The moment the wife of the minister saw him, she loved him and took him like the son she never had – a theme that we also see in the life story of Musa AS when he was adopted by the wife of Pharaoh.
His life as a slave led him to live in a palace, resplendent with its comforts but also its political intrigues. Despite his status as a slave, he lived in luxury and was beloved by everyone. Therefore in the calamity of slavery, Allah granted him dignity.
His physical features became more and more exquisite as he reached adulthood. A hadith relates that Allah gave Yusuf AS half of the beauty of humankind. He was dazzling to behold, and no one has possessed beauty and radiant looks of Yusuf AS ever since.
A problem arose. The wife of his master, who at first nurtured motherly love for him, was now smitten by him. Encouraged by the corrupted environment of palace life, her love developed into an illicit desire for him. This longing grew.
It is said that she was youthful and attractive. Employing her feminine tactics, one day, she beautified herself and invited Yusuf AS into her chamber. Closing the door behind them, she tried to seduce him in the privacy of her chamber. Yusuf AS exercised self-discipline, sought refuge in Allah against this immorality, and refused her advances.
Adultery and fornication are severe crimes, from which Prophets and Messengers are protected from committing. Yusuf AS was also a mere mortal which came with it natural physical desires, but it was his piety and the sign of his Lord that refrained him from succumbing. Of this, the Qur’an says:
“And indeed did she desire him and he would have inclined to her desire, had he not seen evidence of his Lord. Thus it was, that We might turn away from him evil and illegal sexual intercourse. Surely, he was one of Our chosen (guided) slaves.” (Qur’an 12:24)
He told her that his lord, her husband, had been good to him and he refused to betray his master.
Intoxicated by lust, she still threw herself at him. He ran away from her, but she gave chase, clutching the back of his shirt and tearing the fabric as he prised himself away from her grip. Yusuf AS ran out of the chamber to escape, threw the door open, and found himself facing her husband!
Right away, to her shocked husband, she changed her behaviour. Pretending to be the victim in this drama, she outrageously accused Yusuf AS of trying to take advantage of her in her own house.
As we had already seen in Part 1 of this story, the sinner is quick to disclaim responsibility and quick to blame others. She said, “What is the recompense of one who intended evil for your wife but that he be imprisoned or a painful punishment?” (Qur’an 12: 25)
Yusuf AS explained that she was the one who attempted to seduce him and that he was blameless of her accusations.
The crime allegedly committed by Yusuf AS bore heavy penalties of torture and imprisonment. The husband was a fair person, and gave Yusuf AS the benefit of the doubt while the matter was investigated.
A witness from her family suggested examining his shirt. If torn from the front, she had told the truth as it indicated that she was trying to fend off his advances. However, if the shirt was torn from the back, Yusuf AS had told the truth because it would be proof that he was trying to escape her. As in his childhood, Yusuf’s AS shirt was presented as an evidence of a crime.
The shirt was torn from the back, from where she had grabbed him. The evidence presented by his shirt rang with truth.
The Qur’an says:
So when her husband saw his shirt torn from the back, he said, “Indeed, it is of the women’s plan. Indeed, your plan is great. Joseph, ignore this. And, [my wife], ask forgiveness for your sin. Indeed, you were of the sinful.” (Qur’an 12:28 – 12:29)
Therefore, Yusuf AS was shown to be innocent, and his master asked him to conceal the matter. However, this scandal was too big to contain. All palaces have their own insidious grapevines and information networks, and somehow news of the incident spread. Within a few days the whole town was talking about how the governor’s wife tried to seduce a slave boy. It made for delicious gossip, not much different from stories run by cheap tabloids in circulation today. The women in the town sneered at her actions for having fallen in love with someone so clearly below her own station in life.
It is said that the plot of a woman is great, as compared to the plot of the devil. The devil’s plans are weak and easily foiled, whereas the scheming of a woman are intricate and powerful. Hence, if a woman falls into the hands of Shaitan, she is a malleable tool that can be manipulated by him to wreak havoc and destruction on society.
To save herself from being completely discredited, she invited these women for a banquet. She seated her guests and gave them fruits and sharp knives as part of the feast. Then, at the strategic time, she instructed Yusuf AS, who was dressed magnificently, to make an entrance and stand before them.
The ladies were so enraptured by this vision of beauty that they forgot themselves, and sliced their fingers instead of the fruit! They immediately cried out that he was not a human being but an angel!