Story of Prophet Yusuf (AS)
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Prophet Yusuf (AS) was the son of Prophet Ya’qub (AS). In the Bible he is referred to as Joseph son of Jacob. The Holy Qur’an has mentioned his story in a beautiful chapter entitled “Surah Yusuf”. Prophet Yusuf (AS) had 11 brothers. He was one of the youngest and possessed excellent character and manners. He was the most closest to His father.
Prophet Yusuf (AS) once dreamed that He was bowed down by eleven stars and the sun and moon. He related the dream to His father. Prophet Ya’qub (AS) realized that the dream outlined the destiny and greatness of his son and cautioned him not to tell the dream to his brothers.
His brothers were jealous of the favor Yusuf (AS) enjoyed in the eyes of their father and were making plans to somehow get rid of him. They would ask their father if Yusuf (AS) could accompany them whenever they took their goats out for grazing. Prophet Ya’qub (AS) always refused, claiming the boy was too young. When He reached the age of 16, his brothers insisted that he was now old enough to join them. Their father decided with hesitation to allow them to take him with them.
They began to plan how to dispose of Prophet Yusuf (AS) as soon as they were far enough from home. Then, they found a dry well. They took off the shirt of Prophet Yusuf (AS) and threw him into the well. Ignoring the appeals of their young brother, they left him to die of starvation.
They slaughtered a goat on their way back and stained Prophet Yusuf’s (AS) shirt with its blood. They came home crying and telling their father that a wolf came and killed their brother while they were grazing their goats. He didn’t believe their story and couldn’t do anything but stay patient and wait for Allah to reunite with his beloved son.
In the meantime, a caravan of traders going through the well paused to draw some water. They were shocked to see the bucket carrying Prophet Yusuf (AS). They hid him with their merchandise and sold him for a few pieces of silver to some slave traders.
Prophet Yusuf (AS) in Egypt
Thus, Prophet Yusuf (AS) arrived in Egypt. The buyers were all attracted by him in the slave market, because he was a beautiful young man. This remarkable young man’s news swept through the city. The Aziz (Egypt’s Governor and King’s Chief Officer), whose name was Fotifaar, offered a price that nobody could match. He brought Prophet Yusuf (AS) home and told Zuleikha that they would adopt him as their son.
However, Zuleikha was so taken by the beauty of Prophet Yusuf (AS) that she was looking for an illegal association with him. A Prophet of Allah could never be part of such an evil deed and Prophet Yusuf (AS) backed away from the advances of Zuleikha. As he raced for the door she ripped his shirt from behind. At the door they met the Aziz. When Zuleikha saw her husband, she tried to blame Yusuf (AS) by claiming he had attempted to lay a hand on her. A baby spoke from the cradle before the Aziz could vent his fury on Prophet Yusuf (AS), and the Holy Quran says:
And a witness from her own household testified, “If his shirt is torn from the front, then she speaks the truth and he is of the liars. And if his shirt is torn from behind, then she lies and he is of the truthful ones.
Surah Yusuf, 12:26,27
The shirt was, of course, ripped from behind, and the Aziz was extremely angry with his wife for attempting such an indecency act. The women of the city heard about Zuleikha’s actions and began to gossip and make fun of her. She decided to let them see Prophet Yusuf (AS) themselves in order to explain her attraction.
She called forty of them to the palace for a meal. As soon as they all had a knife to cut some fruit, she called Prophet Yusuf (AS) into the room on some excuse. They were so dazzled by his beauty and presence that, in their distraction, they cut their fingers and exclaimed, “This is not a human being-he must be an angel!” Zuleikha was furious with Prophet Yusuf (AS) because he had made her ridicule. She caused him to be imprisoned on false assault charges in her anger and frustration.
Prophet Yusuf (AS) in Prison
In spite of his innocence, due to continued pressure from his wife Zuleikha, the Egyptian Aziz decided to imprison Prophet Yusuf (AS). The reason he gave was that his wife’s actions would be forgotten by people if Prophet Yusuf (AS) would be in jail and her dignity would be restored.
Two other men were also imprisoned on the same day that Prophet Yusuf (AS) was put in jail. One served the king’s wine while the other served the king’s cook. Both men were charged with trying to poison the king. The next day, the wine server told Prophet Yusuf (AS), “I saw in a dream that I was crushing grapes to make wine for the king.” The cook said, “I had dreamed that I had some bread on my head in a basket and birds were pecking at the bread.”
Both men saw that Prophet Yusuf (AS) was a noble and pious person and asked him if he could interpret their dreams. Prophet Yusuf (AS) took the opportunity of preaching Allah’s religion to his fellow prisoners. He promised to tell them the meaning of their dreams and told them that it was a special power provided to him by God before he did so, however he explained to them how futile it was to believe in different gods and explained to them the Oneness of Allah and the Day of Resurrection.
He finally said, “O my prison-mates! The man who dreamed he was crushing grapes will be released from here soon and will go back to his previous post. The second one, who in the dream held the bread on his head, will be executed and the birds will begin to eat his brain”. Prophet Yusuf (AS) thought of getting himself released from prison through the wine-server, and told him to remind the king of his innocence when he sees him. Both men’s dreams came true just as Yusuf (AS) had predicted. One of the prisoners was freed while the hanging of the other. Unfortunately, all that Prophet Yusuf (AS) had told him to pass on to the king was forgotten by the wine server.
Prophet Yusuf (AS) release from the prison
The Holy Qur’an says:
The king dreamt that seven lean cows were eating seven fat ones and that there were seven green ears of corn and seven dry ones. He asked the nobles to tell him the meaning of his dream if they were able to. They replied, “It is a confused dream and we do not know the meaning of such dreams.”
Surah Yusuf, 12:43,44
The king was very concerned about the meaning of his dream, and while his wise men were seriously thinking about it, they could not make sense of it. The dream of the king became a means of the release of Prophet Yusuf (AS) from prison. As soon as the wine-server heard of the dream, he was reminded of his prison time and remembered his cell-mate’s powers. He also remembered that Prophet Yusuf (AS) had asked him to tell the king of his innocence. He approached the king and got his permission to see Prophet Yusuf (AS).
The Prophet Yusuf (AS) interpreted the dream by power given to him by Allah. He said, “For seven years, the crops will yield abundant food grain to the people of Egypt. After that, there will be a seven-year drought during which all the food grain lying in the stores will be finished and people will starve to death. The people should therefore try to grow as much extra grain as possible in order to keep them in good shape during the time of hunger.
The king was delighted when he heard this very reasonable and sensitive interpretation of his dream from the wine server. He ordered Prophet Yusuf (AS) to be brought before him so that he could use his wisdom to solve his problems. Despite being so long in the dark dungeon, Prophet Yusuf (AS) refused to leave the prison until he proved innocent. He said to the courtiers, “I’m not going to come out of jail until the king inquires about my case. Tell the king to ask the noble men’s wives about the time when they sliced their fingers when they saw me.”
The courtiers passed on this message to the king who called the concerned women to him for an explanation. They all admitted the truth, and the Aziz’s wife Zuleikha, also testified that Prophet Yusuf (AS) was innocent of any guilt. Therefore, with his reputation and honor restored, Prophet Yusuf (AS) was released from prison.
Prophet Yusuf (AS) in the Royal Court
The Holy Qur’an says:
The king ordered his men to bring Yusuf before him; he wanted to grant him a high office. The king said to him, “From now on you will be an honoured and trusted person amongst us.” Yusuf said, “Put me in charge of the treasuries of the land, I know how to manage them.”
Surah Yusuf, 12:54,55
When the king met Prophet Yusuf (AS), he considered him to be a wise, broad-minded man. In response to Prophet Yusuf’s (AS) request as related in the above verse, the king made him responsible for finance and food and instructed his ministers and officials to accept the commands of Prophet Yusuf (AS) as his own.
Thus, Prophet Yusuf (AS) became the Egyptian Aziz and immediately began his new duties. He was determined that no one should die of starvation when the famine arrives. The Nile River flooded its banks on a regular basis to provide fertile soil for food grain growth, and Prophet Yusuf (AS) knew the famine would be caused by this river’s decline in water. He decided to do a short tour of Egypt in order to evaluate the best places where intensive cultivation could take place.
In the most fertile areas of the Nile, he allocated extra money to the farmers so they could grow the maximum amount of grain. He also ordered the construction of large storehouses (granaries) which could store several hundred tons of surplus grain.
He delivered grain to the people in accordance with their minimum needs during the first seven years and stored the rest in the newly built granaries. The granaries were full by the time the seven years had passed. The Nile’s water level fell dramatically and a severe drought hit the country. However, the country did not face a food shortage due to his foresight and planning.
The drought also spread to the lands of Palestine and Kanaan where Prophet Ya’qub (AS) and his sons lived. He called them one day and said, “My sons we are in great distress because of the famine. You may go to Egypt’s Aziz whose reputation has spread throughout the country as a kind and just person, leave Binyameen with me so I may not be lonely”. As their father had commanded, Prophet Yusuf’s (AS) brothers set off for Egypt to buy grain and bring it to Kanaan.
Prophet Yusuf’s (AS) Brothers in Egypt
The Prophet Yusuf (AS) was very happy to see them when his brothers arrived in Egypt. They never expected him to be alive, they didn’t recognize him at all. Prophet Yusuf (AS) was saddened not to see Binyameen, his full brother, and asked his brothers to tell him about themselves.
They introduced themselves and told him about their father and mother. Prophet Yusuf (AS) was relieved to hear that Prophet Ya’qub (AS) was alive, and he gave a sincere welcome to his brothers. For their needs, he provided them with enough wheat and secretly put their money back into their bags. He also asked them to bring their other brothers next time as a proof that they spoke the truth about their family.
The brothers related their experiences to their father when they returned home, praising Prophet Yusuf’s (AS) generosity and hospitality. They were delighted to see their money back when they opened their bags. Soon they were out of grain and looked forward to go to Egypt for more. However, they could not go Without Binyameen,, so they tried to persuade their father to let him go with them. Prophet Ya’qub (AS) refused to allow them to take Binyameen, saying that they would do the same thing with him as they did with Prophet Yusuf (AS).
The brothers were finally able to convince him after repeated promises that they would look after Binyameen so he allowed them to take Binyameen to Egypt.
The brothers proceeded to Prophet Yusuf’s court (AS) when they entered Egypt and presented him their brother Binyameen. Prophet Yusuf (AS) was delighted to see his younger brother, inviting them all to dine with him. Later, at his own house, he gave them all the accommodation and asked Binyameen to sleep in his room. Prophet Yusuf (AS) revealed to Binyameen his identity during the night.
He explained how the Grace of Allah had elevated him from a lowly slave to a position of great power. He asked Binyameen, however, not to reveal his conversation to their brothers.
Prophet Yusuf’s (AS) Plan to Detain Binyameen
The brothers of Prophet Yusuf (AS) began to prepare for their journey home after they had received their requirement of wheat. Meanwhile Prophet Yusuf (AS) put into action a plan to detain his full brother Binyameen, according to Allah’s command. He ordered his men to put a gold cup belonging to king in the baggage of Binyameen.
The brothers of Prophet Yusuf (AS) had not gone very far when they were stopped and accused of stealing. They denied this, saying that if any of them were found guilty of theft, Prophet Yusuf (AS) might hold him as a slave. The caravan was searched and the cup was found in Binyameen’s bag.
When the brothers were brought before Prophet Yusuf (AS), he said, “We will now detain Binyameen with us according to your own terms.” They replied, “O Aziz of Egypt! Our father is old and weak. You may detain any of us, but not Binyameen.”
Nevertheless, Prophet Yusuf (AS) said he could not arrest anyone who was not guilty. The brothers had no choice but to leave for Kanaan. The eldest brother, Yahuda, refused to return without Binyameen. He stayed behind in Egypt instead of facing his father.
The Reunion of the family of Prophet Ya’qub (AS)
When the brothers came back to Kanaan and told Prophet Ya’qub (AS) what had happened, He was heart broken. He already lost his eyesight weeping for his beloved son, Prophet Yusuf (AS), and it was almost too much for him to take a second loss. He now remembered and wept for the memory of his lost sons.
He asked his sons to return to Egypt immediately in search of both Prophet Yusuf (AS) and Binyameen. The brothers came to the Aziz of Egypt for the third time, as directed by their father, and pleaded for Binyameen’s release as well as some grain for food.
Prophet Yusuf (AS) told them how poorly they had treated their brother Yusuf, leading him to be split from his family. The brothers were shocked at hearing their identity from the Aziz, now talking in the dialect of the Kanaan nation. “Are you Yusuf?” they asked him.
He answered, “Indeed, I am Yusuf, and this is my brother Allah has been gracious to me. One who is pious and patient against hardships is always rewarded by Allah for his virtues.”
When the brothers learned that, they bowed their heads in shame and begged him for his forgiveness. He said “You don’t have to be afraid of me. May Allah forgive your sins. Now take my shirt and cover my father’s face with it, so that he may regain his lost sight. Then return to me with all your family.”
The Holy Qur’an says:
When the caravan had left the town (from Egypt), their father (in Kanaan) said, “I smell Yusuf’s fragrance. I hope you will not think that I am weak in judgement (due to my love for him). They said, “By Allah ! You are still making the same old error. When someone brought him the glad news, Yusuf’s shirt was placed on his face and his eyesight was restored. He said, “Did I not tell you that I know about Allah that which you do not know?”
Surah Yusuf, 12:94-96
Upon restoring his eyesight and realizing his son’s good news, Prophet Ya’qub (AS) immediately decided to go to Egypt. Prophet Yusuf (AS) loved meeting them, welcoming his father and mother. His parents and brothers prostrated themselves on the ground as a sign of their gratitude to Allah at this meeting.
So Allah made Prophet Yusuf’s (AS) dream come true when he saw eleven stars and the sun and moon prostrate in front of him. Allah raised him from a slave’s position to the highest rank in the land after many trials.
At the request of his son, Prophet Ya’qub (AS) settled in Egypt with his family, and their clan came to be known as the Bani Israa’il.
Prophet Ya’qub (AS) lived in Egypt for 17 years and died at the age of 147. Prophet Yusuf (AS) breathed his last some years later at the age of 110 years, and his kingdom passed into the hands of rulers whose titles were Fir’aun.
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