How can it fit a prophet (Hz. Yaqub) to cry for forty years because of being separated from his son (Hz. Yusuf)? Would it not have been better if he had shown patience?

The Details of the Question

How can it fit a prophet (Hz. Yaqub) to cry for forty years because of being separated from his son (Hz. Yusuf)? Would it not have been better if he had shown patience?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

There is no verse or hadith showing that Hz. Yaqub cried continuously because of being separated from Hz. Yusuf. There is no definite information showing that this period was forty years.  

According to what is stated in the chapter of Yusuf in the Quran, when Hz. Yaqub heard that his son, Bunyamin, was retained in Egypt, he started to remember Hz. Yusuf and felt sorry. Due to the severity of his sorrow, he became blind due to cataract. Hz. Yaqub's becoming blind is explained in two ways:

a) Since it is stated in verse 96 that "he regained clear sight",some scholars said,"his eyes were blinded due to sorrow and crying." According to medical doctors, a cataract might develop due to sorrow though it is very rare and it might disappear due to a shock.  

b) According to the second view, which the famous tafsir scholar Razi also supports (see Mafatih, the interpretation of the relevant verse), his eyes were covered with tears, which made it impossible for him to see and afterwards his eyes were opened when the cause of the sorrow was eliminated.

It will not be wrong to think that the extreme love and compassion Hz. Yaqub showed to Hz. Yusuf was a kind of test for him. He showed patience and thanked God as a human and a father though he suffered the pain of separation from his son. He showed patience by saying, “patience is most fitting” (Yusuf, 12/18) This is evidence that he showed a performance that fit prophethood in this heavy test. When his children said to him, he was too obsessed with this issue, he said, “I only complain of my distraction and anguish to Allah...” (Yusuf, 12/86) Thus, he showed how respectful he was in his relationship with Allah. With this act, he gave us the following lesson: “It is not permissible to complain to people about Allah due to misfortunes and problems but it is permissible to complain to Allah about one's situation; that is, it is not permissible to complain about Allah but it is permissible to complain to Allah.”

It is definite that Hz. Yaqub was caused to believe that Hz. Yusuf  was lost by his brothers and that he felt sorry for it. It is normal that such a betrayal affected Hz. Yaqub as a father and prophet.  

Besides, along with saying that he felt the agony of losing his sons in the depths of his heart and mentioning his sorrow only to Allah, Hz. Ya'qub said, "and I know from Allah that which ye know not."Thus, he indicated that he knew the wisdom behind the events. 

These statements of Hz, Ya'qub's showed that he did not lose his hope about his son Yusuf and that he hoped to meet him again one day.  

We think the following view of Badiuzzaman Said Nursi regarding the issue is to the point and thought-provoking:

Imam Rabbani, who could not correlate the excessive love Hz. Yaqub showed to his son Hz. Yusuf with the position of prophethood, tried to settle the issue by saying that the beauty of Hz. Yusuf that attracted his father was not worldly beauty but otherworldly beauty and merits. Badiuzzaman said Nursi thinks that it is not an accurate interpretation.  

It will be useful to quote what he said exactly in order to show the kindness and decency of his style:

"What comes to mind in connection with this and I say contrary to the great mystics and religious scholars, and even to Imam Rabbani, one of my masters, is this: the intense and brilliant emotion the Prophet Yaqub felt for Hz Yusuf was not love or passion, but compassion. For compassion is much sharper and more brilliant and elevated, and purer and more worthy of the rank of prophethood than love and passion. If the love and passion for metaphorical objects of love and creatures are intense, they are not fitting for the elevated rank of prophethood. My master, Imam Rabbani, did not consider metaphorical love to be altogether fitting for the rank of prophethood and therefore said. “Yusuf’s virtues were virtues pertaining to the hereafter, so love for him was not of a metaphorical kind so that it should have been defective.” But I say. “Master! That is an artificial interpretation; the truth of the matter must be this: that was not love, but a degree of compassion which was a hundred times more brilliant, more extensive, and more elevated than love.” Yes, in all its varieties, compassion is subtle and pure. Whereas many varieties of love and passion may not be condescended to." (Mektubat, p. 27-28)

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