By: Mowlana Syed Aftab Haider
Delivered at Ahlul Bait (a.s) Islamic Centre, Ottery, Cape Town
After all the efforts of the women to pressurize him to commit sin, everyone realized that they will not be successful. They were now faced with a problem that they could not solve. So the solution that they decided on was to imprison Yusuf (a.s).
Verse 35 thus says:
ثُمَّ بَدَا لَهُمْ مِن بَعْدِ مَا رَأَوُاْ الاَيَاتِ لَيَسْجُنُنَّهُ حَتَّي حِينٍ
“Then it appeared to them after they had seen the signs that al-‘Azeez should surely imprison him for a time.”
Why would you imprison someone who is innocent? In this case he is imprisoned because his crime is innocence! And since this matter remained the reason for gossip, by removing Yusuf (a.s) from the scene it was thought that it would stop the gossiping that was occurring.
It’s interesting that most oppressors operate like this when they cannot solve a problem. Yusuf (a.s) went to prison, but in most cases the person dies under strange circumstances.
Freedom in a corrupt environment is for those who assimilate to the society and do not oppose the corruption. However for those who have values in their life, they go against the flow by resisting and are then silenced by being imprisoned or removed from society. However you cannot silence them forever!
YUSUF (a.s) ENTERS PRISON
So Yusuf (a.s) entered prison among normal criminals. He was not given any special privileges.
Verse 36 says:
وَدَخَلَ مَعَهُ السّجْنَ فَتَيَانِ قَالَ أَحَدُهُمَآ إِنّي أَرَانِي أَعْصِرُ خَمْراً وَقَالَ الاَخَرُ إِنّي أَرَانِي أَحْمِلُ فَوْقَ رَأْسِي خُبْزاً تَأْكُلُ الطَّيْرُ مِنْهُ نَبّئْنَا بِتَأْوِيلِهِ إِنَّا نَرَاكَ مِنَ الْمُـحْسِنِينَ
“And there entered the prison with him two young men. One of them said, “Indeed, I have seen myself [in a dream] pressing wine.” The other said, “Indeed, I have seen myself carrying upon my head [some] bread, from which the birds were eating. Inform us of its interpretation; indeed, we see you to be of those who do good.”
Just like the dark well of Qan’aan did not change Yusuf (a.s), nor did the lavish life of living in a palace change him, his entry into prison also kept him on the path of Love of Allah.
These prisons consisted of a variety of people, from hard criminals to people who were absolutely innocent. Regarding the two young men who entered the prison with Yusuf (a.s), the narrations indicate that they worked in the palace of the Governor and were responsible for cooking and entertainment. They criticized the king and were then accused of wanting to poison the king and thus imprisoned.
In line with Yusuf (a.s)’s nature, the moment he entered prison and noticed how people were suffering in it, he started to assist and be kind to the prisoners. This resulted in him became a respected person inside prison.
In seeing this character of Yusuf (a.s), the two young men decided to ask Yusuf (a.s) to interpret the dreams that they had as they considered that the job of interpretation should be done by “good people”. Interpreting dreams is something very personal and thus they trusted Yusuf (a.s) to do this and said to him “indeed, we see you to be of those who do good.”
YUSUF (a.s) STARTS HIS PROPHETIC MISSION
In response to the request of the two young men to have their dreams interpreted, Verse 37 quotes Yusuf (a.s) as saying:
قَالَ لاَ يَأْتِيكُمَا طَعَامٌ تُرْزَقَانِهِ إِلاَّ نَبَّأْتُكُمَا بِتَأْوِيلِهِ قَبْلَ أَن يَأْتِيَكُمَا
“He said, “You will not receive food that is provided to you except that I will inform you of its interpretation before it comes to you.”
Yusuf (a.s) promised to interpret their dreams for them before the next time that they receive their meals.
However, during this in between period he takes the opportunity to first teach them the origin of his skill of being able to interpret dreams! And he does this in the most amazing way wherein his choice of words leave us with an eternal message to ponder over.
Thus Verse 37 continues:
ذَلِكُمَا مِمَّا عَلَّمَنِي رَبّي إِنّي تَرَكْتُ مِلَّةَ قَوْمٍ لايُؤْمِنُونَ بِاللَّهِ وَهُم بِالأَخِرَةِ هُمْ كَافِرُونَ
“That is from what my Lord has taught me. Indeed, I have left the religion of a people who do not believe in Allah, and they, in the Hereafter, are disbelievers.”
He says he has been taught special knowledge that you cannot learn in a regular school. He also explains that the reason why he was taught this skill is due to him having made “tabarra” and “tawalla.” The meaning of “I have left the religion of the people who do not believe in Allah” is the rejection of the worship of “other than Allah” which is the principle of “tabarra”.
This is combined with having wilayat or the guardianship of Allah which is “tawalla” when he is quoted in Verse 38 which says:
وَاتَّبَعْتُ مِلَّةَ ءَابآءِي إِبْرَاهِيمَ وَإِسْحَاقَ وَيَعْقُوبَ مَا كَانَ لَنَآ أَن نُّشْرِكَ بِاللَّهِ مِن شَيْءٍ ذَلِكَ مِن فَضْلِ اللَّهِ عَلَيْنَا وَعَلَي النَّاسِ وَلَكِنَّ أَكْثَرَ النَّاسِ لا يَشْكُرُونَ
“And I have followed the religion of my fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. And it was not for us to associate anything with Allah. That is from the favour of Allah upon us and upon the people, but most of the people are not grateful.”
Furthermore by reference to his forefathers he is making the following critical points:
1. Shirk is not possible for Yusuf (a.s) and his forefathers due to Allah’s favour on them and on certain people;
2. By insisting on the religion of his forefathers instead of just mentioning Ibrahim (a.s), Ishaaq (a.s) and Ya’koob (a.s), he is saying that he is the Ahlul Bait of Ibrahim (a.s); and
3. It is a Quranic trend that certain families were favoured for the role of being the Representative of Allah as
اللّهُ أَعْلَمُ حَيْثُ يَجْعَلُ رِسَالَتَهُ
“Allah knows best where to place his message”
(Surah An-aam Verse 124).
PREREQUISITES FOR PROPAGATION
One of the most important lessons that we learn in the arena of doing propagation work for Islam is that one needs to first build credibility with the people before starting one’s mission. This was the case with Prophet Muhammad (sawa) who was known as the “Truthful” and “Trustworthy” long before he started his Prophetic Mission and the same is the case with Prophet Yusuf (a.s) who built his credibility to be called a “Good doer”.
SHIRK OF WORSHIP
Egyptians used to believe in God and did not deny the afterlife in principle. Thus we see how they used to bury their pharaohs with all their wealth and so on as they believed that they will benefit from it in the afterlife. However, Yusuf (a.s) still declares them to “not” believe in God and the Hereafter. This is due to their polytheism or shirk being on the level of worship. In other words, in terms of the Tauheed of Worship of Allah, they did not reserve their worship for that One Ultimate God but worshiped a variety of gods. And in their belief in the afterlife, they believed in reincarnation instead of resurrection and thus believed that they will return in different forms like a variety of animal forms, etc.
ROOT CAUSE OF PROBLEMS
In addition to teaching the two young men pure Tauheed, Prophet Yusuf (a.s) explains to his prison inmates who were innocent that the root cause for being in prison is that they worshiped too many gods. He thus asks them a rhetorical question which is recorded in Verse 39 which says:
يَا صَاحِبَيِ السّجْنِ ءَأَرْبَابٌ مُّتَفَرّقُونَ خَيْرٌ أَمِ اللَّهُ الْوَاحِدُ الْقَهَّارُ
“O [my] two companions of prison, are separate lords better or Allah, the One, the Prevailing?”
He then says that these gods have no reality and is part of their imagination that they gave a name and then worshiped it. Verse 40 thus says “You worship not besides Him except [mere] names you have named them, you and your fathers, for which Allah has sent down no authority.” There is no rational proof for this practice and they had no authority to do this.
He was indirectly saying to them that if they truly worshiped the One God, then they would be truly free.
This message is very relevant to us today as well as we are still stuck in worshiping our nafs and have many false gods that we bow to.
Surah Furqan Verse 43 says:
أَرَأَيْتَ مَنِ اتَّخَذَ إِلَهَهُ هَوَ
“Have you seen the one who takes as his god his own desire?”
In the world you have those who shout about purity of Tauheed, yet worship the false gods of the Western Powers. That’s how you see in Yemen that people of pure Tauheed are able to overcome the Saudis who literally worship the Western Powers but export a brand of Islam called “puritanical Islam.”