Email This Surah
Recitation by Mishary Al-Alfasy
Surat Yusuf is Makkan and was revealed during the same time and circumstances
surat Hud and surat Yunus were revealed. It is considered to be the longest
surah in the Ever-Glorious Qur’an in terms of the story it has. It includes the
story of Prophet Yusuf (AS) “Joseph” from the beginning until the end. It
consists of 111 ayahs.
The Best of Stories:
Novelists comment on surat Yusuf saying that it includes all the craft and components of fiction: suspense, description, coherence, and symbolism. For example, the story commences with a dream that Prophet Yusuf (AS) had and ends with the explanation of that same dream. The shirt of Prophet Yusuf (AS), which is used as a means of exonerating his brothers, is later used as evidence of their betrayal. This shirt is later used as a means of exonerating Yusuf himself from the false accusation of molesting the wife of Al-Aziz.
Moreover, one of the wonders of this story is that its meanings and events are vividly dramatized for the reader, as if he is actually seeing and hearing them. Also, it is one of the most fascinating and striking stories you will ever read.
We barely need to solicit novelists’ recognition of the story, as Allah Himself is the One Who substantiates its quality and excellence. He says what can be translated as, "We, Ever We, narrate to you the fairest of narratives in that We have revealed to you this Qur’an." (TMQ, 12:3). However, the purpose of having this surah in the Ever-Glorious Qur’an is scarcely limited to telling a story. On the contrary, its real purpose is summarized in the last line of the story in which Allah says what can be translated as, "They said, “Is it sure that you, indeed you, are Y ûsuf?” (Joseph) “I am Y ûsuf,” he said, “and this is my brother. Allah has already been bounteous to us. Surely whoever is pious and (endures) patiently, then surely Allah does not waste the reward of the fair-doers.” (TMQ, 12:90).
Thus, the core idea of the story is:
Allah is Omniscient and we are Deficient in Knowledge
The aim of surat Yusuf is to educate us that Allah’s (SWT) manipulation of things is different from the limited perception of humans. It is as if it is telling us, “have faith in what Allah (SWT) plans, and be patient and do not give up.”
The events in the surah are weird; they run contrary to what they seem to be. Yusuf is loved by his father, and this seems good. Nonetheless, Yusuf is thrown down a pit by his brothers as a result of that love. Furthermore, although the incident of throwing Yusuf in the pit appears vicious, Yusuf consequently moves to the house of al-Aziz.
The presence of Yusuf in the house of al-Aziz is apparently a good thing, however, Yusuf is sent to prison afterwards. Moreover, whereas the imprisonment of Yusuf appears to be a very bad thing, yet Yusuf is appointed as the minister of finance in Egypt.
What Allah (SWT) wants to pass to us through the story of Yusuf (SAWS) is that He is the only One Who plans things. One may conceive of incidents as bad, however, this deficient perception characteristic of humans is far from realizing Allah’s (SWT) discretion and wisdom in His judgment.
The Road of Curves:
When we read through the life-story of Yusuf (SAWS), we notice that there are three highs and two lows. This can be represented as follows:
Father’s love Joining Al-Aziz’s household Becoming minister in Egypt Being thrown in the pit Being imprisoned
The distressful stages in the life of Prophet Yusuf (AS) vary in their intensity. Which is more difficult: the pit or the prison? He stays in the prison for nine years, but he stays in the pit for only three days. However, these days in the pit are more difficult because he was still a little boy. In the midst of all these misfortunes, Yusuf stands firm by his morals and is not moved by the vicissitudes of life.
You are a Slave in Both Cases:
If you Muslims undergo hard times, learn from Prophet Yusuf (AS) who, despite all adverse circumstances, remained patient and hopeful. Similarly, learn from him how to cope with periods of tranquillity and comfort by being humble and loyal to Allah (SWT). Thus, the surah teaches us that there are ups and downs in man’s life. Nobody leads a life of either utter prosperity or utter hardship. He is being tested in both cases. The story of Prophet Yusuf (AS) is the story of adhering to morals in both cases of hardship and prosperity. Prophet Yusuf (AS) is patient and does not lose hope in misfortunes. He is also loyal and humble to Allah (SWT) in prosperity. Thus, he abides by morals in times of prosperity and difficulty.
Between the surah and the Biography:
As previously mentioned, the surah was sent down almost in the same circumstances of surat Hud and surat Yunus, and at a time when persecution of Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) and his companions had intensified. These circumstances are similar to those faced by Prophet Yusuf (AS). For example, Prophet Yusuf (AS) was separated from his father. Similarly, when the surah descended upon our Messenger (SAWS) in the tenth year of his mission, he had already lost his uncle Abu-Taleb and his wife Khadijah (RA). Leaving his family behind, Prophet Yusuf (AS) left his father’s country, Palestine, and went to Egypt. Two years after the revelation of the surah, our Messenger (SAWS) left Makkah and travelled to Madinah. Thus, the surah of Yusuf prepares the Messenger for the misfortunes and afflictions he will face. Also, it prepares all the believers to face misfortunes in their lives. That is the reason why scholars comment on it by saying that any distressed person who reads this surah is bound to become happy.
Yusuf the Human:
It is important to realize that the surah focuses on the life of Prophet Yusuf (AS) as a man. However, surat Ghafir sheds light on Yusuf the Prophet when Prophet Musa (AS) “Moses” says to his people in Allah’s words what can be translated as, “And indeed Yû suf (Joseph) already came to you earlier with the supreme evidence (s), yet in no way did you cease being in doubt concerning what he came to you with ….”(TMQ, 40:34).
The experience of Yusuf in this surah is merely the experience of a human being, and it ends up in ultimate success both in this life and in the hereafter. As for this life, he is appointed as the Egyptian minister of finance. For the hereafter, he resists the temptations of the wife of al-Aziz and the other women in the city. Thus, it is a story of human success. It is a story of a patient human being who does not lose hope, despite all the circumstances which he undergoes. His success is unpredictable as he moves from misfortune to misfortune: his brothers’ hatred, slavery, his emigration from his country, the seductiveness of the wife of Al-Aziz, and putting up with lies and false accusations.
Where are the Miracles in the Story?
The story does not refer to any miracles happening during the events Prophet Yusuf encounters. Some may consider the vision itself a miracle, but any ordinary person may have a vision. The surah concentrates on how Allah (SWT) paves for him the way to success, just as He would do to any other person. For instance, Allah teaches Prophet Yusuf how to render visions. Allah says what can be translated as, "And thus your Lord will select you and teach you (a portion) of the interpretation of discourses …. (TMQ, 12:6). However, the success of Prophet Yusuf (AS) is achieved by taking advantage of the qualifications bestowed upon him by Allah.
"Never Give up Hope on Allah’s Mercy":
The story of Prophet Yusuf (AS) is the story of the success of a person who has lived through difficult circumstances and who is not equipped with the necessary potentialities for success. However, he refuses to give up hope. The ayahs of the surah are full of hope. For instance, when Prophet Yaqub (AS) “Jacob” lost his second son, and his calamity is duplicated, He says in Allah’s words what can be translated as, "… and do not despair of relief from Allah; surely none despairs of relief from Allah except the disbelieving people.” (TMQ, 12:87). This ayah does not mean that the hopeless person is a disbeliever. It means that he acts like a disbeliever because he does not realize that nobody knows what Allah plans in the universe and that Allah is the Generous, the Merciful, and the Wise in all that He does.
Success is Achieved by Allah’s Support:
One of the aspects of this magnanimous prophet’s greatness is observed is his showing humility to Allah and feeling grateful to Him. After succeeding in his life occupying senior positions he is not carried away by the euphoria of victory. He says at the end of the story what can be translated as, “Lord! You have already brought me (my share) of kingship and You have taught me (my share) of the interpretation of discourses. O Originator (Literally: Renderer; i.e., Creator) of the heavens and the earth, You are my Ever-Patronizing Patron in the present (life) (Literally: the lowly (life), the life of this world) and the Hereafter, Take me up to You as a Muslim (One who submits to you) and join me with the righteous.” (TMQ, 12:101). Notice his humbleness when he says, "and join me with the righteous" as if the righteous preceded him and he wanted to join them. Thus, Prophet Yusuf (AS) has succeeded in the test of prosperity by being grateful and humble to Allah, and in the test of misfortunes by being patient and hopeful.
You are up to it:
The comment on the experience of Prophet Yusuf (AS) comes in a wonderful ayah for two reasons: to assure Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) of the fulfillment of Allah’s promise and His victory, and afterwards to pass it to his people so that they may know it for certainty. Listen to this ayah with all your heart and soul, "Till, when the Messengers finally despaired and expected that they were counted liars, Our victory came to them. So, whoever We decided will be safely delivered. And Our violence will not be turned back (i.e., turned away from) from the criminal people.” (TMQ, 12:110).
The Summary of the Experience:
The surah concludes with a core idea. After Prophet Yusuf (AS) becomes victorious and fulfills all his wishes, he says what can be translated as, "They said, ‘Is it sure that you, indeed you, are Y ûsuf?’ (Joseph) “I am Y ûsuf, ” he said, “and this is my brother. Allah has already been bounteous to us. Surely whoever is pious and (endures) patiently, then surely Allah does not waste the reward of the fair-doers.” (TMQ, 12:90).
The story of Prophet Yusuf (AS) teaches us that whoever wants to succeed and bears in mind a goal he wishes to accomplish, he will certainly achieve it via patience and hope, seeking Allah’s support and not succumbing to despair: "They said, ‘Is it sure that you, indeed you, are Y ûsuf?’ (Joseph) “I am Y ûsuf, ” he said, “and this is my brother. Allah has already been bounteous to us. Surely whoever is pious and (endures) patiently, then surely Allah does not waste the reward of the fair-doers." (TMQ, 12:90).
In these words, Prophet Yusuf (AS) summarizes for us his own experience in life which, as mentioned before, is a mere human experience. Thus, whoever wants to succeed in life has to first fear Allah. Second, he has to request Allah’s assistance. Third, not only does he have to be patient in coping with the misfortunes, but he also has to conquer the obstacles surrounding him.
The patience recommended here is conducive to being positive and perseverant. It follows that one should, for example, take advantage of every opportunity to learn a new skill, as Prophet Yusuf (AS) has done, since he learned how to manage finance during his stay at the house of al-Aziz. This is the reason why Prophet Yusuf says in Allah’s words what can be translated as, “He (Yû suf) said, “Set me over the lands treasuries. Surely I am constantly-persevering, (i.e., guardian) constantly-knowing.” (TMQ, 12:55).
O youth! Learn from Prophet Yusuf (AS) these two things: be successful in your professional life and excel in this life and hereafter through knowledge and hard work; and second, to resist temptations and abstain from them so that you can win the Jannah (Paradise).