Surah Ysuf - Joseph


The Period and Reason of Revelation:

It is evident from the subject matter of this Srah that it would have also been revealed during the last period of the stay of the Prophet Muhammad sallallaahu alayhi wa sallam in Makkah -- when the people of Quraish were pondering about Prophet Muhammad sallallaahu alayhi wa sallam, whether to kill or exile or imprison him. At that time some of the nonbelievers asked this question (probably at the initiation of the Jews) from Prophet Muhammad sallallaahu alayhi wa sallam to test him, "What was the reason that Israelites went to Egypt?" Because the people of Arab were unaware of this story and there was no mention of this story in their traditions and they never heard about it before from Prophet Muhammad sallallaahu alayhi wa sallam, therefore they expected that either he will not be able to give detailed answer to this question or will make some excuse at that time and later will try to ask from some Jew, and thus he will be exposed. However, in this test the tables were turned on them. Allh subhaana wa taaala not only immediately made the Prophet Muhammad sallallaahu alayhi wa sallam to recite the complete story of Prophet Ysuf but in addition also related this story towards the behavior of Quraish, which they had adopted against Prophet Muhammad sallallaahu alayhi wa sallam, like the behavior of the brothers of Prophet Ysuf.


The Purpose of Revelation:

Therefore, this speech had been revealed for two important objectives:


First objective, was to provide the proof of the Prophethood of Muhammad sallallaahu alayhi wa sallam, demanded by the opponents themselves, and it should be proved according to their own purposed test that Prophet Muhammad sallallaahu alayhi wa sallam does not state things merely on the base of hearsay in fact he gains the knowledge through Revelation. This point has been clearly stated in verse 3, 7 and it has also been explained fully in verse 102, 103.

Second objective, was to tell the chiefs of Quraish relating the story of Prophet Ysuf that you are doing the same thing with your brother Muhammad sallallaahu alayhi wa sallam, which was done by the brothers of Ysuf to him. As the brothers of Ysuf could not go against the Will of Allh subhaana wa taaala and ultimately they kneeled down before him, whom they threw into the well without any pity, in the same way your planning will not succeed against the Will of Allh subhaana wa taaala and one day you will also beg for mercy from your brother, whom today you are trying your best to crush down. This point has been explained in the beginning of the Srah. Therefore, it has been stated, The fact is that in the story of Ysuf and his brothers there are many signs (lessons) for those who inquire.


The truth is that by applying the story of Prophet Ysuf to the circumstances of Prophet Muhammad sallallaahu alayhi wa sallam, in fact the Qurn had given clear insight, which had been literally proved by the events taken place in the succeeding ten years. It had been hardly two years after the revelation of this Srah that the Quraish conspired to kill the Prophet Muhammad sallallaahu alayhi wa sallam like the brothers of Prophet Ysuf, and he had no choice but to emigrate from Makkah to Al-Madinah. In addition, contrary to the hopes of the chiefs of Quraish Prophet Muhammad sallallaahu alayhi wa sallam also gained the same kind of power as Prophet Ysuf had gained in Egypt. Then the history repeated itself at the time of victory of Makkah, the Quraish had to humble themselves before him just like the brothers of Prophet Ysuf -- when they were standing humbly before him and saying: "O ruler of the land! Our families and we are in great difficulty, and we have brought very little capital, you please give us full measure of grain and some charity as well. Allh rewards those who give charity." (V. 88), and though Prophet Ysuf had the power to take revenge even then he forgave them, and said, " Today there is no impoundment on you, may Allh forgive you, HE is the Most Merciful of all! (V. 92) In the same way when the defeated Quraish were humbly standing before the Prophet Muhammad sallallaahu alayhi wa sallam, and Muhammad sallallaahu alayhi wa sallam had full power to take revenge of their each cruelty, instead Prophet Muhammad sallallaahu alayhi wa sallam asked them, "What treatment do you expect from me today?" They replied, "You are an honorable brother and the son of an honorable brother. At this, Prophet Muhammad sallallaahu alayhi wa sallam said, I gave you the same answer that Ysuf gave to his brothers -- today, there is no revenge on you; go you are forgiven.


Issues and Discussion:

These two objectives are the key components of this Srah. Moreover, Al-Qurn does not narrate this story for the sake of story or for the purpose of history only -- but according to its principle, it uses it to spread its true Message.


Al-Qur'n has made it clear throughout the narrative that the Prophets Ibrhim, Prophet Ishque, Prophet Yaqb and Prophet Ysuf (Allh subhaana wa taaala 's peace be upon them all) had the same as is the Prophet Muhammad sallallaahu alayhi wa sallam and they had been inviting towards the same Message to which Muhammad sallallaahu alayhi wa sallam is inviting them today.


Then on one side it places the characters of Prophet Yaqb and Prophet Ysuf and compares it with the characters of the brothers of Ysuf, the trade caravan, Al Azz of Egypt, his wife, the ladies of Egypt, and the rulers of Egypt and merely with the style of its speech poses a silent question to the reader and the observers, as if to say, "On one side there are those exemplary characters which are created by Islam, by Serving Allh subhaana wa taaala and believing in the accountability of the Hereafter, and on the other side, the reproving characters are those which are prepared by Kufr and Ignorance, love of worldly life, and disregard of Allh subhaana wa taaala and the Hereafter. Now you should ask from your consciousness which of these two models it likes.


Then from this story Al-Qurn, also inculcate another truth in the minds of human being -- that whatever Allh subhaana wa taaala Wants to do that is fulfilled anyway. Human can never succeed to stop or change HIS plans from happening by his/her strategies. Many times human does a task according to his/her own plans and considers that I have hit right on the target but in the end he/she finds out that Allh subhaana wa taaala had gotten the job done by his/her hands according to HIS Own Plan. When the brothers of Prophet Ysuf were throwing him into the well, they thought that they had got rid of their obstacle forever. However, in fact, they had straighten his way leading towards the rule of Egypt where Allh subhaana wa taaala wanted him to be and by their action they put Ysuf at the highest place after that instead of going before him with an honor they humbled themselves before him with shame. In the same way, the wife of Azz was taking revenge from Ysuf by sending him to the prison -- but in fact, she had straighten the way for him to become the ruler of Egypt and she could not achieve anything but putting herself to the shame of confessing her own sin publicly. These are not the only a few instances but the history is full of such events, which proved the truth that whom Allh subhaana wa taaala Wanted to raise high, if the whole world unite to bring him/her down it could never succeed. However, the very sure and effective measures that were adopted by the world to degrade him/her -- Allh subhaana wa taaala makes the same plans for his/her success and for those people, who tried to downgrade him/her, nothing is left except the humiliation and disgrace. Similarly, if Allh subhaana wa taaala Wanted the fall of one -- no measure can support him, but all the plans for his support are reversed and all such people suffer only disgrace and embarrassment.

If anyone understands the truth of this fact -- the first lesson one will get, while planning or setting goals one should not exceed those limits which are set by Allh subhaana wa taaala for him/her. The success or failure is in the Hands of Allh subhaana wa taaala. If anyone will adopt the straightforward strategy within the boundaries of Law of Allh subhaana wa taaala for a noble cause but fails, in that case at least one will not suffer the humiliation and dishonor. On the other hand, if anyone will adopt crooked ways for a filthy cause he/she will surely meet with humiliation and dishonor in the Hereafter, but also runs the risk of humiliation and disgrace in this world. The other important lesson it teaches is, to put ones trust in Allh subhaana wa taaala and entrust all the affairs to HIM. Those people who are struggling for the truth and noble cause and whole world is trying to eradicate them if they keep this fact in mind they will attain consolation from it and they will not lose heart against the most dangerous formation of their opponents, and trusting that results are in the Hands of Allh subhaana wa taaala will keep performing their duties.


However, the most important lesson this story teaches is that if a true believer possesses real Islamic character and is equipped with wisdom, he can conquer a whole country with the strength of his character alone. See the Prophet Ysuf, 17 years of age, all alone, without any provisions, strange country, and above all he had been sold there as a slave. Every student of history knows the horrifying condition of the slaves during that period. In addition, he was charged with a heinous moral crime and sent to prison for an indefinite term --even in this worse condition of affliction, he demonstrated the highest moral qualities and consequently rule over the whole country.


Historical and Geographical Background:

To understand this story clearly it is necessary to briefly view the historical and geographical details:


Prophet Ysuf was a son of Prophet Yaqb and a grandson of Prophet Ishque and a great grandson of Prophet Ibrhim (Allh subhaana wa taaala 's peace be upon them all). According to the Bible, (and the reference in Al-Qurn also confirm it) that Prophet Yaqb had twelve sons from four wives. Prophet Ysuf and his younger brother Benjamin were from one wife and the other ten from the other wives. Prophet Yaqb had settled at Hebron (Palestine) where his father Prophet Ishque and before him Prophet Ibrhim. Prophet Ishque also owned a piece of land at Shechem (Nablis).

If the research of the scholars of the Bible is accepted as true then Prophet Ysuf was born in or about 1906 B. C. and the incident with which this story begins happened in or about 1890 B. C. Prophet Ysuf was seventeen when he saw the dream and was thrown into the well. According to the Bible and Talmud this well was near Dothan (Doshan) to the north of Shechem, and the caravan, which took him out of the well, was coming from Gilead (East of Jordan), and was on its way to Egypt. (The ruins of Gilead are still present in the eastern part of river Jordan, near the bank of valley Alyabus).


At that time, Fifteenth Dynasty was ruling over Egypt, in history whose rulers are known as the Hyksos kings (shepherd kings). They belonged to the Arab race and had migrated from Palestine and Syria to Egypt in or about 2000 B. C. and taken possession of the country. The Arab historians and the commentators of Al-Qurn have used the name Umalique for them and it has been supported by the recent researches made by the Egyptologists. In Egypt, they were considered outsider invaders and because of the internal clashes, they got an opportunity to establish their kingdom. That is why Prophet Ysuf got an opportunity to control power in their government and the Children of Israel were welcomed there with an open hands and were populated in the most fertile region of Egypt and they gained power and influence, because they were alike the race as of the foreign rulers of Egypt. These people ruled over Egypt up to the end of the fifteenth century B. C., and in that period, practically all the powers remained in the hands of the Israelites. In Srah Al Midah verse 20 a reference has been made to the same period HE raised Prophets among you, made you rulers, and gave you that which had not been given to anyone in the world ('Alamn). Then a great nationalist movement arose in the country, which overthrew the power of Bakus dynasty. Around 250,000 Amalekites were exiled from the country. A very prejudiced family of Copts came into power and they destroyed everything connected with the Amalekites and started persecution of the Israelites, which has been mentioned in connection with the story of Prophet Msa.

We also learn from the history of Egypt that these Shepherd kings (Hyksos kings) did not embrace the gods of Egypt, and had brought their own gods from Syria, and their struggle was that their religion should dominate in Egypt. This is the reason that Al-Qurn does not address the king as Pharaoh who was the contemporary of Prophet Ysuf. Because the Pharaoh was associated with the religion of Egypt and these people were not the believers of Egyptian religion. However, the Bible erroneously calls him as "Pharaoh". Perhaps the writers of it would have understood that all the kings of Egypt were "Pharaohs.


The modern researchers who have done a comparative study of the Bible and the Egyptian history are of a general opinion that the king whose name is mentioned as Apophis in Egyptian history was the contemporary of Prophet Ysuf.

At that time Memphis (Minff) was the capital of Egypt, whose ruins are found at a distance of 4 miles south of Cairo. Prophet Ysuf reached there when he was 17, 18 years old. He stayed in the house of Azz for two, three years -- spent eight, nine years in prison -- became the ruler of the land at the age of 30 (thirty) and ruled over Egypt independently for 80 (eighty) years. In the ninth or tenth year of his rule he invited his father, Prophet Yaqb to come from Palestine to Egypt with all the members of his family and settled them in the land situated between Damat and Cairo. According to Bible, its name is Goshen. These people stayed there up to the time of Prophet Msa. The Bible says that Prophet Ysuf died at the age of 110 years and at the time of his death -- Prophet Ysuf advised the Children of Israel that when you leave this country you must take my bones with you.


The details given in the Bible and the Talmud about the story of Prophet Ysuf differs very much from the details given in Al-Qurn, but all three agree in regard to its important components.

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