Sunday, December 25, 2011

Surah Yusuf: The Story That Brings Comfort (Part 1 of 5)

As earlier mentioned, Quran is not only a good source for the seerah of the Prophet Muhamad, but for the seerah or history of other prophets and their counterparts as well.  Not being the story book, however, the stories on those prophets and their counterparts are scattered everywhere in the pages of the Quran.

Such is not the case, however, with the story of Prophet Joseph (Nabi Yusuf).  In one whole chapter of moderate length (111 verses), the Surah Yusuf talks only about his story.  There is a special reason for this.

The stories of the earlier prophets and their people are meant to set as examples so that lessons can be derived from them.  For instance, if Muhammad was rejected by his own people, so were earlier prophets.  If the fledgling Islamic community under Muhammad faced persecution, so were the earlier communities.  If they face great difficulties, earlier communities encountered worse. 

Aside from the above, these stories also highlight important events, such as the meeting between Abraham (Nabi Ibrahim) and the two angels who came to bring the news that his wife, Sarah, was about to conceive a baby despite her advance age.  These two angels also brought the news that they were about to destroy the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, the community of his nephew, Prophet Lot, for their sexual perversity.

All these stories, however, are revealed in bits and pieces throughout the Prophet's life.  As these stories are revealed in bits and pieces, they are likewise arranged in the Quran, in bits and pieces scattered throughout the Quran. 

The Surah Yusuf, however, was revealed all at once in its complete whole.  It was likewise arranged in the Quran, in its complete whole, all in one surah.

Furthermore, the stories of the other prophets are not complete.  The case is different with regard to the story of Prophet Joseph.  It is complete.

The reason for this is quite simple.  While the stories of other prophets are meant to serve as a lesson or to highlight a certain event, the story of Joseph is meant to console.

Surah Yusuf was revealed after Prophet Muhammad had lost two of the most important people in his life: his uncle the protector, Abu Talib, and his wife the comforter, Khadijah.  Abu Talib and Khadijah's death came closely to one another.  Abu Talib died first, then about two months later (some say only three days), Khadijah followed suit. 

With the death of Khadijah, the Prophet had lost his comforter, a wife who had been a source of happiness and comfort all his life, both before his prophethood, and more so after he was raised as a prophet.

It was Khadijah who comforted and consoled him when he was seized by great fear upon receiving the first revelation, thinking that he had been possessed by demon and that he had gone mad.  Valuing healthy mind above all else, nothing was more dreadful to Muhammad than being accused of going mad.  While the Prophet was trembling because of the experience, Khadijah consoled him, saying that a man of his stature could not have been seized by evil, and that whatever he was experiencing must have been angelic. 

It was Khadijah who believed in him when most others rejected him.  It was Khadijah who spent all her wealth--and she was a rich lady--for the sake of her husband's mission.  It was Khadijah who comforted and consoled him after he was being regularly abused and persecuted by the Quraysh.  It was Khadijah who made his heavy burden lighter.  It turned out that it was only Khadijah who gave him surviving children.  While the Prophet had many wives later in his life, his descendants were all from Khadijah. 

For that reason, Khadijah meant the world to him.  His love and affection to Khadijah were so deep and profound that these attracted great envy and jealousy from his other wives.  Well, Muhammad never took other wives while Khadijah was alive, but he married about a dozen after the death of Khadijah.  Even after her death, she became the rival to his other wives, as can be seen from Aisha's statement: "I'm not envious of my living rivals, but the deceased one.  Even after her death, he loves Khadijah more than the rest of us."  

The love story between Muhammad and Khadijah, if ever there was one, is very much business-like.  Khadijah was a much sought after rich widow and Muhammad was her employee, working on commission, trading her merchandise.  She liked Muhammad, and Muhammad also liked her but dared not make a move on account of his poverty.  When Khadijah proposed through her agent, he accepted.  Nothing romantic about that, one would say.  Or, nothing complicated like the "love story" of Joseph and Zuleikha.

The story of their love, as opposed to their love story, occurred after the marriage, whereby both were very much dedicated and deeply loved one another.  He had the best woman for a wife and she had the best man for a husband.  It was this profound love that made him remembered her throughout his life, as Aisha was to learn later.  Irritated perhaps, because Muhammad often mentioned Khadijah, Aisha snapped one day.

"She was just an old lady, and Allah replaced her with a better one for you."  By a better one, she meant herself, for she was a young maiden when the Prophet married her, while Khadijah was a twice widow 15 years his senior when Muhammad married her.

"Indeed Allah did not grant me better than her; she accepted me when people rejected me, she believed in me when people doubted me, she shared her wealth with me when people deprived me, and Allah granted me children only through her."  He replied, equally irritated with Aisha's remark.

After that incident, Aisha learnt to keep quiet whenever Khadijah's name was mentioned.

When someone like that died, we couldn't imagine how great the loss, and how deep the sorrow the Prophet must have felt.  The loss he felt was probably not any lesser than felt by Shah Jahan when his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal, died, except that the Prophet did not build a monument in her memory.

The death of Abu Talib, however, brings different implication, and this requires some explanation.  We shall cover it in the second part.

The End of Part 1


  1. good one manD.... can't wait to read part 2... and so on

  2. Nice to hear that some are waiting for the Part 2. You shall not be waiting for long. InsyaAllah by tomorrow or the latest thursday it will be published here.

  3. I have found one thing missing.

    The mention of "Sallahu Alaihi Wasallam" on the name of Prophet Muhammad (Sallahu Alaihi Wasallam).

    I have an objection to one your remarks

    "If they face great difficulties, earlier communities encountered worse."

    The communities of Prophet Muhammad (Sallahu alaihi wasallam) faced more difficulties than the communities of all other Prophet (Peace be upon them all).

    I have a suggestion as well.

    It would be good to use the Islamic names of the Prophets first and specifying the Christian names in brackets like Prophet Yusuf (alaihissalam) [Joseph]; Prophet Ibrahim (alaihissalam) [Abraham].

    - Imran Ali

    1. Thank you for the reminder my friend.

      I hope to be excused and pray to be forgiven for not putting the formula Sallalahu alahi wassalam everytime the name of the Prophet is mentioned. It is not a show of disrespect, but to facilitate the smoothness in writing and reading in English for a medium like blog. The readers can recite that silently for the reward.

      As for your objection, my line has to be read within the context. It was meant to illustrate, not to compare. If comparison is to be made, an argument can be put forward that the members of the pit (ashab al ukhdud) experienced no better, for all of them were thrown into the burning pit.

      As for your suggestion, you have a point. Sometimes I use the Islamic names first before the English ones. I hope I am forgiven for not being very consistent in that usage.

  4. how can you compare the prophet's (Sallalahu alahi wassalam) love and affection for his wife, with that of Shah Jahan's. I mean you cannot compare our prophet(Sallalahu alahi wassalam) with any other ordinary man. there can simply be no comparison.

  5. is such statements as these, that the prophet saww thought he had gone mad and possessed by a devil that make islam the subject of ridicule by non muslims. If Isa(as) knew that he was a prophet in the cradle, then surely the last holy prophet knew he was a prophet too. if you research on his childhood, you will find that he used to be visited by angels and that he was a very different child than other children his age. he knew he was a prophet but waited for allah swt to instruct him on when to announce this. he did not need any christian priest or anyone else to tell him he was a prophet! these accusations that he thought he was going mad etc ( there are other sites that accuse him of wanting him to throw himself off a mountain astaghfirullah) were concoted in later years to show him as a man who made mistakes and was unsure of himself, so that when other leaders made mistakes or were unsure of themselves, it would'nt look so bad on them. Mohamed saww was a perfect complete human being who acted and spoke only on the directions of the almighty. May allah swt give us all the tawfiq to learn about him from authentic sources and to be able to emulate him.

    1. Noted your concern. Both Bukhari and Ibnu Ishaq, considered among the most authentic authors, did mention about his fear or grave concern after being visited for the first time by Archangel Gabriel. As for the enemy of Islam, no need to be bothered with them. One way or another they will find fault with our Prophet, or at least disbelieve in him. On our part, we need not fear the truth. It is because the Prophet is human, with human feelings, fears and frailty that made him great.