Surah Yusuf presents this beautiful story that is dear to the heart of every Muslim. While volumes of Tafsir can be written and are already written about this chapter, we’ll follow the same approach as in other Surah’s: focus on the main message ( or what we believe to be the main message) and see how the Ayahs connect with each other.
Prophet Muhammad PBUH received this Surah towards the end of the Meccan phase of his message. The Surah prepared the Muslim community to many of the events that are about to happen:
- Relatives and tribe members will plot to kill them
- They will be expelled from their home town (Mecca)
- Despite the ups and downs in life, they will be victorious and the families will reunite again
- One should trust Allah’s wisdom and firmly belief that Allah is the best of planners.
Just by looking at the timeline describing the life of prophet Yusuf (PBUH), you see how ease came after every difficulty, and how things that may appear to be “bad” from the outside resulted with a lot of good endings. For example: Had he not been thrown into the jail and gave the interpretation to the prisoners [12:41-42], he would have stayed as a slave at the palace for the rest of his life, without any opportunity to get up in the ranks.
يَا بَنِيَّ اذْهَبُواْ فَتَحَسَّسُواْ مِن يُوسُفَ وَأَخِيهِ وَلاَ تَيْأَسُواْ مِن رَّوْحِ اللَّهِ إِنَّهُ لاَ يَيْأَسُ مِن رَّوْحِ اللَّهِ إِلاَّ الْقَوْمُ الْكَافِرُونَ
My sons, go and seek news of Joseph and his brother and do not despair of God’s mercy– only disbelievers despair of God’s mercy.’ [12:87]
The Surah invites every believer not to lose hope, and to work hard and reform their communities while resting assure that Allah’s help will definitely come to them:
حَتَّى إِذَا اسْتَيْأَسَ الرُّسُلُ وَظَنُّواْ أَنَّهُمْ قَدْ كُذِبُواْ جَاءَهُمْ نَصْرُنَا فَنُجِّيَ مَن نَّشَاء وَلاَ يُرَدُّ بَأْسُنَا عَنِ الْقَوْمِ الْمُجْرِمِينَ
When the messengers lost all hope and realized that they had been dismissed as liars, Our help came to them: We saved whoever We pleased, but Our punishment will not be turned away from guilty people. [12:110]
The Best of Tales: Five Challenges – Five Solutions
Reflecting on the plot of the story, you’ll notice how the challenges kept on adding up into Yusuf’s life, one after the other, and how they were all solved with the exactly opposite order:
- Yusuf sees a very strange dream that he could not interpret
- Brothers tried to kill him, and then he was separated from his family
- He was sold as a slave to the minister of Egypt
- He was thrown into the jail
- The two companions in the jail saw two dreams that bothered them and needed an interpretation.
Now look at the beauty of the Quran, and how Allah SWT laid out the solutions to all those challenges:
5) Yusuf interpreted the dreams of the two companions
4) Yusuf got out of the jail
3) After being a slave in the presidential palace, he became a minister
2) Yusuf gets reunited with his family and forgives his brothers
1) The interpretation of his own dream comes true
Consistency in Ihsan (Excellence in Manners)
A very important benefit from the Surah is how Prophet Yusuf remained on the straight path, and preserved his manners REGARDLESS of the situation. People may change their attitude and behave in an evil way as a reaction to injustice being done on them. Others may follow their temptations and engage in shameless acts when they become strangers in a new country or city. Many people lost their values when they become in a political leadership position. Prophet Yusuf DID NOT CHANGE AT ALL! He was described as having excellence in manners (من المحسنين) in five different locations:
Allah himself praised him for being a Muhsin when he was a slave in the palace [12:22]The companions in the jail were impressed by his manners and said the same thing [12:36]Then Allah mentioned him again as a Muhsin, but this time after becoming a political leader [12:56]His brothers (before recognizing him) noticed his good manners and asked him for a favor [12:78]Finally, he himself mentioned that Allah does not waste the efforts of those who treat others with Ihsan [12:90]
Read Surah Yusuf with the intention to increase the love and trust you have for Allah SWT. Reflection on your life and the ups and the downs, and compare them with this beautiful story (the best of stories as in [12:3]) and ask Allah with sincerity to ease your grieve and end the suffering and trials of all.