Lecture by Yasir Qadhi | Transcribed by Sameera
This lecture is brought to you by the Memphis Islamic Center (MIC). For more information about MIC, please visit www.memphisislamiccenter.org
[The following is the video and transcript of part 13 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.]
In our last halaqah, we were just concluding the very final passages of Sūrah Yūsuf. We had actually finished the story of Yūsuf (‘alayhi’l-salām) except for the one du‘ā’ that he makes at the end. This du‘ā’ is what we are going to start off with today and finish up half a paragraph and hopefully inshā’Allāh by the next halaqah we will completely finish Sūrah Yūsuf and summarize some of the main points in Sūrah Yūsuf.
After he had raised his parents on the throne and after they had fallen down in sajdah, he then makes a du‘ā’. He mentions the blessings that Allāh (subḥānahu wa ta‘āla) has given him. He mentions the blessings without ever mentioning anything to do with his brothers because he has told his brothers “there is no criticism on you after today.” All of the blessings that he mentions – to be saved from the prison and to be saved from fitnah – he doesn’t mention anything to do with being in the well or anything to do with his brothers. He praises Allāh ‘azza wa jall for having guided his parents and bringing his parents from the bedouin livelihood into the cities.
Then he makes a private du‘ā’ to Allāh (subḥānahu wa ta‘āla). The first paragraph was public. He says:
“O my Rabb…”
We clarified in the last halaqah the meaning of Rabb. Rabb has three meanings to it. The first meaning is the Owner. You call out to the One who owns you because ownership necessitates responsibility. When you own your car, you have to take care of it. When you own something, you are the one who is in charge of it.
The second meaning of Rabb is Nourisher / Sustainer, and from this we get the word tarbiyyah, which is a spiritual nourishment. When you call out to Rabb, you are saying, “O the One who takes care of me. O the One who will nourish me.”
The third meaning of Rabb is Lord and Master, meaning the One who is obeyed.
This is why the Name of Allāh Al-Rabb is one of the most comprehensive Names of Allāh. This is why it is the most common Name that is ever used in any du‘ā’. Rabbi zidni ‘ilma. Rabbana ātina fi’l-dunya ḥasanatan wa fi’l-ākhirati ḥasanatan wa qina ‘adāb’l-nār. All of these use Rabb – why? Because when you call your Rabb, you are calling your Owner, Master, Nourisher. Therefore, Has to nourish and sustain you. Anything you ask for your Owner, Nourisher, and Sustainer has to give it to you; therefore, you invoke your Rabb.
He mentions two things:
“You have given me something of power and something of the knowledge of interpreting dreams.”
Why does he say ‘something’? Because he is invoking Al-Mālik and the One who is Al-‘Alīm. He is saying, “O Al-Mālik, You have given me some mulk. O Al-‘ Alīm, You have given me some ‘ilm.” In contrast to Allāh ‘azza wa jall, who is he and what is his power and what is his knowledge? In contrast to everybody on earth, there is no doubt he has the most knowledge, but now he is invoking Allāh ‘azza wa jall and saying, “O Allāh, You have given me a little bit of Your Power.”
Min here means a little bit. He is trivializing the knowledge that he has with ‘min’ because in comparison to Allāh that knowledge is trivial and in comparison to Allāh that power is nothing even though at this point in time he is the most powerful man on earth, even more powerful than the king, because he controls food and people are starving. He is the minister of food, and people need food more than they need anything else.
He is also the most knowledgeable people on earth. It is very rare in the history of humanity that power and knowledge have been combined to perfection. Perfection of knowledge is prophethood. It is very rare that the prophets have also been rulers, and that is why our Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) is no doubt the most successful of all of Allāh’s messengers even though they were all successful in their own way. Our Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) was the most successful because he combined al-mulk and al-‘ilm.
Very few people before him had combined these two, and of those who combined partially was Mūsa (‘alayhi’l-salām) in that he was given some dominion, but he still did not ever see the Holy Land. Mūsa died in the exodus when they were wandering around, but nonetheless he did have some political power. ‘Īsa (‘alayhi’l-salām) did not have any political power, and he led a different life. Ibrāhīm (‘alayhi’l-salām) did not have that type of political power. Yūsuf (‘alayhi’l-salām) and a few other prophets – of course Dāwūd and Sulaymān (‘alayhi’l-salām) are the best examples in this regard – were given mulk and ‘ilm, and there is no doubt that this is the perfection.
What is the most prized possession of any human being? Power. When you have power, everything else follows – fame, prestige, money, all of your lustful desires can be satisfied whether it is food, drink or sensual pleasures. When you are king or prime minister, everything else follows. All of the other pleasures of this dunya cannot compete with the pleasure of power because when you have power, everything else is subservient to that.
The greatest blessing of this world, if it is used properly is power. The greatest blessing of the spiritual realm is knowledge. Yūsuf (‘alayhi’l-salām) is, therefore, mentioning the two blessings that Allāh has given and perfected.
And of the knowledge, he mentions the most rare type of knowledge, and that is the knowledge of the interpretation of the dreams. As we have said over and over again, most knowledge is learned from books, and you can memorize the Qurʾān, study tafsīr, study fiqh and ḥadīth. This knowledge is difficult to obtain, but nonetheless it is available. There are a few types of knowledge that you cannot study and learn. It is a pure blessing from Allāh ‘azza wa jall. You can study for years and years and never master a particular type of science unless Allāh has bestowed it upon you. Of the most important of these sciences is the interpretation of dreams. As I have said over and over again, these booklets, encyclopedias and websites that you find are not worth the ink they are printed on, by and large, because dream interpretation is a gift Allāh blesses you with. It is not something that you learn.
I gave some examples that the same dream can be interpreted differently based on the culture you are in and based on who is seeing the dream. The same symbol for one person will symbolize one thing and will symbolize something else for another person, so you cannot just look it up in a book. It is something that is a God-given gift.
Yūsuf mentions the two most prized blessings he has been given. He begins the du‘ā’ by mentioning these special blessings for a number of reasons. Firstly, to acknowledge his gratitude. Of the best ways to acknowledge gratitude is to mention. We do this all the time in our lives and say, “I appreciate the favor you have done for me.” We thank verbally when someone has done something. Of the ways you acknowledge Allāh’s gratitude is that you say it. “O my Lord, I know that you have given me x, y, z. O my Lord, I know that you have given me wealth and given me status.” You begin the du‘ā’ by acknowledging Allāh’s favors upon you.
The second point is that by acknowledging Allāh’s favors, it is as if you are saying, “O Allāh, You have given me this much, also give me this now. You are the One who has been so generous…” Again, we find this in our world as well. If somebody has been helpful and there is a donor to the masjid, then the first person we go to when we need help is the donor and we say, “Akhi, you already gave $50,000 last year māshā’Allāh, and this year we need this.” His generosity has now been established, so we go to the people who we know what their character is like.
To Allāh belongs the more perfect example. By mentioning these favors, it is as if Yūsuf is saying, “O Allāh You gave me this, I know You will give me this.” This is how you begin the du‘ā’. That is why one of the ways that we should make du‘ā’ as well is by acknowledging Allāh’s Favors on us. This is how we should begin du‘ā’. The best du‘ā’ for istighfār (sayyid’l-istighfār) – the du‘ā’ that is the queen or master of all of the du‘ā’s of istighfār – begins with “O Allāh I acknowledge all of the blessings You have given me…” The du‘ā’ is for istighfār, and this is going to come later on, but before you begin the du‘ā’, you acknowledge and say, “O Allāh I acknowledge all of the favors You have given me, and I acknowledge my sins; therefore, O Allāh, forgive me.”
“…Fāṭira’l-samawāti wa’l-arḍ …”
Fāṭir is one of the Names of Allāh ‘azza wa jall. When the Name occurs, it is almost always followed by “al-samawāti wa’l-arḍ.” We rarely find Al-Fāṭir, but we find “Fāṭira’l-samawāti wa’l-arḍ.” What does fāṭir mean? It means the originator, the one who extracts and creates out of nothing. The verb faṭara literally means to carve in half and to split open. It is as if the person who created extracted from nothing – he opened and cracked open the seed or the egg and took out what was needed. The actual meaning of faṭara is to crack open and to put a split.
Fāṭir is as if Allāh has cracked open, if you like. This is metaphorical meaning. Allāh created from nothing. The meaning is as if He originated – this is the proper word in English – the heavens and the earth.
By mentioning the specific blessings – “You have given me power, You have given me knowledge” – he then moves on to the general characteristic of Allāh: You are the Originator of the heavens and the earth. He begins by mentioning specific blessings and then general blessings. The specific blessings: You have given me something You have given nobody else. The general blessing: You are the Creator and Originator of the heavens and earth.
“You are my Wali in this world and the next.”
He mentions two Names in this verse: Fāṭir and Wali – after of course mentioning Rabb, which is already mentioned in the beginning of the du‘ā’. What does Wali mean? Al-Wali is of the Names of Allāh ‘azza wa jall as well. Al-Wali and Al-Mawla are sister names. By [the term] sister names, I mean there are Names of Allāh ‘azza wa jall that are overlapping and similar and derived from the same root. For example: Al-Ghāfir, Al-Ghafūr, Al-Ghaffār. For example: Al-‘Alīm, ‘Allāmu’l-ghuyūb, There are Names of Allāh ‘azza wa jall that are very similar and have minor differences. Of them are Al-Wali and Al-Mawla.
Al-Wali and Al-Mawla are from the same verb yali, which means to be right next to. Al-Wali, therefore, literally and originally means the one who is in your proximity and around you. Therefore, your supporters and your comforters and your family and your protectors are all in Arabic called your wali. The Qurʾān uses the terminology wali to talk about the one who takes care of the orphans because he is the one who is monitoring and caring for them. The Qurʾān and Sunnah use the term wali to talk about the wali in the case of a nikāḥ (marriage) – the young woman who has never been married needs a wali. A wali is a guardian and somebody who will care for her and protect her interests. Because he is protecting her interests, he is a wali.
Allāh ‘azza wa jall is not just a wali but Al-Wali, which means He is the One who is protecting and caring and in close proximity to the believers. He is the wali of the believers only. “Allāh is the wali of those who have īmān.” In the Qurʾān in Sūrat’l-An‘ām: “Should I take any wali other than Allāh? Fāṭira’l-samawāti wa’l-arḍ.” Wali and Fāṭara are mentioned in the same āyah just like in Sūrah Yūsuf. Why? Al-Fāṭiris the Originator and Creator of the physical world, and Al-Wali is your guide and protector in the spiritual. He has created the world around you and is the physical Owner, Master, Originator, and then He has to take care of you and nourish you spiritually; therefore, He is your Wali.
Also, the Name of Allāh ‘azza wa jall Al-Mawla is mentioned many times. “Allāh is a sufficient Mawla, and Allāh is a sufficient Protector.” Nasīr and Mawla are paired together to show you what the meaning of Mawla is. In the end of Sūrat’l-Baqarah: “Anta Mawlana (You are our Mawla) fanṣurna ‘ala qawm’l–kāfirīn.” It is the job of the Mawla. The Wali is around you and in your proximity and caring for you and protecting you just like the wali in the nikāḥ and the wali of the orphan isn’t caring for himself but is caring for the one he is protecting. The meaning of wali in the nikāḥ and for the orphan is that his interests are the interests of the other party. He is going to protect the other party; therefore, when you are the wali in someone’s nikāḥ, you will look at her interests and what will protect her. To Allāh belongs the better example. When Allāh is our Wali, everything that happens He is doing for our own good because He is our Wali.
At the end of the story, Yūsuf (‘alayhi’l-salām) is saying, “I know, O Allāh, that all that has happened You were protecting me and You had a plan. You are my Wali in this world and in the next.” By acknowledging Allāh as his Wali, there are two meanings here. The first is that it is a statement of fact that Yūsuf (‘alayhi’l-salām) is acknowledging that he has īmān that Allāh is his Wali. The second is that it is a du‘ā’ implicit in the statement of fact: “O Allāh, continue to remain my Wali.”
Let me repeat. By saying “anta waliyy fi’l-dunya wa’l-ākhirah,” Yūsuf (‘alayhi’l-salām) is acknowledging two things. The first of them is that he is making a statement of fact and expressing his īmān. “O Allāh, I know You are my Wali.” By expressing his īmān, he is affirming his faith in Allāh. The second is that he is implicitly extracting a du‘ā’ from Allāh: “O Allāh, because You are my Wali, protect me in this world and the next.” So there is both a statement of fact and an implicit du‘ā’ mentioned.
SubḥānAllāh, look at what a beautiful Name Yūsuf (‘alayhi’l-salām) has chosen in light of his own story. Again, he is a prophet of Allāh and will choose the best Name. He could have chosen Al-Khabīr or Al-Ghafār, and all of these are appropriate, but by choosing Al-Wali, he is indicating “O Allāh, I know you protected me.” That is what a wali does: protect. “O Allāh, I know You protected me throughout all of my trials. Because you protected me in this world, also protect me in the next.”
By acknowledging Allāh’s wilāyah, and by praising Allāh (subḥānahu wa ta‘āla) in this manner, the whole paragraph as of yet has been praise after praise after praise. “You have given me the kingdom. You have taught me the knowledge of dreams. The Originator of the heavens and the earth, You are my Wali in this world and the next.” Now comes the du‘ā’. After all of this praise, now his request comes. This shows us, once again, the appropriate manner of making a du‘ā’.
Once the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) was passing by somebody who was making du‘ā’ who raised his hands and said, “O Allāh, give me this and give me that.” The Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said, “The man has been hasty. He didn’t do his job properly.” They said, “What should he have done?” He mentioned a du‘ā’, and from it we derive that he should have praised Allāh and made taḥmīd and begun by expressing glory to Allāh ‘azza wa jall and then worked his way to the du‘ā’.
It is a hasty du‘ā’ – we are not saying it is wrong. To fulfill a real du‘ā’ and the proper etiquettes of du‘ā’, you raise your hands up to Allāh and begin by praising Allāh and by acknowledging what Allāh has given you. You begin by praising Allāh a general praise and a specific praise. What is a general phrase? Fāṭira’l-samawāti wa’l-arḍ. What is a specific praise? In our case, you think of what blessing Allāh has given you, and you say, “O Allāh, You have blessed me with a beautiful family. O Allāh, You have given me this. O Allāh, You have given me that.” Acknowledge Allāh’s blessings and praise Allāh in a general manner and then you get to your du‘ā’.
What is the du‘ā’?
“Cause me to die as a Muslim, and allow me to join those who are righteous.”
Some people have misunderstood this verse to mean that Yūsuf (‘alayhi’l-salām) was asking for his own death and that he is raising his hands to Allāh and asking Allāh to give him death. One of the scholars of past said, “No one of the righteous ever wished for death other than Yūsuf” because he is saying “tawaffani musliman (cause me to die).”
The majority refuted this and said that this is a misunderstanding. Why? The Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said, “None of you should wish for death because the life of the believer is nothing but good.” When you die, your good deeds are closed, and you are not going to get the amount of good that you are getting when you are alive. The life of the believer only brings about more good and, therefore, how can a prophet of Allāh wish for death when his life is nothing but good? And, therefore, the majority interpretation and opinion is that he is saying, “O Allāh, when death comes to me, let me be in the state of Islam.” This is clearly what Yūsuf (‘alayhi’l-salām) is intending, and even Allāh ‘azza wa jall says, “Do not die except in a state of Islam.” This doesn’t mean that we should rush to death but that we should be persistent in our Islam.
This du‘ā’ at the end after all of this praise is very profound. Why? After all of these blessings that he mentioned, there is a blessing that is more precious to Yūsuf than the kingdom and knowledge, and that is Islam. The blessing of Islam is something that is more important to him than anything else. Wallāhi this is something that we should really think about. We take Islam for granted so much. I ask myself this and I ask you: When was the last time you genuinely praised Allāh and thanked Him for being a Muslim? When was the last time you raised your hands up to Him and said, “O Allāh, allow me to live as a Muslim and die as a Muslim.”
This is what is on the mind of Yūsuf (‘alayhi’l-salām). He has been given the kingdom and the knowledge, which is very rare even amongst the prophets, and yet there is a blessing that outshines and excels all of these blessings, and that is the blessing of Islam. It is something so simple and we take it for granted, but Yūsuf (‘alayhi’l-salām) understands how precious it is. He says, “Allow me to die in the state of Islam.”
The meaning of this is: allow me to persist in being a good Muslim until death comes to me. Nobody knows when death will come, so whenever death comes “allow me to be in that perfect state of Islam.”
“…and cause me to join the righteous.”
Once again, there is a profundity here. He is worried about his companions in the next life and who he will be hanging around in the next life. Why? In the next life, there are only two categories and camps – there is no middle camp. In this world there is a middle camp and we can pick and choose, but in the next, everything is sifted. Therefore, he wants to be in the camp of the winners and not of the losers, and he says, “O Allāh, cause me to join the righteous.”
As a prophet of Allāh, he obviously is righteous, and he is asking Allāh to be amongst the righteous. There is an implicit du‘ā’ “allow me to be with my forefathers who are also prophets and my brothers who are now also prophets.” Either they [the brothers] became prophets now or later. By making du‘ā’ to Allāh to be with the ṣāliḥīn, he is making du‘ā’ to be with his own father and grandfather.
It is said in the books of history that Ya‘qūb (‘alayhi’l-salām) died, and Yūsuf was grief-stricken by his death and died shortly two or three years after. Ya‘qūb lived a very long life. Yūsuf (‘alayhi’l-salām) died shortly after his death even though he might have lived much longer for that time period, but Allāh ‘azza wa jall willed that he die shortly after his father. This du‘ā’ becomes even more meaningful. “O Allāh cause me to be amongst the righteous.” No doubt who comes to mind will be his own father.
Also the concept here is that you will be with those whom you love and hang around. The Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said that man will follow the methodology of his friends, so be careful who your friends are. If you are with the ṣāliḥīn in this world, chances are you will be with the ṣāliḥīn in the next. If you avoid the ṣāliḥīn in this world, then chances are that you will not get to the ṣāliḥīn in the next.
Of the most important benefits that we derive from this paragraph is: how to make du‘ā’, the etiquettes of du‘ā’, the sincerity of du‘ā’, and what to make du‘ā’ about. As I said when I was giving the halaqah two days ago, when you reach a high level of īmān, your mind does not think about “O Allāh give me a million bucks. O Allāh give me a fancy car.” Your mind transcends such petty things.
Here is Yūsuf asking what we would consider the lowest common denominator amongst everything and that is Islam. For us this is the lowest common denominator. Wallāhi, I ask myself and you again: when was the last time you asked Allāh for Islam? We take it for granted, isn’t it? We ask Allāh for this world and we ask Allāh for matters that might not be as important, but Yūsuf (‘alayhi’l-salām) understands what is most important.
This paragraph and this du‘ā’ is a very profound paragraph that summarizes the gist of the story and the īmān of Yūsuf (‘alayhi’l-salām) and what he is thinking about. He wants Islam in this world and he wants Jannah and the ṣāliḥīn in the next.
Another point here: Yūsuf (‘alayhi’l-salām) was a prophet. There is no question that he would remain a prophet until he died. In other words, there is no question that he would ever lose Islam. A prophet of Allāh can never commit shirk or kufr or else he wouldn’t be a prophet. Prophets are sinless, meaning they cannot commit major sins, yet Yūsuf (‘alayhi’l-salām) is asking for that which is guaranteed for him. Islam is guaranteed for him and he has no fear of losing it in the real sense. There is no way that he can ever not be a Muslim and yet what is on his mind is giving him Islam.
This reminds us of ‘Umar b. Al-Khaṭṭāb, which is one of the most interesting stories of īmān. The Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) told Umar that he is of the people of Jannah, yet 15 years later, he is begging Hudhayfah, “Tell me if I am one of the munāfiq the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) told you about.” Do you see the contradiction here? If he truly believes in the Rasul (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam), then he must also believe that he is going to Jannah because the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) told him he is going to Jannah, but because his īmān is at a level beyond what we can understand, he is overzealous and over concerned more than he needs to be that he doesn’t have the one thing he has been guaranteed by the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam). He is worried about the impossible because of his own īmān. We see this in the story of Yūsuf (‘alayhi’l-salām). Yūsuf is making a du‘ā’ for something that in reality he doesn’t need, but he is so eager for it because he knows that this is all that he needs.
A du‘ā’ in Ṣaḥīḥ Bukhāri: “O the One who changes the hearts, make my heart firm in worshipping you.” Once again, can our Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) ever not be firming in worshipping Allāh? Can that ever happen? It is not even possible, yet this is the du‘ā’ that he is making. It is not even conceivable that our Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) would not be upon the dīn of Allāh, but his du‘ā’ is “O Allāh, make my heart firm in your dīn.” Once again it is that level of īmān.
The same in the story of Ibrahim (‘alayhi’l-salām). The worst sin is the worship of idols, and it is not conceivable that a prophet of Allāh can worship an idol. Yet when is standing in front of the Ka‘bah after he has finished building it with his son Ismā‘īl and he is filled with awe, the du‘ā’ on his mind is: “Make me of Your worshippers, and save me from worshipping an idol.” Once again, the impossible, but when you get to that level of īmān, this is what you are worried about.
The moral of all of this is that if this is the du‘ā’ of Yūsuf (‘alayhi’l-salām), our Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam), and Ibrahim (‘alayhi’l-salām) and they are guaranteed, then where do you think I am and you are? How much sincerely do you think we, who have absolutely no guarantee at all, should be making du‘ā’? Should we not be making this du‘ā’ with so much zeal and vigor? Yet, as I say, when was the last time we made a du‘ā’ for what we consider to be the lowest common denominator?
In this beautiful du‘ā’ of Yūsuf (‘alayhi’l-salām), we have the affirmation of tawḥīd, the perfection of Allāh’s Names and Attributes, and the pure submission to Allāh ‘azza wa jall when he says, “Make me of those who submit to You.” We see that his dying wish is to die as a submitter or worshipper of Allāh ‘azza wa jall. With this comprehensive du‘ā’, the actual story of Yūsuf (‘alayhi’l-salām) finishes, and the story goes on for a page or so. Today we will do a little bit and then next week we will try to finish up inshā’Allāh.
Just to finish up some loose ends here:
Realize that Ya‘qūb was living in the land of Canaan which is now called Filistine. He had been promised this land, but he had not cultivated it. He was living in the wilderness and in a barren valley. He had been promised this land but had not taken over it and was living as a bedouin. When the drought happened and when people are dying, Yūsuf (‘alayhi’l-salām) calls them to Egypt and gives them a luscious, beautiful life, but they know that this is a temporary phase and they have to eventually go back to the Promised Land.
We find in our books – and Allāh knows how true this is or not – that Ya‘qūb (‘alayhi’l-salām) gives the wasiyyah to bury him as close as possible to the Promised Land in Egypt. As for Yūsuf (‘alayhi’l-salām), he made an even stricter wasiyyah and this is from an authentic ḥadīth, so we know this for sure. When Yūsuf (‘alayhi’l-salām) was on his deathbed, he took a covenant with his children that: “whenever Allāh tells you to return to the Holy Land, you must take my body and my corpse and travel with it and bury me in the Holy Land.” He made a promise with his children to do this.
Hundreds of years went by between Yūsuf and Mūsa. When Yūsuf (‘alayhi’l-salām) came, they were 75 people and by the time Mūsa came, there were probably a quarter of a million or something. We don’t know exactly, but at least a quarter to half a million. We have a huge number of people in the actual exodus.
Hundreds of years go by and our ḥadīth tell us that when Mūsa (‘alayhi’l-salām) tried to leave, he was physically prevented from doing so. He could not go and he knew this was from Allāh ‘azza wa jall, so he asked his people, “What is going on?” Somebody tells them that there is a legend that they know and a story that they heard that Yūsuf (‘alayhi’l-salām) made a promise with his progeny that they could not leave the land except with his body. Mūsa (‘alayhi’l-salām) said, “Where is he buried?” They said, “We don’t know. It has been hundreds of years.” They went through every single house and every single person of the children of Isrā’īl until they came across a very old lady from of the descendants of Yūsuf (‘alayhi’l-salām). She said, “I remember my forefathers telling me that he was buried in this location.” They went to that location and dug up the body and carried it with them for over forty years in the wilderness until finally they arrived in the Holy Land and he was buried there. Mūsa (‘alayhi’l-salām) was not alive when they entered the Holy Land because of the forty-year exodus that they were given. Mūsa (‘alayhi’l-salām) was wandering in the wilderness and died in the wilderness, but Allāh ‘azza wa jall told Mūsa that he was about to die, so he told the angel of death to take his soul in an area where he could at least see the Holy Land. He climbed up a hill and overlooking them was the Holy Land. He died there and was buried there. There is clearly this concept and notion that the people of Isrā’īl knew that they would return to the Holy Land. Our Prophet Yūsuf (‘alayhi’l-salām) also knew this, which is why he told his progeny to take his body to the Holy Land.
This is the conclusion of the actual story of Yūsuf (‘alayhi’l-salām). The sūrah goes on, and the next verse says:
“This is of the news of the ghayb…”
I think I already mentioned in the first class that the difference between hādha and dhālik is the distance. Hādha is over here, and dhālik is over there. By using the word dhālik, Allāh ‘azza wa jall is elevating the story. The story is right here, and we just finished it. Technically to say hādha may be more precise to say linguistically in the sense that we have just finished the story, but by saying dhālik, Allāh ‘azza wa jall is showing the majesty of the story and elevating the rank. It is connecting the verse, yet Allāh uses dhālik to indicate how exalted the story is.
“All of this is from the knowledge of the ghayb that We have inspired to you.” The word min is ‘from.’
“And you were not with them when they gathered together to plot against Yūsuf (‘alayhi’l-salām).”
Allāh ‘azza wa jall mentions one incident in the whole story: when they gathered together to plot against Yūsuf. Why does He mention this one instance? He doesn’t say that the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) was not with them in the palace of the king or that the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) was not with him when he was in the well or that the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) was not with them when they went to Egypt. Why doesn’t He mention all of these? Why does He mention the one point that he was not with them when they gathered to plot against Yūsuf? It was the most secret point of the whole story. Nobody knew it. They intended to make a secret out of it, and they hid from everybody else, and nobody could have ever told him the conversation in the beginning of the surah other than Allāh ‘azza wa jall. Allāh ‘azza wa jall is saying, “You weren’t there when they gathered together while they were plotting and planning against Yūsuf.” Allāh signifies the most secretive of all of the gatherings in the whole story.
What is the purpose of saying, “You weren’t there?” Of course the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) knows he wasn’t there. Why is Allāh addressing him by saying, “You weren’t there”? Allāh ‘azza wa jall is addressing the world through him and is asking mankind to think. Where do you think these stories come from? Of the greatest miracles of our Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) is the fact that the Qurʾān mentions these stories.
I need to impress upon all of you the society at the time of the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam). The world at the time of the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) is a world that many of us would not understand. We are living in a very modern world now. The best I can say is imagine in the jungles of Africa that are still in our times cut off from electricity and the internet or in places in Australia where maybe the aborigines are still living – I don’t know if they still live like that, but I am just saying.
Imagine if somebody lived like that and came forth in our times. He was discovered in the middle of the desert having no education, not speaking the languages of the people around, having no library and having no access to books and yet he is a computer programmer or a doctor. I’m just giving you a ridiculous example. How is it possible? One would be amazed. Our Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) did something infinitely more miraculous.
We need to understand that Arabia was literally a barbaric society and it wasn’t even civilized. There was no government. One of the signs of the most uncivilized people is that there is no government. Isn’t that true? Government is the basic level of civilization. The Arabs didn’t even have a government. Every tribe was warring against another. There was no unified government and no law and no order. They don’t have a script with which to write. Basic Arabic was so confusing, even Arab experts now cannot read that Arabic. In Makkah, we can estimate roughly from the sources that there were around ten people in the whole city of at least a thousand who knew how to read and write. There was not a single library in the whole of the Arabian peninsula. There was no book written in Arabic at this time – not one book written in Arabic. They only wrote mu‘āllaqāt. They did not have volumes at the time. They didn’t even have two-story houses. It was such a primitive society and within a hundred years would become the leaders of the world, but that is a separate story.
This primitive society has no connection with Judaism and Christianity. In Makkah, there were no Jews and Christians unlike Khaybar and unlike Yemen. The people of Makkah are not growing up on the stories of Joseph and Jacob and Mary and Jesus. It’s not their culture. That’s the culture of the Romans and other societies. The Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) has been raised and born in Makkah, yet here he comes forth with a book the likes of which beats any eloquence their poets have. The language is beyond this world, literally. The power and beauty and profundity and, for the purposes of this āyah, the content. Where did he get it from? Allāh says, “You never used to write books before this. You never used to recite poetry before this. If you had done so, perhaps those who doubt would have a reason to doubt.” This is another point here. For forty years, the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) never once gave a line of poetry. He never once was known for literature. He was known for honesty, character, and bravery, but he wasn’t known for literature. Instantaneously overnight – and this again is something that is not humanly possible; you cannot become a doctor, computer programmer, or expert in anything without experience. Even to drive a car or do anything, you need experience.
Allāh is telling us that overnight our Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) begins to spread a revelation, teach a message, recite stories. “Neither you nor your people before you had access to these stories.” What is really amazing is that many of the details of these stories are not even found in the Old Testament and are only found in the Qurʾān. This is even more amazing because if there was complete parallel, then you could have said – and this is a theory that used to be popular a hundred years ago – that the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) copied from the Bible. Now no serious researcher says this because there are so many differences in the stories, the details, and the format. There is clearly no direct copying going on at all.
More impressive than this was that there was no access. The first Arabic translation of the Bible was around 180 AH, which is very much later on and way after Islam came. Before this time there wasn’t even an Arabic translation of the Bible, so the question is where then did an illiterate unschooled man in the middle of a peninsula that was wild and far from the cultures of Rome and Persia get this from? This is what Allāh is saying in the Qu’ran. “This is of the knowledge of the ghayb. We are the Ones who inspire you.” This is a miracle of Allāh ‘azza wa jall by telling us the story of Yūsuf (‘alayhi’l-salām).
If you remember many months ago when we started this story, I said one of the reasons that is given for why this surah is revealed is that the Quraysh sent a delegation to the ahl’l-kitāb of Madinah saying, “We have someone amongst us who claims to be a prophet. What can we do to prove that he is not a prophet?” The ahl’l-kitāb there said, “Test him with a number of questions.” They gave a number of questions. One of them was: “Test him to tell if he can tell the story of Yūsuf and the strange things that happened to him.” The ahl’l-kitāb knew that nobody knew this except for them, and they themselves did not have their libraries in Madinah. It was oral tradition and secret; only they knew it. It was another city two weeks journey away from Makkah, and the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) had never been to Madinah as an adult. They go to the Quraysh and say, “Ask him the story of Yūsuf.” They asked him the story of Yūsuf and what happens? Allāh reveals Surah Yūsuf.
Then Allāh concludes the story by saying, “This is of the knowledge of the ghayb that We inspired to you. You weren’t there.” What is going to happen? The next verse:
“And most of mankind will not believe even if you are eager for their belief.”
In other words, Allāh ‘azza wa jall is concluding this story by talking about its miraculous aspects. How did you get this story? It came from Us. “This is a clear sign that you are a truthful prophet, yet most of mankind will not accept it.” To this day, by the way, the same challenge applies. As you know, I’ve studied in academia as well. I find it very interesting how various people try to interpret the life of the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) and how the non-Muslims who reject the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) explain his lifestyle and his reasons and mannerisms. To be honest, there is no feasible explanation that they have. There is nothing that is sensible. To this day there are a lot of theories. People say that he might have gone to Syria, but all of this is conjecture. They are not willing to acknowledge the most logical and rational possibility that is it came to him from the Ultimate Source, Allāh (subḥānahu wa ta‘āla).
Allāh is saying, “Even though it is so clear that this Qurʾān is from Allāh and even though it is so clear that you are getting waḥy, most of mankind will not believe despite the fact that you want them to believe.” This clearly shows us the mentality of our Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam). He wanted good (khayr) for his ummah. Ḥariṣ means to be extra eager and extra passionate about something. Allāh ‘azza wa jall uses this word for our Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) in Sūrah Tawbah: “There has come to you a prophet amongst you. He finds it difficult to see your pain. He is ever protective, ever careful, ever loving towards you. ‘Alaykum bi’l-mu’minīn ra’ūfu raḥīm.” Al-Ra’ūf and Al-Raḥīm are two Attributes of Allāh ‘azza wa jall. Take the alif-lām out and our Lord ascribed them to our Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam). The Rasūl is extra merciful and extra compassionate as much as humanly possible.
Allāh ‘azza wa jall Himself calls our Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) ever eager to help you and guide you. Our Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) also explained in one ḥadīth: “My example with my nation and my people is that I see them trying to jump into the fire, and I’m holding onto their belt trying to drag them out, and they want to try to disobey me and jump into the fire.” He is describing his relationship with the people. He doesn’t care if they are acting foolishly, he has to try to save them. This is what Allāh ‘azza wa jall is saying: “I know you are eager for your people. I know you want to guide your people, but it is not your job. Your job is to convey. Our job is to judge.”
In Sūrat’l-Kahf, Allāh uses a very blunt and frank verse. Baqi‘ means – and this is a very harsh word – that you may die of frustration. You might literally die of anguish if they don’t accept īmān. In other words, Allāh ‘azza wa jall is saying to the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) to calm down because he is so worried and thinking about and loving and caring for his people that he may kill himself in his grief. His grief will drive him almost to death because they don’t accept īmān. The eagerness of our Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) is clearly mentioned in the Qurʾān and Sunnah.
Another benefit of this verse here is that most of mankind will not believe. I want us to think about this profoundly, especially in the times that we live in. Many of us have a very naïve understanding of da‘wah. Many of us really think, “Let me just give him a few Deedat cassettes or Zakir Naik CDs or I might practice myself at home a little bit and try and quote a few verses and he is going to convert.” Ya akhi, the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) preached for 23 years and for the first 13 of those years, most of mankind rejected him. Most of mankind who lived with him, walked with him, and saw the miracles did not accept him. Do you think that you and I will be more effective than he was? This is the Sunnah of Allāh ‘azza wa jall. Look at the history of all of the prophets. ‘Īsa’s (‘alayhi’l-salām) own people rejected him. Yaḥya’s (‘alayhi’l-salām) own people killed him. Mūsa’s (‘alayhi’l-salām) own people mocked him – forget about the outsiders. How about then our Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) and the other prophets?
The point being Allāh has given us the general rule that people want to live animalistic and hedonistic lifestyles. Allāh is saying that most of these people are worried about is their animalistic desires. They just want to eat and drink and have a good time. When you come to them with the truth, it is too difficult to follow the truth and live. And wallāhi we talk about non-Muslims, how about Muslims? For every one of us sitting in this masjid in this city, there are at least forty or fifty who we never see in the masjid. Why should we talk about non-Muslims when we have Muslims we know – our friends, relatives, acquaintances, and even ourselves. How many of us know the truth and yet we find it difficult to follow.
Allāh ‘azza wa jall is just giving us the status quo that “no matter how eager you are, ya Rasūlullāh, and no matter how much you want to guide them, the majority of people, even if you want, are not going to be guided.” This shows us that the truth does not necessarily lie in the majority. The majority can say something, within Islam or outside of Islam; the truth is independent of numbers and quantity. The truth is quality. Sometimes it has quantity, such as the time of the sahabah, and sometimes it doesn’t. This is a verse that clearly shows us that if 20 people or 50 people want to propagate something, it doesn’t necessarily make it the truth. The truth is different than what the majority might say.