By: Mowlana Syed Aftab Haider
Delivered at Ahlul Bait (a.s) Islamic Centre, Ottery, Cape Town
In the previous verses we read how Prophet Yusuf (a.s) revealed his identity to his brothers which in itself was a shock, but what made their shock such a pleasant surprise was that Prophet Yusuf (a.s) held no grudge towards them and absolved them from blame.
DELIVERING OF GOOD NEWS TO PROPHET YA’KOOB (a.s)
As the brothers of Prophet Yusuf (a.s) were travelling back to Qan’aan to inform their father that they actually found Prophet Yusuf (a.s) after they were asked to look for him, there was much excitement to undertake this return journey and to deliver the good news this time instead of the false news on the previous occasion regarding the whereabouts of Prophet Yusuf (a.s).
But before they even reached Qan’aan, a miracle already occurred in that Prophet Ya’koob (a.s) could sense the return of Prophet Yusuf (a.s).
Verse 94 thus says:
وَلَمَّا فَصَلَتِ الْعِيرُ قَالَ أَبُوهُمْ إِنّي لأَجِدُ رِيحَ يُوسُفَ لَوْلآ أَن تُفَنّدُونِ
“And when the caravan departed [from Egypt], their father said, “Indeed, I find the smell of Yusuf if you did not think me weakened in mind.”
From a position of hundreds of miles away, Prophet Ya’koob (a.s) could already smell the fragrance of Prophet Yusuf (a.s). But since he was an old man, he said to those around him that they may think that he is deluded to say so given the psychological effect that the decades of separation from Prophet Yusuf (a.s) might have caused.
Verse 95 says:
قَالُوا تَاللَّهِ إِنَّكَ لَفِي ضَلاَلِكَ الْقَدِيِم
“They said, “By Allah, indeed you are in your [same] old error.”
His family around him thus responded to say that he is confused like they thought he has always been. But they uttered this as they did not know what was about to happen.
Due to Prophet Ya’koob (a.s) being a Prophet, he had the miraculous ability to smell the fragrance of Prophet Yusuf (a.s) from such a far distance.
Furthermore, some commentators say that due to telepathic communication it is also possible to know something without being in physical contact. And there are many examples in daily life which shows this.
An example is that when children are in a difficult situation, a mother tends to sense it without them communicating it to her. And one can also sometimes feel the good experiences of your loved ones without being in contact with.
Imam Saadiq (a.s) was asked the reason why people sometimes feel stressed or down without being able to explain why they feel like that. In response the Imam indicated that all the lovers of the Ahlul Bait (a.s) are created from the same portion of clay and sometimes adversity strikes some of the lovers of Ahlul Bait (a.s) and your heart feels it without you knowing the source of that feeling.
A question could be asked at this point regarding how Prophet Ya’koob (a.s) could smell the shirt of Prophet Yusuf (a.s) while it was in Egypt which was so far away, yet he could not smell Prophet Yusuf (a.s) when he was hidden in the well in Qan’aan.
As followers of Ahlul Bait (a.s) we believe that the knowledge of Prophets and of the Imams is ilmun ladunni which is direct from Allah. In this knowledge, Allah wants them to know something sometimes and during other times Allah does not want them to know something.
A good example is that of travellers in a dark night who can’t see anything who are suddenly exposed to lightning which brightens everything before them and which light then disappears. Imam Saadiq (a.s) says that “Allah has placed between him and his Imam a pillar of Light through which Allah looks at his Imam through this pillar of Light and through which the Imam looks towards Allah through this pillar of Light. Whenever he (the Imam) wants to know something, he looks at that pillar and becomes aware.”
HOW THE MIRACULOUS SHIRT OF PROPHET YUSUF (a.s) DEBUNKS THE CRY OF SHIRK
Verse 96 says:
فَلَمَّآ أَن جَآءَ الْبَشِيرُ أَلْقَاهُ عَلَي وَجْهِهِ فَارْتَدَّ بَصِيراً قَالَ أَلَمْ أَقُل لَّكُمْ اِنّي أَعْلَمُ مِنَ اللَّهِ مَا لاَ تَعْلَمُونَ
“And when the bearer of good tidings arrived, he cast it over his face, and he returned seeing. He said, “Did I not tell you that I know from Allah that which you do not know?”
So when the caravan arrived, as commanded by Prophet Yusuf (a.s), his brother Yahuda wiped the shirt of Prophet Yusuf (a.s) over the face of his father, and his eyesight was restored miraculously. Yahuda did not say anything, he simply placed the shirt over the face of his father! As soon as their father could see, everything was clear regarding what they found.
And Prophet Ya’koob (a.s) was also further exonerated as he responds to all of them saying that he had knowledge of what they did not know. All the years, while his family thought him to be deluded in hoping to be reunited with Prophet Yusuf (a.s) one day, Prophet Ya’koob (a.s) was fully aware that Prophet Yusuf (a.s) was alive.
The “shirk and bid’ah busters” should deeply ponder upon this incident where the shirt of Prophet Yusuf (a.s) had the power of shafaa for Prophet Ya’koob (a.s) to return his sight to him! What then is wrong to obtain barakah from something that is connected to our Prophet Muhammad (sawa) who is the greatest being. When we kiss the door to the grave of Prophet Muhammad (sawa) and such related relics, it most certainly has the power of shafaa like the shirt of Prophet Yusuf (a.s) had.
The problem is that those who are obsessed with puritanical Islam look at the door to the grave of Prophet Muhammad (sawa) as merely a door, whereas when we look at it we see that due to its affiliation to Prophet Muhammad (sawa), it’s not a mere door but a source of shafaa!! Do understand this!
What’s the difference between Safaa and Marwa and Table Mountain from its physical characteristics? They both the same. But it’s affiliation to Hajar makes Safaa and Marwa holy, which if venerated, is a sign of taqwa of the heart (Surah Haj).
And similarly the dust of the ground of Karbala which is affiliated to the greatest sacrifice ever of Imam Hussain (a.s), undoubtedly contains the power of shafaa.
It’s amazing that Prophet Yusuf (a.s) did not only raise his hands and pray to Allah to restore the sight of Prophet Ya’koob (a.s), but sent his shirt to serve as the means for obtaining that shafaa!
PROPHET YA’KOOB (a.s) PRAYS FOR HIS SONS AND DEBUNKS MORE SHIRK MYTHS
The beauty of this story throughout is that it takes people back to Allah, whether it is all of Prophet Yusuf (a.s)’s tests or that of Prophet Ya’koob (a.s), consciously returning to Allah is emphasised throughout.
The brothers of Prophet Yusuf (a.s) felt humiliated for their evil actions and the damage they caused. When the brothers admitted their guilt to Prophet Yusuf (a.s), he immediately said that Allah will forgive them.
When they admitted their guilt before their father and asked him to pray to Allah for their forgiveness, we see something slightly different in that their father says that he will still pray for their forgiveness i.e. he did not do it immediately.
Verse 97 says:
قَالُوا يَآ أَبَانَا اسْتَغْفِرْ لَنَا ذُنُوبَنَآ إِنَّا كُنَّا خَاطِئِينَ
“They said, “O our father, ask for us forgiveness of our sins; indeed, we have been sinners.”
Verse 98 says:
قَالَ سَوْفَ أَسْتَغْفِرُ لَكُمْ رَبّي إِنَّهُ هُوَ الْغَفُورُ الرَّحِيمُ
“He said, “I will ask forgiveness for you from my Lord. Indeed, it is He who is the Forgiving, the Merciful.”
In this verse once again the brothers of Yusuf (a.s) are employing tawassul to achieve forgiveness. Why did they not pray directly to Allah as the “shirk and bid’ah busters” forceful suggest one do?!
Prophet Yusuf (a.s) who was the primary victim in this story forgives his brothers immediately. Prophet Ya’koob (a.s) who suffered much but was not the primary victim asked for some postponement in time to pray for their forgiveness as he believed that to do so on a Thursday night would be more acceptable. That’s why he says “I will ask forgiveness for you (in near future)”.
And the brothers reason for asking their father to pray for their forgiveness was due to Prophet Ya’koob (a.s)’s close spiritual proximity to Allah compared to them. And Prophet Ya’koob (a.s) accepts this request to pray on their behalf and does not ask them to go ask Allah direct.