Was Hz. Yusuf sent only to teach his brothers?

The Details of the Question

- Is it not necessary for a prophet to spread the religion?
- What are the lessons that we can take from the chapter of Yusuf?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

There are also prophets other than Hz. Yusuf (Joseph) about whose duties of prophethood no information is given in the Quran. Hz. Idris (Enoch), Hz. Ayyub (Job), Hz. Ismail (Ishmael), Hz. Ishaq, Hz. Yaqub (Jacob), Hz. Shuayb (Jethro), Hz. Zakariyya (Zacharias) and Hz.Yahya (John) are among them.

The prophets whose prophethood details are given in the Quran are generally those who were sent to the nations and tribes that became the scene of great historical events. The divine wisdom wanted our ummah to take “lessons from the stories” by reciting their stories and reminding us of the struggles the nations had against their prophets and the misfortunes that hit them due to their rebellion.

The story of Yusuf (pbuh) does not take place within the framework of his prophethood, but his biography, which is exemplary and conveys his life story, which is “the most beautiful of stories”.

However, when he first met with his inmates in the dungeon, he gave them the lesson of oneness and referred to his duty of prophethood, which shows that he also performed this duty on all occasions.

As a matter of fact, the following verse clearly states that many lessons will be taken from the life of the Prophet Yusuf:

“Verily in Joseph and his brethren are signs (or symbols) for seekers (after Truth).” (Yusuf, 12/7)

Various problems that the Prophet Yusuf encountered in his life, the patience he showed in the face of those problems and the success he achieved are mentioned in the chapter of Yusuf. Useful advice and important messages are given to believers in the story of Yusuf and his brothers, which is

“the most beautiful of stories”. (Yusuf, 12/3)

First of all, let us remember the Prophet Yusuf’s story and try to mention the lessons to be taken from it:

Yusuf told his father that he had seen eleven stars, the sun and the moon, prostrating themselves to him. His father said to him,

“My (dear) little son! Relate not thy vision to thy brothers, lest they concoct a plot against thee...” (Yusuf,12/4,5)

He warned his son like that. After this warning, things happened as follows: Yusuf’s brothers planned to kill Yusuf and throw him into a well because their father loved Yusuf and his brother Bunyamin (Benjamin) more than them. They said to their father, "Send him with us tomorrow to enjoy himself and play, and we shall take every care of him." They threw Yusuf into a well during the trip they organized as they had planned. They brought Yusuf’s shirt, which they had stained with false blood to their father in the evening by crying and told him that a wolf had eaten Yusuf. However, the Prophet Yaqub, their father, did not believe it...(Yusuf,12/8-18)

"Then there came a caravan of travelers: they sent their water-carrier (for water), and he let down his bucket (into the well)...He said: Ah there! Good news! Here is a (fine) young man!So they concealed him as a treasure! But Allah knoweth well all that they do! The (Brethren) sold him for a miserable price, for a few dirhams counted out: in such low estimation did they hold him! The man in Egypt who bought him, said to his wife: "Make his stay (among us) honorable: may be he will bring us much good, or we shall adopt him as a son." Thus did We establish Joseph in the land, that We might teach him the interpretation of stories (and events). And Allah hath full power and control over His affairs; but most among mankind know it not. When Joseph attained His full manhood, We gave him power and knowledge: thus do We reward those who do right." (Yusuf, 12/19-22)

"But she in whose house he was, sought to seduce him from his (true) self: she fastened the doors, and said: ‘Now come, thou (dear one)!’ He said: Allah forbid! truly (thy husband) is my lord! he made my sojourn agreeable! truly to no good come those who do wrong! …So they both raced each other to the door, and she tore his shirt from the back:…He (Joseph) said: It was she that sought to seduce me - from my (true) self. And one of her household saw (this) and bore witness, (thus):- If it be that his shirt is rent from the front, then is her tale true, and he is a liar! But if it be that his shirt is torn from the back, then is she the liar, and he is telling the truth!So when he saw his shirt,- that it was torn at the back,- (her husband) said: Behold! It is a snare of you women! truly, mighty is your snare!: "The wife of the (great) ´Aziz is seeking to seduce her slave from his (true) self: Truly hath he inspired her with violent love: we see she is evidently going astray." When she heard of the malicious talk of the ladies said in the City, she sent for them and prepared a banquet for them: she gave each of them a knife: and she said (to Joseph), ‘Come out before them.’ When they saw him, they did extol him, and (in their amazement) cut their hands: they said, ‘Allah preserve us! No mortal is this! this is none other than a noble angel!’ She said: ‘There before you is the man about whom ye did blame me! I did seek to seduce him from his (true) self but he did firmly save himself guiltless.’..."(Yusuf, 12/23-32)

Consequently, Yusuf was put in the dungeon, where he suffered a lot, though he was innocent.

We can list the lessons to be taken from this chapter as follows:

- Firstly, the importance of showing patience is indicated in this chapter. The Prophet Yusuf was saved from all slanders and negativities by showing patience in the face of the problems he suffered; thus, Hz. Muhammad (pbuh) and his ummah are reminded that they will be given a reward similar to the one given to the Prophet Yusuf if they show patience.

- That Yusuf’s father Yaqub did not believe in the false evidence Yusuf’s brothers brought to him should be a lesson for us. As it is stated in the chapter of al-Hujurat, instead of believing immediately the news that we are given, we should search whether it is true or not and decide accordingly. (al-Hujurat, 49/6)

- A believer needs to behave decently all the time and act in accordance with Islamic ethics no matter where he is. Hz. Yusuf (pbuh) acted honestly as a requirement of his belief and avoided the prohibitions of his Lord; similarly, we need to avoid harams no matter where we are and no matter how negative the circumstances are. We need to think that Allah Almighty watches us all the time even if no one sees us and we need to act accordingly.  If we act with this consciousness, our Lord will make us succeed. Hz. Yusuf served as a model to people with his chastity, virtue and good manners in the Egyptian palaces where people led an aristocratic life; he never accepted illegitimate proposals. He even begged Allah Almighty to save him from the immoral impressions and pressures he faced by saying, " O my Lord! the prison is more to my liking than that to which they invite me." (Yusuf, 12/33)

- We should not feel grudge and hatred in case of any incident, and we should be tolerant. That Hz. Yusuf did not nurture grudge and enmity against his brothers though they caused him to suffer various troubles and torments should be an example for us. One of the lessons we will take from Yusuf's story is to show patience in case of problems even if they are caused by our closest relatives, not to nurture grudge and enmity against them, and to treat them with tolerance. Just as Yusuf (pbuh) became the sultan of Egypt at the age of thirty with this patience and tolerance so too can we reach happiness in both the world and the hereafter with tolerance and by keeping away from grudge and hatred.

- Yusuf wanted to invite the people to oneness and to guide them to the straight path before answering the questions they asked him when he was in the dungeon.

In this invitation and interpretation of dreams, he narrates his miracle of giving news about the unknown/unseen in order to indicate his honesty. We should also attribute all blessings to oneness and to Allah no matter what they are about.  

- The Prophet Yusuf became the administrator of the Treasury during a very critical period of Egypt, that is, during the seven years of famine, and saved the country from a calamity. Hz. Yusuf himself preferred to fulfill this good service. At first glance, it may seem strange that a person who was a prophet worked as the Ministry of Finance under the command of the Egyptian Ruler but it is an exemplary issue to be taken as a model that he conveyed the message of Islam and taught it to people in the most effective way with the love, respect and good thought of the people he received from them while serving them economically and saved that nation from material and spiritual dangers.

- "The greatest blisses are the outcomes of great and bitter misfortunes." Indeed, Hz. Yusuf (pbuh) managed to reach a great position like being the ruler of Egypt after he was thrown into the well by his brothers, and after Zulaykha's slander, which caused him to lead a troubled life in the dungeon for a few years in. He put up with all this with great patience, which means the way to worldly and otherworldly bliss is through patience.

- Hz. Yusuf (pbuh) knew that everything happened with Allah's command and permission. Therefore, he attributed everything that happened to him to Allah, whether he entered the dungeon or attained blessings. There was wisdom behind everything. Allah rewarded him with the duty of prophethood, which is a great blessing, when he was in the dungeon and taught him the interpretations of dreams. Then, he came out of the dungeon and became the Minister of Finance first and then the ruler of Egypt. He rejoined his brothers and parents; he attributed all these blessings to his Lord and thanked Him. He addressed his parents as follows:

"...Allah hath made it come true! He was indeed good to me when He took me out of prison and brought you (all here) out of the desert, (even) after Satan had sown enmity between me and my brothers. Verily my Lord understandeth best the mysteries of all that He planneth to do, for verily He is full of knowledge and wisdom..." (Yusuf, 12/100, 101)

We also see that he mentioned the blessings Allah gave him by thanking Him by saying, "O my Lord! Thou hast indeed bestowed on me some power, and taught me something of the interpretation of dreams and events", that He was his friend and protector in the world and the hereafter and that he asked Allah to make him die as a Muslim and unite him with the righteous people.

- One of the most remarkable points of the story is that the Prophet Yusuf did not rub his brothers’ noses in it at all though he had all kinds of means and possibilities.  Although the Prophet Yusuf (pbuh) was in a position to inflict all kinds of punishments on his brothers who had thrown him into the well, he forgave them thanks to his supreme character; what is more, he did them a lot of favors. During the conquest of Makkah, the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) reminded the polytheists of Makkah who were waiting for him to declare his decision of the words of the Prophet Yusuf addressing his brothers and declared that they would not be condemned and punished on that day. Undoubtedly, both of them obtained the positive results of forgiving when they were strong, and they saw that the ferocious enemies of the past became sincere friends thanks to this kindness.

- In the last verses of the chapter of Yusuf, in which the story of Yusuf is told, Allah addresses our beloved Prophet (pbuh) and states that this story was a piece of the news about ghayb (the unseen/unknown) that was revealed to him, and emphasizes that since he was not alive when these incidents took place, there is no way to obtain information about this story except through revelation. God Almighty also expresses the truths that would console the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) in the last verses of the chapter. He advises the Prophet not to be upset when his invitation is rejected and when he is subjected to tortures, reminding him that most people will not believe though he wants them to believe and though he does not want any material things from them for his duty of messengership. He also states that the Quran is counsel and advice for the realms and that those who use their minds will act in accordance with it. He emphasizes that those who cannot use their minds turn away from so many evidences that show the unity of Allah in the heavens and the earth, and that most of the people, like the Makkan polytheists, fell into polytheism by associating partners with Allah. Then, those deniers are asked whether they feel secure from the wrath of Allah or the Doomsday that will catch them suddenly; finally, the common message of the prophets is expressed from the tongue of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh):

"O Muhammad! Such is one of the stories of what happened unseen, which We reveal by inspiration unto thee; nor wast thou (present) with them then when they concerted their plans together in the process of weaving their plots. Yet no faith will the greater part of mankind have, however ardently thou dost desire it. And no reward dost thou ask of them for this: it is no less than a message for all creatures. And how many Signs in the heavens and the earth do they pass by? Yet they turn (their faces) away from them! And most of them believe not in Allah without associating (other as partners) with Him." (Yusuf, 12/102-106)

In the last three verses of the chapter of Yusuf, the Prophet (pbuh) is addressed and we are reminded by this address that prophets were sent before him and we are asked to take lessons from the end of those who denied their prophets. Then, it is explained that all prophets faced the attempts of the polytheists aiming to prevent them and various evil deeds of them in the way of invitation, that the evil deeds against the prophets and believers increased day by day and that they pushed the patience of the prophets who had superior patience. In fact, because of these difficulties, the prophets were forced so much that they feared that they would lose almost all their hope, despair of the victory promised to them and that they would be denied completely; it is stated that divine help reached them at this very critical point: 

"And to you there came Joseph in times gone by, with Clear Signs, but ye ceased not to doubt of the (Mission) for which he had come: At length, when he died, ye said: ´No messenger will Allah send after him.´ thus doth Allah leave to stray such as transgress and live in doubt." (al-Mu'min, 40/34)

Yes, the story of the Prophet Yusuf is really full of very good lessons.

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