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Quran and Sunnah

The Best of Stories: Pearls from Surah Yusuf | Part 15 (Conclusion) | Lessons and Morals Learnt from the Story of Yusuf

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

[The following is the video and transcript of part 15 (the conclusion) 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.]

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Alḥamdulillāh, we thank Allāh ‘azza wa jall who has allowed us the opportunity to study this entire sūrah beginning to end in 15 sessions.  As I promised you in our last lesson, in one of the last verses of the sūrah, it is as if Allāh (subḥānahu wa ta‘āla) is saying, “Now you have read it once and benefitted from it at a basic level.”  I just recited for you “āyātu li’l-sā’ilīn.”  You have lessons for those who are curious and want to ask.  In the end, Allāh says, “In this sūrah, there is ‘ibrah li’uli’l-bāb.”  There are profound wisdoms to learn for those of intellect and contemplation.  It is as if at the beginning Allāh is saying, “Read this sūrah at a cursory level.  Understand it at a basic level.”  Once we get to the end, Allāh is saying, “Now think about it.  Ponder over it and you will find much wisdom to learn and benefit from.”  We will obey the commandment of Allāh ‘azza wa jall and take a swift relook at the entire sūrah in a holistic manner.  We will try to derive some of the overall benefits.

I am not going to quote you verse by verse.  We have already done that.  We are just going to quickly go over, and I have compiled around 50 to 60 of such benefits from the beginning of the sūrah until the end.  We are going to go over them one by one.

Of the benefits of the sūrah is that the believer is concerned for his or her family and his or her children.  The believer looks out for the welfare of one’s children and offspring and tries one’s best to protect them at a physical and at a spiritual level.  When Yūsuf told his dream to his father Ya‘qūb, immediately Ya‘qūb wants to protect Yūsuf.  Instead of jumping for joy, and instead of saying, “what a proud father you have made me,” he is protecting him.  He wants the best for his dīn and his dunya.  A sign of īmān (faith) is to want the best and to want a nurturing environment for your family.

Of the blessings and wisdoms of this sūrah is that dreams are a constant motif of this entire sūrah.  The sūrah begins with a dream and that is the dream of Yūsuf.  The sūrah has a dream in the middle and that is the dream of the two prisoners who saw themselves being killed and saw the birds eating from his head and the dream of the king.  Dreams are a constant theme in this sūrah.  Of the blessings we derive is that true dreams are from Allāh.  True dreams are a blessing that Allāh gives.  The interpretation of dreams is a science that only Allāh can teach you.  We learned this from this sūrah and went over it many, many times.

Of the wisdoms of this sūrah is that the wise and intelligent person does not flaunt his or her blessings.  The wise and intelligent person does not show off worldly or spiritual blessings because showing off is not only egotistical and a lack of humility, but also it causes dangers and harms and problems.  That is why when Yūsuf had the dream, his father said, “Don’t tell your brothers.  Don’t show off.  They might get jealous of you.”  The wise person does not boast of his blessings, rather he hides them to the greatest extent possible.  These blessings are both religious and worldly blessings.  You don’t flaunt the good that Allāh has given you, or else you will suffer the consequences in this world and perhaps even in the next.

Of the wisdoms we derive from this sūrah is that Shayṭān is every eager to cause problems between believers, especially between family members.  This was a successful plot of Shayṭān that he caused the brothers of Yūsuf to hate Yūsuf so much that they even intended at one point in time to kill him.  Of the benefits we learn is that Shayṭān is ever eager to cause problems.  He always wants to cause disunity amongst the ummah, especially amongst family members. SubḥānAllāh, it is so true that every single family has its own issues and problems even though they are blood and even though they are family.  Every single family has problems either with the siblings, uncles, or aunts.  It is human nature, but Shayṭān makes it worse.  This story shows us this.

Of the wisdoms of this sūrah is that a good household produces good offspring.  Allāh (subḥānahu wa ta‘āla) mentions at the beginning of the sūrah: “This is how He will perfect His favors upon you as He perfected it upon your forefathers before you, Ibrāhīm and Isḥāq.”  I.e. because there was Ibrāhīm there was Ishaq and because there was Isḥāq there was Ya‘qūb and because of Ya‘qūb there was Yūsuf.  A house of piety will produce children of piety.  When one parent and one generation strives to be righteous, then the general rule is that the piety is transferred down to the next generation.  This is shown by the verse in the Qurʾān where Allāh says, “This is how We will perfect your favors as We perfected the favors upon your forefathers before you.”

Of the wisdoms of this sūrah that we learn is the importance of being fair, equitable, and just to all people.  In this particular case, Ya‘qūb with his children.  We are told in our religion that we are not allowed to prefer one child over another and we cannot give a gift to a child and leave another.  We cannot show any outward favoritism.  Ya‘qūb tried his best to be fair, but he couldn’t control one thing and that is his emotions.  His children sensed his emotions, but his children could not complain that he spends more time with Yūsuf or that he gave Yūsuf a present that he hasn’t given to them.  All they could say was that he loves Yūsuf, and love is an emotion of the heart, and you are not held accountable for emotions of the heart.  We learn to be equitable and just to people from this issue here.

Of the wisdoms we learn from this sūrah is that jealousy drives a person insane.  Jealousy is one of the most destructive emotions known to man.  Jealousy makes a person who is otherwise rational become irrational.  People will do things out of jealousy that you will not believe they could have done.  Here we have young adults plotting and planning to murder their brother who is only 7-8 years old.  Jealousy has caused such enragement and such anger.  Our Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) warned us, “I warn you from jealousy.  I caution you from being jealous because jealousy destroys your good deeds like a fire eats up wood.”  Jealousy is destructive in any form.  That is why we should seek refuge in Allāh from jealousy and try to solve jealousy as soon as it exists.  We also seek Allāh’s refuge from the effects of jealousy: min sharri ḥāsidin idha ḥasad.  This is of the blessings we learn from this sūrah.

Of the wisdoms we learn from this sūrah is repentance before committing the sin is not a true repentance.  If you commit a sin and say, “Oh, I know I’m guilty.  May Allāh forgive me,” that is not a true repentance.  Before they committed a crime, the brothers of Yūsuf said, “We’ll do the crime and then God will forgive.  We are going to make up for it.  We are going to be righteous after it.”  Their repentance was not accepted at that point in time.  It was accepted at the end of the sūrah when they genuinely come and say, “Oh our father, forgive us.  We were sinners.” Inna kunna khāṭi’īn.  In the beginning of the sūrah, Allāh glosses over it.  This is not repentance; this is a joke.  You are going to murder your brother and then say, “May God forgive us, we are going to be good after that.”  A true repentance has to have the intention not to return to the sin.  If you have the intention that you are going to commit the sin, then this is not a true repentance.  A true repentance has to have the niyyah (intention) that this is the last time you are committing the sin.  As we mentioned before, if it so happens that you do return to the sin, it doesn’t nullify your repentance.  The point is that you should have a sincere attempt to not return to the sin.  If you do return, you do another repentance.  And if you return again, then you repent again.  The point is that Allāh does not look at the quantity of sins.  Allāh looks at the quality of repentance.  It is not the number of times you have committed the sin but the quality of the repentance every single time you commit the sin.

Of the benefits we learn from the sūrah is that giving an excuse to someone whom you don’t trust may backfire on you.  In other words, handing over excuses to somebody who has some evil or some disposition to harm you might actually come back to haunt you.  Ya‘qūb was the one who gave them the excuse they needed to cover up their capture of Yūsuf and abduction of Yūsuf.  Ya‘qūb was the one who said, “I am worried that wolf will eat him.”  He said this to try to get away from the real issue, which is: “I don’t want to send my son with you.”  He used a secondary tactic, and what happened?  It backfired because they used that very tactic.  When they came back in the evening, they said, “A wolf ate your son.”  These are kids, and they wouldn’t have been able to think of an excuse.  They are young men, maybe 18 or 19, and they would not have been able to think of a legitimate excuse of what happened to their brother.  Ya‘qūb unknowingly and unwittingly gave it to them.  This shows us that one needs to think a little bit more before speaking in this regard.  We learn from this mistake that Ya‘qūb fell into.

Of the wisdoms of this sūrah is that the believer’s firāsa is trueFirāsa means intuition and a gut instinct.  We believe that a gut instinct is something Allāh sometimes blesses you with.  It is not something you can use in a court of law.  You cannot consider someone guilty in a court of law because you feel that way.  The more righteous you are, the more your moral compass and gut instinct will be rightly guided.  This instinct in Arabic is called firāsa.  The Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said, “Beware of the firāsa of the believer because the firāsa of the believer is always true.”  Where is the benefit here?  When the children came back to Ya‘qūb and said, “Oh, sorry, your son has been eaten by the wolf,” Ya‘qūb knew something was wrong.  There was no solid evidence, but his heart is telling him, “My kids are up to no good, and something is wrong.  Yūsuf is alive, and they’ve done something wrong.”  He doesn’t have any evidence, but he still charges them with a crime.  “I don’t know what you’ve done, but you have done something wrong.”  The firāsa or inner instinct of the believer is true.  When can you use this?  You cannot use this to charge anybody with a crime and cannot use it in a court of law.  If somebody comes and wants to have a business transaction with you and outwardly he looks like a trustworthy person, but inside you feel that something doesn’t feel right, you are not obligated to engage in a business transaction or in a marriage proposal.  If somebody comes and proposes for your son or daughter and you don’t feel about it, it is not a court of law that you have to explain why.  If something doesn’t feel right and if this is from Allāh ‘azza wa jall, then there is a reality to it.  As we said, the closer you are to Allāh, the more true your intuition is going to be.  This is a blessing of being close to Allāh that your intuition will then be rightly guided.

Of the wisdoms and blessings of this sūrah is the permissibility of using secondary evidence.  We mentioned this on more than one occasion.  The first time this comes up is when Ya‘qūb is being told that his son has been killed by a wolf, but he sees the shirt untorn.  He sees the shirt that has been bloodied but with no tear in it.  This is a secondary evidence.  In our Sharī‘ah, you are allowed to use secondary evidence and are allowed to take into account external factors even if there are no two witnesses and no direct evidence.  We use our common sense and compile the facts and look at the evidences and then place a verdict.

Of the wisdoms of this sūrah is that no matter how evil the crime, you should always advise the criminal to fear Allāh first.  Before you get to your own concerns with him, the first thing you should do is advise him to fear Allāh (subḥānahu wa ta‘āla) and to remind him of the gravity of the sin.  The first thing that Ya‘qūb does is say, “You have committed an offense.  Your souls have misguided you. Qāla bal sawwalat lakum anfusukum amra.  Your souls have led you to destruction.  Before we get to what you have done to me, let me remind you that you have a God who is watching you.  Let me remind you that there is something between you and Allāh ‘azza wa jall.”  Unfortunately a lot of times we jump this step and if somebody does you wrong, you immediately defend your rights and say, “How could you have done that to me?”  The reality is that you begin with the rights of Allāh.  Don’t you realize that you have done a sin and are accountable to Allāh?  And then you are also accountable to having taken my money or backbitten or whatever the crime is that has been done.  Begin by reminding them of Allāh ‘azza wa jall.

Of the benefits that we learn from this sūrah is that patience is of different types.  In the lecture that we gave, we clarified that Islamically patience can be of three types.  The first type is patience during a calamity.  This means that we don’t say things that should not be said.  We don’t say, “O Allāh, why are you doing this to me?  O Allāh, I don’t deserve this; I haven’t done anything wrong.”  We don’t accuse Allāh of being unjust.  We withhold and restrain our tongues and say only that which is right.  We are patient in times of a calamity.

The second type of patience is patience in restraining yourself from committing sins.  We don’t commit sins.  We have the capacity to commit sins but withhold ourselves from committing sins.  The third type is to persevere in the worship of Allāh.  To pray regularly.  To remember Allāh regularly.  When it comes to the lowest category of patience in an adversity or patience in a calamity, even this is of levels and types.  The best type of patience is ṣabrun jamīl because Allāh praises Ya‘qūb for having ṣabrun jamīl.  What is ṣabrun jamīlabrun jamīl is the beautiful patience.  What is the beautiful patience?  What is the pinnacle of patience when you are suffering?  What can you do?  We learn it from Ya‘qūb.  You don’t seek the pity and the sympathy from the rest of humanity.  You seek Allāh’s blessings only.  You don’t go and want people’s shoulders to cry on.  There is nothing wrong with that and there is nothing wrong with feeling human, but the perfection of faith and the perfection of trust in Allāh means that you turn only to Allāh and you don’t complain to the people.  You don’t say, “Woe is me!  Why is this happening to me?”  You expect your reward from Allāh (subḥānahu wa ta‘āla) and you don’t try to get the sympathy from other people because at the end of the day, their sympathy is not going to lift your calamity.  Their pity will only bring about a type of humiliation in your own personal life.  Do you really want people to pity you?  Does that make you feel like a better person?  No!  It should not make you feel like a better person.  You do not want the people to pity you.  You want Allāh’s Mercy to shower upon you.

Again, I clarify, there is nothing wrong with getting the pity of people, but there is no question that this is not the pinnacle of faith in Allāh.  The pinnacle of faith is bearing every calamity with a type of fortitude and a type of patience – ṣabrun jamīl.  This is the height of patience that you don’t complain to other people.  You only address your grievances directly to Allāh (subḥānahu wa ta‘āla).

Of the blessings that we learn from this sūrah and of the morals that we learn from this sūrah is that we learn that if you protect your faith and chastity in your youth and young life, Allāh will protect you in your old life.  This means that the young man or woman who has a strong relationship with Allāh rarely does such a person lose that faith later on in life.  When you protect Allāh in your youth, Allāh will protect you in your elder age.  When you protect the commandments of Allāh as a young man, Allāh will protect you as an older person.  We see this in the story of Yūsuf (‘alayhi’l-salām) always having that connection with Allāh.  We learn it in the ḥadīth of the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) when he says that one of the seven people whom Allāh will shelter on the Day of Judgment is a young person (man or woman) who grew up immersed in the worship of Allāh.  If you can worship Allāh in your childhood, and by childhood we mean teens and twenties. Shāb means young – child is not the correct word.  In your teens and your twenties, and some scholars have said even up until your early thirties you are still a shāb.  When you are religious in this phase of your life, and we know from personal experience that if you are religious when you are in your twenties, you hardly ever come across a person who leaves religion when they are 50 or 60.  We come across this in the story of Yūsuf (‘alayhi’l-salām) as well.

Of the lessons and morals that we learn from this sūrah is the dangers of interacting with the opposite gender when there is temptation.  The owner of Yūsuf was attracted to Yūsuf, and they are alone for long periods of time, and this is fueling her desire more.  That is why our Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said that a man and a woman should not be alone when nobody else can see them unless they are relatives or married.  They should not be alone and should not be in an area where these things can happen because it is human nature.  Men and women are naturally attracted to this feeling, and our religion teaches us to channel it to that which is permissible.

Of the lessons that we learn is that Allāh (subḥānahu wa ta‘āla) saves the righteous when they most need him.  No matter how difficult the situation will be, if you turn to Allāh,  Allāh ‘azza wa jall will help you.  We learn this from the situation of Yūsuf being the young man and being the slave and being tempted by a woman of beauty and being tempted by his own owner, not just a stranger.  She has power over him and no one can see them.  We told you all of the stories of how she locked the door and prepared herself and did everything.  Typically, it would be almost impossible – dare I say without faith in Allāh it would be impossible – for any other man to have said no, but Yūsuf turned to Allāh.  Yūsuf invoked Allāh and said, “O Allāh, I need You to divert their plot away from me. Wa illa taṣrif ‘anni kaydahunn.  Unless You help me, I will be of those who commit a sin.”  This blessing here is that Allāh saves the righteous when they most need Him.  No matter how difficult the situation is, Allāh ‘azza wa jall will save you.

Of the blessings here is that without Allāh saving you, you are not going to be saved.  These are two blessings that go hand in hand.  In other words, the only factor that can possibly help you overcome many of the passions of the soul, many of the passions of the body, many of the diseases of the heart and soul is to turn to Allāh (subḥānahu wa ta‘āla) because Allāh says in the Qurʾān: “kadhālika linaṣrif ‘anhu’l-sū’ wa’l-faḥshā’.  This is how We averted evil and lewdness from him.”  How?  Yūsuf turned to Allāh.  Yūsuf turns to Allāh, and Allāh says, “Because he turned to Me, I turned to him.”  What this shows, brothers and sisters, is that there is no disease that you have and no passion that you might have and no lust or desire that might plague your heart except that if you are sincere in leaving that lust and desire for the sake of Allāh, Allāh will give you protection against it.  The problem is not in Allāh giving you the protection.  The problem is in your sincerity and my sincerity.  Are you really sincere in your desire to give up this sin?  If you are, you will turn to Allāh sincerely.  If you turn to Allāh sincerely, Allāh says, “I will turn to you and I will protect you.”  This is what Yūsuf did.  In a situation the likes of which, as I said, it is humanly impossible to imagine otherwise, yet Allāh saved him in the middle of this fortress and in the middle of these locked doors.  Allāh ‘azza wa jall answered his plea and call and saved him.  Why?  Because he made du‘ā’ to Allāh:  “O Allāh, I need You now.  Unless You protect me, no one will protect me.”  When he begged and pleaded with Allāh from the heart, Allāh (subḥānahu wa ta‘āla) responded back and said, “This is how We averted evil from him.”  Any time you are afflicted with a habitual sin, realize that if you truly want to give that sin up, nothing can stop you because Allāh is going to be on your side.  The question is, do you really want to give it up?  That is where the problem comes and we talked about that when we discussed those verses.

Of the morals and benefits that we learn from this sūrah are the evils of gossip, slander, and backbiting.  We mentioned that the believer does not talk about issues that are of no concern to him.  People are gossiping about so-and-so and this is human society, but the believer rises above this, and the believer does not allow his tongue to mention that which is of no concern to them.  The Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said, “Of the perfection of one’s faith is that he leaves that which does not concern him.”  We see what happens when the women of the town begin gossiping about Yūsuf.  We see how the situation becomes complicated when the wife of ‘Aziz feels so much pain because of her ego.  Of the wisdoms is that we learn the dangers of the ego and the dangers of the self and the dangers of caring so much about what other people know and view you to be.  The true believer is only concerned about how Allāh views him.  If Allāh ‘azza wa jall views him in a positive manner, then who cares how the rest of the world views you.  Conversely, if the whole world views you in a positive light but you have not established your credentials in front of Allāh, of what use will their positive attitude be towards you?  That is why the true believer understands that praise and criticism from people will not affect him.  It is the pleasure of Allāh that will affect him unlike the wife of ‘Aziz whose whole concern was her reputation and ego.  Because of that, she did an even more dastardly deed and a deed that really showed she lacked complete hayā’ and modesty.  She lacks it because he is openly boasting about what she has done and is enticing Yūsuf in front of the other ladies.  This shows us the evils of gossip and the evils of being concerned with one’s ego and one’s prestige.

Of the wisdoms we learn from Sūrah Yūsuf is that we should appreciate the blessings that have been deprived from us just as we appreciate the blessings that we have been given.  What do I mean by this?  Realize that for many of us, certain blessings will become curses because we don’t know how to handle them.  Certain blessings will become trials and tribulations because we are too weak.  If we truly believe that Allāh loves us, then we will have faith that Allāh will give us that which is beneficial for us.  Imagine if one of us had even a fraction of the beauty of Yūsuf.  Could we have withstood even a fraction of what he withstood?  Imagine if one of us was blessed with a fraction of the wealth of Qārūn or of the ‘izzah of Abu Lahab in his town of Makkah and the Quraysh.  Imagine if we had that which many of us are jealous of others when they have it, and we are greedy about it and we are salivating and want that power and money.  Calm down and think.  If Allāh had given it to you, perhaps it would lead you to your destruction.  That is exactly what the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said.  He said, “Sometimes I give money to people even though I see others are needy of it because I am worried that if I give him that money, it will lead him to the fire of hell.  It will be too much for him, and he will do things that he should not do.”  The believer puts his trust and faith in Allāh.  O Allāh, you know me best, and You know what I should have deserved and gotten and what I shouldn’t have.  I know that whatever I don’t have, there is a wisdom that You know why I don’t have it, and I put my trust in You.  We learn this from the story of Yūsuf.  Imagine if you had this beauty.  Who amongst us could have withstood those temptations.

Of the simple theological wisdoms we learn, and this is a wisdom that all of humanity knows, is that angels are beautiful creatures.  That is why when the women saw Yūsuf (‘alayhi’l-salām), they thought he is an angel.  That is why every society considers angels to be beautiful.  In the Western society, they consider them to be innocent babies.  We of course don’t imagine angels and cannot imagine them, but angels are created in the most beautiful fashion.  Any religion that believes in angels ascribes beauty to the angels.

Of the blessings and wisdoms we learn from this sūrah is that inner beauty also plays a role along with outer beauty.  Inner beauty is good virtues, good manners, chastity, living a good and wholesome life.  When Yūsuf refused the seduction of the wife of ‘Aziz and then she invited the other ladies and said that he is not doing it and he is still refusing, they became even more eager for him.  Why?  Because his inner beauty of piety appealed to them despite the fact that they lacked piety.  Allāh created human nature to admire perfection and beauty.  Deep down inside no matter how people live their lifestyles, they know certain things are wrong and immoral.  It is engrained inside of us.  Living a chaste and virtuous life is something that everybody knows is a good life.  These women want to commit a crime, but when they see that Yūsuf does not want to commit the crime, it makes Yūsuf even more attractive.  Why?  Because it is inner beauty of holiness, of chastity.  This shows us that even in a society that doesn’t believe in God – remember that the people of Egypt were pagans and not worshippers of the true God – but they know what is right and wrong.  They know that casual intimacy and sex is not something that is encouraged and permissible, so when Yūsuf says, “No, I don’t want to do that,” automatically it adds more beauty to his outer beauty.  This shows us Allāh has created humanity.  They didn’t have a book and they didn’t have a Sharī‘ah, but they still knew what is right and wrong.  How and why?  Morality is engrained in human beings.  Certain things are engrained in us, and this is one of them.

Of the benefits that we learn from this sūrah is that a believer must call out to Allāh (subḥānahu wa ta‘āla) to help and overcome any sin.  Once again, Yūsuf is saying, “Unless You help me overcome it and fortify me against the seduction, I will never be able to withstand this temptation.”  When you are in a state of temptation and attracted to a sin, we learn from the story of Yūsuf that when you are thinking of the sin, you should start thinking of Allāh.  A lot of people have this concept that if they are thinking of evil, then they will do the evil and not think of Allāh because they think it is not the right time to think of Allāh.  Allāh says, “She desired him and he desired her.”  We explained that there is nothing strange about this.  He is a normal man and a young man and has come of age.  Just like every man, he has the same thing on his mind.  He desired her, and during this state of desire, what did he do?  He made du‘ā’ to Allāh.  There is a clash going on inside Yūsuf between the forces of good and the forces of evil.  It is an excellent clash to happen because you don’t want to ignore the forces of good and let the forces of evil win over and not think of Allāh right now.  No – he is battling his desire for this temptation, and during this battle, he turns to Allāh (subḥānahu wa ta‘āla).  You must turn to Allāh when thoughts of evil come to you.  It is the only way to protect yourself.  You must turn to Allāh when you are flirting with evil.  There is no other way to protect you.

Of the benefits we learn from this sūrah is that actions precede words when it comes to calling people to Islam.  This is one of the fundamental mistakes we make here in America.  We think that all we have to do is preach to the people and tell them about our religion.  The fact of the matter is that we have not established our social credentials and have not shown them who we are.  We haven’t explained to them about charity and taking care of the poor and the status of the orphan.  We haven’t demonstrated that we are morally responsible for the weak and the elderly and for the dispossessed.  This is our religion.  Look at Yūsuf (‘alayhi’l-salām) and what he does in jail and throughout the entire story.  He always establishes his moral character, mercy, tenderness, iḥsān.  What did the criminals say in the prison? Inna narāka min al-muḥsinīn.  He hasn’t even opened his mouth to preach, but within a few days, the prison is abuzz that this is a good guy.  Once that is established, then the opportunity presents itself and then Yūsuf starts preaching the message.  A lot of times we do the exact opposite and begin preaching when we haven’t shown the mercy and tenderness of our religion.

Of the wisdoms we learn from this sūrah is that you need to speak to people at a time and place they are comfortable with.  When the two prisoners come to Yūsuf for the question, what does Yūsuf say?  The first thing he says is, “Okay, I have heard your question, and I will respond before food is delivered.”  They must have had a time when the food comes and they know that time. Yūsuf is saying, “Before the food comes, I will answer your question.  Listen to me for a bit.”  He prepares them mentally for listening to the da‘wah.  This is another issue where I think a lot of us fall into errors.  Personally, I don’t believe in knocking door to door to preach about Islam.  I’m not saying that should never be done.  Perhaps in some scenarios it is good, but would you like people to come to your door?  Prepare the environment properly.  This is what Yūsuf did.  They come to him with the question of interpreting the dream, and Yūsuf understands, “Now I have your attention for a few minutes, so let me use this opportunity.  Give me five minutes.”  He then preaches Islam to them.  This shows us that if you do want to tell people about your religion, make sure that the time and the place is appropriate.  Don’t try to shove the religion down their throats.  Don’t try to be in your face.  This is a very beautiful point that we learn from Yūsuf (‘alayhi’l-salām).

Of the wisdoms that we learn from the story is that when we do call to Islam, we should call to tawḥīd and monotheism.  This is the gist of our religion: la ilāha illa Allāh.  The entire two paragraphs that Yūsuf is talking about with the prisoners is all about: who is my Lord?  What do I do?  We spent a whole lecture on the one paragraph where he explained Islam and how beautiful that paragraph was.  It combined the three types of tawḥīd and combined the three pillars of our religion.  I say over and over again, brothers and sisters, what sets our religion apart from other religions is our simplistic creed in our Lord.  It is so simple:  there is one perfect God; worship Him alone.  This is our religion, and we need to keep on hammering this point instead of going on to different tangents.  What really makes our religion so precious to us?  The shahādah. la ilāha illa Allāh Muḥammadan rasūlullāh.  This is what Yūsuf (‘alayhi’l-salām) preached to the people, and that is what you continue to tell to the people who do not know your faith.  It is a very simple religion.  There is One, All-Perfect God and you continue to worship Him as long as you live.

Of the benefits that we get from this sūrah is the necessity to use the means to get to the goals.  What does this mean?  Yūsuf wanted to be free.  Yūsuf wanted to get out of jail.  He didn’t just sit down and say, “Allāh will free me when He desires.”  He did what he could.  What could he do?  A person was going to be freed and next to the king, so Yūsuf tells him, “Mention my case to your lord.”  There is nothing wrong with that at all.  He wants to be freed, and he realized that in order to be free, there has to be a court case and hearing and judge looking into it.  He goes through the process.  Why do I say this?  Because, once again, a lot of Muslims have this weird concept of trusting Allāh which for them means that you sit back and do nothing.  That is not trusting Allāh but that is acting foolishly.  Trusting Allāh means he realizes that Allāh can free him, but he has to walk through the path and get to the means.  In our case, it would be fighting in the courts and hiring a lawyer.  In our case, it would be if you are sick then go to the doctor and go to the hospital and get your treatment done. Tawakkul doesn’t just mean that you sit at home and expect Allāh to take care of you.  It means that your heart is attached to Allāh, but you walk the path to get to the goal.  The point is that Allāh created the goal, and let’s that it is to be freed.  Allāh also created the path to get to the goal, and that is fighting in the court and going to the lawyers, etc.  You realize that both the path and the goal will come from Allāh, and you need to walk the path to reach the goal while your heart is attached to Allāh.

Of the benefits of the sūrah is that hastiness does not bring about good.  Patience brings about that which is best.  The fruits of patience are always going to be sweet.  The messenger comes to Yūsuf, and he has been in jail at least seven years in conditions that only Allāh knows.  At least in our times the jails are much more humane and clean and there are no rats running around.  Can you imagine the jails of those time?  How filthy and how despicable.  This is a prophet of Allāh, a noble man.  He has been put in a place where we would not even want our worst enemy to be put in.  No doubt that back then these are inhumane conditions.  This is a prophet of Allāh subjugated to such filth and lack of ‘izzah.  Now somebody comes knocking on the door and says, “The king wants you.”  What did the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) say?  “May Allāh have mercy on Yūsuf.  Had I been in that jail as long as he had been, I would have rushed to the door.  I would have demanded that the king release me before I interpret the dream.”  Even our Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) is saying, “Wow, māshā’Allāh.”  Yūsuf acted patiently and resisted hastiness.  Our Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said, “Hastiness is from the devil.  Patience and to act with contemplation is from Allāh.”  By doing things in a long-term manner patiently, he sends the messenger back.  Realize that it is going to take a few days now.  “Go back to your lord and tell him to find out the story of those women.  I didn’t do anything, and I want my name cleared.”  What happens?  Had he not done this, the king would have given him money and let him go, but by proving his innocence, the king says, “I trust you, O Yūsuf, what can I do for you?”  He makes him a minister instantaneously.  He takes him from the filth of the jail and makes him the most powerful person in the entire country, which is the minister of finance.  Why?  Because he acted long-term and without haste and putting his trust in Allāh and acting patiently.

Of the wisdoms of the sūrah is that you will not succeed until you have failed, and you will not rise until you have been debased and humiliated.  You don’t expect life to be a bed of roses.  We talked about the sine wave.  This is a prophet of Allāh born in the household of a prophet – what a high point – and then thrown in the well to die, a low point.  He was sold into slavery. SubḥānAllāh.   He gets to a palace and they treat him nicely – a high point.  Thrown into jail – what a low point.  Then what happens?  He becomes the minister.  Up, down, up, down.  The whole story is like that.  Why?  You are not going to succeed until you have shown Allāh that you can deal with failure.  You have to continue moving.  Allāh is not going to bless you when you haven’t deserved or earned that blessing or at least shown Allāh that you are worthy of that blessing.  You need to go through the well and the prison in order to get to the palace and the ministry.  You need to go through the well and the prison in order to be blessed with the blessings of this world.  Realize the next time you are in a struggle and the next time you are in a down point in your life, that is your well and that is your prison.  If you turn to Allāh (subḥānahu wa ta‘āla), inshā’Allāh the metaphorical palace is right around the corner.  You have to go through this to get to the heights in life.  If you put your trust in Allāh ‘azza wa jall, you will see the fruits just like Yūsuf did.

Of the wisdoms we learn from this sūrah is the perfection of being generous with one’s guests.  This is something that our religion prides itself on.   Honestly, I have to say, no matter what the problems are of the ummah and no matter how much fitnah, fasād, fāḥishah and corruption exist in the ummah, the one thing alḥamdulillāh we can be proud of throughout the Muslim world is that we are known for our generosity, and anybody who has traveled Muslim lands and gone and visited any country will testify and witness that Muslims are hospitable and generous to their guests.  They give their own food to their guests before they will eat.  This is something alḥamdulillāh we have learned from the prophet Ibrāhīm.  The Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said, “The prophet Ibrāhīm was the first person to begin the tradition of honoring guests.”  Before the prophet Ibrāhīm, guests were not honored.  When the three angels came, the prophet Ibrāhīm (‘alayhi’l-salām) bought a fat, juicy calf and cooked it for them and gave it to them.  The Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) told us the first person to begin the tradition of being hospitable was our father the prophet Ibrāhīm (‘alayhi’l-salām).  It remained in our religion, and we see when the brothers came to Yūsuf, he sends them back to their own father and said, “Wasn’t I the best of all hosts?”  He opens their heart by being a good host. SubḥānAllāh, brothers and sisters, alḥamdulillāh as I said this is alive in the ummah, and we should make sure it never goes away.  When somebody comes visiting you and when somebody comes from out of town, it is a part of religion and our Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said, – and wallāhi, think about it and why a prophet would say this ḥadīth unless it was so important – “Whoever truly believes in Allāh and the hereafter, let him honor his guest.”  What a beautiful religion this is.  If you believe in Allāh, honor your guests.  Give him your food, and show him the dignity and respect that you would want to be shown. Alḥamdulillāh, as I said, this is one thing we can say is still alive in the ummah – Arab, Pakistani, Bengali, wherever you are, alḥamdulillāh we treat our guests well.  We learn this from the story of Yūsuf as well when Yūsuf says, “Wasn’t I the best host to you?  When you go back, tell your father what a great host I was.”

Of the wisdoms that we learn from the story of Yūsuf is the permissibility of using ḥalāl tricks to get to ḥalāl goals.  In our religion, we don’t believe that the ends justify the means.  However, we do believe in ḥalāl tricks if the goal is ḥalāl.  What is a ḥalāl trick?  A ḥalāl trick is something where you are not taking the rights of anybody else and are not lying and not stealing, but you do something that might not be the standard in order to get to a ḥalāl or permissible conclusion. What was the standard or conclusion?  Yūsuf wanted to keep Binyamin in the country, but there was no law of the land that would allow him to keep Binyamin, so what did he do?  Allāh told him of a ḥalāl trick.  The goal was ḥalāl:  he wants to protect his brother, and there is nothing ḥarām in that.  If the goal is ḥarām, it doesn’t matter how you get there, it is ḥarām.  If the means is ḥarām, then even if the goal is ḥalāl you will be sinful.  In our religion we do not ever believe that the ends justify the means.  That is a Machiavellian concept.  We don’t believe that in our religion.  In our religion, if it is ḥarām to do it, even if the net result is good it is ḥarām.  That is why we don’t believe, for example, that you can give ḥarām money to build a masjid.  If you have ḥarām money from interest or any type of activity that is ḥarām, you are not allowed to give it to the masjid, and it is ḥarām to give it.  Allāh will not accept it.  Do you think that the people will accept it from you?  Some people ask if they do have that money, what should they do.  Give it to building other facilities around the masjid but not the actual masjid itself.  The musallah has a special fiqh and ruling.  The buildings around the musallah and parking lots have other rulings.  If you have surplus money from interest, we know interest is not allowed, and you want to get rid of it, you can give it to secondary causes but don’t expect reward from Allāh.  Overall, from this we learn that it is permissible to have a ḥalāl trick to get to a ḥalāl goal.

Of the benefits and wisdoms, in America we have certain groups who say that it is not allowed for us to participate in the American electoral process and it is ḥarām to vote.  We have all heard of such groups saying we should not vote and should not participate in the system around us.  Yet Yūsuf (‘alayhi’l-salām) participates in the system of the king in order to get to the conclusion of keeping his brother.  Allāh says in the Qurʾān:  “He could not have kept his brother according to the laws of the king” unless Allāh worked this trick out for him.  He worked with the system in the system to keep his brother.  Therefore, in this land we are in the middle of the two extremes and say that alḥamdulillāh we have full legal (Sharri‘) permissibility to fight for our rights in the court system and take advantage as long as what we are asking for is permissible.  We are not allowed to use the system against our religion.  We cannot go and get something from a person that the Sharī‘ah would not have allowed us.  Unfortunately some people do this.  The Sharī‘ah would allow you to take x amount and you know that the court will give you double that amount, and some people are willing to go to the court to get double the amount, and this is something that is obviously not good as well.  They are misusing the system. Alḥamdulillāh, there is no problem to use it for a legitimate means.

Of the wisdoms that we learn from this sūrah is that the believer is always cautious.  The believer is not naïve and is not a fool.  When the brothers come to Ya‘qūb and say, “Hand over Binyamin.  We are going to take him as well.”  Ya‘qūb is not a fool and says, “Do you think I am going to hand him over just like I handed his brother over?”  The believer acts cautiously.  Our Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said in a beautiful parable, “The believer is never stung from the same hole twice.”  This is a parable now in Arabic, but our Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) was the first to say it.  The believer is not naïve but is a man of wisdom and understands that if a problem has come from one area, most likely it will come again.  When the brothers come and say, “Hand over Binyamin,” he says, “I’m not going to do that.”  What happens?

We get to the next wisdom. Generosity and good manners is the best way to get to someone’s heart.  How did Yūsuf win over his father’s heart when he didn’t know he was Yūsuf?  By returning the goods to the brothers and handing them back the merchandise.  When they came back, the father said, “No way I’m going to give you Binyamin.”  They open up the bag and find all of the money returned.  They can now have an excuse against their father and they say, “O our father, look at this.  Do you really think we would want to cause harm now?  This man has treated us nicely and has been hospitable and look at how generous he has been.”  Being kind, hospitable and generous will work miracles.  Ya‘qūb would never have given up his son unless Yūsuf (and he did not know it was his son) had demonstrated his gentleness and kindness.  If you want to get to somebody’s heart, good manners will win and not harshness and miserliness.

Of the benefits of this sūrah is wisdom in planning.  Yūsuf (‘alayhi’l-salām) has planted the cup in the sack of his brother, and now he wants to open up those sacks.  He begins with the sacks of the older brothers and works his way to the younger one.  This shows us the believer, once again, is not naïve.  He knows that if he were to go straight to the sack of Binyamin, people are going to say, “Wait, hold on a second.  How did you know it was in that sack?  He is planning things through and has foresight.  These days we have a whole science called management.  Yūsuf demonstrates that and thinks things through.  In our times, the chess player thinks ten steps ahead.  Yūsuf is thinking.  This is a sign of īmān.  The mu’min is not foolish.  The mu’min is a wise person.  Yūsuf (‘alayhi’l-salām) demonstrates this.

Of the wisdoms that we learn from this sūrah is that even evil people have streaks of good in them.  Even the worst sinner can eventually repent if he turns over.  This is learned from the brothers of Yūsuf.  To me, this is one of the most fascinating lessons of this story:  where the brothers of Yūsuf began the story and where they end the story.  They began by plotting to murder their younger brother.  As I said, how many amongst us have done such a dastardly deed? Alḥamdulillāh, I hope nobody is that bad amongst us.  Yet they ended up like the stars.  Even an evil person has good in them.  We see this right now in the part of the story when the brothers realize that Binyamin is not going to come back, they feel so guilty.  The eldest one says, “I am going to stay here.  I am going to impose an exile on myself because we made a mistake in Yūsuf and now we made another mistake.  We are in big trouble.  I want my father to know that I know I committed a crime and I know I am guilty.”  This shows that there are elements of good.  This shows us that even if there is somebody who at one point in their lives wanted to murder their younger brother, it doesn’t mean that they are going to be pure evil.  There is a beautiful saying attributed to ‘Alī b. Abī Ṭālib – it is not a ḥadīth – that is that:  “Hate your enemy with a little less hatred (I other words, don’t be full of hate even towards your enemy.  Lessen the hate against your enemy.)  One day it is going to be very likely that he is going to be your friend.”  Hate your enemy with a little bit less hatred.  In other words, calm down, don’t be full of hate.  One day this very enemy might be a good friend of yours.  Allāh says in the Qurʾān:  “Repel evil with good and you shall see the one who was your worst enemy becomes a bosom friend.”  It is a very common thing.

Of the wisdoms and benefits of this sūrah is it is a sign of īmān to always think the best of Allāh ‘azza wa jall and to have the best thoughts of Allāh and to never lose hope.  At least thirty or forty years have gone by and Ya‘qūb has gone blind in his grief, but his faith in Allāh only increases and never goes down.  To the very end when all three sons are missing and he has gone blind, what does he tell his children?  “O my children, go find Yūsuf.  You will find him.  And never give up hope of Allāh’s Mercy.”  He is the one demonstrating this.  Never give up hope of Allāh’s Mercy.  The only people who can do that are the qawm’l-kafirūn.

Of the wisdoms that we learn is that complaining to Allāh is actually a sign of īmān if it is done properly, and complaining to the people is not a sign of īmān.  Ya‘qūb says, “I complain of my situation to Allāh.”  When the most difficult situation in his life ever happened, which was Ṭā’if by his own testimony – ‘Ā’ishah said, “Was there any day worse than Uḥud?”  He said, “Yes, there was the day of Ṭā’if.”  What was the du‘ā’ of Ṭā’if?  “O Allāh, to You I complain…” What does shakwa mean in this sense?  Many of us when we think of complaining, we think of “Why is this happening?  I don’t deserve this.”  That is not what we are talking about.  The complaint here is a complaint that is done to elicit Allāh’s sympathy and mercy.  This is what the complaint means.  “O Allāh, You see the situation I am in.  O Allāh, this is a distressing situation.”  This is complaining.  A factual description.  Not: “O Allāh, why is this happening to me?”  The believer never speaks in such a manner.

Of the wisdoms that we learn from this sūrah is that the believer always ascribes good to Allāh and evil to the Shayṭān.  Notice in the end of the sūrah Yūsuf (‘alayhi’l-salām) says, “How generous my Lord has been when He saved me from the prison and caused you to leave the bedouin lifestyle and come into the city.”  At the end of the sūrah, Yūsuf says, “Allāh has granted us His blessings.”  All blessings are described to Allāh.  A problem happens:  “it was Shayṭān who caused problems between my brothers and I.”  All good was ascribed to Allāh.  Evil does not come from Allāh.  We ascribe good to Allāh.  We don’t ascribe evil to Allāh.  This is the proper way to phrase it.  We ascribe evil to other than Allāh ‘azza wa jall, and of course primarily the source of this type of evil comes from the Shayṭān.

Of the wisdoms that we learn from this sūrah is that it is a sign of perfection of one’s īmān to not hurt the feelings of other believers.  Yūsuf exemplifies this in a manner that is unbelievable.  He bends over backwards to never mention the crime.  In the very last page, when he talks about the blessings of Allāh, he never mentions the well or the slavery because those were caused by the brothers.  When he said, “From now on there shall be no blame on you,” he lived up to his word.  No blame was put.  Therefore, he went out of his way to make sure that his brothers’ feelings were not hurt.  This is of the perfection of īmān.  Innuendos, hinting, double meanings, and derogatory snide remarks are not the way of the believer.  To do so goes against perfection of one’s īmān.

Of the wisdoms we learn is to forgive when you have power is the height of excellence; therefore, how much more so should you forgive when you don’t have power? You have to forgive.  To forgive when you have power is what Yūsuf did.  He was the king’s right hand man and controlled the country.  The brothers came to him realizing they made a mistake, and Yūsuf forgives despite his power.  Our Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) was told through this sūrah: “A day will come when your own brethren are going to come to you and you must say the same thing.”  That is exactly what he did standing on the doors of the Ka‘bah.  He stood on the doors of the Ka‘bah, and the people of the Quraysh were around him, and he said, “What do you think I should do to you?  What do you think you deserve?”  They were petrified.  They deserved death and they knew it.  They deserved execution because of what they had done for the last twenty-three years.  Now they come trembling and scared.  “You are the son of a noble brother and one of us.  Remember us.”  They didn’t remember him back in the day, but now they come.  What did the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) say?  He said exactly what Yūsuf said, and he never once mentioned the faults of the Quraysh after this, just like Yūsuf.  He never once brings up the past that has happened. Khalās, everything and everyone are forgiven, including those who have personally tried to assassinate him.  Everyone was forgiven down to the last man just like Yūsuf (‘alayhi’l-salām) did, and no sins and crimes were mentioned after that.  If this is the case when you have power, then how much more so for me and you when somebody does us wrong.  Shouldn’t we also then say, “May Allāh forgive them”?  Forgive in your hearts.

Of the blessings that we learn from this sūrah is that asking people’s forgiveness for wrongs that you have done and publicly announcing your public sins is a part of īmān.  The general rule is that your sins are private.  If you have made a public mistake, then you need to issue a public apology.  The brothers made a public mistake and harmed their father.  They come in public and say, “ya abbāna-staghfirlana dhunūbana inna kunna khāṭi’īn.”  A public mistake requires a public apology.  A mistake that is done to a person requires that you seek forgiveness from that person.  This is not a private sin between you and Allāh ‘azza wa jall.

Of the blessings of this sūrah is that our religion tells us to treat our parents with honor and respect.  We know this for a fact.  Yūsuf demonstrates this many times.  When they enter Egypt, Yūsuf goes out to meet them, and he makes a du‘ā’ for them.  He puts them on the throne.  Physical, mental, spiritual exaltation.  No human being is more worthy of your veneration other than your parents.  In terms of natural love and dedication, there is no second to them.  Yūsuf demonstrates this over and over again.

Of the wisdoms and blessings of this sūrah is that Allāh (subḥānahu wa ta‘āla) can always bring about reconciliation between two people who are fighting and enemies of one another.  The brothers of Yūsuf and Yūsuf.  Imagine how much hatred much have existed in the brothers’ of Yūsuf hearts, and imagine how much pain in Yūsuf’s heart.  Yet, in the end, what happens?  All is forgotten and forgiven.  Allāh says in the Qurʾān regarding the mushrikūn who had accepted Islam (i.e. regarding the muhājirūn and the anṣār):  “If you had given this entire world to try to make them friends and bring reconciliation, they would never have become friends.  Allāh has brought about that friendship and reconciliation.”  Anybody you have some problem with and are distressed with, realize that it is only a matter of time inshā’Allāh.  Turn to Allāh and make du‘ā’ to Allāh to bring about that reconciliation.  Make this du‘ā’ to Allāh:  “O Allāh, bring our hearts together.”  If Allāh can bring together the hearts of the brothers of Yūsuf and Yūsuf, then surely your enemies and my enemies and your problematic situations and scenarios whether within the family or outside of the family, surely Allāh can bring about a reconciliation as well.  This is of the benefits we learn from this sūrah.

Of the blessings we learn, is that what is important in the eyes of Allāh is the state that you die in.  The state that you die in dictates your place in the hereafter and not the state that you began in.  This is one of the biggest sources of optimism in the life of the believer.  It is never too late to change.  It is never too late to turn over a new leaf.  It is never too late to give up a lifestyle of evil and start a lifestyle of righteousness.  The brothers of Yūsuf are a primary example of this.  They began the story in one state and ended in another and that is what is important.  Another manifestation of this wisdom is the du‘ā’ of Yūsuf:  “Cause me to die in a state of Islam.”  What is important is your state at the time of death.

Of the blessings of this sūrah is the whole page conclusion is the miracle of the Qurʾān.  This is a powerful tool that we don’t utilize to the extent that we should.  A powerful tool to talk about our religion is to talk about the Qurʾān.  Where did it come from, the style, the recitation, the beauty, the melody.  Everything about the Qurʾān is miraculous.  In the last two lessons we talked about the beauty of the Qurʾān.

We talked about the three levels of patience.  Notice that Yūsuf perfected all three levels.  The lowest level of patience is patience in the face of adversity.  Somebody dies, something happens, you lose your job – how do you react?  This is patience.  Yūsuf reacted with the utmost patience in all that happened:  in the well and the prison and in all that happened, he is reacting with patience.

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Sh. Dr. Yasir Qadhi is someone that believes that one's life should be judged by more than just academic degrees and scholastic accomplishments. Friends and foe alike acknowledge that one of his main weaknesses is ice-cream, which he seems to enjoy with a rather sinister passion. The highlight of his day is twirling his little girl (a.k.a. "my little princess") round and round in the air and watching her squeal with joy. A few tid-bits from his mundane life: Sh. Yasir has a Bachelors in Hadith and a Masters in Theology from Islamic University of Madinah, and a PhD in Islamic Studies from Yale University. He is an instructor and Dean of Academic Affairs at AlMaghrib, and the Resident Scholar of the Memphis Islamic Center.



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    November 20, 2011 at 11:26 AM

    Jazaak Allahu khairan for all of your hard efforts. Regarding the missing audio clip,
    if it would be possible to transcribe key points from his original series:

    That would be great.

    Since ayahs 31-45 were missing from the clip,
    parts 9, 10, and 11 in the old series cover the same material.


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    November 23, 2011 at 1:32 PM

    mashaAllah this was awesome. May Allah grant you an increase in knowledge and bless you in this life and the hereafter. Ameen.

  4. Avatar


    November 24, 2011 at 8:55 PM

    Masha’Allah! May Allah bless you and increase you in knowledge that is beneficial for you, insha’Allah! I was reading Surat Yusuf recently and when I got to the ayah that said many lessons can be learned from the story of Yusuf, I wondered at what they could possibly be. Subhanallah, thank you! This helped me more than you can imagine.

  5. Pingback: The Best of Stories: Pearls from Surah Yusuf | Part 5 -

  6. Pingback: The Best of Stories: Pearls from Surah Yusuf | Part 12 -

  7. Pingback: The Best of Stories: Pearls from Surah Yusuf | Part 13 -

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The Prophet’s Golden Rule: Ethics of Reciprocity in Islam

Prophetic Love

In the name of Allah, the Gracious, the Merciful

The ethics of reciprocity, known as the “golden rule,” is any moral dictum that encourages people to treat others the way they would like to be treated. Although the term was originally coined by Anglican ministers such as George Boraston, the principle can be found in the sacred texts of the world’s great religions, as well as the writings of secular philosophers. Due to its ubiquity in many contexts, it has become an important focal point for interfaith dialogue and the development of international human rights norms.

The rule often appears as a summarizing principle of good conduct, the supreme moral principle of right action between human beings. Though not always understood literally, as it is often qualified by competing moral imperatives, it generally functions as an intuitive method of moral reasoning. Despite the different formulations, wordings, and contexts in which the rule appears across religions and traditions, Jeffery Wattles argues that there is enough continuity in meaning and application to justify describing the ethics of reciprocity as the golden rule.

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Some philosophers have scoffed at the rule, noting that a crude, literal adherence to the outward phrasing can lead to moral absurdities. Harry J. Gensler reponds to this criticism by formulating the rule in these terms: “Treat others only as you consent to being treated in the same situation.” Context matters in the process of moral reasoning; what the rule demands is not rudimentary application as much as it is ethical consistency vis-à-vis human beings, as the first principle from which the morality of an action is analyzed. It is the locus of one’s conscience, a guide for everyday behavior.

Moreover, application of the rule ought to be informed by a balanced collection of principles and values that manifest the rule in action. For this reason, writers throughout history have used the rule “as a hub around which to gather great themes.”  Notions of justice, love, compassion, and other virtues have all been related to the rule by various religious traditions. Accounting for all of these considerations and responding to common objections, both Wattles and Gensler have convincingly defended the golden rule from its detractors and have presented it as a viable principle for a modern moral philosophy.

Islam, as a world religion with over one billion followers, has an important role to play in facilitating dialogue and cooperation with other groups in the modern world. The golden rule in Islamic traditions has been explicitly invoked by numerous Muslim leaders and organizations towards this end. Recently, hundreds of Muslim scholars and leaders have signed the A Common Word interfaith letter, asserting that the Abrahamic faiths share “the twin golden commandments of the paramount importance of loving God and loving one’s neighbor.” The initiative grew into several publications and conferences, including the important and high-profile Marrakesh Declaration in early 2016, which cited A Common Word in its text as evidence of the compatibility between Islamic tradition and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The Golden Rule in Islam

The Qur’ān ascribes a number of “beautiful names” (asmā’ al-ḥusnā) to God conveying virtues that Muslims, by implication, should practice, “The most excellent names belong to Him.”  Among the relevant names of God are Al-Raḥmān (the Merciful), Al-Wadūd (the Loving), Al-Ghafūr (the Forgiving), Al-Ra’ūf (the Kind), Al-‘Adl (the Just), Al-Karīm (the Generous), and so on. Embedded in this description of God are many of the moral themes traditionally associated with the golden rule.

The distinguished Muslim scholar and mystic, Abū Ḥāmid al-Ghazzālī (d.1111), locates the golden rule within God’s loving nature as expressed in the verses, “My Lord is merciful and most loving,”  and again, “He is the Most Forgiving, the Most Loving.”  He authored a treatise on the names of God in Islamic tradition, discussing their theological meanings and his understanding of the proper way in which Muslims should enact those names. God, in his view, benefits all creatures without desiring any advantage or benefit in return:

Al-Wadūd – The Loving-kind – is one who wishes all creatures well and accordingly favors them and praises them. In fact, love and mercy are only intended for the benefit and advantage of those who receive mercy or are loved; they do not find their cause in the sensitivities or natural inclination of the Loving-kind One. For another’s benefit is the heart and soul of mercy and love and that is how the case of God – may He be praised and exalted – is to be conceived: absent those features which human experience associates with mercy and love, yet which do not contribute to the benefit they bring.

In other words, God should be understood as entirely and selflessly benevolent towards His creatures, without any need or desire for repayment. God does not benefit from the worship of His servants, nor does He take pleasure in punishing the wicked. Rather, God only prescribes worship and righteous deeds for the benefit of believers. By reflecting this divine nature in action, believers should unconditionally want for others the same as they want for themselves:

One is loving-kind among God’s servants who desires for God’s creatures whatever he desires for himself; and whoever prefers them to himself is even higher than that. Like one of them who said, ‘I would like to be a bridge over the fire [of hell] so that creatures might pass over me and not be harmed by it.’ The perfection of that virtue occurs when not even anger, hatred, and the harm he might receive can keep him from altruism and goodness.

Allah love

Commentators of the Qur’ān often found the rule implied in several verses. When ‘righteousness’ (taqwá) is first mentioned in Qur’ān (when reading cover-to-cover), classical exegetes typically define it by appealing to traditional wisdom-sayings. Abū Isḥāq al-Tha’labī (d. 1035) narrates several exegetical traditions to define and explicate the meaning of righteousness. The early authorities Sufyān al-Thawrī (d. 778) and Al-Fudayl ibn ‘Iyāḍ (d. 803) say that the righteous man (al-muttaqī) is “he who loves for people what he loves for himself.” Al-Junayd ibn Muḥammad (d. 910), on the other hand, disagreed with them and took it a step further, “The righteous man is not he who loves for people what he loves for himself. Rather, the righteous man is only he who loves for people greater than he loves for himself.” In Al-Junayd’s telling, true righteousness is not simply the equality implied in the golden rule, but rather a definite preference to benefit others that amounts to altruism (al-īthar).

In contrast, the Qur’ān severely rebukes cheaters in weights and measurements, “Woe to those who give short measure, who demand of other people full measure for themselves, but give less than they should when it is they who weigh or measure for others!” That is, they demand full payment for themselves while they give short-change to others. The golden rule was understood by Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī (d. 1209) to be the clear implication of this passage, as he reports the saying of the early authority Qatādah, “Fulfil the measure, O son of Adam, as you would love it fulfilled for yourself, and be just as you would love justice for yourself.”

Most of the explicit golden rule statements in Islamic tradition are found in the Ḥadīth corpus, the sayings and deeds of Prophet Muḥammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). According to Anas ibn Mālik (d. 712), the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said:

None of you has faith until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.Click To Tweet

This is the most prominent golden rule statement in the Ḥadīth corpus. The two leading Sunni Ḥadīth scholars, Muhammad ibn Ismā‘īl al-Bukhārī (d. 870) and Muslim ibn al-Ḥajjāj (d. 875), both placed this tradition in their “book of faith,” near the introductions of their respective collections. The implication is that the lesson in the tradition is essential to true faith itself, not simply a recommended or value-added practice.

Commentators sometimes mention that “all good manners” are derived from this tradition and three others, “Whoever believes in God and the Last Day, let him speak goodness or be silent,” and, “It is from a man’s excellence in Islam that he leaves what does not concern him,” and, “Do not be angry.” Like many religious writers and philosophers, Muslim scholars took note of the summarizing function of the golden rule as a broad principle for good conduct.

A key question for the commentators was the meaning of ‘brother’ in the tradition of Anas raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him). It is generally agreed upon that ‘brother’ refers to Muslims, but several commentators expanded the meaning to include non-Muslims or unbelievers. Prolific author and Shāfi’ī jurist, Muḥyī al-Dīn al-Nawawī (d. 1277), explained the tradition this way:

Firstly, that [tradition] is interpreted as general brotherhood, such that it includes the unbeliever and the Muslim. Thus, he loves for his brother – the unbeliever – what he loves for himself of embracing Islam, as he would love for his brother Muslim to always remain upon Islam. For this reason, to pray for guidance for the unbeliever is recommended… The meaning of ‘love’ is to intend good and benefit, hence, the meaning is religious love and not human love.

Al-Nawawī’s concept of “religious love” (al-maḥabbat al-dīnīyah) parallels the distinction Christian writers made between agape (ἀγάπη) and eros (ἔρως). The highest form of love, according to him, is that which is purely benevolent for God’s sake, in opposition to sinful passions, caprice, or ordinary types of love.

Although inclusion of non-Muslims in a broader brotherhood of humanity was not universally accepted, proponents of this interpretation found a strong case for their position in all of the permutations of the golden rule in the Ḥadīth corpus. Even from the traditions of Anas alone, inclusive language was used by the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) often enough to justify a universal golden rule:

None of you will find the sweetness of faith until he loves a person only for the sake of God.Click To Tweet

None of you has faith until he loves for the people what he loves for himself, and only until he loves a person for the sake of God, the Great and Almighty.

The servant does not reach the reality of faith until he loves for the people what he loves for himself of the good.

In particular, a variant in Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim reads, “…until he loves for his brother – or he said his neighbour – what he loves for himself.”  In this version, Anas raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) is unsure if the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said ‘brother’ or ‘neighbor.’ If neighbors are included, the term would certainly apply to non-Muslims as well.

Muḥammad ibn Ismā’īl al-Ṣanʻānī (d. 1768), a Yemeni reformer in the Salafi tradition, includes in his legal commentary a chapter on “the rights of the neighbor,” in which he employs some of the broadest language of the late classical to early modern period. Based upon the word “neighbor” in the version of Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim, he concludes:

The narration of the neighbor is general for the Muslim, the unbeliever, and the sinner, the friend and the enemy, the relative and the foreigner, the near neighbour and the far neighbour. Whoever acquires in this regard the obligatory attributes of loving good for him, he is at the highest of levels.

Perhaps most significant is Al-Ṣanʻānī’s inclusion of enemies (al-‘aduw) in the list of people covered by the golden rule. In this case, the rule has at least some kind of application to every single human being.

The servant does not reach the reality of faith until he loves for the people what he loves for himself of the good.Click To Tweet

‘Abd Allāh ibn ʿAmr (d. 685), who is said to have been one of the first to write down the statements of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), narrates his version of the golden rule, “Whoever would love to be delivered from Hell and admitted into Paradise, let him meet his end believing in God and the Last Day, and let him treat people as he would love to be treated.” The rule here is a means of salvation and is expressed in terms of good behavior, rather than religious love.

Abū Hurayrah (d. 679), the most prolific narrator of Ḥadīth, also shares what he heard from the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), “Love for people what you love for yourself, you will be a believer. Be good to your neighbour, you will be a Muslim.” Like the tradition of Anas, the rule is associated with both true faith and good treatment of neighbors.

Sometimes Ḥadīth traditions do not explicitly state the golden rule, but it is drawn out by the commentators. Tamīm al-Dārī (d. 661) reports that the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said three times, “Religion is sincerity.” The companions said, “To whom?” The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) replied, “To God, to His book, to His messenger, and to the leader of the Muslims and their commoners.” Ibn Daqīq al-’Īd (d. 1302) explains at length the meaning of sincerity or good will (naṣīḥah) in each context. As it relates to common people, he writes that sincerity is “to take care of them with beautiful preaching, to abandon ill will and envy for them, and to love for them what he loves for himself of good and to hate for them what he hates for himself of evil.”

Al-Nuʿmān ibn Bashīr (d. 684) relates the Prophet’s ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) parable of the faith community as a single body, “You see the believers in their mercy, affection, and compassion for one another as if they were a body. When a limb aches, the rest of the body responds with sleeplessness and fever.”  A variant of this tradition reads, “The Muslims are like a single man. If the eye is afflicted, the whole body is afflicted. If the head is afflicted, the whole body is afflicted.”  The idea is that Muslims should have empathy for one another by sharing the burden of each other’s pain, as stated in another tradition, “The believer feels pain for the people of faith, just as the body feels pain in its head.”  Abū ʿAbd Allāh al-Ḥalīmī (d. 1012) inferred the golden rule from this parable:

They should be like that, as one hand would not love but what the other loves, and one eye or one leg or one ear would not love but what the other loves. Likewise, he should not love for his Muslim brother but what he loves for himself.

Later commentators would develop this idea further. Ibn Daqīq draws upon the parable of the faith community in his commentary on the tradition of Anas, writing, “Some scholars said in this tradition is the understanding that the believer is with another believer like a single soul. Thus, he should love for him what he loves for himself, as if they were a single soul.”  Ibn Ḥajar al-Haythamī (d. 1567) makes the same connection, saying that to love one another means “that he will be with him as one soul (al-nafs al-waḥīdah).”

Yazīd ibn Asad, another one of the Prophet’s ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) companions, recalls that he said to him, “O Yazīd ibn Asad! Love for people what you love for yourself!” In a variant of this tradition, the Prophet (ṣ) asks him, “Do you love Paradise?” Yazīd says yes, so the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) replies, “Then love for your brother what you love for yourself.”  In yet another variant, Yazīd’s grandson quotes the sermon of Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) upon the pulpit, “Do not treat people but in the way you would love to be treated by them.”

Failure to live up to the golden rule could result in dreadful consequences in the Hereafter, especially for Imams and authorities. Ma’qil ibn Yasār, while on his deathbed, recounted what he learned from the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), “No one is appointed over the affairs of the Muslims and then he does not strive for them or show them good will but that he will never enter Paradise with them.” In another wording, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)said, “He does not protect them as he would protect himself and his family but that Allah will cast him into the fire of Hell.” In this regard, a Muslim leader must necessarily treat their followers as they would treat themselves and their own families, if such a terrible fate is to be avoided.

Abū Umāmah al-Bāhilī (d. 705) tells the story of a young man who came to the Prophet (ṣ) to ask for permission to indulge in adulterous intercourse. The Prophet engages him in an imaginative role-reversal, asking a series of Socratic questions and appealing to the young man’s conscience to convince him against it, “Would you like that for your mother? Would you like that for your sister?” The young man, naturally, expresses his disapproval had someone else committed adultery with the women of his household. The logical conclusion, as stated by the Prophet, is to consider the golden rule, “Then hate what God has hated, and love for your brother what you love for yourself.”

Hatred for the sake of God is a fine line to walk, between righteous indignation and unjustified malice. At least some of the earliest Muslims adopted the familiar refrain: love the sinner, hate the sin. According to Mu’ādh ibn Anas, this is how the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) defined hatred for the sake of God, “The best faith is to love for the sake of God, to hate for the sake of God, and to work your tongue in the remembrance of God.” Mu’ādh said, “How is it done, O Messenger of God?” The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “That you love for people what you love for yourself, hate for them what you hate for yourself, and to speak goodness or be silent.” The noble form of hatred is simply the inverse of the golden rule; if one sees another sinning, hatred should be for the evil deed because it harms its doer. At the same time, one loves good for the sinner by hoping for their repentance and divine forgiveness.

“Do not hate each other, do not envy each other, do not turn away from each other, but rather be servants of God as brothers.”Click To Tweet

Ibrāhīm Ad’ham (d. 782) remembers during his travels that he overheard a pair of Muslim ascetics discussing the love of God amongst themselves. Intrigued, he interjects himself into the conversation to ask, “How can anyone have compassion for people who contradict their Beloved [God]?”

The unnamed ascetic turns to him, saying:

They abhor their sinful deeds and have compassion for them, [pray] that by preaching to them they might leave their deeds. They feel pity that their bodies might be burned in hellfire. The believer is not truly a believer until he is pleased for people to have what is pleasing to himself.

The commentator ‘Abd al-Raḥmān ibn Rajab (d. 1393) corroborates this interpretation, which he ascribes to the righteous predecessors (al-salaf al-ṣāliḥ). Hence, it not correct for a Muslim to carry malicious hatred in the sense of desiring to harm others. A believer ought to love for sinners to repent, to be guided, and to be forgiven. In this regard, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) admonished us, “Do not hate each other, do not envy each other, do not turn away from each other, but rather be servants of God as brothers.”


The irreversible march of globalization is producing an urgent need for people of different backgrounds and beliefs to find common ground. As the world grows closer together, with it grows the imperative to recognize each other as members of one human family. The ethics of reciprocity – the golden rule – is the best conceptual vehicle to advance this necessary intercultural dialogue and cooperation.

Islam is one of the world’s great religions, with over one billion followers living on every continent and speaking hundreds of languages. If peace on earth is to be actualized, Islam and Muslims must be a partner in it. Muslims need an entry point for understanding non-Muslims, just as non-Muslims need a way to begin understanding Muslims. Islam’s golden rule can provide a bridge between these worlds.

It is not reasonable to expect that the golden rule by itself can solve all the conflicts of the modern world, but what it can do is activate the innate conscience of human beings in a process of collective, intercultural moral reasoning. By accepting at the outset the premise of human equality and the obligation of moral consistency, we can work together to develop the mutual understanding and respect needed for people of different beliefs to live together in harmony. The golden rule itself is not the answer per se, rather it is the right question at the start; it is the first step in a journey we must take together, the first conversation in a dialogue we must have.

Success comes from Allah, and Allah knows best.

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Lessons From Surah Maryam: 1

Alhamdulillah, it’s a great blessing of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) that He has given us both the opportunity and ability to come here tonight to study and explore the meanings of His words in Surah Maryam. I’m truly grateful for this opportunity. May Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) accept this effort from all of us and place it on our scale of good deeds.

Alhamdulillah, in our last series we were able to complete the tafsir of Surah Al-Kahf. InshAllah, in this next series, we’ll be exploring the meanings, lessons, and reminders of Surah Maryam. Tafsīr is an extremely noble and virtuous discipline. The reason why it’s so noble and virtuous is that it’s the study of the divine speech of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). As mentioned in a hadith the superiority of the speech of Allah over all other speech is like the superiority of Allah over all of His creation. There’s nothing more beneficial and virtuous than studying the Quran. And by doing so we’ll be counted amongst the best of people. As the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “the best amongst you are those who learn the Quran and teach it.”

All of us need to build a stronger relationship with the Quran. The Quran is full of wisdom and guidance in every single verse and word. It’s our responsibility to seek that guidance, understand it, contextualize it and more importantly act upon it. Tafsīr is such a unique science that it brings together all of the other Islamic sciences. While exploring a Surah a person comes across discussions regarding Arabic grammar and morphology, rhetoric, Ahādīth, fiqh, sīrah and all those studies that are known as the Islamic Sciences. One scholar described the Quran as an ocean that has no shore, بحر لا ساحل له. The more we study the Qur’ān the stronger our relationship with it will become. We’ll become more and more attached to it and will be drawn into its beauty and wonder. The deeper a person gets into tafsir and studying the more engaged and interested they become. They also recognize how little they truly know. It develops humility. That’s the nature of true knowledge. The more we learn the more we recognize we don’t know. May Allah ﷻ allow us all to be sincere and committed students of the Qur’ān.

Surah Maryam

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Surah Maryam is the 19th surah in the Quran. It is a relatively long Makki surah made up of 98 verses. Some commentators mention that it’s the 44th Surah to be revealed, after Surah Al-Fatir and before Surah Taha. It has been given the name Maryam because Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) mentions the story of Maryam (as) and her family and how she gave birth to Isa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) miraculously at the beginning of the Surah. Just like other Makkan surahs, it deals with the most fundamental aspects of our faith. It talks about the existence and oneness of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), prophethood, and resurrection and recompense.

The Surah is made up of a series of unique stories filled with guidance and lessons that are meant as reminders. One of the main themes of this Surah is mercy… It has been mentioned over 16 times in this Surah. We’ll find the words of grace, compassion and their synonyms frequently mentioned throughout the sūrah, together with Allah’s attributes of beneficence and mercy. We can say that one of the objectives of the Surah is to establish and affirm the attribute of mercy for Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). That’s why all of the stories mentioned also have to do with Allah’s mercy.

Another objective of the Surah is to remind us of our relationship with Allah ﷻ; the concept of Al-‘Ubūdiyyah. These are the two major themes or ideas of this Surah; the concept of Rahmah and the concept of ‘Ubūdiyyah (Mercy and Servitude).

The Surah can be divided into 8 sections:

1) Verses 1-15: The surah starts with the story of Zakariyya (as) and how he was given the gift of a child at a very old age, which was something strange and out of the ordinary.

2) Verses 16-40: mention the story of Maryam and the miraculous birth of Isa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) without a father and how her community responded to her.

3) Verses 41-50: The surah then briefly mentions one part of the story of Ibrahim 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him), specifically the conversation he had with his father regarding the worship of idols. The surah then briefly mentions a series of other Prophets.

4) Verses 51-58: Mention Musa and Haroon 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him), Ismail 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) and Idrees 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) to show that the essence of the message of all Prophets was the same

5) Verses 59-65: compare and contrast the previous generations with the current ones in terms of belief and actions.

6) Verses 66-72: Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) addresses the Mushrikoon rejecting their false claims regarding life after death and judgment.

7) Verses 73-87: continue to address the Mushrikoon and warn them regarding their attitude towards belief in Allah and His messengers. They also mention the great difference between the resurrection of the believer and the resurrection of the non-believer.

8) Verses 88-98: contain a severe warning to those who claim that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) has taken a child. They also express that Allah is pleased with the believers and mentions that one of the objectives of the Quran is to give glad tidings to the believers and to warn the non-believers.


From various narrations, we learn that this surah was revealed near the end of the fourth year of Prophethood. This was an extremely difficult time for Muslims. The Quraysh were frustrated with their inability to stop the message of Islam from spreading so they became ruthless. They resorted to any method of torture that they could think of; beating, starving and harassing. When the persecution became so severe that it was difficult for the Muslims to bear it, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) gave permission to migrate to Abyssinia. “For in it dwells a king in whose presence no one is harmed.” 10 men and 4 women migrated in the 5th year of Prophethood secretly. After a few months, a larger group of 83 men and 18 women migrated as well. This migration added more fuel to the fire. It enraged the people of Quraysh.

Umm Salamah [rahna]narrated, “When we stopped to reside in the land of Abyssinia we lived alongside the best of neighbors An-Najashi. We practiced our religion safely, worshipped Allah without harm and didn’t hear anything we disliked. When news of our situation reached the Quraysh they started to plot against us…” They decided to send two delegates to persuade An-Najashi to send the Companions back by offering him and his ministers’ gifts. The plan was to go to each minister with gifts and turn them against the Muslims. So they went to each minister with gifts and said, “Verily, foolish youth from amongst us have come to the country of your king; they have abandoned the religion of their people and have not embraced your religion. Rather they have come with a new religion that neither of us knows. The noblemen of their people, from their fathers and uncles, have sent us to the king asking that he send them back. So when we speak to the king regarding their situation advise him to surrender them to us and to not speak to them…” The minister agreed.

Then they went to the king, offered him gifts and said the same thing… The ministers tried to convince him as well. An-Najashi became angry with them and said, “No, by Allah, I will not surrender them to these two and I don’t fear the plotting of a people who have become my neighbors, have settled down in my country, and have chosen me (to grant them refuge) over every other person. I will not do so until I summon them and speak to them. If they are as these two say I will give them up, but if they aren’t then I will protect them from these two and continue to be a good neighbor to them as long as they are good neighbors to me.”

al-Najāshī then summoned the Prophet’s ﷺ Companions. When his messenger informed the Prophet’s Companions that they were to appear before the king, they gathered together to discuss what they should do. One of them asked, “What will you say to the name (al-Najāshī) when you go to him?” They all agreed on what they would say to him, “By Allah, we will say what our Prophet ﷺ taught us and commanded us with, regardless of the consequences.” Meanwhile, al-Najāshī called for his priests, who gathered around him with their scrolls spread out before them. When the Muslims arrived al-Najāshī began by asking them, “What is this religion for which you have parted from your people? You have not entered into the fold of my religion, nor the religion of any person from these nations.”

Umm Salamah [rahna] narrated, “The Person among us who would speak to him was Jaʿfar ibn abī Ṭālib [rahnu] who then said, “O king, we were an ignorant people: we worshipped idols, we would eat from the flesh of dead animals, we would perform lewd acts, we would cut off family ties, and we would be bad neighbors; the strong among us would eat from the weak. We remained upon that state until Allah sent us a Messenger, whose lineage, truthfulness, trustworthiness, and chastity we already knew. He invited us to Allah – to believe in His oneness and to worship Him; to abandon all that we and our fathers worshipped besides Allah, in terms of stones and idols. He ﷺ commanded us to speak truthfully, to fulfill the trust, to join ties of family relations, to be good to our neighbors, and to refrain from forbidden deeds and from shedding blood. And he ﷺ forbade us from lewd acts, from uttering falsehood, from wrongfully eating the wealth of an orphan, from falsely accusing chaste women of wrongdoing. And he ﷺ ordered us to worship Allah alone and to not associate any partners with him in worship; and he ﷺ commanded us to pray, to give zakāh, and to fast.” He enumerated for al-Najāshī the teachings of Islam. He said, “And we believe him and have faith in him. We follow him in what he came with. And so we worship Allah alone, without associating any partners with Him in worship. We deem forbidden that which he has made forbidden for us, and we deem lawful that which he made permissible for us. Our people then transgressed against us and tortured us. The tried to force us to abandon our religion and to return from the worship of Allah to the worship of idols; they tried to make us deem lawful those abominable acts that we used to deem lawful. Then, when they subjugated us, wronged us, and treated us in an oppressive manner, standing between us and our religion, we came to your country, and we chose you over all other people. We desired to live alongside you, and we hoped that, with you, we would not be wronged, O king.” al-Najāshī said to Jaʿfar [rahnu], “Do you have any of that which he came with from Allah?” Jaʿfar [rahnu] said, “Yes”. “Then recite to me,” said al-Najāshī. Jaʿfar [rahnu] recited for him the beginning of Surah Maryam. By Allah, al-Najāshī began to cry, until his beard became wet with tears. And when his priests heard what Jaʿfar [rahnu] was reciting to them, they cried until their scrolls became wet. al-Najāshī then said, “By Allah, this and what Mūsa (as) came with come out of the same lantern. Then by Allah, I will never surrender them to you, and henceforward they will not be plotted against and tortured.”

Describing what happened after the aforementioned discussion between al-Najāshī and Jaʿfar [rahnu], Umm Salamah raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) said, “When both ʿAmr ibn al-ʿĀṣ and ʿAbdullah ibn abī Rabīʿah left the presence of al-Najāshī, ʿAmr [rahnu] said, “By Allah tomorrow I will present to him information about them with which I will pull up by the roots their very lives.” Abdullah ibn Rabīʿah who was more sympathetic of the two towards us said, “Don’t do so, for they have certain rights of family relations, even if they have opposed us.” ʿAmr said, “By Allah, I will inform him that they claim that ʿĪsā ibn Maryam is a slave.”

He went to the king on the following day and said, “O king, verily, they have strong words to say about ʿĪsa (as). Call them here and ask them what they say about him.” al-Najāshī sent for them in order to ask them about ʿĪsa. Nothing similar to this befell us before. The group of Muslims gathered together and said to one another, “What will you say about ʿĪsa when he asks you about him?” They said, “By Allah, we will say about him that which Allah says and that which our Prophet ﷺ came with, regardless of the outcome.” When they entered into his presence, he said to them, “What do you say about ʿĪsa ibn Maryam?” Jaʿfar raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) said, “We say about him that which our Prophet ﷺ came with – that he is the slave of Allah, His messenger, a spirit created by Him, and His word, which he bestowed on Maryam, the virgin, the baṭūl.”

al-Najāshī struck his hand on the ground and took from it a stick. He then said, “ʿĪsa ibn Maryam did not go beyond what you said even the distance of the stick.” When he said this, his ministers spoke out in anger, to which he responded, “What I said is true even if you speak out in anger, by Allah. (Turning to the Muslims, he said) Go, for you are safe in my land. Whoever curses you will be held responsible. And I would not love to have a reward of gold in return for me hurting a single man among you. (Speaking to his ministers he said) Return to these two (men) their gifts, since we have no need for them. For by Allah, Allah did not take from me bribe money when He returned to me my kingdom, so why should I take bribe money. The two left, defeated and humiliated; and returned to them were the things they came with. We then resided alongside al-Najāshī in a very good abode, with a very good neighbor.”

The response was simply amazing in its eloquence. A believer puts the needs of his soul before the needs of his body. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) starts the Surah by saying,

Verse 1: Kaf, Ha, Ya, ‘Ayn, Sad.

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) starts Surah Maryam with a series of five letters. There are many different saying or explanations regarding these five letters. The most correct opinion is that these are from the broken letters. There are 29 different Surahs in the Quran that start with the broken letters. Only Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) alone knows the meanings of these letters. They are a secret from amongst the secrets of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), meaning that no one knows what they truly mean. Only Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) knows their meanings so they are from amongst the Mutashaabihat, those verses whose meanings are hidden.

However, we do find that some great Companions, as well as their students, sometimes gave meanings to these words. For example, it’s said that it is in acronym and each letter represents one of the names of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). Kaf is for Al-Kafi or Al-Kareem, “haa” is for Al-Hadi, “yaa” is from Hakeem or Raheem, “’ayn” is from Al-‘Aleem or Al-‘Adheem, and “saad” is from Al-Saadiq. Others said that it is one of the names of Allah and it’s actually Al-Ism Al-‘Atham or that it’s a name of the Quran. However, these narrations can’t be used as proof or to assign definitive meanings. They offer possibilities, but no one truly knows what they mean.

Now the question should come to our mind that why would Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) start of a Surah with words that no one understands?

1) To grab the attention of the listeners.

2) To remind us that no matter how much we know there’s always something that we don’t know.

3) These letters are the letters of the Arabic language and the Quran was revealed at a time that was the peak of eloquence of the language and it was their identity. The Quran was revealed challenging them spiritually and intellectually. The Arabs never heard these letters being used in such a majestic way.

4) To prove the inimitable nature of the Quran.

Allah then starts the story of Zakariyya 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him). Zakariyya 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) was one of the Prophets sent to Bani Israel. He was the husband of Maryam’s paternal aunt. He was also one of the caretakers or custodians of Baitul Maqdis.

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Heart Soothers: Idrees Al Hashemi


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The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

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