Surah Yusuf (12) - The Best Of Stories 3/15

"Nahnu naqussu 'alayka ahsan al-qasasi bimaaa awhainaaa ilayka haadha al-Qur'an"(12:3) "We do relate unto thee [Muhammad] the most beautiful of stories, in that We reveal to thee this (portion of the) Qur'an".

A'udhu billahi, as-samee', al 'aleem, min al-shaytan al-la'een al-rajim. Bismillah, al-Rahman, al-Rahim. Wa as-sallal-Lahu 'ala Muhammad wa 'ala ahli baytihi at-tayyibeen at-tahireen. Allahumma salli 'ala Muhammadin wa aali Muhammad.

Allah, Subhana wa Ta'ala, has blessed us with the most perfect book, the Qur'an, a book of guidance for all of mankind, not just for Muslims. It is a book which Allah himself states within, it is a book which encompasses previous books, their principles, and also reaffirms what He has given to previous prophets, reaffirms the scriptures and the books revealed to them. (5:48)

In the Qur'an, Allah, Subhana wa Ta'ala, mentions in a verse, and He says that this book, the Qur'an, is a guide for all of mankind (2:185) & (3:138). It is instructions from your Lord, and it is a healing for what is in the hearts (17:82), as well as being a guidance and mercy for believers (31:3).

Contemplating on the verses of the Qur'an is something which is incumbent upon you and I. Simply reading it has a value to it but contemplating on its verses, understanding its lessons is where you and I will begin to understand its gems. Reciting it in a beautiful voice is on the basic level, but then understanding what we are saying and understanding the conversation from Allah to us as His servants is where you and I will begin to be able to practice and not simply be like that donkey that is mentioned in Surah Jum'uah (62:5), an animal which keeps its books on its back but takes no benefit from it. Simply reading the Qur'an is beneficial, but the real benefit will come when we begin to implement its instructions because it heals what is inside our hearts.

There are some vices which are within us, which we are not aware of. There are some problems that we may have within our hearts, in these unclean and impure hearts that we may not be able to even eradicate but Allah, Subhana wa Ta'ala, says reciting this Qur'an, pondering on its verses, acting in accordance with it will be a shifaa', will be a healing for what is in the hearts and a mercy for all of mankind.

There is no better time to become acquainted with this holy book than the month in which it was revealed. This holy month of Ramadan is an opportunity for you and I not only to recite the Qur'an, but also to become acquainted with it. By not eating, by not sleeping too much, by not performing other actions in this holy month, you and I are able to gain extra time. We have a choice. We can use this extra time to our benefit in getting closer to Allah, Subhana wa Ta'ala, or we can waste this time by simply relaxing and doing actions which will be of no benefit to us in this world or the next.

Whatever we do in action, the first thing we should ask ourselves is how will it benefit us in the next life? There are many actions which will benefit us in this life but the action that is of true value for us to be doing it and use our time in it, is an action which will give us benefit fi 'd-dunya and in the aakhira, in this world and in the next or simply in the next. But an action which will only give us benefit in this world is an action whose fruits will only be seen in this world and when we finally close our eyes, we shall begin to be answerable for every moment that we wasted.

One of the greatest things we can do, once again I emphasize this, is to acquaint ourselves with this holy book, the Qur'an: memorising its verses, understanding it, reading its translation. Sometimes we feel that the Qur'an is in Arabic if I read it, it gives me thawaab but you are not only after thawaab, we are after change, we are after action. Sometimes it does not need us to read it in Arabic there are times we can read it in Arabic, but also read the translation as well if we do not understand this God given language and this God chosen language of Arabic.

Continuing in today's recording of Surat Yusuf. We have arrived at that stage in the Surah when we understand that two vices are made very clear in this chapter, two vices which are harbored within the brothers- vices of pride and jealousy. And we saw in the last episode that these vices can take man to such a stage that they become worse than animals. They are willing to kill simply because one has been gifted and the other has not.

The brothers of Yusuf go a step forward and they even pass judgment on their father, they say that surely our father is in great error he is making an error in judgment. Why? Because we are a strong brotherhood. We are from a different mother. We are strong in ourselves. We are grown men. We are the ones who bring in the money. We are the ones who go to work. Yusuf and his brother are from a different wife, they are from a different mother and our father is paying so much attention to them. Where is our attention? The only way we will be able to gain this attention is by removing Yusuf and possibly his brother from the picture.

But look at how Allah, Subhana wa Ta'ala, shows you and I, that one who has jealousy and acts upon his jealousy, as the Ahadith tell us, will only bring about misery in the dunya and the aakhira. When they did what they did and they took Yusuf to the well and they tried to remove him from the picture, were they able to gain the love of their father? Were they able to gain the attention of their father? Quite the opposite. Their father became more infatuated with Yusuf. Their father longed for Yusuf because of this separation until his eyes turned blind such was the love that he had for Yusuf.

Today's episode, I would like to discuss upbringing, because in this verse in particular, two questions arise. The first is, that did Ya'qub do something wrong in his upbringing? Is it right that a parent should love one child more than the other, or show that he loves one child more than the other? Is this justice? Is this equality? Is this how we are meant to bring up our children? Or is it possible that these brothers of Yusuf were lying? Is it possible that Ya'qub was showing the correct amount of love to each child, but these brothers had misconstrued it, misunderstood it, and they felt that Ya'qub was favoring one over the other.

In order to answer the question very simply, we must first realise who these brothers were. What type of individuals were they? At least at the beginning of this chapter. They were individuals who were willing to kill a seven year old, to kill a nine year old Yusuf, willing to banish him, remove him from the lands, remove him to the extent that they did not want to see him again, they were willing to kill their own blood brother. Why? Because they wanted something from their father.

These are not people who can be trusted in their speech. If they speak, and as we will see later on, they even lied to their father and their father catches them out. These individuals are not individuals whose speech we can accept as truthful, so when they say that our father loves Yusuf and his brother more, when they say that our father pays more attention to Yusuf and his brother, it is not something we can accept from their speech.

So now we look at how Ya'qub is treating Yusuf and his brother Binyamin. Is it possible that a father spends more time or a parent spends more time with a child and it is acceptable that a parent shows outwardly more love to one child or a couple of children more than other children?

In order to answer this question, we must remember the hadith of Amir ul-Mu'mineen in which he defines justice in the most eloquent fashion, which I do not believe has been defined anywhere else by anybody else. In order to answer this question, we should go to the hadith of Amir ul-Mu'mineen, Imam Ali, 'alayhi as-salaam, in which he defines justice in a manner in which I do not think has been defined anywhere else or by anyone else.

Imam says justice is to place everything in its correct place. If you have two children, one of them excels in sports and the other excels in science, is it just of you to put both of them in a private school which excels in science? Or is it just of you to put both of them in another college, which is a sports college and excels in sports? You will agree that it is unjust to do both of these things, because in the first instance, it is unjust on the child who excels in sports and in the second instance, unjust on the child who excels in science.

That means that outwardly we do not have to do the same thing to two people in order to be just. Rather we have to look at that individual, look at their potential, look at their capability, and then give them what they require in order to flourish in this life. For the child who excels in science, you may pay private tuition fees and send him or her to a school, to a college, to a university, which will allow them to excel in science. For the child who excels in sports, you put them in a sports college. That is called justice, to put things in their right place.

What you and I as parents must realise is that reality and perception are two very different things. What we do in reality and how it is perceived by others can be very different. But so long as you are aware that you are treating your children in a manner which is most beneficial for that child to prosper in this world, then know that what you are doing is just.

Ya'qub, yes, may have spent more time with Yusuf. Ya'qub may have protected Yusuf and his brothers more than the protected the others. They were young, they were the youngest of children that Ya'qub had, they were from a different mother. Maybe that mother was not even alive anymore so that he was acting as two parents for them.

But he also knew that Yusuf was to become a prophet or Yusuf was a prophet and was to excel and to be given 'ismah later on, and hukman wa 'ilma, clear judgment and knowledge at a later stage. So he had to protect him in a manner such that he was not going to be taken away from him, so that he could ensure that he gave him the path it required for him to prosper and become this great prophet.

It was this reality that Ya'qub was enacting that was misconstrued and misconceived by the brothers as being unjust, as the father loving Yusuf and his brother Binyamin more than he loved themselves.

Imam Ali, 'alayhi as-salam, when he wanted children, gives us a beautiful piece of advice. He says when he wanted children, many a times when individuals want children, they pray to Allah that give me a child who will look beautiful, give me a child who will excel in their studies or will be clever. Amir ul-Mu'mineen says this is not what you should desire in your children, that is something that is given to them by God. Every child is beautiful to their parent. Every child is handsome and beautiful to their parents. No parent will say that my child is ugly. They might find other children not pleasing to their eyes, but their own children will be the coolness of their eyes.

Amir ul-Mu'mineen says that when he wanted children, he did not ask Allah for a child who will have a beautiful face or will have a good stature. Instead, Imam says that I asked Allah for a child who will be mutee'an who will be obedient to his Lord and fearful of Him, so that when a time comes that I shall see my child in the obedience of his master of Allah, I shall have coolness in my eyes. I will know that I have done my duty, I have fulfilled my duty in upbringing a child who is now fearful of his Lord, of the punishment, desirous of his Lord, understanding the mercy of his Lord, such that he wishes to obey this great Master of his.

These are the type of children that we should try and bring up. When we want to bring up these children, sometimes we may need to spend time, more time with one child than another. This is not being unjust. We may need to give one child more than we give another child, this is not being unjust. What is an injustice is when we give a child that which they do not require or we do not give a child that which they require so they do not, they are not able to fulfill their potential.

Within this story Allah, Subhana wa Ta'ala, says for those who ask, there are many a sign in simply this relationship and understanding between the brothers of Yusuf and Yusuf. Allah, Subhana wa Ta'ala, says in Chapter 12, verse number seven in Surat Yusuf: "Laqad kaana fi Yusuf wa ikhwatihi aayatun li's-sa'ileen"(12:7). 'There are many a sign for people who ask with this relationship of Yusuf and his brothers'. Not simply pride and jealousy that we have touched upon, not simply the upbringing that they have had, not simply the misunderstanding that they have within their heads, this misconception that they have that our father loves one more than the other. There are many a sign, which you and I will only be able to extrapolate these signs and understand them, if we spend time with the Qur'an and if we ponder on its verses.

We are in this holy month of Ramadan. We have time on our hands, especially if we are living in the West. We stay up till the time of Suhur, we do not want to sleep, we will miss Suhur, so we stay awake because the time is very close after we break our fast. What we should do is ensure that we use this time in the most beneficial manner. If it is seeking istighfar from Allah, Subhana wa Ta'ala, if it is praying to Him through the most immaculate, perfect prayers that we have in Sahifah for example. If it is opening our hearts and just speaking to our Creator one on one in an intimate conversation and munajaat or if it is opening up His glorious book and listening to His conversation and deliberating on these verses.

We ask Allah, Subhana wa Ta'ala, to make us individuals who become acquainted with the Qur'an, friends with the Qur'an, such that on the Day of Judgment, when we enter heaven, Allah will tell us "Iqra' wa 'rqa'", that read the verse of the Qur'an and with every verse that you read, you shall elevate to a new station in the most glorious paradise that Allah has created for us.

Wa sall-Allahu 'ala Muhammad wa 'ala ahli baytihi, at-tayyibeen, at-tahireen.