Surah Yusuf: A Tapestry of Trials, Triumph, and Trust in God - SOLTLANE - 9 minutes read

Surah Yusuf, the 12th chapter of the Holy Quran, is a captivating narrative that transcends religious boundaries. It tells the story of Prophet Yusuf ( عليه السلام ), also known as Joseph, and his remarkable journey through hardship, betrayal, and ultimate triumph. Woven into this beautiful surah are invaluable lessons on faith, resilience, forgiveness, and the unwavering trust one must have in God’s divine plan.

Structure and Historical Context

Composed of 111 verses, Surah Yusuf is classified as a Makki Surah, meaning it was revealed in Mecca during the early years of Islam. Unlike many other stories of prophets in the Quran, which are spread throughout the text, Surah Yusuf presents a complete and chronological account of Prophet Yusuf’s ( عليه السلام ) life. This unique structure allows for a deeper exploration of the themes and messages within the narrative.

A Journey of Trials and Triumph

The surah opens with a significant event: Joseph’s ( عليه السلام ) dreams (Quran 12:1-4). He recounts seeing eleven stars, the sun, and the moon prostrating to him. These dreams, interpreted as a sign of future authority, plant the seeds of envy within his brothers’ hearts. Consumed by jealousy, they plot against him, throwing him into a well (Quran 12:6-8).

“Alif-Lam-Ra. [These letters are one of the miracles of the Quran, and none but Allah (Alone) knows their meanings]. These are the Verses of the Clear Book (the Quran that makes clear the legal and illegal things, legal laws, a guidance and a blessing).” (Quran 12:1)
Verily, We have sent it down as an Arabic Quran in order that you may understand. (Quran 12:2)
We relate unto you (Muhammad SAW) the best of stories through Our Revelations unto you, of this Quran. And before this (i.e. before the coming of Divine Inspiration to you), you were among those who knew nothing about it (the Quran). (Quran 12:3)
(Remember) when Yusuf (Joseph) said to his father: “O my father! Verily, I saw (in a dream) eleven stars and the sun and the moon, I saw them prostrating themselves to me.” (Quran 12:4)

This verse sets the stage for the conflict that will drive the narrative forward.

And they sold him for a low price, – for a few Dirhams (i.e. for a few silver coins). And they were of those who regarded him insignificant. (Quran 12:20)
“And when he [Yusuf (Joseph)] attained his full manhood, We gave him wisdom and knowledge (the Prophethood), thus We reward the Muhsinun” (Quran 12:22)

This verse emphasizes that even amidst challenges, God provides for the righteous and has a plan for their future.

Falsely accused by his master’s wife.

And she, in whose house he was, sought to seduce him (to do an evil act), she closed the doors and said: “Come on, O you.” He said: “I seek refuge in Allah (or Allah forbid)! Truly, he (your husband) is my master! He made my stay agreeable! (So I will never betray him). Verily, the Zalimun (wrong and evil-doers) will never be successful.” (Quran 12:23)
And indeed she did desire him and he would have inclined to her desire, had he not seen the 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. (Quran 12:24)

Yet, he uses this opportunity to showcase his God-given wisdom by interpreting dreams for his fellow inmates (Quran 12:36-42). His interpretations gain him respect and pave the way for a remarkable turn of events.

And there entered with him two young men in the prison. One of them said: “Verily, I saw myself (in a dream) pressing wine.” The other said: “Verily, I saw myself (in a dream) carrying bread on my head and birds were eating thereof.” (They said): “Inform us of the interpretation of this. Verily, we think you are one of the Muhsinun. (Quran 12:36)
He said: “No food will come to you (in wakefulness or in dream) as your provision, but I will inform (in wakefulness) its interpretation before it (the food) comes. This is of that which my Lord has taught me. Verily, I have abandoned the religion of a people that believe not in Allah and are disbelievers in the Hereafter (i.e. the Kan’aniun of Egypt who were polytheists and used to worship sun and other false deities). (Quran 12:37)
“And I have followed the religion of my fathers, – Ibrahim (Abraham), Ishaque (Isaac) and Ya’qub (Jacob)], and never could we attribute any partners whatsoever to Allah. This is from the Grace of Allah to us and to mankind, but most men thank not (i.e. they neither believe in Allah, nor worship Him). (Quran 12:38)
“O two companions of the prison! Are many different lords (gods) better or Allah, the One, the Irresistible? (Quran 12:39)
“You do not worship besides Him but only names which you have named (forged), you and your fathers, for which Allah has sent down no authority. The command (or the judgement) is for none but Allah. He has commanded that you worship none but Him (i.e. His Monotheism), that is the (true) straight religion, but most men know not. (Quran 12:40)
“O two companions of the prison! As for one of you, he (as a servant) will pour out wine for his lord (king or master) to drink; and as for the other, he will be crucified and birds will eat from his head. Thus is the case judged concerning which you both did inquire.” (Quran 12:41)
And he said to the one whom he knew to be saved: “Mention me to your lord (i.e. your king, so as to get me out of the prison).” But Shaitan (Satan) made him forget to mention it to his Lord [or Satan made [(Yusuf (Joseph)] to forget the remembrance of his Lord (Allah) as to ask for His Help, instead of others]. So [Yusuf (Joseph)] stayed in prison a few (more) years. (Quran 12:42)

Joseph’s ( عليه السلام ) ability to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams about a coming famine (Quran 12:43) leads him to a position of power in Egypt. Using his foresight and wisdom, he manages the country’s resources during a period of plenty, preparing for the inevitable famine that follows (Quran 12:45-50).

And the king (of Egypt) said: “Verily, I saw (in a dream) seven fat cows, whom seven lean ones were devouring – and of seven green ears of corn, and (seven) others dry. O notables! Explain to me my dream, if it be that you can interpret dreams.” (Quran 12:43)
(He said): “O Yusuf (Joseph), the man of truth! Explain to us (the dream) of seven fat cows whom seven lean ones were devouring, and of seven green ears of corn, and (seven) others dry, that I may return to the people, and that they may know.” (Quran 12:46)
[(Yusuf (Joseph)] said: “For seven consecutive years, you shall sow as usual and that (the harvest) which you reap you shall leave in ears, (all) – except a little of it which you may eat. (Quran 12:47)
“Then will come after that, seven hard (years), which will devour what you have laid by in advance for them, (all) except a little of that which you have guarded (stored). (Quran 12:48)
“Then thereafter will come a year in which people will have abundant rain and in which they will press (wine and oil).” (Quran 12:49)
And the king said: “Bring him to me.” But when the messenger came to him, [Yusuf (Joseph)] said: “Return to your lord and ask him, ‘What happened to the women who cut their hands? Surely, my Lord (Allah) is Well-Aware of their plot. (Quran 12:50)

Years later, during the famine, Joseph’s ( عليه السلام ) brothers arrive in Egypt seeking food. He tests their character and eventually reveals his true identity (Quran 12:85-90). The story culminates in a powerful scene of forgiveness and reconciliation, as depicted in verses 91-96.

Lessons Learned from Surah Yusuf

Surah Yusuf offers a wealth of wisdom applicable to our daily lives. Here are some key takeaways, directly linked to the verses of the Quran:

  • Importance of Faith: Throughout the story, Joseph’s ( عليه السلام ) unwavering faith in God (Quran 12:64) guides him through hardships. He remains patient and trusts in the divine plan, reminding us of the importance of surrendering to God’s will (Quran 12:67).
  • Overcoming Envy and Jealousy: The story highlights the destructive nature of envy, as seen in Joseph’s brothers’ actions (Quran 12:1-4). It serves as a reminder to guard ourselves from these negative emotions and cultivate compassion.
  • Forgiveness and Reconciliation: Despite the immense pain inflicted by his brothers, Joseph ( عليه السلام ) forgives them, demonstrating the power of forgiveness as mentioned in verse 92 (“So forgive them; indeed, You are the Most Forgiving, the Most Merciful”) and the importance of maintaining family bonds (Quran 12:91-96).
  • Trust in God’s Plan: Surah Yusuf emphasizes that even during challenging times, God has a plan for each of us (Quran 12:22). We are encouraged to trust in His wisdom and know that He will ultimately bring good out of any situation (Quran 12:64).

This theme of trusting in God’s plan is woven throughout the surah. Here are some specific examples from the Quran:

And the king (of Egypt) said: “Verily, I saw (in a dream) seven fat cows, whom seven lean ones were devouring – and of seven green ears of corn, and (seven) others dry. O notables! Explain to me my dream, if it be that you can interpret dreams.” (Quran 12:43)
They said: “Mixed up false dreams and we are not skilled in the interpretation of dreams.” (Quran 12:44)
And when they opened their bags, they found their money had been returned to them. They said: “O our father! What (more) can we desire? This, our money has been returned to us, so we shall get (more) food for our family, and we shall guard our brother and add one more measure of a camel’s load. This quantity is easy (for the king to give).” (Quran 12:66)

Surah Yusuf reminds us that faith and trust in God’s plan are essential for navigating life’s challenges. By following Joseph’s ( عليه السلام ) example, we can cultivate a sense of peace and surrender to God’s will, even in the midst of uncertainty.