Yusuf AS Part 1
The life story of Yusuf (Joseph) AS is famous because of the number of trials that he had to endure throughout his life. His is a tale of destiny triumphing over the most difficult odds, involving sibling rivalry, attempted murder, slavery, scandals, famine and riches, and ultimately, forgiveness.
Yusuf AS was born of a noble father, Yaqub (Jacob) AS, himself a mighty prophet of Allah. He had eleven other brothers. Yusuf AS and his younger brother, Ben Yamin (Benjamin), were the favourites of their father. From childhood, Yusuf AS displayed a unique behaviour of goodness. Yaqub AS, being a prophet, recognized that his son had been born with distinct qualities and characteristics of a prophet.
This was confirmed when Yusuf AS confided to his father that he had seen a dream, in which he saw eleven stars, the moon and the sun prostrating to him. This was the first of many dreams and visions, which will prove to be a recurring theme in Yusuf’s AS adulthood.
Yaqub AS saw this as a prophecy or vision which came from Allah in which his siblings would one day prostrate to him. At this time, sujud tashrif or the prostration of respect between each other was allowed. This practice was abrogated in the time of Muhammad SAW, after which all prostrations were reserved for Allah alone.
Yaqub AS asked his son to keep the dream to himself, fearing that it would create envy and stir dissension amongst the siblings if word of this leaked to them.
[Of these stories mention] when Joseph said to his father, “O my father, indeed I have seen [in a dream] eleven stars and the sun and the moon; I saw them prostrating to me.” He said, “O my son, do not relate your vision to your brothers or they will contrive against you a plan. Indeed Satan, to man, is a manifest enemy. (Qur’an 12:4 – 12:5)
Therefore, while Yaqub AS treated all his children equally and loved them all, his love for Yusuf AS was unique as he realized that Yusuf AS had been bestowed by Allah with the marks of piety and prophethood.
However, despite his precautions, envy and jealousy festered inside the hearts of the brothers.
The Envy Grows
There was general discontent amongst the brothers, caused by the fact that they thought their father loved Yusuf AS more than the rest of them. They were incensed that even though they worked harder than he, Yusuf AS appeared to be the favourite. They consulted each other on what could be done about this unsatisfactory state of affairs, and concluded that if they could get rid of Yusuf AS, their father’s love would then divert to them.
Yaqub AS loved Yusuf AS more because of his piety and noble behaviour, but the brothers did little to emulate such beloved qualities to endear themselves to their father, but instead behaved in the opposite manner.
The brothers were just humble shepherds, living a simple life and with few material possessions. There were no riches or women involved which gave birth to this envy, but just blind jealousy fuelled by sibling rivalry. Thus, these youths were willing to commit a crime against their own brother, the progeny of a Prophet and Messenger, for want of more attention from their father.
… they said, “Joseph and his brother are more beloved to our father than we, while we are a clan. Indeed, our father is in clear error. Kill Joseph or cast him out to [another] land; the countenance of your father will [then] be only for you, and you will be after that a righteous people.” Said a speaker among them, “Do not kill Joseph but throw him into the bottom of the well; some travelers will pick him up – if you would do [something].” (Qur’an 12:8 to 12:9)
One of the tricks of Shaitan is that he would never directly suggest anyone to perform a criminal act. However, he would mastermind the path towards that direction, by a chain of seemingly harmless and justifiable actions, until the goal is achieved. Thus, the idea of killing Yusuf AS was quickly dismissed, and replaced with another diabolical plan that was one step short of murder.
If dropped in a well, none of the brothers would be directly responsible for his killing, although if nature were allowed to take its cause, death would be a likely outcome. After the deed was done, they could then seek repentance and be reinstated amongst the righteous. It seemed to be a fool proof plan from all angles and easy on their conscience. When your heart is not clean, Shaitan can easily and seductively recategorise an evil deed in a deceptively innocent form.
The Perfect Crime?
Once they had decided on the course of action, the next step was to set events in motion. The first obstacle was to obtain their father’s permission for Yusuf AS to spend the day with them, away from their father’s sight.
IThey said, “O our father, why do you not entrust us with Joseph while indeed, we are to him sincere counselors? Send him with us tomorrow that he may eat well and play. And indeed, we will be his guardians.” (Qur’an 12:11 to 12:12)
The father’s suspicions were immediately aroused by the sudden interest in Yusuf’s AS companionship, in light that the brothers had always been acrimonious to him. Yaqub AS said that he was concerned that a wolf might eat him in case they were inattentive in guarding him. However, by this statement, he inadvertently planted an idea into his sons’ heads, giving them the solution to account for Yusuf’s AS disappearance later on.
They said, “If a wolf should eat him while we are a [strong] clan, indeed, we would then be losers.” (Quran 12:14) They tried to reassure Yaqub AS that if they were unable to protect Yusuf AS, they would be failures. Yaqub AS still had misgivings by their explanations and knew that their request bore ill omens, but he also remembered Yusuf’s AS dream. He knew that everything was already written and that Yusuf AS had to live out the destiny plotted for him by Allah, and that what was fated to happen, will happen despite any human intervention.
Permission having been obtained, the brothers brought Yusuf AS to an isolated spot. Then they took his shirt, tied him up and brutally threw him into the well. They smeared the shirt with the blood of a sheep or goat that they had slaughtered, and brought this item home to evidence that a wolf had attacked Yusuf AS.
And they came to their father at night, weeping. They said, “O our father, indeed we went racing each other and left Joseph with our possessions, and a wolf ate him. But you would not believe us, even if we were truthful.” And they brought upon his shirt false blood. (Qur’an 12:16 – 12:18)
The olden people used to say that the wolf is pure from the sins of the people who claim that the wolf did it. The Western proverb for this is “to cry wolf”. Yaqub AS immediately sensed that his sons were guilty of something foul, and was not fooled by their crocodile tears. After all, it is a trait for criminals to allay suspicion by whatever means, including by shedding fake tears.