By: Mowlana Syed Aftab Haider
Delivered at Ahlul Bait (a.s) Islamic Centre, Ottery, Cape Town
After the wife of the Governor was found to be guilty of wanting to seduce Yusuf (a.s), the attempts to keep this matter private were unsuccessful and the story of this incident leaked from the palace. Verses 30 to 32 then narrates how the elite from among the women of Egypt reacted to this news.
Verse 30 says:
وَقَالَ نِسْوَةٌ فِي الْمَدِينَةِ امْرَأَتُ الْعَزِيزِ تُرَاوِدُ فَتَاهَا عَن نَّفْسِهِ ۖ قَدْ شَغَفَهَا حُبًّا ۖ إِنَّا لَنَرَاهَا فِي ضَلَالٍ مُّبِينٍ
“And women in the city said, “The wife of al-‘Azeez is seeking to seduce her slave boy; he has impassioned her with love. Indeed, we see her [to be] in clear error.”
These women referred to are those elite women who had interaction with the palace and would be invited there on certain occasions. The normal women of the society generally would have no interest to this story as they had no personal relationship with Zuleikha.
Thus the elite women started to gossip about this story and said that she has been overcome in her passion for him and has basically lost her senses.
Verse 31 says:
فَلَمَّا سَمِعَتْ بِمَكْرِهِنَّ أَرْسَلَتْ إِلَيْهِنَّ وَأَعْتَدَتْ لَهُنَّ مُتَّكَأً وَءَاتَتْ كُلَّ وَاحِدَةٍ مِنْهُنَّ سِكّيناً وَقَالَتِ اخْرُجْ عَلَيْهِنَّ فَلَمَّا رَأَيْنَهُ أَكْبَرْنَهُ وَقَطَّعْنَ أَيْدِيَهُنَّ وَقُلْنَ حَاشَ لِلَّهِ مَا هَذَا بَشَراً إِنْ هَذَآ إِلاَّ مَلَكٌ كَرِيمٌ
“So when she heard of their scheming, she sent for them and prepared for them a banquet and gave each one of them a knife and said [to Yusuf], “Come out before them.” And when they saw him, they greatly admired him and cut their hands and said, “Perfect is Allah ! This is not a man; this is none but a noble angel.”
These verses and the hadith narrations indirectly refer to the fact that while the elite women were gossiping about the wife of the Governor, they also became interested to know who Yusuf (a.s) was! They thus gossiped about Zuleikha so that she might react. Thus when they were invited to a banquet at the palace, they were too keen to attend as they might have a chance to see Yusuf (a.s). Otherwise they do not appear to be more pious in any way, even though their language appeared to be “holy.” Thus the verse refers to their “scheming.”
At the banquet, while they were comfortable and eating fruit, with either an apple or orange in their hand and each was cutting their own fruit, Zuleikha suddenly commanded Yusuf (a.s) to go into the room where the women were.
One may wonder why Yusuf (a.s) would go into a room full of women when he already had a bad experience. However it appears that he was completely unaware that they were in the room.
So when he entered the room, the women’s jaws dropped in shock to see his beauty and glorified him and cut their hands without realizing it. This happens when you lose your senses. These women did not only admire his physical beauty but also saw spiritual beauty in him and thus called him a “noble angel” and thus acknowledged that he could never be a corrupt person.
This response of the women also teaches us that before you speak bad about others, that one should consider whether you would really have performed better if you were in that same situation. It often happens that we would react in the same way and should thus not criticize others so easily. It is only when one is in the same situation that you will actually get to know how you would respond.
The absence of pain when cutting their hands also indicates that when you in love then you feel no pain.
There is a beautiful story of when Imam Ali (a.s) was injured during a battle and a portion of a spear was stuck in his leg such that it could not be removed as it was too painful. It was only removed when Imam Ali (a.s) was performing salaah as during salaah he was with his Beloved and was completely unaware of what was happening around him and felt no pain at all.
Verse 32 says:
قَالَتْ فَذَلِكُنَّ الَّذِي لُمْتُنَّنِي فِيهِ وَلَقَدْ رَاوَدتُّهُ عَن نَّفْسِهِ فَاسْتَعْصَمَ وَلَئِن لَّمْ يَفْعَلَ مَآ ءَامُرُهُ لَيُسْجَنَنَّ وَلَيَكُوناً مِنَ الصَّاغِرِينَ
“She said, “That is the one about whom you blamed me. And I certainly sought to seduce him, but he firmly refused; and if he will not do what I order him, he will surely be imprisoned and will be of those debased.”
With this response, Zuleikha suddenly had the upper hand and thus basically asked the women why they blamed her for trying to seduce Yusuf (a.s) when they could not endure his beauty for a few seconds and all cut their hands while she lives with him in the same palace for years and is expected to behave better.
Women are generally expected to be shy and not to be very open about their emotions, but since the experience with Yusuf (a.s) was too much to ensure, Zuleikha openly expresses the fact that she tried to seduce Yusuf (a.s) and the fact that she had a problem. She thus still threatens Yusuf (a.s) with being imprisoned and humiliated as Zuleikha still wanted him.
Narrations thus indicate to us that after the incident when Zuleikha tried to seduce Yusuf (a.s), the matter did not end there. Other women in the palace came to Yusuf (a.s) and tried to convince him that he should give Zuleikha what she wants and that he would even be able to get rid of the Governor and then govern the whole of Egypt himself. This shows that the real powerful person and decision maker was Zuleikha and that also explains why the Governor initially had a weak response when he discovered Zuleikha’s seduction attempt.
A culmination of all of these incidents made life very uncomfortable for Yusuf (a.s) as he was now surrounded by temptation of various women.
PRISON IS MORE DEAR TO YUSUF (a.s)
Verse 33 narrates Yusuf (a.s)’s response:
قَالَ رَبِّ السِّجْنُ أَحَبُّ إِلَيَّ مِمَّا يَدْعُونَنِي إِلَيْهِ وَإِلاَّ تَصْرِفْ عَنّي كَيْدَهُنَّ أَصْبُ إِلَيْهِنَ وَأَكُن مِنَ الْجَاهِلِينَ
“He said, “My Lord, prison is more dear to me than that to which they invite me. And if You do not avert from me their plan, I might incline toward them and [thus] be of the ignorant.”
When everyone was inviting Yusuf (a.s) to commit sin, he most beautifully returned to his Lord and prayed saying that prison is better for him than what they invited him to. The reference to the word “they” and “their” shows there were more than one woman that was now inclined to Yusuf (a.s)
His preference for prison again shows his deep connection to the Love of Allah. This of course reflects his great spiritual level. But for us we also learn that hardship in daily life does not give one a licence or excuse to commit sin but we should resist it like Yusuf (a.s) did.
Prophet Muhammad (sawa) thus says that one of seven people will be provided with the shade of Allah’s Throne on the day when there will be no shade is a man who is invited to commit sin with a beautiful woman and he resists by saying that he fears Allah.
Verse 34 which concludes this part of the story says:
فَاسْتَجَابَ لَهُ رَبُّهُ فَصَرَفَ عَنْهُ كَيْدَهُنَّ إِنَّهُ هُوَ السَّمِيعُ الْعَلِيمُ
“So his Lord responded to him and averted from him their plan. Indeed, He is the Hearing, the Knowing.”
Again when Yusuf (a.s) was in difficulty, Allah responded to him. This again emphasizes the trend of Allah to always respond to His pious servants and never to abandon them.