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Suratu Yusuf (The Chapter of Joseph, peace be upon him) is the twelfth Chapter of the Holy Qur'an and is made up of a total of 111 verses, all speaking about the life and encounters of the Prophet Yusuf (Joseph) peace be upon him. Yusuf (Joseph) peace be upon him was one of twelve sons of Prophet Ya'qub (Jacob) peace be upon him. His ten older brothers felt envious of the love and affection felt for him and his younger brother by their father. And this is the starting point of the travails of the young Yusuf (Joseph) peace be upon him.




In this Chapter are a lot of lessons to be learnt. In fact, the stories being narrated or told in the Qur'an were not just told for story-telling purposes, but basically to enable us ponder over the happenings in them and learn and imbibe the lessons there from. They help one increase in faith in the religion of Islam and in the genuineness and  truthfulness of the Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him and his message.




But, before we delve into the salient lessons derivable from the story of this unique personality in Prophet Yusuf (Joseph) peace be upon him, I will like to bring to our knowledge the remote and immediate causes to its revelation.




Scholars have mention a number of incidents that led to the revelation of this Chapter. Of these incidents is:  as the persecution of the Muslims increased and the sahabah (Companions of the Prophet) in Makkah were feeling more and more overwhelmed by all the pressures, they came to the Prophet peace be upon him and said, “Oh Messenger of Allah, why don't you tell us the stories of those before who also suffered?”  When they wanted these stories, Allah the Almighty revealed this Chapter. It was perfect timing – when the persecution reaches its maximum, and that is why the hijrah (migration to Madinah) occurred two years after this surah (Chapter) because they could not live in Makkah anymore.  An assassination squad was sent for the Prophet peace be upon him the night before the hijrah (migration to Madinah) and surrounded his house.  Allah miraculously saved him peace be upon him. One of the direct causes of the revelation was that the sahabah  (Companions of the Prophet) wanted something to uplift their spirits as well.




Another direct cause of revelation:  it is said that the Quraysh wanted to try to outwit the Prophet  peace be upon him and show that he was not truly a prophet.  They sent a delegation to the Yahud (Jews) of Yathrib (the name of Madinah before it was Madīnah), and they asked the Yahud (Jews), “Tell us a question that only a prophet would be able to answer. Give us a trick question that we can show once and for all that this man is not a prophet. Tell us a question that you know the answer to but nobody else knows.” Even though the Yahud (Jews) were a different religion than the Quraysh, the Quraysh felt that the Yahud (Jews) were superior because of their Book. The Quraysh did not have a holy book or scripture or revelation. The Yahud (Jews) had a revelation, and the Quraysh felt a sense of inferiority that the Yahud (Jews) were the people of the book and had knowledge that they did not and believed in Prophets while they did not know any Prophet from amongst them.




The Yahud (Jews) said, “Ask him about the story of Yusuf and his brothers.  Nobody knows this.”  This is an interesting point that we will come to again.  In Makkah , there were no Christians and Jews.  In Makkah, there were only idol worshippers and pagans.  There were no centers of Christianity and Judaism.  There were one or two private / secret converts to Christianity like Waraqah ibn Nawfal and others, but they were not inviting others to it and not preaching Christianity.  There were no libraries of Christian or Jewish theology.  Nobody in Makkah knew these stories.  The people in Makkah had not heard of Yusuf because he was not their ancestor. They were descendants from Isma'il (Ishmael) and not of Ishaaq (Isaac), and the tribes of Isra'il (Israel) had nothing to do with the Makkans and people of Quraysh.  They don't know these stories. The Yahud (Jews) knew this and said, “Ask him if he truly is a prophet to tell you what happened with Yusuf and his brothers because nobody knows this of your people.  This is something we know.”  The Yahud (Jews) lived far away in Yathrib (Madinah), so how would anybody in Makkah know this?




The Quraysh went to the Prophet peace be upon him and asked him, “Tell us the story of Yusuf and his brothers if you are truly a prophet.” Allah theAlmighty answered that question and revealed Surah Yusuf (The Chapter of Joseph).  In one of the last verses of the surah (Chapter), Allah the Most High says, “This is of the 'ilm al-ghayb (Knowledge of the unknown) that We sent down to you.”  In Surah Yusuf, Allah is telling the Prophet peace be upon him that He is giving them 'ilm al-ghayb (Knowledge of the unknown) and that he peace be upon him and his people did not know the story until this Chapter came down to him.




Now coming to some of the lessons that lie in within the verses of this Chapter of the Qur'an, they include:




Prophet Yusuf peace be upon him had already suffered a series of tests and trials, yet he remained obedient to Allah. His brothers had abandoned him in the well, then he was found and sold as a slave at the market. Despite being a loyal servant to the king, Yusuf peace be upon him was defamed and imprisoned. At the zenith of this crisis when everything seemed bleak, the wife of the King threatened to imprison Yusuf peace be upon him unless he would give in to her attempts at seduction. Yusuf's peace be upon him response was recorded in the Qur’an as follows, "My lord, prison is more to my liking than that to which they invite me. And if you do not avert me from my plan, I might incline toward them and [thus] be of the ignorant.(Q12 : 33)




Yusuf peace be upon him chose to live in the dark, dreary dungeon in a life of shackles over disobedience to Allah. Clearly, even if you encounter dismal surroundings and misery, Allah’s pleasure is greater and longer lasting. You will triumph if you obey Allah!






Jealousy divides communities, breaks up families, and splits up friendships. Prophet Ya'qub (Jacob) peace be upon him 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. (Q12 : 5).




They were brothers by blood, but Yusuf’s brothers would not have been pleased by his vision of prophethood. Even those close to you – friends and family – might not be thrilled about blessings you have received or steps you take to live a life that is pleasing to Allah. It is best to keep your dreams quiet and only share them with trustworthy supporters until these aspirations are a flourishing reality.




Yusuf’s brothers believed Ya'qub (Jacob) peace be upon him loved Yusuf peace be upon him more than them. Their jealousy boiled up out of control. These brothers became an irrational gang, and they plotted to get rid of Yusuf peace be upon him by abandoning him in the well. One lie was woven into a web of lies, and the brothers informed their father that Yusuf peace be upon him had been devoured by a wolf! Jealousy even touched the prophets, so we need to be sure to stamp out jealousy in our communities. As Muslims we should be sincerely happy when we see others being blessed by Allah. When we see people excelling in religion or gaining success we should say Masha’Allah Tabarak Allah.






Prophet Ya'qub (Jacob) peace be upon him never gave up the hope of finding his son. When Yusuf’s peace be upon him brothers came back to tell him that their brother was stolen and remained behind, Ya'qub (Jacob) peace be upon him was still sad about his loss of Yusuf (Joseph) peace be upon him. He went blind over suppression of his grief, and complained only to Allah. Despite the intense grief he felt and the previous reports of Yusuf (Joseph) peace be upon him being consumed by a wolf, Ya'qub (Jacob) peace be upon him did not give up hope. He instructed his sons to continue to search for Yusuf peace be upon him and his brother saying,


"O my sons, go and find out about Josepha and his brother and despair not of relief from Allah. Indeed no one despairs of relief from Allah except the disbelieving people." (Q 2:87).




Imagine, Prophet Ya'qub (Jacob) peace be upon him had not seen his son since childhood, so many years had passed that Prophet Yusuf (Joseph) peace be upon him was now a king of Egypt. Despite the passing of all these years, Prophet Ya'qub (Jacob) peace be upon him remained optimistic and still firmly held onto the hope that Allah would answer his prayers and reunite him with his son. Many of us have trouble being patient for a few hours or a couple of days, let alone years or decades! Alhamdulillah, Ya'qub (Jacob) peace be upon him never gave up, and Allah answered his dua (supplication), relieving him of the sorrow he felt.






We should always be patient. If we have patience in hardship, continuously counting our blessings, we will truly be victorious in both hardship and ease. Can you count how many times Yusuf (Joseph) peace be upon him was patient? He was patient while awaiting the fulfillment of his dream. He was patient when his brothers abandoned him in the well. He was patient when he was sold as a slave. He was patient when the king’s wife accused him of seduction. Yusuf (Joseph) peace be upon him continued to be patient when he was put in jail. Even when his fellow inmate was released and forgot about him, Yusuf (Joseph) peace be upon him continued to be patient! As the king of Egypt, Yusuf (Joseph) peace be upon him continued to be patient with his brothers’ slander. He kept his cool when they tried to say that his brother Binyamin was stealing just as his brother (Yusuf) had done the same before him! Regardless of the time, situation, place, or scenario, Yusuf (Joseph) peace be upon him remained patient.






When Yusuf (Joseph) peace be upon him finally confronts his brothers later in life, it is a beautiful lesson of forgiveness. After his brothers return with their father and Binyamin is accused of theft, they return to Yusuf (Joseph) peace be upon him in a great predicament. His brothers are enduring hard times in which they have poor harvest and are in need. On the other hand Yusuf (Joseph) peace be upon him has not only become the king of Egypt, but he has astutely saved provisions and prepared his community to survive the famine. Although Yusuf (Joseph) peace be upon him has suffered many hardships on account of his brother’s jealous plotting, Yusuf (Joseph) peace be upon him is strong and holds the upper hand. Instead of treating them with harshness or rebuking them to endure starvation, Yusuf (Joseph) peace be upon him utters very lovely words,


"No blame will there be upon you today. Allah will forgive you; and He is the most merciful of the merciful." (Q12:92).




Instead of being bitter and angry or taking vengeance, Yusuf (Joseph) peace be upon him was strong enough to choose forgiveness! With all his power as a leader, Yusuf (Joseph) peace be upon him preferred the sweetness of forgiveness.




Although this brief reflection touches upon a few lessons of Suratu Yusuf (The Chapter of Joseph), take a few minutes to reflect a bit more. Stop and read over this chapter of the Qur’an. Take a few moments to close your eyes and imagine implementing the lessons above. How can you bravely continue to be obedient to Allah? Is there a way you can support someone and help stamp out jealousy among friends or family? What steps would help you augment your hope that Allah will answer your prayers? In hard times, what reminders will prompt you to persevere in patience? Can you find it in your heart to forgive someone who has wronged you? What other lessons can you learn from Suratu Yusuf (The Chapter of Joseph)?







Tafsir Ibn Kathir: (Abridged), by Mubarakpuri.

The Qur’aan: An Authentic, Accurate, and Clear English

Translation. By Sahih International.


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