The story of Prophet Yousuf--AS and his brothers is a lesson for mankind. It shows how Allaah-SWT protects His-SWT sincere bondsmen and defeats those who are jealous of them. Besides, He-SWT runs a congruous and harmonious system of events which is often mistaken by the ignorant as based on chance and coincidence. In reality all events are only links in the chain of a predestined system. The recounting of this story with such explicit details is also a miracle, which endorses the truth of Prophethood and Revelation. The Jews of Madinah were sending questions asking the Holy Prophet-SW about the story of Prophet Yousuf-AS, because there was not a single Jewish Scholar in Makkah of such calibre as to have knowledge of this event. The Holy Prophet-SW himself was obviously unaware of it.
The story unfolds as the brothers of Prophet Yousuf-AS got a wind of his dream and was exasperated. The Commentators have recorded the name of Prophet Ya'qub--AS wife as Liyya bint Layyan, mother of his ten sons, on whose death he had married her sister Raheel bint Layyan. She gave birth to two sons Prophet Yousuf--AS and Binyamin, and died after the birth of the latter. This explains why Prophet Ya'qub-AS was more affectionate towards them. Moreover Prophet Yousuf--AS was extremely handsome as reported in Ahâdĩth. The Holy Prophet-SW discloses that he saw Prophet Yousuf-AS on the Night of Ascension: who alone was blessed with half of the beauty in the whole world while the remaining half was distributed among all other things. Besides, the light of Prophethood shone on his forehead, which was another reason why his father loved him so much. The Holy Prophet-SW is reported to have said: 'Gracious, son of the gracious, son of the gracious, son of the gracious' i.e., Yousuf-AS ,son of Ya'qub-AS ,son of Ishaq-AS ,son of Ibrahim--AS .And amongst his CompanionsRAU , Hadhrat Abu Bakr SiddiqRAU was similarly honoured. His father, children and grand children were all CompanionsRAU.
So the brothers of Prophet Yousuf-AS collaborated. They said that Yousuf--AS and his brother Binyamin were very dear to their father. Or they might have thought that the glad tiding given to Yousuf--AS in his dream was also due to the attention he received from their father. It was amazing, they thought, how the two youngsters got so much affection and attention from their father, while they were ten grown up youth and used to take care of the entire household. According to the Commentators. Prophet Yousuf-AS was seven years old at that time, while Binyamm was younger to him. The ten brothers discussed the inequity of their father’s love and concluded that they should have been paid more attention because of their strength and the hard work they were doing. In their opinion their father was blatantly discriminating in his attitude towards them. Therefore, they began to conspire against Prophet Yousuf-AS in order to remove him from the scene and win the whole attention of their father. They weighed various options of eliminating him. They could either assassinate him or pack him off to a far off land wherefrom nothing could ever be heard of him. Then, they said, they could pacify their father with an apology and remorse, and at the same time beg forgiveness of Allaah-SWT by repenting. All of them agreed that murder was the only mootable course of action, except for one, who stood up against the murder of a younger brother and a child. He said it was a grave crime and they should not even consider it. He suggested dumping him into a deep well in a desolate place where he may perish either by starvation or by sting of some poisonous insect; or some caravan passing by could retrieve and take him along to a far off land. Thus their objective would be achieved without having to resort to cold-blooded murder.
Barakah Of Loving The Pious
Amazingly, the Commentators assert here that they were motivated to the crime out of love of their father. That is why Allah-SWT granted them the capacity to abstain from murder and eventually to seek forgiveness. They were ultimately pardoned by their father as well as the aggrieved brother.
The eldest brother Yahuda was the one who had persuaded them against the killing. To execute their plan, all of them went to their father and sought his permission for going on a recreation trip. They asked him if he could trust them and send Prophet Yousuf-AS along so that he could also have fun and eat with them. They pledged to ensure his safety. They said that he was after all their little brother, and his welfare and happiness was their concern too. They insisted on taking him along.
Recreation and Travel without Violating Shari'ah is Permissible
A healthy recreation or sport is permissible provided it does not violate any aspect of Shari'ah. Competitions in running or shooting or horse riding or in other sports are permissible provided no stakes or gambling is involved. Holding such competitions and giving away prizes to the winners is also permissible. In fact, clean and healthy sports are not only lawful but also meritorious according to the sayings of the Holy Prophet-SW.
So upon their insistence. Prophet Y'aqub-AS replied that he did not feel like separating from his beloved son. Besides, he feared that they might become neglectful of him while playing, and he might fall prey to the wolves. They asserted that such a mishap was impossible when ten robust men were escorting him. They emphatically rejected his fears and succeeded in persuading him to let Prophet Yousuf-AS accompany them. They arranged some eatables and carrying Prophet Yousuf-AS lovingly on their shoulders, left for the excursion. Prophet Ya'qub-AS also came along for some distance to see them off, but as soon as they were out of his sight, they hurled Prophet Yousuf-AS to the ground, asking him sarcastically to call for help the sun, the moon and the eleven stars who had made obeisance to him. Any of the brothers he turned to either frowned at him or slapped him. A little boy, he dragged himself along, receiving beatings enroute, until they arrived at a deserted well. The brothers unanimously decided to cast him down. They tied him with a rope and lowered him into the well. As he was suspended halfway through, they cut off the rope. Instantly came the Divine Inspiration: O Yousuf-AS! Remain calm. One day these brothers would not be able to look up to your grandeur. They will fail to even recognize you and it is you who would remind them of this incident
According to the Commentators Prophet Yousuf-AS was held by Hadhrat Jibril-AS before the fall, who gently seated him on a rock in the bottom of the well. It was then that Allah-SWT manifested to him the events of the future. Indeed his journey to the throne of Egypt commenced from this well. A day would come when his brothers would stand before him as beggars. He would then disclose his identity to them; the he was the same brother whom they had once dumped in the well.
Ilham to Prophets-AS before Raising and to Non-Prophets Proved
The author of Tafsir-e-Mazhari writes that the Ilham received by Prophet Yousuf-AS in the well was not a Revelation peculiar to Prophethood but was similar to the one Prophet Musa-AS mother was blessed with. Prophethood was formally conferred upon him at the age of forty. The Prophets-AS are granted a befitting level of Wilayah before they are raised as Prophets-AS and do receive llham before it. Likewise the Aulia' are also blessed with Ilham,for instance, the mother of Prophet Musa-AS and Hadhrat Maryam-AS . The only difference is that a Wali’s Ilham is a pretext only for the recipient, and he or she is obliged to follow it. Whereas a Prophet-AS Revelation is a pretext for his entire Ummah and must be followed as an obligation. Secondly, a Wali may err in the interpretation of Ilham while a Prophet-AS does not and the former depends on the latter for its authentication. It is acceptable only if it is in consonance with the Prophet-AS's Revelation otherwise it would be assumed that the Wali has erred. It was solely Divine Wisdom that the reality was revealed to Prophet Yousuf-AS and concealed from Prophet Ya'qub-AS who wept for years. It is also recorded that forty years passed between Prophet Yousuf-AS departure for the jungle and his reunion with his father. The knowledge of the Prophets-AS also depend upon His-SWT Blessings. He-SWT may reveal the entire universe if it Pleases Him-SWT , or veil even the obvious facts.
This has been beautifully expressed by Maulana Roomi-RUA in a couplet. Here is the summary: "Someone asked Prophet Ya'qub-AS how could he feel the fragrance of Prophet Yousuf-ASs shirt as soon as the courier had left from Egypt, while he remained unaware of his presence in the well of Can'an? He replied that it was like the flash of lightening which reveals every single particle upto the heavens and the very next moment one cannot even see the heels of his feet." In other words, whatever Allah-SWT allows us to see, we can see and what He-SWT does not is not visible to us. Even when Prophet Yousuf-AS was given power and authority in Egypt, he was not allowed to inform his father. And when he sent his shirt from Egypt, the fragrance was instantly carried by the wind to Can'an. These are all wonders of His-SWT Omnipotence, for He-SWT Alone possesses the Knowledge of the Unseen and the Seen. All the rest depend upon His-SWT Favours, notwithstanding that the Prophets-AS with all the exultation of Prophethood, obey Him-SWT far more ardently than others.
Going back to the story, Prophet Yousuf-AS remained in the well for three days. His brothers stained his shirt with goat's blood and took it back to their father. They arrived home weeping and wailing late in the evening where their father waited anxiously for his beloved son. Upon hearing the noise, he came out. They told him that they had gone deeper into the woods racing with one another, and had left Yousuf-AS behind with their luggage. Before they returned, they said, he had fallen prey to the wolves. They said that they did not expect their father to believe in what they said, but it was the truth nonetheless. They presented his blood stained shirt as an evidence.
Barakah of Relics of the Virtuous
When Prophet Ya'qub-AS examined the shirt, he couldn't help remark that the wolf was certainly a very crafty one, for it had managed to devour its prey completely yet leave the dress intact. It was incredible how it had managed to pull Yousuf-AS out of the shirt without tearing it. The shirt was drenched in blood, yet it had remained one piece. He told his sons that their story was a fabrication of their souls, and the evidence they had presented was false.
The author of Mu'arif al Quran comments here that a Qadhi (judge) must evaluate the case in terms of the exhibits and the circumstantial evidence presented before him to arrive at the truth. The following incidents would show how the relics of the pious people carry Barakah. The shirt of Prophet Yousuf-AS worked wonders on three different occasions. Firstly, it refuted the story of his brothers when they tried to deceive their father. Secondly, it proved the mendacity of the wife of a Minister of Egypt when she blamed Prophet Yousuf-AS of misconduct. And thirdly when it was sent to Prophet Ya'qub-AS, his eyesight was restored. Similarly the scarf of the beloved wife of Allah-SWT's Beloved Prophet-SW is associated with three great ventures. Firstly, it was hoisted as the flag of the Islamic Army in the very first encounter of Islam with infidelity at Badr, which was the foundation of Islamic revolution. Secondly, on the Day of Khyber, the flag awarded to Hadhrat AliRAU again her scarf. And thirdly, on the Day Makkah was taken, it became the flag accompanying the Holy Prophet-SW ease of Prophet Yousuf-AS the shirt benefited a few individuals, but here it was the scarf, which revolutionized the fate of mankind. Praise be to Allah-SWT ! The scarf was in fact s symbol of the Holy Prophet-SW’s Barakah.
Prophet Ya'qub-AS's words are the essence of this story. He said that their lie was evident, and the dream of Prophet Yousuf-AS also indicated he could not be killed by them or devoured by any wolf. And the very thought of the ordeal his beloved son must be going through was cutting deep into his heart. Yet he would neither express his sorrow nor utter a word of complaint. Rather they would see in him an example of perseverance and composure. He would seek only Allah-SWT‘s Help Who-SWT was Aware of his feelings and the Sustainer of Prophet Yousuf-AS and a witness to what they had deposed.
Presumptions and Opinions can be Wrong
Prophet Ya'qub-AS had made a correct assessment after evaluating the circumstantial evidence. But later when his sons returned from Egypt without Binyamin, who was detained in Egypt, he again presumed a similar situation, which turned out to be wrong. This proves that anyone can err in his personal opinion including Prophets-AS, while in matters of Din a Prophet-AS does not speak on his own. So in worldly affairs there is a chance of miscalculation, but a Prophet-AS does not dwell on error and is informed by Allaah-SWT . Therefore, people must not insist on their personal opinions and should also listen to what the others have to save.
It so happened that a caravan heading for Egypt lost its way and came up on the deserted well located on the long forsaken route. This coincidence was in fact a link in the eternal scheme of destiny. They had been sent for Yousuf-AS. His own brothers were happy to have driven him off and thought that he had been condemned to the life of slavery. However, Allah-SWT had better plans, and he was to rise to the Throne of Egypt. Such indeed are the miracles of His-SWT Omnipotence. Nothing takes place as a coincidence in this world; it is our lack of insight that we fail to see the reality.
Thus the caravan camped near the well and a man was sent to look for water. He came upon the well and lowered his bucket. Commentators identify this man as Malik bin Dabir. On the other end, Yahuda the elder brother of Yousuf-AS had also been visiting the well for the last three days bringing some food and keeping an eye on how he fared. When the man from the caravan lowered his bucket in the well Prophet Yousuf-AS climbed into it by Allah-SWT's Command. Surprised at the unusual weight of his pail, he managed to pull it out with much effort. When he saw the boy his eyes could not bear the splendour of his face. 'What a charming lad!' He exclaimed and immediately hid him. Slave trade was a flourishing business of the time and what he had recovered from the well was priceless. He thought that such a beautiful boy would only be bought by a king. So he tried to conceal Yousuf-AS from his fellow men and also from any possible claimants from the boy's family. Yahuda who had witnessed the scene called his brothers. They searched the caravan and recovered their brother. They said that he was their run away slave but they were no longer interested in him, and sold him at a very low price. The Arabs used to count only upto forty and if the amount exceeded forty they would weigh it. So he was sold for less than forty Dirhams. According to some versions they sold him for twenty Dirhams and shared two Dirhams each. Whatever the case. Allaah-SWT was well Aware of the conduct of the brothers, and the people of the caravan. The latter thought that they had struck a very profitable deal while his brothers were happy to be rid of their problem once and for all. Yet only the Magnificent Knew where His-SWT Beloved Prophet-AS was headed and what spiritual heights and worldly glory awaited him!
It also becomes clear that to forewarn someone of another person's evil nature in order to save him does not tantamount backbiting but is permissible.