Biography of Prophet Yusuf (AS) In the Light of Surah Al Yusuf
In the Holy Qur’an, Allah the Almighty mentions Prophet Yusuf (AS) as one of the great and wise Prophets. Through Surah Al Yusuf, the Great Creator has informed us about the identity, greatness, wisdom, and scholarship of this great prophet. Yusuf (AS) was the worthy successor and great grand-child of Hazrat Ibrahim (AS). Prophet Ishaq (AS) was his grandfather and Prophet Yaqub (AS) (Jacob) was his father. His mother’s name was Rahila. He was one of the twelve children of Ya’qub and his youngest brother was Binyamin. It has been said that the prophet Yusuf (AS) lived with his family in an area named Kanaan near Jerusalem in Palestine.
The Significant Dream of Prophet Yusuf (AS)
Surah al-Yusuf starts by presenting the historical story of the Prophet Yusuf (PBUH) so that we can learn some massive lessons. And the story begins by presenting a significant dream of Young Yusuf (AS) to his father that he dreamed just of tonight. According to verse no:04-
“ Remember, when Yusuf said to his father: O my father! Verily, I saw (in a dream) eleven stars and the sun and the moon, I saw them prostrating themselves to me.”
Father Yaqub (AS) heard this dream of Yusuf (AS) and guessed that his son would be a great honor. As a result, he feared that his other brothers, knowing about this dream, would understand his dignity and do him harm. So, he forbade him to reveal this dream to others. He explained the reason for the possible plot of his other brothers against him. Father says, since Satan is the open enemy of man, he is always looking for ways to plunge man into envy and enmity. verse no:05 states-
“ He (the father) said: O my son! Relate not your vision to your brothers, lest they arrange a plot against you. Verily, Satan is to man an open enemy.”
Conspiracy of Brothers
The other brothers of Yusuf AS except Binyamin were jealous of him because they found him getting more care and love from their father. As a result, they planned to somehow get rid of him. They started looking for different ways to kill Yusuf AS. but one of their brothers objected to the decision of killing by proposing to throw him down into a well. According to verse no:10-
“ One of among them said: kill not Yusuf, but if you must do something, throw him down to the bottom of a well. Some caravan of travelers will pick him up.”
Whenever they got out for grazing their goats they would request their father to let Yusuf AS accompany them. But the conscious father always refused their application saying that he is too young still and a wolf can devour him anytime. Thus, by promising to take care of him, one day they request again to get him with them for the sake of making him enjoy playing. Then father Yaqub (AS) got agreed as they promised him to guard Yusuf (AS) strongly in any danger. So, they took him away. When they were far enough from home, they began to plot how to dispose of Yusuf AS. Then coming across a dry well, they removed his shirt and threw him into the well. Then the Almighty Allah sent down the revelation to give him comfort and courage. According to verse no:15-
“ So, when they took him away, they all agreed to throw him down to the bottom of the well. And I inspired him: you shall (one day) inform them of this affair when they will not know you.”
On their way back, they slaughtered a goat and smeared its blood on that shirt, and came home crying. When their father asked about Yusuf AS, they said that while they were racing, a wolf came and took him away. So, as evidence, they presented his blood-stained shirt to the father. But their father disbelieved their false pretenses and continued to be patient by relying on Allah Ta’ala. Verse no:18 says-
“ And they brought his shirt stained with false blood. He said: bay, but your own selves have made up a tale. So, for me, patience is most fitting. And it is Allah whose help can be sought against that which you assert.”
Prophet Yusuf (AS) in Egypt
A caravan of traders came to the well where the prophet Yusuf (AS) was thrown down to draw some water. The water drawer became surprised to see him come up holding the bucket. Then he let the others know about the surprising message. So, they took him as a piece of good news and hid him as merchandise (a slave). Thus, they brought him to the slave market in Egypt. From there, the AZIZ (Governor of Egypt and Chief Officer of the King) offered the traders some prices to sell Yusuf AS to him. Since the merchant gang had picked him up, they considered him worthless. So, they sold him to the AZIZ for a few pieces of silver coins. According to verse no:20-
“ And they sold him for a low price of a few Dirhams (silver coins). And they were of those who regarded him insignificant.”
Then, Aziz brought the Prophet Yusuf (AS) home and told his wife (Zuleikha) to take care of him. He also proposed to his wife to adopt him as their son. Thus, the Almighty Allah established him in Egypt to teach him the interpretation of events. Verse no: 21 states-
“ And the man from Egypt who bought him said to his wife: make his stay comfortable, maybe he will profit us or we shall adopt him as a son.”
Zuleikha’s Infatuation with Prophet Yusuf (AS)
When Prophet Yusuf (AS) reached puberty, Aziz’s wife Zuleikha was captivated by his beauty. So, she tried to have an illicit relationship with him and continued to seduce him in various ways. But a prophet chosen by Almighty Allah can never indulge in such vile activities. So, when the doors of the room were closed and Zulaikha invited Yusuf to fulfill his desires. Then Yusuf (AS) saw some evidence of his Lord and restrained himself from the evil call. seeking help from Allah the Almighty, he restrained himself from his aggression and hurried out of the room. As he continued to run faster, Julikha tried to stop him by holding the back of his shirt. Eventually, she tore his shirt from the back. The incident comes in the verse no: 23-
“ And she, in whose house he was, sought to seduce him (to do an evil act) She closed the doors and said: come on, O you. He said: I seek refuge in Allah!”
In front of the door, they met the Aziz. Seeing him, Zuleikha tried to blame the Prophet Yusuf AS by claiming that he had tried to intend an evil design against her. She also sought prison or painful torment of him by her husband. Then the prophet Yusuf (AS) claimed his innocence in front of the Aziz. Suddenly from her own household, a witness spoke up. Verse no: (26 and 27) says-
“ He (Yusuf) said: It was she that sought to seduce me. And a witness of her household bore witness saying: if it is that his shirt is torn from the front, then her tale is true and he is a liar. But if it is that his shirt is torn from the back, then she has told a lie and he is speaking the truth.”
And indeed, the shirt was torn from the back. So, Aziz got extremely angry with his wife for attempting such an act of obscenity. Then he blamed his wife and asked her to apologize and asked the Prophet Yusuf (AS) to forget the matter.
The Example of the Beauty of Prophet Yusuf (AS)
This incident of Zuleikha spread throughout the city. As a result, the other city women started gossiping about Zuleikha and making fun of her. So, Zuleikha decided to subdue the Prophet Yusuf (AS) in front of those women so that they would know about his beauty. She invited several of them to the palace and put a spear in each hand to harvest the fruit. At that moment She called Yusuf (AS) to that room. On seeing him, all the women present were charmed by her beauty and started cutting their fingers with their sticks as if they were fruits. They continued to claim,
“No man is this! This is none other than a noble angel! (Verse: 31)
Life in Prison
Zuleikha became angrier with the Prophet Yusuf AS for not responding to her request. And she vowed that she would send him to prison in anyhow. So, she kept persuading her husband in various ways. Meanwhile, Yusuf AS continued to seek refuge with Allah Almighty from the deception of this woman saying,
“ O my Lord! Prison is more to my liking than that to which they invite me. Unless you turn away their plot from me, I will feel inclined towards them and be one of the ignorants.” (Verse: 33)
Almighty Allah accepted his prayer. Thus, Aziz sent Yusuf AS to prison along with two other royal staff despite his innocence at the instigation of his wife. One of them used to serve wine and the other was a bread maker. It is said that both of them were sent to prison as suspects in poisoning Aziz.
One day in prison the two men both have two strange dreams. One of them dreamed that he is making wine from a grape press. And another saw him carrying some bread on his head and some birds eating from it. Prophet Yusuf (A.S.) was distinguished from all other prisoners in virtue, abstinence, da’wah, and Tabligh. Also, Almighty Allah gave him the special ability to interpret dreams. So, they both told him about their dream and wanted to hear its interpretation. The interpretation of these dreams comes in the verse no: 41-
“ O two companions of the prison! As for one of you, he (as a servant) will pour out wine for his king to drink. And as for the other, he will be crucified and birds will eat from his head.”
Then Prophet Yusuf (AS) told whoever he found to be freed from prison, he should remind the Aziz of his innocence after being freed so that the Aziz could release him. But by the instigation of Satan, the man forgot the matter. So, Yusuf AS had to remain in prison for a few more years.
Release from the Prison
One day the king of Egypt dreamed that seven fat cows were being eaten by seven lean cows. He saw seven more green and dry grains each. When he revealed this dream to all the scholars of the royal palace and asked for its explanation, no one could tell. At such a time, the person who was with the Prophet Yusuf (AS) in prison and then released remembered the expert of the prophet (AS). Then, with the king’s permission, he went to Yusuf (AS) and asked for an explanation about the king’s dream. However, the prophet then explained it-
“ Yusuf said: for seven consecutive years, you shall sow as usual and that (the harvest) which you reap you shall leave in ears, except a little which you eat. Then will come seven hard years, which will devour what you have laid by in advance for them, except a little of what you have stored. Then thereafter will come a year in which people will have abundant rain and in which they will press wine and oil. (Verse: 47-49)
After listening to this explanation, the king ordered a special messenger to bring Yusuf from prison to him. But, Yusuf (AS) then recommended to the king that he verify the truth of the earlier accusations leveled against him. Then when the women involved in the matter were interrogated, they admitted that Yusuf was innocent. Even Aziz’s wife Zuleikha confessed to her crime. Then the king released him from prison with honor and wanted to appoint him as his personal companion.
Brothers of Prophet Yusuf (AS) in Egypt for Aid
Prophet Yusuf (AS) was appointed as the treasurer of Egypt. Seven years later, famine struck Egypt. People from different regions kept coming to collect food items from his treasury. One day all his brothers except Binyamin came to his treasury to ask for relief aid. He recognized them as soon as he saw them, though they did not recognize him. However, he had various discussions with them while delivering corn and they told him about themselves. After hearing everything, he told them to bring their stepbrother Binyamin with them next time otherwise, they would no longer receive food aid. Therefore, tactically he ordered his servants to put their money into the bags with which they had bought corn so that they could come again. Returning home, his brothers said to their father-
“ O our father! No more measure of grain shall we get unless we take our brother. So, send our brother (Binyamin) with us, and we shall get our measure, and truly we will guard him.” (Verse: 63)
The Trick of Prophet Yusuf (AS) with His Brothers
Remembering the fate of his son Yusuf, father Yaqub (AS) did not agree to send Binyamin with them. But after much pleading, the father agreed to send Binyamin with them next time, on the condition that he be well cared for and brought back safely.
Then when they came to deliver food from the treasury of Egypt, Prophet Yusuf saw his brother Binyamin and revealed his true identity to him. Also, he informed the other brothers about their misdeeds and advised them not to feel sorry for them. During the food delivery, the king’s cup was placed inside Binyamin’s bag. By then, not finding the cup, some of the royal servants continued to say that the king’s cup had been stolen. And the arrow of accusation was eventually pointed at Yusuf’s brothers. Then the speeches of the two sides were-
“ They (Yusuf’s brothers) said: By Allah! Indeed you know that we came not to make mischief in the land, and we are not thieves.” (Verse: 73)
“ They (Yusuf’s men) said: What then shall be the penalty of him if you are proved to be liars.” (Verse: 74)
“ They (Yusuf’s brothers) said: The penalty should be that he, in whose bag it is found, should be held for the punishment of the crime. Thus we punish the wrong-doers.” (Verse: 75)
Then the servants of the Prophet Yusuf AS searched everyone’s bags one by one and finally found the lost cup inside the bag of the younger brother Binyamin. According to their promise, he kept the younger brother Binyamin with him and the rest returned to their home.
Disclosure of Prophet Yusuf (AS) to His Brothers
After returning home, they narrated the incident in detail to their father Yaqub (AS). But, their father took this story of theirs as a completely made-up and fabricated story and disbelieved it. Then the brothers of Prophet Yusuf (AS) tried to explain everything. But even that did not calm him down. As he had previously lost Yusuf (A.S.) and got blind crying for him, he was deeply saddened by the loss of Binyamin. At the same time, he kept patient and ordered his sons-
“ O, my sons! Go you and enquire about Yusuf and his brother, and never give up hope of Allah’s Mercy. Certainly, no one despairs Allah’s Mercy except the people who disbelieve.” (Verse: 88)
Then they all came to Egypt for the third time together. Going to the royal palace, as usual, they approached the present Aziz Prophet Yusuf (AS) and told him about their family sufferings and distress. As well as asking for more help for a small price. At the same time, they asked for the release of their younger brother Binyamin. Then Aziz Yusuf (A.S.) reminded them of their previous misbehavior toward himself and Binyamin and revealed his identity. Then they realized their mistake and started repenting and asking for forgiveness from him saying-.
“ By Allah! Indeed Allah has preferred you above us, and we certainly have been sinners.” (Verse: 91)
Brothers in Home With Good News
Then, the Prophet Yusuf (AS) forgave his brothers and also prayed to Allah to be kind enough to forgive them. And he also gave them a shirt of his own and request them to put it on their father’s face so that he could regain his sight. He also told them to bring all of their family members to him at the palace.
The caravan of brothers started to leave Egypt and headed for Canaan. As soon as they reached back home, father Yaqub (AS) could smell the fragrance of his lost son Yusuf (AS) and expressed the matter to others. And the people present in the house kept saying that he was still confused about Yusuf (AS). Suddenly, someone from the caravan came and gave good news about Yusuf and Binyamin. And also placed the shirt given by Yusuf (AS) over their father’s face. Then, by the infinite mercy of Almighty Allah, he regained his sight again. Father Yaqub (AS) was then filled with joy and started saying to his sons-
“ Did I not say to you, I know from Allah that which you know not?” (Verse: 96)
“ They said: O our father! Ask forgiveness (from Allah) for our sins, indeed we have been sinners.” (Verse: 97)
“ He (Yaqub) said: I will ask my Lord for forgiveness for you, verily He! Only He is the Oft-forgiving, the most Merciful.” (Verse: 98)
The Reunion of the Family of Prophet Yusuf (AS)
After getting his eyesight back and hearing the good news about his sons, Prophet Yaqub (AS) decided to meet the sons immediately in Egypt. Then when they came to the Prophet Yusuf (AS) with all of the members of the family, he received them with devotion. He was overjoyed to get his family back after a long time. However, he gave them a place in the royal palace. Then the description of their respect for Yusuf (AS) and his gratitude to the Almighty Lord was as follows:
“ And he raised his parents to the throne and they fell down before him prostrate. And he (Yusuf) said: O my father! This is the interpretation of my dream aforetime! My Lord has made it come true! He was indeed good to me when He took me out of the prison and brought you all out of the bedouin-life after Satan had sown enmity between me and my brothers. Certainly, my Lord is the Most Courteous and Kind unto whom He will. Truly He! Only He is the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.” (Verse: 100)
Death of Prophet Yusuf (AS)
According to the opinion of scholars, Prophet Yusuf (AS) approximately died in Egypt at the age of 120 due to natural causes. After his death, his kingdom went into the hands of Fir’aun. In the various adverse circumstances of his life, he faithfully persevered and relied only on Allah Ta’ala. Throughout his life, he preached the great message of Tawheed and called for belief and worship in only Allah, The Almighty. Therefore, prior to death, Prophet Yusuf (AS) supplicated to Allah The Almighty-
“ My Lord! You have indeed bestowed on me sovereignty and taught me the interpretation of dreams. The only creator of the heavens and the earth! You are my Guardian in this world and in the Hereafter, cause me to die as a Muslim, and join me with the righteous.” (Verse: 101)