What the story of Yusuf taught me

January 05, 2018
Amal Al-Sibai

Saudi Gazette

One of the most beautiful stories told in the Holy Qur’an is the story of Prophet Yusuf. It probably is most people’s favorite story from the Qur’an.

The purpose of stories in the Qur’an is not only for the story to be told and retold. There are many important lessons to be drawn from the story that actually apply to our lives today, help us overcome difficult ordeals, boost our morale, and direct us how to behave in a myriad of situations.

The story of Prophet Yusuf in the Qur’an is rich in symbolism and in lessons that I can use in my life.

The first lesson to draw from the story of Yusuf with his brothers is that jealousy is a dangerous emotion and it is real.

No doubt, Prophet Yaqub was an ideal parent and he never showed favoritism to Yusuf over his other sons. However, Yusuf and Bin Yameen were still very young and their tender age required more attention and care from their father than the older children. Due to the attention Yaqub gave to his youngest children, the older sons said, “Yusuf and his brother are more beloved to our father than we.” (Qur’an, chapter 12, verse 8) The older sons merely perceived that their father loved Yusuf and Bin Yameen more than them, and the results were disastrous. Their jealousy drove them to plot to harm Yusuf, and even kill him, but they eventually abandoned him in a well.

This story should flag a clear warning to parents, not to favor one child over another, or show affection to one child while withdrawing it from another. Do not constantly praise one child while constantly criticizing the other; it can create jealousy and hatred between siblings.

The repeated theme, in the story of Prophet Yusuf and his father Yaqub, is patience, beautiful patience. And that is what we all need in our lives right now, especially through these challenging times; beautiful patience.

What did Prophet Yaqub say when his sons came home without his beloved Yusuf, the child’s shirt stained with blood, as they presumed the child had been eaten by a wolf? Yaqub said, “So patience is most fitting. And Allah is the one sought for help against that which you describe.” (Qur’an, chapter 12, verse 18)

Prophet Yaqub did not rant or rave or punish his sons, even though he knew they were lying and he knew they had done something to Yusuf. As parents, we need to pause here. We need to acknowledge that our children are not perfect nor should we demand perfection. Our children will make mistakes and we need to accept that. We will teach and direct and advise them, yet we need to show them more patience, acceptance, and emotional support and give them the opportunity to make right was wrong and to repent after committing sin, as the beautiful example of Prophet Yaqub.

As the story progresses, we learn what truly elevates one’s status in society, and what tools we need to rise over difficulties and triumph.

Yusuf the child was found in the well by a caravan passing by. He was captured, sold as a slave, and was taken from his homeland, Palestine, to Egypt. The man who purchased Yusuf treated him well and raised him as his own son. He also taught him how to interpret dreams. Yusuf grew up in this affluent household and was given a life of luxury. Yusuf grew in physical strength and attractiveness, but he also grew in piety and fear of Allah.

A young man, Yusuf was exquisitely handsome, so much so that his own stepmother tried to seduce him. She locked several doors, made sure they were alone, and tried to entice Yusuf. He could have succumbed to her invitation. None would have caught them; she was pretty and desirable. She made it clear to him that if he obliged to her, she would make sure he lived a life of comfort and pleasure in the palace.

Yusuf was aware that Allah was watching him. Yusuf refused to give in to any worldly desires of sexual pleasure and wealth if it meant falling in to sin. He said, “I seek the refuge of Allah.” (Qur’an, chapter 12, verse 23)

What can we take from this scene in Yusuf’s life? No matter how lustrous or attractive something may seem, no matter how much pleasure it will bring in the heat of the moment, we need to take a stance. If it is an unlawful act, be it accepting a bribe, gaining extra cash from an unlawful source, entering sexual relations outside of marriage, trying out drugs, flirting with the opposite sex just to get that emotional rush, we need to resist and say as Yusuf said, “I seek the refuge of Allah.”

Do youngsters today know when to say no? Do they know when to draw the line before doing something forbidden in Islam? If they can relate to the story of Yusuf, it may have an impact on the decisions they make in their lives.

After rejecting the advances of his stepmother, Yusuf was unjustly thrown into jail. Even when in jail, Yusuf was patient, he maintained good character and he worshipped Allah and called others to the truth, to their Lord. Yusuf said to them, “O my two companions of prison, are separate lords better or Allah, the One, the Prevailing?”(Qur’an, chapter 12, verse 39)

Yusuf spoke kindly to the prisoners. Everyone is worthy of our kindness, everyone deserves to learn about Allah. We must have faith in the goodness in people’s hearts and deliver the message of Islam to others, kindly and gently.

Yusuf remained in jail for several years. The reason for Yusuf’s release from jail was not because of his handsomeness, or his stepfather’s position in society, or his stepfather’s wealth, or his noble lineage. Yusuf was eventually released from jail because of his knowledge and education.

While growing up, Yusuf’s stepfather taught him an exceptional skill, and Yusuf was an avid learner and he pursued this interesting science. Yusuf was skillful in interpreting the meanings of dreams. Yusuf masterfully explained the meanings behind the dream of the King of Egypt, and he further advised what the community of Egypt should do in the face of an approaching drought. It was due to his skill, knowledge, and honest advice that he gave that Yusuf was released from prison, and was offered the position of the Treasurer of Egypt.

With honesty, loyalty, hard work, devotion, and wisdom, Yusuf fulfilled his role and he did an excellent job. He was trustworthy when it came to Egypt’s natural resources and harvest and he distributed it well and stored what was necessary to suffice for the people’s survival throughout the drought that would last seven years. Yusuf’s success did not make him arrogant or boastful; he remained humble and attributed his success to the grace of Allah, his Lord.

At the culmination of the story, Yusuf is rejoined with his brothers in Egypt. When they finally realize that it is Yusuf who is in power and is the adviser and treasurer to the ruler of Egypt, they are shocked. They feel remorse and regret for what they did to him when he was a child.

Rather than gloating or executing revenge against his older brothers or getting back at them, Yusuf says to them, “No blame will there be upon you today. May Allah forgive you; and He is the most merciful of the merciful.” (Qur’an, chapter 12, verse 92)

After all the hardships Yusuf endured because of his brothers, being thrown into the well, separation from his family, slavery, and imprisonment, Yusuf forgives his brothers. He asks his father and his whole family to live with him in Egypt, and he looks after their wellbeing.

Yusuf’s story is one of patience, piety and righteousness, seeking knowledge, hard work, honesty and loyalty, triumph and success, and after all this: forgiveness, love, and mercy. After reading the beautiful story of Yusuf, what do you want the story of your life to be about?

January 05, 2018
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