By: Mowlana Syed Aftab Haider

Delivered at Ahlul Bait (a.s) Islamic Centre, Ottery, Cape Town

Ramadaan 1436/2015

After becoming established in the house of the Governor of Egypt, Yusuf (a.s) matured into a young man, at which point the Quran says that he was taught some knowledge. Thus verse 22 says: 

وَلَمَّا بَلَغَ أَشُدَّهُ ءَاتَيْنَاهُ حُكْماً وَعِلْماً وَكَذَلِكَ نَجْزِي الْمُـحْسِنِينَ

“And when Yusuf reached maturity, We gave him judgment and knowledge. And thus We reward the doers of good.”

This verse is saying that he was taught “Hukm” and “ilm”. 

Various views have been forwarded by mufassireen regarding the meaning of these two words “hukm” and “ilm” in this verse.

Some say that “hukm” means “practical knowledge” in the sense of “hikmah amali” and “ilm” means “philosophy.”

Others say that “hukm” means “how to rule/manage/administer a country” and “ilm” means “knowledge”. Thus Allah gave Yusuf (a.s) the capacity to administer a government and knowledge as well.

And then others have said that “hukm” means “irfaan” or “spiritual development.”

But the conclusion we reach is that as a result of the Allah consciousness of Yusuf (a.s) and his sabr or perseverance, Allah rewarded him with something very great. Thus the verse ends saying “And thus we reward the doers of good.” The hidden lesson here is that even Prophets do not receive reward from Allah without them striving for it.

Thus the next verses explain how Yusuf (a.s) was the symbol of chastity. 


Verse 23 says:

وَرَاوَدَتْهُ الَّتِي هُوَ فِي بَيْتِهَا عَن نَفْسِهِ وَغَلَّقَتِ الاَبَوْابَ وَقَالَتْ هَيْتَ لَكَ قَالَ مَعَاذَ اللَّهِ إِنَّهُ رَبّي أَحْسَنَ مَثْوَايَ إِنَّهُ لاَ يُفْلِحُ الظَّالِمُون

“And she, in whose house he was, sought to seduce him. She locked the doors and said, “Come, you.” He said, “[I seek] refuge of Allah. Indeed, He is my Lord, who has made good my residence. Indeed, wrongdoers will not succeed.”

And Verse 24 says:

وَلَقَدْ هَمَّتْ بِهِ وَهَمَّ بِهَا لَوْلآ أَن رَءَا بُرْهَانَ رَبّهِ كَذَلِكَ لِنَصْرِفَ عَنْهُ السُّوءَ وَالْفَحْشَآءَ إِنَّهُ مِنْ عِبَادِنَا الْمُـخْلَصِينَ

“And she certainly was determined [to seduce] him, and he would have inclined to her had he not seen the proof of his Lord. And thus [it was] that We should avert from him evil and immorality. Indeed, he was of Our Sincere servants.”  

Narrations indicate that Yusuf (a.s) was physically very attractive. This is one factor that affected the wife of the Governor to be attracted to him. But more than that, it was most likely also his character and etiquette that she found to be irresistible.

Allahamah Tabatabai in Al-Mizan tries to answer the question of “why a woman would fall for a man much younger than her.” She was not an ordinary woman and must have been beautiful as well to have been the wife of the Governor. She was very rich and powerful and had everything at her disposal. So why would she be inclined to someone who formally was actually a slave? 

He says that Yusuf (a.s) never lived as a slave in the house of the Governor and his character was so charismatic that she became attracted to him. Narrations also indicate that she did not have children from her husband, which further probably indicates why she was attracted to him.

Verse 23 refers to the climax of her love where she virtually loses herself and experiences an internal explosion. It was a build-up of interest over time and she showed interest to Yusuf (a.s) previously to which he never responded. This annoyed her further thinking that she is the boss of the house and she was seeking him, yet he was not responding. It’s as if she found that to be offensive. 

Thus she went to the extremes of locking all the doors of the palace to set the scene of being alone with Yusuf (a.s). 

“Muraawida” is to approach someone with desire. Quran explains in Verse 23 in a very “round-about way” when one reads the text of the Verse which says “And she, in whose house he was, sought to seduce him.” Why does the Quran not rather say “Zuleikha seduced Yusuf?” This is because Quran is protecting the identity of the “wrongdoer” and does not leave us stuck in contemplating about the personality of the one who did this shameful act but rather wants us to focus on the lesson to be learnt. 

She did not just “close” the doors as some translations suggest as the appropriate word would be “ghalaqa” whereas the Quran uses the word “ghallaqa” which means “to lock.”

Quran also says in reference to the door that was locked, that it was “abwaab” which means “many doors (three or more).” Certain narrations indicate that she locked up to seven doors. 

The use of the word “haytalak” or “come, you” when she tried to seduce him is actually a command to which he was expected to respond positively. 


To this command, Yusuf (a.s) said “refuge of Allah. Indeed, He is my master, who has made good my residence. Indeed, wrongdoers will not succeed “.   

This story shows the confrontation between two “loves” or “ishk”, the one being an “animalistic love” and the other being “Divine love.” 

There is a love that is focused on the human body and is so infatuated with it that it is ready to take any risk and commit any crime to fulfill that love like a crime of “passion.”

On the other hand, even though by this time Yusuf (a.s) had lived in this palace for a few years already, his heart was never diverted from the Divine love of Almighty Allah. Thus even though the wife of the Governor was powerful and attractive, none of this was attractive to Yusuf (a.s).

The winner in this battle is Divine Love. Even though Zuleikha is infatuated in her love, Yusuf (a.s) is also infatuated in his love, but their Beloved’s are different. Thus his reply reflects his thinking. It could be expected that when Zuleikha said to him “come, you”, that he could have responded by saying something like “that would not be appropriate as you are the wife of the Governor and he was kind to me by giving me this place to stay and I feel bad to be unfaithful to him, etc.” Yusuf (a.s) says none of this. 

Nor did Yusuf (a.s) bring the reason of fear of Hell fire and so on. 

But he simply says “refuge of Allah.”

Look at these words! Allamah Tabatabai highlights that Yusuf (a.s) did not even say “my refuge is with Allah” or “I seek refuge in Allah” but simply said “refuge of Allah” which indicates that even his own ego is not present in his response!    

Allamah Tabatabai and Ayatullah Jawadi Amuli then compare these words of Yusuf (a.s) to the words of Lady Maryam (a.s) when she saw 2 Angels in the form of men before her giving her glad tidings of a young son to which she responded

قَالَتْ إِنّـِي أَعُوذُ بِالرَّحْمَنِ مِنكَ

                       “Indeed, I seek refuge in the Most Merciful from you.” (Surah Maryam Verse 18).

Notice that in her example she used the word “I seek refuge” with the use of “I” indicating a type of presence of “ego”, yet in the case of Yusuf (a.s) the “ego” is completely absent.  

So Yusuf (a.s) reached a stage of Love of the Divine wherein his own ego was annihilated. 


Since Zuleikha was not necessarily on the level to understand what Yusuf (a.s)’s reference to “Refuge of Allah” might mean, he then explains it as follows:

1. He is my Lord 

2. Who gave me the best residence

So Zuleikha should not think that since she is the madam of the house that she can command him to do an evil act as it is Allah who has provided him with the best residence. Thus he does not owe her anything in reality for him to commit a sin.

By Zuleikha locking all the doors, Yusuf (a.s) is telling her that the “refuge or door of Allah” is still open even though the physical doors may be locked.

Years before Yusuf (a.s) was tested in harsh conditions in the well of Qan’aan which the Quran calls a test. But now Yusuf (a.s) is tested in the palace. This means that Allah tests you under different conditions and one should never think that wealthy people do not go through tests. 

The acid test under all these tests is how we respond to it.


We should learn from this incident that when a non-mahram man and woman are alone in a closed room, that it creates an environment for the high risk potential of committing a haraam act as satan thrives in such environments. We should thus avoid placing ourselves into such compromising circumstances.


Verse 24 indicates that she was certainly determined to deduce Yusuf (a.s) and that he would have inclined to her too. But Yusuf (a.s)’s saving grace was that he saw the “Proof” of his Lord which was so clear that it was virtually impossible to ignore. 

This verse has left many mufassireen stuck in understanding its meaning. Thus certain scholars who reported this story in great detail also went to the extent of agreeing that Yusuf (a.s) also wanted her. They thus even narrate very intimate narrations of what happened in this scene like his clothes were even removed and so on. And at this point they say Jibraeel (a.s) came and reprimanded him and he thus did not commit any act. 

Others say that Prophet Ya’koob (a.s) miraculously appeared before him and advised him that he was about to do something wrong and he thus stopped. 

Others say that there was an idol in the room and Zuleikha felt shy that she was doing something so bad in front of the idol, so she threw a sheet over the idol. When Yusuf (a.s) saw this, he thought that she would not do this act in front of an idol that cannot see or hear, yet was willing to do this in front of his Lord who is All-Seeing and All-Hearing and this caused him to stop. 

However the opinion of the Imams of Ahlul Bait (a.s) indicate that these narrations are deviated narrations and false.

The Abbasid khalif Ma’mun once asked the eighth Imam Riza (a.s) how is that Ahlul Bait (a.s) believe that Prophets are Infallible yet the Quran says that Yusuf (a.s) got involved with Zuleikha until Allah stopped him to which the Imam replied: “Yusuf (a.s) was Infallible and an Infallible never even thinks of sin.” The Imam thus said that Yusuf (a.s) did not get involved in sin. 

Thus Imam Saadiq (a.s) says on the same matter that the “Proof” of his Lord refers to the previous verse 22 which says “We gave him judgement and knowledge” which means that the “Proof” of his Lord was already present before this incident. 

Thus Ayatullah Jawadi Amuli poetically explains that “for someone who has experienced the Beauty of Allah, physical beauty has no attraction or joy.”

In the beautiful Dua of Sehr recommended for the time of Sehr in the morning which is taught by Imam Baqir (a.s), which Imam Khomeini used to recommend and love so much, we pray

“Oh Allah I ask you for Your Beauty which Beautifies, and all Your Beauties are Beautiful. Oh Allah I ask You for all Your Beauty!!”

These matters may not be understandable for us as we have not necessarily tasted the joy of the Love of Allah, but for someone who tasted it, there’s nothing else worthy of being loved.

Thus Imam Hussain (a.s) says in his most beautiful Dua Arafah “Someone who found you Oh Allah, what did he lose? And someone who has lost you Oh Allah, what did he find?”

The presence of Allah is so strongly felt by Prophets that it is not possible to cross this limit to commit sin. This “Proof” is thus knowledge by Presence. 

Thus the Quran concludes

وَلَقَدْ هَمَّتْ بِهِ وَهَمَّ بِهَا لَوْلآ أَن رَءَا بُرْهَانَ رَبّهِ كَذَلِكَ لِنَصْرِفَ عَنْهُ السُّوءَ وَالْفَحْشَآءَ إِنَّهُ مِنْ عِبَادِنَا الْمُـخْلَصِينَ

“and thus [it was] that We should avert from him evil and immorality. Indeed, he was of Our Sincered servants”. If he was influenced by the situation, the Quran would not have given him the accolade of being of “Our Sincered servants.”


In this verse the Quran calls Yusuf (a.s) “Mukhlas” instead of “Mukhlis.” Though both words refer to having sincerity, their meaning differs. “Mukhlis” refers to someone that seeks to be sincere. That is something that all human beings can strive towards and where the effort comes from ourselves. But “Mukhlas” is sincerity itself that one reaches whereby Allah places you under his protection whereby satan has no more influence over you.


It is interesting to note that the very first teachings of Yusuf (a.s) are actually recorded in the Quran when he is in this situation and has to respond to Zuleikha when he teaches her a fact of life when he says “Indeed, wrongdoers will not succeed.”

Do notice that he is not condemning Zuleikha for her lust, after all that is a God-given natural trait. However he is advising her that if one seeks to fulfil one’s legitimate desires in an unlawful way, then you will never be successful.

We said in the first lecture that the Central Theme of this Surah is that the “end cannot justify the means.” And this incident demonstrates that in the most perfect way.