According to the famous scholar, Imam Ata bin Abi Rabah, “Anyone with a sad heart who reads Surah Yusuf finds comfort in it.”
This Surah was revealed to the Prophet (saw) after the Year of Sorrow in which he lost both his beloved wife and his supportive uncle. The Quran al-Kareem itself describes Prophet Yusuf’s (as) story as the best of all stories. No matter which stage of life you read it at, you will benefit from the many lessons you can gain from this beautiful Surah.
I’ve gathered these lessons from the following Tafsirs:
- Tafsir Ibn Kathir
- Tafsir Mazhari
- Ma’ariful Qur’an
- Daura Tafsir Lectures by Shaykh Kamaluddin Ahmed
Allah (swt) describes the story of Prophet Yusuf (as) as Ahsan ul-Qasas, the most beautiful of stories. [Verse 3]
One explanation the scholars give for this is that a person who practices the lessons in this Surah, they will have Ihsan in them, i.e. their character will be beautiful, virtuous, noble, and excellent. They will have spiritual beauty.
Prophet Yusuf (as) addresses his father saying, “Yaa Abati”, my dear father. [Verse 4]
This address is full of love and honor. So it shows us that we should also address others properly, particularly our parents. As parents ourselves, we should teach our children the appropriate way to address other people.
Prophet Yaqub (as) advised his son to not reveal his dream to his brothers, lest they become jealous of him. [Verse 5]
This teaches us that until a blessing has been fully attained and made apparent, it should be concealed to prevent the effects of the evil eye. We shouldn’t unnecessarily reveal our blessings to others, both out of humility and to prevent jealousy.
Prophet Yaqub (as) warned his son Prophet Yusuf (as) to not reveal his dream to his brothers, otherwise they might plot against him. [Verse 5]
This demonstrates that to reveal someone’s ill intentions to another Muslim so that they can take measures to safeguard themselves against harm doesn’t count as Gheebah (backbiting).
Prophet Yaqub (as) knew his other sons would be jealous when they heard about Prophet Yusuf’s (as) dream, so he advised him not to tell them. [Verse 5]
If we know for sure that someone will be envious when they hear of a certain blessing, we should take care not to mention it to them. This is from the Prophetic manner.
Prophet Yaqub (as) tells his son that indeed, Shaitan is your greatest enemy. [Verse 5]
This teaches us that Shaitan has the power of whispering evil thoughts into our heart which can create enmity even among the sons of a prophet. So we should always seek refuge in Allah (swt) from Shaitan, never thinking of ourselves as impervious to his machinations.
The brothers of Prophet Yusuf (as) professed that they’ll become righteous after doing this one sin of separating their brother from their father by killing or expelling him. [Verse 9]
This is a huge deception from Shaitan and our Nafs. It’s Taubat-ul-Fasid to commit a sin just one more time or for a few more days with the intention of repenting later, as opposed to Taubat-un-Nasooh, which is sincere, true repentance in which a person ceases to sin immediately.
When Prophet Yaqub (as) came to know that Prophet Yusuf (as) had been separated from him, he decided to have “Sabrun Jameel”. [Verse 18]
The patience you have at the exact moment you receive bad news or calamity strikes, that is the most noble and beautiful of patience and this is what we should all strive for in challenging times.
Prophet Yusuf (as) tried to remind Zulekha of her husband’s kindness towards them both so that she would desist from her attempt to seduce him. [Verse 24]
This teaches us that when someone has done Ihsan on us, i.e. they’ve done us a favor and been kind to us, it’s from the Quranic teachings to return that Ihsan by not forgetting about it and not doing anything that would be considered unfaithful or disloyal.
Prophet Yusuf (as) knew that the door was bolted but he ran toward it anyway to escape from Zulekha. [Verse 25]
This shows us that to leave the place of sin physically is one of the main ways to stay away from sinning in its entirety.
Prophet Yusuf (as) ran toward the door even though he knew it was locked. [Verse 25]
We have to adopt everything within our means to avoid sinning. Even in situations where there doesn’t seem to be a way out, we have to run toward the metaphorically bolted door. Whether or not it opens and lets us out is up to Allah, the result is always up to Allah, but we have to take those steps away from temptation.
The Quran al-Kareem uses the word “Sayyidaha” for Zulekha’s husband. [Verse 25]
This word conveys the spirit of a husband-wife relationship in which the husband should be a loving, wise, caring leader of the woman and she should accept his role as thus.
Prophet Yusuf (as) defended himself when Zulekha tried to blame him for the seduction. [Verse 26]
It’s from the Sunnah of the prophets to defend yourself when you’ve been wrongly accused of something. To remain quiet in such circumstances and have yourself declared a criminal is not Tawakkul or noble in any way.
Prophet Yusuf (as) was even willing to go to jail to escape the seduction of these women. [Verse 34]
It also comes in a Hadith that from the 7 people who will be shaded under His Throne on the Day of Judgment, one of them is the person who turns away from a woman who is trying to tempt him, saying “Inni Akhafullah”, “Indeed, I fear Allah”. So there should be at least one incident in our life in which we turned away from sin despite strong temptation, saying “Inni Akhafullah”, with hope in attaining the shade of His Throne when there will be no other shade.
Prophet Yusuf (as) preferred jail to the sin the women were calling him toward. [Verse 34]
In our times, this means that to avoid sin, we should leave the very company and environment that tempts us to sin. The place where sins happen, we should avoid them entirely. We should prefer isolation and seclusion to such company.
When Prophet Yusuf (as) was in jail, he would ask after the other prisoners there, giving them Dawah and comforting them. [Verse 36]
We should also try to follow his example that even when we’re in tough circumstances, we should try to reach out to those in need and spread Khayr wherever we can.
When the prisoners saw that Prophet Yusuf (as) was a wise and kind person, they asked him to interpret their dreams. [Verse 36]
This demonstrates that we should also get our dreams interpreted only from people who are known for their kindness, compassion, and wisdom (in addition to having knowledge of the science of dream interpretation).
Prophet Yusuf (as) first mentioned the special knowledge Allah (swt) had blessed him with before going on to interpret the prisoners’ dreams. [Verse 37]
So if there is a situation in which people are unaware of the expertise of a scholar, he can reveal his experience and knowledge so that listeners will take him seriously and value his opinion. This is not akin to boasting or showing off at all.
Prophet Yusuf (as) tried to reveal the interpretation of the dreams as gently as possible because he knew one of the prisoners was going to be executed. [Verse 41]
This teaches us that when you have to reveal something painful to a person, adopt the manner least likely to hurt them.
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The freed prisoner forgot to tell the king about Prophet Yusuf’s (as) unjust stay in the prison, due to which Prophet Yusuf (as) had to stay in jail for many more years. The freed prisoner later came to him when the king needed his dream interpreted. Rather than criticize him or refuse to help him, Prophet Yusuf (as) told the interpretation and didn’t reproach him one bit. [Verse 45]
This is a lesson for all of us, but especially teachers and scholars that if a student forgets an instruction, they should be gentle in correcting them without reproach.
Even when Prophet Yusuf (as) shared what had really happened when he was wrongly accused, he didn’t take the Aziz or Zulekha’s name. [Verse 51]
This teaches us that if our innocence in a matter can be proven without taking names, then that is the nobler way to deal with the issue.
Prophet Yusuf (as) refused to leave the jail until his innocence was declared. [Verse 51]
This shows that a Daa’i (person who gives Dawah) should be particular about eliminating even the slightest bit of Badd Gumani (bad impression) that can arise in other people’s minds against them, so that his Dawah is more readily accepted.
Prophet Yusuf (as) mentioned two of his qualities that would make him suitable for an important position in the kingdom – that he was Hafeez (trustworthy guardian) and Aleem (knowledgeable, expert). [Verse 55]
This shows us that when appointing someone to a high status or rank, these are the two qualities that should be sought. When we ourselves approach someone for help in any matter, we should try to find the person who is both reliable/trustworthy and an expert in their field.
Prophet Yusuf (as) didn’t mention his beauty as a quality that would make him suitable for a rank in the kingdom. He didn’t have any pride over his physical beauty at all, because he knew that it was just a favor from Allah (swt) and didn’t stand for anything virtuous in itself. [Verse 55]
This teaches us that we should also avoid having any sort of pride or arrogance because of our physical appearance, instead focusing on developing and perfecting our inner Siffat (qualities).
Prophet Yusuf (as) offered his services in overseeing the necessary arrangements during the years of welfare and drought. [Verse 55]
This demonstrates that if a person is certain that they are most suitable for a particular job or position, and that if they don’t step up, someone inexperienced or unjust could take that position instead, it is their duty to step up and offer their services for the benefit of the masses.
Despite making his sons promise to take care of their youngest brother, Prophet Yaqub (as) knew that the ultimate Protector is Allah (swt). [Verse 64]
So even when we rely on other people or resources, we should know that Allah’s Amr (command) overcomes all.
Despite knowing the grave sins committed by his older sons, Prophet Yaqub (as) didn’t cut them off or kick them out. [Verse 66]
This teaches us the important parenting principle that no matter how grave a sin children commit, parents shouldn’t give up on them. They should be concerned about correcting them so their Akhirah can be saved. Rather than cutting them off, they should advise them so that children have the inclination to repent and take heed.
Prophet Yaqub (as) advised his sons to enter from different gates of the city to prevent the evil eye. [Verse 67]
This teaches us that relying on a Sabab (resource) or strategy doesn’t go against Tawakkul. You can have complete reliance on Allah and still adopt a suitable plan to prevent harm from befalling you or your loved ones.
Prophet Yaqub (as) was concerned about the safety of his sons but he didn’t stop them from going back to Egypt. [Verse 67]
This teaches us that as parents, we may be concerned for the wellbeing of our children but that shouldn’t make us prevent them from doing what is right and suitable. We should have Tawakkul on Allah that He will protect our children.
When Prophet Yaqub (as) found out that his youngest son had been left behind in Egypt, and despite still grieving for Prophet Yusuf’s loss, he didn’t despair for a moment and still had very positive expectations from Allah (swt). [Verse 83]
This teaches us that a true believer always has high hopes and expectations from Allah (swt), no matter how bleak circumstances seem.
Prophet Yaqub (as) was so full of sorrow over his separation from Prophet Yusuf (as) that his eyes went blind from weeping so excessively. [Verse 84]
This clearly shows us that crying and grieving are a natural part of the human experience. This doesn’t go against the teachings of Sabr (patience). What’s essential is to accept Allah’s Decree and what’s forbidden is to wail, beat yourself, or express displeasure over Allah’s Decree in front of others.
Prophet Yaqub (as) practiced Sabrun Jameel but he also expressed his grief in front of Allah (swt). [Verse 86]
This shows that it’s not contradictory to patience to mention your sorrow to Allah (swt). What goes against Sabr is to present and complain of our grief in front of other people.
When Prophet Yusuf (as) revealed his identity to his brothers, rather than reproach them over their wrongdoings and mention all the pain and struggle he’d gone through because of what they’d done to him, he simply said, “Indeed, Allah has blessed us”. [Verse 90]
This teaches us that when Allah (swt) brings us out of adversity, continuing to dwell on the past and your previous misery is to be ungrateful to Allah for His present blessings. This is why in another place in the Quran al-Kareem, mankind has been described as being “Kanood”, which means someone who doesn’t remember blessings but only complains about the adversities and difficulties in their life.
Prophet Yusuf (as) told his brothers that Allah (swt) does not waste the reward of those who are patient and have Taqwa. [Verse 90]
This verse teaches us that Taqwa (staying away from sins) and Sabr (being patient when faced with challenges) are the two qualities that can help a person come out of any difficulty and lead to success in both this world and the next.
When seeing his brothers in such a lowly position that they were completely powerless before him, rather than gloating or reminding them of their past sins, Prophet Yusuf (as) forgave them and reminded them of Allah’s mercy. [Verse 92]
This is the level of Ihsan and kindness we should strive to adopt in our dealings with other people.
Despite the awful things his brothers did to him and how much he suffered as a consequence of their actions, Prophet Yusuf (as) didn’t hold any grudge against them. [Verse 92]
This shows us that we should also strive to have a pure heart and not bear any grudges against the ones who wrong us. Forgive them for the sake of Allah (swt) and He will compensate us.
At the end of the story, the Quran al-Kareem mentions the Dua of Prophet Yusuf (as) in which he asks Allah (swt) for death upon Islam and company with the righteous. [Verse 101]
This shows us that no matter how many blessings a person has been given in this world, the ultimate blessing is to die upon Iman and to be counted among the righteous.
May Allah (swt) bless us with the Taufiq to practice these lessons, ameen.
Which lesson resonates with you the most? I’d love to know! Leave a comment below to share your thoughts.
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Khadija Khan is a wife, mommy, certified life coach, and Islamic counselor. She is passionate about helping Muslim women reach their goals in all areas of life. She writes about things like Islamic spirituality, relationships, parenting, and personal development. Continue Reading…