The Quran is filled with wisdom and guidance for human beings. One of the ways that Allah explains His message is to illustrate it with stories that are easy to understand. The purpose of the stories is not so much to become detailed historical accounts of the various events. Allah in His infinite mercy wants to inform us through these stories the underlying lessons that are beneficial to us today and until the Day of Judgment. There are stories of some of the Prophets that Allah the Almighty sent to convey the message that He alone is to be worshipped and there is a Hereafter.
While each story is compelling and profoundly beneficial in its own right, one of the best of the stories is the story of the Prophet Yusuf (may the peace and blessing of Allah be upon him) as related in the chapter called Surah Yusuf, the 12th chapter of the Quran. It is my most favorite chapter of the Quran without a doubt. Surah Yusuf took me a few days to memorize the summer of 2009. It was revealed to the Prophet (may the peace and blessing of Allah be upon him) in the ‘Year of Sorrow’ when he lost both his beloved wife Khadijah (may Allah be pleased with her) and his Uncle and close ally Abu Taalib (who died without embracing Islam) among other calamities.
The Surah is an amazingly detailed account of the Prophet Yusuf’s life and the trials he faced in his very eventful life. It is a beloved story that my kids love very much as well. It is a great comfort giving Surah to read when you’re going through a particularly tough trial in life. It makes you cry (when the Prophet Yusuf’s father Prophet Yaqoob (peace be upon them both) goes blind, literally crying his eyes out in remembrance of his lost son) and marvel in amazement (at the account of the women cutting their hands seeing how handsome and ‘angel like’ Prophet Yusuf was) and smile and even laugh (for example: when the Yusuf’s brothers refer to him as someone who stole and then talk to him as ‘azeez’ or the privileged one in the next breath). The surah contains everything that makes for a great story: mystery, intrigue, suspense, love, revenge, trickery, mercy, mischief and dream interpretations to name a few. Everyone who listens to this story intently is sure to be mesmerized by the beauty, particularly if they understand the Arabic language.
Although the narrative value of the surah cannot be disputed, the main aim of the story of Prophet Yusuf, as with the rest of the Quran, is to deliver profound lessons to humanity. I have gathered a list of top ten major lessons, gleaning them from scholars’ lectures and commentary that I have read. There was a time in 2009, the same time I memorized Surah Yusuf, when I sought out every possible translation, explanation, lecture and interpretation of this amazing surah.
As it’s often the case with anything from the Quran, the lessons are endless. However, here are ten major ones:
1-Be steadfast in your faith in Allah even in the face of calamities (this is an over all theme throughout the Surah)
2-Always ask Allah for help as Prophets of Allah have shown us through the Quran
3-Never think that others are at fault – since everyone is a test placed by Allah for others – rather ask Allah for forgiveness for those that have wronged you (this one is a hard one, but our Prophet (pbuh) did this all the time as an example for us to follow, inshallah)
4-Dawah (or inviting to the religion of Allah) is an obligation on all of us at all times (see verse 108 of this chapter).
5-Taqwa (Fear of Allah’s wrath and Hope for Allah’s Mercy) and Patience is rewarded by Allah (verse 90).
6-Despair is for the disbelievers (verse 87)
7-Repentance is a virtue at any stage (verses 91-92).
8-The soul orders oneself to commit sins except those souls that have the Mercy of Allah (verse 53).
9-When a leadership opportunity presents itself where you know you have what it takes to do a good job, you should seek it (instead of shying away from it) for the benefit others will get from your skills (verse 55)
10-Prefer prison over disobeying Allah – this is another difficult one which one can only do with Allah’s help (verse 33)
It is apparent from these ten examples that the story of the Prophet Yusuf contains numerous beneficial lessons for humanity. There are many more lessons contained within the story that the reader is encouraged to explore on their own. This is in fact the case with every story in the Quran. It behooves us to take the time to read, understand and reflect upon these stories and apply the lessons learned in our daily lives.
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