Thirty-Three Lessons From Surah Yusuf

Shaykh Abdur Rahmaan Naasir Al-Sa`di

“Tayseer Al-Kareem Ar-Rahmaan”

As-Shaykh Abdurahmaan Ibn Naasir As-Sa’dee states in his tafseer “Tayseer Al-Kareem Ar-Rahmaan” (pg. 408 – 412) regarding the last ayah of surah Yusuf wherein Allah subhaanahu wa ta’la says, “Indeed in their stories, there is a lesson for men of understanding.”
Thisstory is from the best of stories because of what it relates from thevarying phases of life; from trial to tribulation, from being tested tobeing blessed, from humiliation to grandeur, from slavery to kingship,from division to unity, from grief to joy, from superfluity to famine,from famine to glut, from hardship to ease, and from denial toaffirmation. So blessed be the One who revealed it in the best mannerpossible.

From amongst the lessons derived from this surah are:

  1. Theknowledge of interpreting dreams is a very important branch ofknowledge that Allah gives to whom he pleases from His servants. Andmost of them (dreams) are based on symbols that are ambiguous inmeaning and in description. For indeed the significance of the sun, themoon and twelve stars bowing to Yusuf, is that these lights are thebeauty of the sky, and from them emanates benefit. Likewise theprophets and the scholars are the beauty of this earth, and by themmankind is guided through darkness just as they do by the light of thestars, the sun and the moon. Moreover, since the source of this lightis his mother and father, hence it is very befitting that the moon andthe sun symbolize his parents, for from them emanate the greatest lightfrom which he and his brothers are off-springs. Thus, the sun, which isa feminine noun, symbolizes his mother and the moon, which is amasculine noun, symbolizes his father, and the stars symbolize hisbrothers.
  2. Thesignificance of the dream of his fellow prison mate who saw himselfpressing wine, is that the one who does such work is usually theservant of someone else. Thus he interpreted it to mean that thisprison mate would be a servant for the king, and this would guaranteehis freedom from prison. Regarding the significance of the dream of theone who saw birds eating bread from the top of his head, Yusufinterpreted this dream as a indication that he will be crucifiedbecause the skull protects the brains and once a person is crucifiedand left in the open, the brains will become exposed, thus the birdwill eat it.
  3. Thereinare evidences of the truthfulness of the prophethood of ProphetMuhammad (Peace be upon him), for he narrated to his people this longstory and he never read the previous books nor learned from any one.
  4. Oneshould distance oneself as much as possible from situations that canlead to an evil outcome. Also the permissibility of not disclosing whatone fears might harm them based on the statement of Ya’qûb to Yusuf, “He (the father) said: “O my son! Relate not your vision to your brothers, lest they arrange a plot against you.”
  5. Thepermissibility of a person mentioning to someone else, as a means ofsincere advice, a matter that is disliked based on the ayah, “Lest they arrange a plot against you.”
  6. Theblessing that Allah bestows upon the servant is not simply restrictedto that particular individual, rather it is a blessing that encompasseshim, his family and his friends. And whatever good is obtained isbecause of that person based on the statement of Allah, “Thus willyour Lord choose you and teach you the interpretation of dreams (andother things) and perfect His Favor on you and on the offspring ofYa’qûb (Jacob), as He perfected it on your fathers, Ibrahîm (Abraham)and Ishâque (Isaac) aforetime. Verily, your Lord is All-Knowing,All-Wise.”
  7. Theimportance of being cautious of the evil results of sins, because onesin often leads to many others. For the brothers of Yusuf tried varyingplots when they wanted to separate him from his father; they lied manytimes, they falsified the blood on the shirt, they came at nightpretending to cry, and all of this is as a result of one sin, one thingleading to a next.
  8. Thematter that really counts in the life of the servant is the successfulending and not the deficient beginning. For the children of Yacub didwhat they did in the beginning which was a very reprehensible act, thentheir affair ended in sincere repentance, complete forgiveness fromYusuf and their father, and du’a was made for them to be forgiven andhave mercy upon.
  9. Someevil are lesser then others and committing the least or lesser evil isalways better. For when the brothers of Yusuf agreed to kill him orthrow him in the well, one of them said, “Kill not Yûsuf (Joseph), but if you must do something, throw him down to the bottom of a well.” Thushis suggestion was better in comparison with those of his brothers (inspite of it still being an evil one) and because of this he lessenedthe greatness of the sin they committed.
  10. Thereis no sin on a person that buys, sells, or uses anything that isconsidered as merchandise according to prevailing business practices.Nor is the one who is not aware how this merchandise was obtainedguilty of any sin. For the brothers of Yusuf sold him, which was aharaam, impermissible transaction, then he was found by a caravan ofpeople who took him to Egypt and sold him there as a slave, and inspite of all this Allah referred to him as ”merchandise.”
  11. Oneshould be careful to avoid being secluded with women whom may be acause of fitnah, and one should also be cautious of the love forsomeone that may be harmful. For the wife of the king did what she didbecause of her infatuation with Yusuf that lead her to try to seducehim, tell lies about him and cause him to be imprisoned for a longtime.
  12. Theinclination that Yusuf would have had for the woman, but resisted itfor Allah’s sake is what actually brings him closer to Allah. Becausethis type of inclination is from amongst the soul’s evil suggestion andit is something that happens naturally to most of mankind. However, thelove and fear of Allah overpowered the call of fulfilling desires.Thus, he is from amongst those “who feared standing before his Lord, and restrained himself from impure evil desires, and lusts.” And also from amongst the “sevenwhom Allah will shade in His Shade on the Day when there is no shadeexcept His Shade: a man who is called by a woman of beauty and position[for illegal intercourse], but be says: ‘I fear Allaah.”
  13. Whenevereemaan enters the heart and one makes his whole affair sincerely forAllah sake, Allah will indeed repel and defend one from all types ofevil and vulgarity because of one’s eemaan and sincerity due to Allah’sstatement, “Thus it was, that We might turn away from him evil and illegal sexual intercourse. Surely, he was one of Our sincere slaves.”
  14. Wheneverthe servant sees a situation that might be one of fitnah or cause ofsin, he should flee as far as possible from it to save himself fromsin.
  15. Yusufwas beautiful both externally and internally. As for his externalbeauty, it made the king’s wife did what she did, and it made the otherwomen cut their hands while proclaiming, “How perfect is Allâh (orAllâh forbid)! No man is this! This is none other than a noble angel!”His internal beauty was because of his great chastity andself-restraint in spite the many enticement there were to commit sin.This is why the king’s wife said, “I did seek to seduce him, but herefused.”
  16. Whenthere is a atmosphere for sin, the servant should always return untoAllah and distance himself from his own strength and power based on thestatement of Yusuf, “Unless You turn away their plot from me, Iwill feel inclined towards them and be one (of those who commit sin anddeserve blame) of the ignorants.”
  17. Knowledgeand intelligence leads one who possesses it to do good acts andprevents him from evil. Ignorance on the other hand, calls the one whois ignorant to conform to his desires, even if it is harmful to him.
  18. Justas the servant worships Allah during times of ease, similarly he shouldalso worship him during times of hardship. For Yusuf (peace be uponhim) was constantly calling to Allah, thus when he entered the prisonhe continued to make dawah. He called the two young men to at-tawheedand he warned them against as-shirk. Hence, from his quick-wittednesshe saw that they were responsive to his dawah, whereby they said tohim, “We think you are one of the Muhsinun (doers of good).”  Sothis was a golden opportunity for dawah that he seized by calling themto Allah before interpreting their dreams so his goal (of calling themto Islaam) would be more fruitful. Thus, firstly he made it clear tothem that what they notice of him from his noble character and in-depthknowledge is all a result belief in Allah and singling him out forworship (tawheed), and he abandoned the path of those who do notbelieve in Allah and the last day. So he first gave them dawah throughhis actions, then he gave them dawah by his speech illustrating to themthe corruption of shirk and the reality of at-tahwheed.
  19. Theimportance of priorities. For when he was asked by the two young men tointerpret their dreams, there were other matters of importance thatthey were in greater need of knowing before their questions were to beanswered. This is a sign of a teacher possessing great intelligence,and the ability to correctly guide and teach, for when Yusuf was askedby the two young men about their dreams, he first called them to Allahbefore interpreting their dreams.
  20. Itis not considered depending on others (instead of Allah), if onehappens to get into a difficult situation and one seeks the assistanceof someone whom he thinks can alleviate his situation, for this personthere is no blame on him if he does this. This is because it has alwaysbeen the custom of people to seek each other assistance in suchmatters. Hence, Yusuf said to the one whom he knew would be saved, “Mention me to your lord (i.e. your king, so as to get me out of the prison).”
  21. Theone who teaches should always try to have complete sincerity when heteaches, and he should not use his position as a means to obtainwealth, status or personal benefit. Furthermore, he should not withholdfrom spreading knowledge or giving advice even if the one whom hetaught or advised did not do what he (the teacher) requested. Forindeed Yusuf (peace be upon him) advised one of the young men tomention his situation to the king, but he forgot and did not mentionhim. However, when the time came when he was in need of him, he sentsomeone to get Yusuf. In spite of this, Yusuf did not chastise him forforgetting to mention his situation to the king, rather he gave him acomplete answer to his question.
  22. Thereis no blame on a person for defending himself against a falseaccusation. Rather this is something praiseworthy. As Yusuf refused toleave the prison until his innocence was proven.
  23. Dreaminterpretation is a branch of the Islamic sciences, and a person isrewarded for studying and teaching it. Dream interpretation also comesunder category of giving fataawa, for he said to the two young men, “Thus is the case judged concerning which you both did inquire.” (tas’taftiyaan – sought a fatwa) The king said, “Explain (aftoonee – give me a fatwa) of my dream”, and the young man said to Yusuf, “Explain to us (aftinaa – give us a fatwa) regarding (the dream) of seven fat cows.” Thus, it is not permissible interpret dream except with (shari’ah) knowledge.
  24. Aslong as a person is not pretentious or dishonest, he should not becriticized if one informs others about his praiseworthy qualities, ifhe intends by this to bring about a general benefit based on thestatement of Yusuf, “Set me over the storehouses of the land; I will indeed guard them with full knowledge.”Likewise, leadership is not something that is blameworthy if the onewho is in charge fulfils the rights of Allah and the rights of Hisservants to the best of his ability.
  25. Allahis very generous to his servants by giving them the best of this lifeand the next. The means of achieving the best of the next life is byhaving eemaan and taqwa. The servant should always ask Allah for hisrewards and bounties and he should not be disappointed whenever he seesthe people enjoying the pleasures of this world whereby he is unable topartake. Rather he should ask Allah for His great reward and bountiesin the next life based on His statement, “And verily, the reward of the Hereafter is better for those who believe and used to fear Allah and keep their duty to Him.”
  26. It is from the “sunnah” of the prophets to host guest and treat them honorably based on the statement of Yusuf, “See you not that I give full measure, and that I am the best of the hosts?”
  27. Havingnegative thoughts about someone is not something that is alwaysprohibited if there are accompanying evidences to support thissuspicion. For verily, Ya’qûb said to his sons after they came to himclaiming that a wolf ate Yusuf, “Nay, but your own selves have made up a tale.” And he said regarding their next brother, “Can I entrust him to you except as I entrusted his brother (Yusuf) to you aforetime?”
  28. Ifone does not want another person to be aware of something one has orsomething one intends to do, one should use a subtle means ofdistraction that does not contain any lies. As Yusuf did when he putthe golden bowl into his brother’s bag, and he then took the goldenbowl out of his brother’s bag leading them think that their brother isthe one who stole it. After which he said, “Allah forbid, that we should take anyone but him with whom we found our property.” Notice he did not say, “We found our property with him”, or “He stole our property.”Rather, he made a general statement that can apply to this situation aswell as others, and there is not wrong with what he did. For all he didwas made them think that their brother stole the golden bowl, so thathis youngest brother can remain with him, as was objective.
  29. Itis not permissible for a person to bear witness except to that which hehas sure knowledge of. He acquires this knowledge either by witnessingit himself or by being informed by a trustworthy person based on thestatement of the Yusuf’s brothers, “We testify not except according to what we know.”
  30. Thepermissibility of informing others of the difficulties one is enduring,as long as this is not done in a manner that indicates one is annoyedwith the decree of Allah, for the brothers of Yusuf complained, “O ruler of the land! A hard time has hit us and our family,” and Yusuf did not object to their statement.
  31. Themerits of taqwah and sabr (patience), for every good in this life andthe next is as result of taqwah and sabr based on the statement ofAllah, “Allah has indeed been gracious to us. Verily, he who fearsAllah and is patient, then surely, Allah makes not the reward of theMuhsinun (good-doers) to be lost.”
  32. Theone whom Allah has blessed after being in a state of poverty ordistress should acknowledge the bounties of Allah upon him byconstantly remembering his previous condition. Thus he would be able tothank Allah every time he remembers his previous condition, as Yusuf(peace be upon him) said, “He was indeed good to me, when He tookme out of the prison, and brought you (all here) out of thebedouin-life, after Shaitan had sown enmity between me and mybrothers.”
  33. Theservant should always exalt Allah for making him remain steadfast uponeemaan by constantly doing those deeds that causes one’s eemaan toremain firm. Also one should always ask Allah to have successful endingby perfecting His Favor upon one based on the du’a of Yusuf (peace beupon him), “My Lord! You have indeed bestowed on me of thesovereignty, and taught me the interpretation of dreams; The Creator ofthe heavens and the earth! You are my Wali (Protector, Helper,Supporter, Guardian, etc.) in this world and in the Hereafter, cause meto die as a Muslim, and join me with the righteous.”

Thisis by the will of Allah, this is what He has made possible for me tomention regarding the benefits and lessons obtained from this blessedstory, however for the one contemplates, he is guaranteed to find otherbenefits from the surah than those mentioned. So we ask Allah the mosthigh, to bless us with beneficial knowledge and actions that areacceptable to Him, indeed He is the most generous, the most gracious.

“Knowledge puts us on the Right Path, righteous actions keep us on it.”

Knowledge is: What Allaah said, What His Messenger said, and what the Companions said.

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Boricua Muslimah

Graduate from Rutgers Newark. Journalist, photographer and videographer.

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