayhi salaam) had not told them this, they would have starved to death and all of Egypt would have been devastated. These are his fellow human beings, and he needs to help them and protect them, so Yusuf (‘alayhi salaam) told them how to protect themselves.
The messenger comes back and tells the king, “This is the interpretation I have received from the jail.” The king is intrigued. Who is this man? What is his story? He is informed that Yusuf (‘alayhi salaam) has been accused of seducing the wife of Al-‘Aziz, and he was found guilty. They charged him with a crime and put him in jail. It was a false accusation.
The king says, “Bring him to me. Let me speak to him.” When the messenger came from the king, the messenger came with orders to have Yusuf released to come to the palace. Yusuf says, “No. Go back to your king. Go back to your master and ask him to find out what is the story of the women who cut their hands. Verily, my Lord is well aware of the plot that they hatched.”
There is no doubt that the crime that Yusuf was accused of was a crime of a moral nature, and even in this society, these crimes are not that big of a deal. If a politician is caught with a prostitute, it is a scandal, but life goes on. It is not the worst of crimes. If Yusuf (‘alayhi salaam) had gone into the palace, most likely this issue would have been forgotten and he would have been honored and received a hefty paycheck or salary and khalas would have been free to go his way, but Yusuf (‘alayhi salaam) does not want people to think evil of him and does not want people to think that he has fallen into this type of crime. Of course there is no reason, and the trial is done and over with. Even in our Constitution in America, once a man has been tried for something, he is not tried for something else. There is no double jeopardy. The point being that Yusuf would not have been tried again. It was a done deal and case closed.
Yusuf (‘alayhi salaam) wants to reopen the case, and the only way he can force the case to be reopened is to petition the Supreme Court, i.e. the king himself. He tells the messenger, “Go back to your king and ask him, ‘What is the affair of those women who cut up their hands?’”
Notice here many beautiful points. Obviously, it is clear that he wants to clear his name up. He is full of humility and modesty. He is full of hayaa’. He cares about his honor, and he does not want people to think him to be a low character, and that is more important to him than leaving jail. If he left jail, he would have his physical freedom, but how about his prestige? How about his character? His character is more important to him than physically being locked up in jail. This is exactly the attitude of the believer that his character and his ‘izzah and his honor is more important than physical hardship.
Secondly, notice that he asks the king to find out the affairs of the women who cut their hands. What did the women who cut their hands actually do? What are they guilty of? They incited the wife of ‘Aziz. This is not a major crime. Who is he not accusing when he talks about the women who cut their hands? The wife of ‘Aziz. She is absent in the accusation. The guilty party is not being accused. Why? Two reasons:
- Despite the fact that Yusuf (‘alayhi salaam) needs to clear his name, he is a modest man, and just like when the initial issue happened, he didn’t go into explicit detail. He simply alluded to the point without being explicit. Similarly, here he does not want to point a finger at her and say that she did this and this. He wants to get there without actually getting there. This shows his manhood and his hayaa’ (modesty).
- Secondly, by simply leaving the story open without telling details, – “Go to the king and find out the affair of those women who cut their hands” – the human is piqued with interest. What is the affair? This is human psychology. Had he simply accused and said, “Go find out those women who tried to seduce me” then the whole story is given, and the beans are spilled. There is nothing wrong with that, but Yusuf (‘alayhi salaam) wants the king to be interested and to find out. You all know the story of Scheherazade and the 1001 nights – you never finish the story, and you leave it open and keep saying you will finish tomorrow. The point here is that Yusuf (‘alayhi salaam) gives enough details to simply allow the king to say, “What is the story? What happened?”
Notice as well that in the way that Yusuf (‘alayhi salaam) described this, he does not make an accusation. He simply says, “They plotted.” They didn’t actually do a crime, but they are plotting and Allah is aware. They didn’t do a crime. If they did a crime, then he would be guilty as well. He doesn’t accuse them of a crime, but he accuses them of plotting a crime. All of this is in the perfection of eloquence and of his own akhlaaq and mannerisms.
Once again, I remind you of what the Prophet (sal Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said, “May Allah have mercy on Yusuf. I am amazed at his patience. Had I been in prison as long as he had been and the messenger had come to me, I would have raced to the door.” This is our Prophet (sal Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) speaking, and there is nothing unmanly about what he said because that is true too. If anybody had been locked up for seven years for a false crime, and now there was a petition from the court to hear his case, people would rush out, but Yusuf (‘alayhi salaam) wants to get to complete certainty that he is innocent of this.
The king calls the women. The Qur’an does not mention all of these details, and the beauty of the Qur’an is that it does not mention all of these details but simply tells you what you need to know and the rest is simply understood. The Qur’an does not say ‘so he sent for the women and they came.’ All of this is irrelevant and understood.
Allah ‘azza wa jall says, “The king said, ‘What was the matter with you?’”
He is speaking to the women who had cut their hands. He has invited all of them and the wife of ‘Aziz. Notice that it is impossible that the king would have otherwise gotten involved with such a petty issue. He would not even had heard of Yusuf and would not even have heard of the affair. Allah ‘azza wa jall willed otherwise by allowing the king to see a dream and by letting Yusuf respond to it and by being an enigmatic person the king still hasn’t seen because he has refused to be let out of the jail. Now the king really wants to know, and all of this is human psychology that Yusuf (‘alayi salaam) is taking advantage of. The king has now a huge personal interest, and all of this will come back to reward Yusuf in the end. Patience has its fruits. Yusuf (‘alayi salaam) knew that. This king says, “What was the matter with you? What was the affair with you? What actually happened when you tried to seduce Yusuf?” He knows that they tried to seduce Yusuf. The charge was not against the women who had cut their hands. The charge was against Yusuf and the wife of ‘Aziz. The women who had cut their hands were not really guilty of any crime, but they were guilty of trying to coax Yusuf into that act, but they themselves were not guilty of a crime.
He says, “Tell me what happened. Did anything actually happen? What is the matter? Tell me what happened when you tried to seduce Yusuf.” The king already knows they tried to seduce Yusuf, but the charge is that he agreed and that he corrupted the wife of ‘Aziz.
They said, “God forbid!”
This is like saying subhanAllah. By this, they are trying to say that they did not really try to seduce him. “God forbid! How could you accuse us of that?” Then they defend Yusuf (‘alahyi salaam) as well.
“We don’t know of anything wrong that he did. Our testimony is that he is a clear man. We don’t know anything wrong. We didn’t accuse him of anything.”
They testify trying to clear themselves by the first phrase: haashalillah. Then they also put Yusuf in the clear and say, “We don’t know anything wrong that he has done as well.” When all of them testify that Yusuf is of good character, there is only one person left: the wife of ‘Aziz. All of these women are testifying that Yusuf is of good character and did not do anything wrong. Now, the wife of ‘Aziz says, “Now the truth has become clear.” Hashasa means ‘it is now clear.’ “When everyone has testified, I can’t go against all of this testimony. It’s too late now.” It would have been at least eight or nine years when this incident occurred. Many of the scholars say that ‘Aziz had died by now, and she is now a widow. So she is coming now as a widow, and her husband has died, and there is this reputation of her that she has committed a crime with a slave. No doubt society would gossip and there would be innuendo and slander, which would have been with her for the last eight years, and so she is saying, “Finally, let’s get to the truth then.” She has been living with this guilt, and she has been living with society speaking about her, so she is saying, “Let the truth be clear now.” There is also the sense of: “I have been cornered, and all of these women have testified, so what am I going to do now?”
“Now the truth is clear. I was the one who tried to seduce him, and not the other way around. And he was surely always truthful.” Now she confesses.
“There was no doubt that he was of the truthful people and of the righteous people. I was the one who was guilty. I say this so that it may be known that I did not betray him in his absence and that Allah ‘azza wa jall does not guide the plotting of those who betray (the traitors).”
The main interpretation, and the dominant interpretation, and it is clearly the correct one, and so we will go with it in interpreting the verse. This is wife of ‘Aziz saying, “I say this now so that he may know and everyone may know that I never betrayed my husband. I never did the deed.” You can imagine that until his dying day, ‘Aziz would have had doubts: “Did it happen? Did it not happen? Is my wife loyal to me or not?” You can imagine like any man in that situation that there would be lingering doubts.
So now she says, “I am saying this so that the truth be known. I was loyal to him. I did not actually betray that trust. Indeed, if I were to have done so, God [she does not believe in the Lord we call Allah. Allah means God here] does not guide those who are treacherous or betrayers.” This means that: “Even I know that if I had actually betrayed him, I would have been exposed in a much worse manner.” She is now saying, “I never committed any sin, and I never committed any crime. I didn’t actually betray my husband.”
Now she has to add on, “I’m not saying I’m innocent.” What she is saying is that she never actually committed the sin of fornication and the sin of adultery, but she is not saying that she is innocent. She knows she committed the sin of attempting to seduce him. “I’m not saying I’m innocent.” She is being completely honest here. She is saying that she didn’t betray her husband, but she is not innocent. “I know I have my sins,” but she doesn’t say what it is. She leaves it at that. She simply says,
“Verily, the souls of people continually try to command them to commit evil.”
She blames it on her soul. “It’s not my fault. It was beyond my control. I was just so infatuated in love; it’s not really my fault. Souls command people to do evil except for those souls whom our Lord has shown mercy on. Verily, my Lord is Forgiving and Merciful.” In other words: “I hope that my God will forgive me.”
We said that the dominant interpretation and clearly the correct one – I say clearly because the context and the wording clearly indicates that this is the wife of ‘Aziz saying, “I never betrayed my husband. I want everybody to know that. That doesn’t mean I’m innocent. I was guilty, and I’m not saying I’m totally innocent, but it is really…” Then she tries to backtrack again, and you can tell that this is a typical guilty person going back and forth: “Well it is my fault, but not quite. Well, a little bit, but not quite.” Going and back and forth four times here. In the end, she says, “I know I’m not fully innocent. It is really my soul’s fault. I can’t really help it except if Allah ‘azza wa jall had saved it.” This is the dominant interpretation.
Another interpretation is that when the wife of ‘Aziz says, “Now the truth is clear. I tried to seduce him, and he is of the truthful.” Now the scene cuts to Yusuf in the jail, and Yusuf says, “This [meaning the testimony of the wife] so that everyone may know that I did not betray him in secret.” Again now there are two interpretations:
1. The first is that “Him” refers to Allah ‘azza wa jall. “I was faithful to Allah in not committing the sin.” This is one interpretation. Wallahi, this is very far because he does not need the wife of ‘Aziz to testify that he was faithful to Allah. Allah knows that.
2. Another interpretation is that Yusuf says, “I was faithful to him,” meaning ‘my lord and master.’ “I was faithful to him and I did not betray his trust on me.” Then Yusuf says, “I’m not saying I’m totally innocent.”
Once he says he didn’t do the crime, but then he says, “But I was guilty of one thing.” What was he guilty of? The hamm. The wanting and the desire. So he is saying, “I’m not saying I’m totally guilty. I know that I had a desire to commit the sin, but it is not really my fault because the souls are inclined to evil except those whom our Lord has mercy on.” This is yet another interpretation.
A third interpretation is that this is indeed the wife of ‘Aziz, but when she says, “I say this so that he may know that I never betrayed him,” she is referencing not her husband but Yusuf (‘alayhi salaam). The wife of ‘Aziz is saying, “I say this so that everybody may know that I never betrayed him [meaning Yusuf].” This means that she did not lie blatantly about him, and “I wasn’t treacherous and I am telling the truth now that I was the one who seduced him, and he was not the one who seduced me.”
There are three interpretations. The first of them is the clearly the strongest one, and I think that this is pretty obvious, and that is the correct one that the wife of ‘Aziz is talking, and she is saying, “I never betrayed my husband.” The second interpretation is that Yusuf is talking, and if Yusuf is talking, he is saying “I never betrayed Allah” or “I never betrayed my master.” The third interpretation, which is the weakest of all, is the wife of Al-‘Aziz saying, “I never betrayed Yusuf,” meaning “I’m speaking the truth, and I’m not smearing his reputation anymore, and let everybody know that I was the one who seduced him.”
The fact that the women at the end testified to her guilt shows that there is something praiseworthy and something good on her part even if she did not have faith in Allah and belonged to a different religion. There was something deep down inside, and this is human conscience. A human’s conscience is independent of religion. You can be an atheist and have a conscience and good morals. You can be a Muslim and have a bad conscience and bad morality. Religion is not necessarily linked, sadly – we wish it were, but it’s not. Religion is not necessarily linked to being a person of good conscience. She is not a Muslim, obviously, and yet, her conscience now comes clean, and she mentions the exact truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, and that is a sign of a positive conscience even if she does not have faith in Allah.
She says, “All souls command to do evil.” Souls command the people to do evil. Scholars have talked about the categories of souls and the different types of souls, and this is a long discussion in and of itself. Some scholars have said that the human soul is divided into three categories. The first of them is al-nafs al-mutama’innah, which is mentioned in Surah Al-Fajr. This is the soul of the believer. The soul of the believer is content, happy, and righteous. The second is the soul of the one who does not have faith in Allah. This is called al-nafs la’ammaarah bi’l-soo’, which is what she says. It is the soul that commands people to do evil. The soul of the believer does not command the believer to do evil all the time. She is talking about the souls of those who have no faith in Allah. The third category of souls is al-nafs al-lawwaamah, which means the soul that is ever reproaching itself. It is getting angry and irritated at itself. This is in the middle. Sometimes it goes to good, and sometimes it goes to bad; therefore, it is always reproaching itself.
We have on the right side the soul that is righteous and pious (al-nafs al-mutama’innah). We have on the other side al-nafs la’ammaarah bi’l-soo’, the soul that is commanding to do evil. We have in the middle al-nafs al-lawwaamah; sometimes it is good, sometimes it is bad. These are three categories according to one opinion.
According to another opinion, there are only two types of souls: al-nafs al-mutama’innah and al-nafs la’ammaarah bi’l-soo’. Al-nafs al-lawwaamah is a characteristic of both types because al-lawwaamah means you are regretting, and every human being regrets, either good or bad. The righteous person regrets ‘Why don’t I have more good? Why don’t I do even better? Why don’t I give even more money to the poor? Why can’t I fast and pray even more?’ It is always regretting. The evil soul is always regretting the opposite. ‘Why can’t I get more money and more this and more haram?’
Some scholars say that there are two categories of souls, and some scholars say that there are three categories. Allah (subhanahu wata’ala) knows best. However, just one key point here – her phrase ‘souls command their owners to do evil’, we firmly believe that this is not the soul of a righteous person. The righteous soul and the soul that is filled with faith does not command its body to do evil. Such a soul is a pure soul, and we would go further and say that the way that Allah created souls is in the pure fashion and form. We believe that all humans are created pure and good. We don’t believe that humans were conceived in evil and gave birth in evil and are evil by nature. We believe “man has been created in the best of all forms.” In the Qur’an: “We have honored the children of Adam.”
The Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) said, “Every soul is born upon the fitrah (pure nature).” Therefore, the general rule is that the human being is inclined to do good. This is the general rule. When that human being has faith in Allah and has iman, then the soul becomes that which commands to do good. It is only when that faith leaves and he has no faith that the soul becomes la’ammaarah bi’l-soo’.
The king says, “I want to choose him for myself.”
Istikhlaas means ‘to sift him up.’ Notice, three lines ago, he simply told the messenger, “Bring him to me.” Now that Yusuf has done his tactic, without even seeing Yusuf the king has pronounced a verdict. “I shall make him somebody in my inner circle.” SubhanAllah, notice this. If Yusuf hadn’t done what he had done, the king would have showered him with gifts and set him free and said, “Thank you very much, have a good life.”
By doing what Yusuf did and by investing the patience and the time to clear his reputation, the king is convinced and thinks, “What type of man is this that for such a petty crime…” And it is petty in the grand scale of things. Suppose he did seduce his master’s wife. It is not murder and it is not even stealing. It is a crime of passion that all men are sympathetic to. It is not even that major of an issue. All men would be sympathetic to such a crime. It’s not the worst crime you can commit, but Yusuf (‘alayhi salaam) does not want his name tarnished, and so he puts in the effort and before even seeing him, the king says, “Go bring him to me. He shall occupy some high place in my cabinet.”
Now when he brought him, after he spoke to him face to face, he said, “Today you have reached in front of me makeen.” Makeen means a person of honor and that you have a status. Ameen means he is a trustworthy person. “I can trust you. After all that you have done, you are an honorable man, and you are a trustworthy man.” This fits in 110% with what I have been saying since the beginning of the surah, which is the first thing you have to do is establish your credentials before you give da‘wah. You need to establish your credentials and tell society who you are before you tell them what you are.
Yusuf (‘alayhi salaam) has to establish his credentials. “I am an honest man. I am a chaste and God-conscious man. I don’t get involved in these immoral issues.” Once Yusuf has done this, the king has completely opened up to him and says, “You occupy a status in my eyes.” SubhanAllah, again we know this that a human being is attracted to virtue and nobility even if they are not believers in God. This is a pagan king, and he worships a statue and hand-carved object, but he knows truth and honesty when he sees it. This shows us Allah created mankind to know generically what is beautiful, truth and nobility. The king, despite his paganism, recognizes honesty, sincerity, and good morality. When he sees this in Yusuf, he says, “You are a person of honor, integrity, ameen.” The Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) is ameen before he is nabiyy and before he is rasool. You have to be al-ameen before you get to that level. This is exactly what Yusuf does.
As I have said over and over again, we in our times put the cart before the horse, and we don’t understand the priorities. The priorities are that we establish our credentials before we open our mouths to speak. Actions speak louder than words, and Yusuf has done exactly that.
Notice as well the cycle that is going on. I referenced this a few weeks ago. Notice the cycle of trial and temptation and then redemption and a high status. Yusuf (‘alayhi salaam) is in the loving care of his father growing up the most beloved of all the children, and then overnight he is in the well. Notice from where to where. From the loving care, comfort, and tenderness of his house to a dark and damp and dirty and stinky well. Overnight from the well, he is entered into a palace as a slave. Nonetheless, he is treated well and lavished and his owner says, “Treat him nicely. Don’t treat him like the other slaves.”
From the well, he is patient in the well and turns to Allah in the well. What happens? Allah saves him and puts him in the palace. So he lives a reasonably comfortable life, but then life is not just full of comfort and life is meant to be trial and tribulation. What happens then? Overnight from the palace to even a place worse than the well: the dark dungeons of the jail. He was in the well for three to five days, but he stays in the jail for seven to eight years, and it was dark and damp. You can imagine the jails of our times and how bad they are, so imagine the jail of those times. He lives there, but then overnight from the jail, he goes to the palace of the king. Literally, he was in the jail in the morning, and at night, the king tells him, “You are a man of honor, and I respect and admire you.” Not only is he in the king’s palace, but from the jail, he gets his own palace because he is made a minister.
SubhanAllah, look at the back and forth. We learn from this that this is what life is about. Every trial that comes will be bigger than the previous one, but then so too will the victory be sweeter, and so too will the rebound be even stronger. This is the Sunnah of Allah ‘azza wa jall. Allah will test and try us. Every time we undergo one trial, do not think that this is the end of it. That is not the end of it. There will be a bigger trial, but then we have already learned from the previous trials. We are learning from the story of Yusuf. When the bigger trial comes, realize that the sweets of that trial and the fruits of that trial will be even better than the fruits of the last one. We see this as well in the story of Yusuf.
Now that Yusuf (‘alayhi salaam) has this trust and the king basically says, “Today you are a man that we admire and we respect,” it is basically an open door of “What can I do for you?”
Yusuf (‘alayhi salaam) says, “Make me in charge of the treasures of the land, the storehouses.”
This means the grain and the crops. In other words, in our times it means, ‘Make me the minister of finance. Make me the person who is in charge of finance.”
“I am hafeedh.” Hafeedh means ‘I will protect and guard them.’ ‘Aleem means ‘I know what to do. I am a man of knowledge.’ Notice the two characteristics that he uses. One of them applies to character, and the other applies to skill. One applies to reputation, and the other applies to experience. All to often, especially in this world, we only concentrate on experience and credentials, and we don’t care about character. Isn’t that true? By and large, you simply base on degrees and experience.
In Islam, we look at both things. This is a mistake also if you like for ultra-religious brothers that think that all they need to do is look at how big a man’s beard is and how pious a person is and then that’s it and he will get whatever he wants. No. Here is Yusuf mentioning two characteristics: hafeedh and aleem. We need to look at both of these characteristics.
When the daughter of the man in Madyan, who many people say is Shuaib but is not Shuaib, goes back to her father and says, “Oh my father, hire him,” [she is talking about Musa], what are the two characteristics that she uses? Qawiyy and ameen. Qawiyy is strong. Musa was masha’Allah a strong man, and he was also ameen, a trustworthy man. Once again, one characteristic has to do with character and another has to do with job capability.
SubhanAllah, all too often the two extremes exist. In the secular world, we just care about job quality and job characteristics and adaptability. By and large, and let’s be honest here, in many Islamic circles all we care about is masha’Allah he is a good brother. It is more than being a good brother and praying five times a day. There is more to life than just praying tahajjud and being a Muslim in front of Allah ‘azza wa jall. If you are placed in position and placed in authority, there has to be a healthy combination of both of these things. This is exactly what Yusuf is saying and what the daughter of the man of Madyan said.
Notice here as well that Yusuf (‘alayhi salaam) has no problems telling the minister, “Put me in charge of the grain.” From this, it is quite clear that it is a part of our religion to help out society in whatever way possible and to benefit the community at large even if it means that we will be in an infrastructure that is not an infrastructure that is of belief and iman. Just like the people of Egypt, here is Yusuf, a believer in Allah and a prophet of Allah, and here is the administration and the infrastructure of Egypt which was an infrastructure that did not believe in Allah. It is not an Islamic state. Yusuf (‘alayhi salaam) has no problem suggesting himself and saying, “Look, I can help out.” Some of our brothers become so narrow-minded in this regard and say that they should not get involved in public welfare and public office. Ya‘ni this is not wise. You need to get involved because you need to help society just like Yusuf (‘alayhi salaam). He wants to help society and help the people. He knows that he can do a good job, and he is confident in that, and so he said, “Put me in charge of the grains and the produce, and I will be in charge of that.”
“This is how We gave authority to Yusuf.”
“This” means all that has preceded. Notice that Allah (subhanahu wata’ala) is saying, “Don’t think that this just happened. Wa kadhaalik (I had a plan). This is My methodology. I did this all for a reason. Everything happened according to My Plan. We established authority for Yusuf in the land. He could go wherever he wants with power.”
As the minister of finance, automatically now he is the most powerful minister in all of Egypt, and he can go with his entourage, and he can go and take charge of whatever he wants to. From being a prisoner to becoming the most powerful man. In some ways, he is even more powerful than the king because he controls the food of the people, and that is a position of more authority and demand than the king himself. Allah says, “This is how We gave Yusuf authority in the land that he may take possession of whatever he wanted.” This means he had the power to do so.
The scholars say that Yusuf (‘alayhi salaam) implemented his own program. What was his program? Gather up all the grain and store as much of it as possible For seven years people would simply hand over the produce to the government, and they would save it and store it until the next seven years.
“We give of Our Mercy to whomever We please. And We never allow the reward of those who are good to be lost.”
Yusuf deserved all of this because he was righteous. Because of his righteousness, Allah (subhanahu wata’ala) rewarded him. This is a lesson for me and for you and for all of us that when we are righteous to Allah, Allah will reward us back. Allah never allows the deeds of the righteous to go in vain. Allah reaffirms this.
“And indeed, the reward of the hereafter is even better for those who believe and have taqwa.”
Yusuf is now, masha’Allah, the richest man in Egypt and has his entourage and palace and power, but the reward of the hereafter is even better for those who truly believe and have taqwa of Allah and did their duty to Him. This verse “the reward of the hereafter is even better” shows us that the believer shall be rewarded in this life because Allah uses the word “better,” and “better” is only used when there are two.
Sufyan ibn Uyaynah and other scholars of the past used this verse to say that the believer shall get two rewards. He shall be rewarded for the good deed in this dunya, and he shall also be rewarded in the next. The one who did not have any faith in Allah, he will not be rewarded in the next, and he will only be rewarded in this world, and nothing will face him in the next.
This ayah and the whole story as of yet shows the same motif over and over again. One of the main motifs of the story is righteousness will always save you. Turning to Allah and living a good life will always bring about blessings in this world before that of the next.