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Lessons from Yusuf(AS) – temptation, prison and identity

Alhamdulillah, we come to the end of a period of celebration following Eid ul Adha and we are blessed to be able to greet and spend time with one another as Covid restrictions are eased. May Allah(SWT) accept all your good deeds and enable us to gain closeness to Him(SWT) in these days and months which follow.

This week we have also seen a sudden death almost every day this week, with four janazas this week of brothers under the age of 45. There is a hadith narration collected by Tabaraani which states “Among the signs that the Last Hour is near, is that

  • the crescent would appear larger than its actual size and people would say: “It appears as if it is only two days old.”
  • and the mosques will be taken as streets
  • and sudden death will spread.”

This hadith summarises much of what we have seen this week – the sighting of the crescent moon may have been a point of debate in the UK but the chand raat celebrations which take place on the eve of Eid persist. Although the origins of this practise are sometimes related to the Prophetic tradition of encouraging worship: “Whoever stands up (in worship) in the nights preceding the two Eids expecting rewards from his Lord, his heart will not die when the other hearts will die”. (Ibn Majah)

Sadly, that is the furthest thing from what we see – rather than than flocking to the mosque in the best days of the year, many flock to our streets with shops remaining open till the early hours, mehndi stalls being set up in public spaces, girls and boys flocking and flirting till the early hours and almost without fail, fights and weapons being used to scare and scar as a show of bravado circulated by guerilla paparazzi and circulating through our social media and narrative for days to come.

As a result, a man is suffering life-changing injuries and four others were hurt in a mass brawl which caught the eye of national media. The incident involved men with knives, machetes and bats just after midnight, hours before the Eid prayer on the first day of sacrifice.

Luton Councils of Masaajid are in contact with the Police and local authorities to review the situation and put in preventative measures to pre-empt a repeat of this violent incident. Importantly, we all need to reflect and take some lessons from this situation. In the Qur’an the story of Yusuf (AS) has some direct parallels to our position today.

Yusuf(AS) was a child when he said to his father, ‘Father, I dreamed of eleven stars and the sun and the moon: I saw them all bow down before me,’ and he replied, ‘My dear son, tell your brothers nothing of this dream, or they may plot to harm you––Shaytan is man’s sworn enemy.” [Surah Yusuf 12:4-5]

Look at the loving relationship between the father and son that they share such personal experiences and the father acknowledges his son’s dream, even though it seems outrageous. And then he lovingly says “my dear son” while he gives him some critical advice. We all need to work on developing this relationship with our children, nephews and youth while they are young. Youth, we need to talk to and share our dreams with our family rather before our friends and social networks.

It’s very easy for people to be swayed by Shaytan and become jealous over what we have, so do think twice before discussing all of your blessings. Yaqub(AS) knew that Yusuf(AS) was blessed with special abilities that would probably cause his brothers to wish and plan harm against him, so he told him to keep the dream a secret. You don’t need to share all the good things that happens to you with everyone – social media is mostly a facade where people exaggerate their life and most are just watching to revel in others failures.

These days of Hajj remind us that “Allah does not look at your appearance or wealth, but rather He looks at your hearts and actions.” [Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 2564]. The food you eat, car you sit in and the trainers you wear are not what make you valuable – its whats inside you that makes you valuable

Despite not sharing the dream, the brothers of Yusuf are still jealous of him as they see the close love between him and his father. So they say “Dad, why do you not entrust us with Yusuf while indeed, we are to him sincere counselors?” [12:11]

We learn from this that a criminal can present themselves as righteous and a sincere advisor. Similar to how the devil came to Adam in the form of sincere advice when he suggested that Adam eat from the tree, the brothers of Yusuf portrayed themselves as being caring and having Yusuf’s best interests in mind, when in fact they wished to get rid of Yusuf. Ask yourself about the people around you – are they sincere in seeing you achieve or are you just a chamcha – light entertainment who they push into getting into a fight so they can record it while they sit back?

In our lives, Shaytan may also suggest things that look good to us on the surface, like meeting certain people or going to certain events, but we know deep down that this may not be the best for us in the long run. 

When they didnt manage to kill him by pushing him into the well, they decided to profit from him by selling him to passing traders. “And they sold him for a small price, for a few pieces of silver: so little did they value him.” [12:20]

One day you are the pigeon and the next, you are the statue. One day you’re the one that is free and high up in the world enjoying your privileges and life. The very next, like our brother in hospital, you are unable to do anything, facing the prospect of his leg being amputated or at least disabled for life. In the case of Yusuf(AS), he was held in such high regard by his father, but his brothers didn’t think much of him at all. Neither did the caravan that picked him up and sold him for an insignificant amount. Similarly, all those involved in this violence may have been posing on social media during the night but they were arrested on Eid day – and who thinks highly of them today?

Yusuf(AS) didn’t just have a loving father and the ability to interpret dreams. He was blessed with “half of (worldly) beauty” [Sahih Muslim 162a] as noted by the Prophet(SAW) on the journey of ascension (Mi’raj). For all those romeo’s seeking their juliet the night before Eid, know that Yusuf(AS) was more handsome than all of us and he was seduced by one of the most beautiful, powerful and wealthiest women in the global superpower of the time. 

And it wasn’t just the desire that was a trial. He was a slave and she was the wife of his master, so he could have given in on the basis that he did not have a choice. But he knew he was responsible for his actions and therefore prayed to Allah to help him. When “she bolted the doors and said, ‘Come to me,’ he replied, ‘God forbid! My master has been good to me; wrongdoers never prosper.’” [12:23] 

When your hormones are racing and you feel compelled because of peer pressure, turn to Allah(SWT) and ask Him to give you strength to overcome those forces. Just as he saved Yusuf(AS) from the most powerful of people, Allah(SWT) sees our situation and hears our sincere calls. 

We also learn from this that loyalty is to your crew or cuzzy. I volunteer in prisons and there is no better reality than speaking to those inside to realise that all their gangs and boys have left them to rot. In fact, it’s only then, that it dawns on them that Allah(SWT) is the only One with them as they go from court hearing to cell. And many of them thank Allah(SWT) from taking them out of them environment of being a mule or serving up, so that they can fix up. True loyalty is only due to the One who is with you when you are alone, in your grave and the One who will be our Judge – Allah(SWT).

For every one of us that likes to flex some power, know that real power is when you’re capable of doing something and you still say no. Yusuf was handsome and young. He was given a secret room where the doors were locked. He was presented with Al-Azeez’s wife who was initiating the seduction. At that moment, he was very capable of committing adultery. But instead, he demonstrated real power by saying no.

In the next stage of his life, he opted to go to prison rather than give up on his principles and purity. Yusuf(AS) served time but he never let that change him, rather he changed the people around him. Being in bad company (prison) doesn’t have to make you bad. You have a choice – do you want to be the one who brings good into others’ lives or do you want to be the one to drag them down? The best situation is not to accompany those who are involved in wrong. But if you have no choice, at least gift them with a good example and a pathway to good.

The final point I want to highlight is that no matter how much you try to hide something, Allah will expose it eventually. When the ruler ordered an investigation after many years of Yusuf(AS) being in prison, everything was laid out and his innocence was proven. 

“The king asked the women, ‘What happened when you tried to seduce Yusuf?’ They said, ‘God forbid! We know nothing bad of him!’ and the wife of al-Azeez said, “‘Now the truth is out: it was I who tried to seduce him- he is an honest man.’” [12:51]

The wife of Al-Azeez thought she got away with her attempt at seduction by having Yusuf thrown into prison. The brothers of Yusuf thought they got away with having Yusuf thrown into the well. But in both cases, Allah exposed them.

Similarly, the things you do which you know are wrong – taking advantage of others. Trying to hurt someone else from a distance – on social media or setting someone else up to take the fall. Know that Allah(SWT) will make things clear and can humiliate any one of us for the wrongs we do.

Oftentimes, it’s our lack of self-confidence – not trusting our one’s abilities, qualities, and judgment – that causes us to act like sheep or serve other people rather than doing what is right. Self-confidence is key to your health and psychological well-being and we learn from the story of Yusuf(AS) that even in the eye of the storm, you can remain firm if:

  • You stop comparing yourself to others, unlike the brothers of Yusuf (AS). Research has shown that people who compared themselves to others experienced envy. And the more envy they experienced, the worse they felt about themselves.
  • Be positive and surround yourself with positive people – you can find them even if you’re in prison or distant from your family. Do your friends lift you up or bring you down? Are they constantly judging you or do they accept you for who you are?  The people you spend time with influence your thoughts and attitudes about yourself more than you think.
  • Face Your Fears: Don’t be limited by your
    > fear of failure (letting dow others when they  dare you to do something risky)
    > fear of losing friends and not being loved
    > fear of being judged
    > fear of losing identity
    > fear of losing control and
    > fear of what might happen in the future

Take control of your future, ask others for help and most importantly, talk to Allah(SWT) – He will certainly guide you and protect you in ways you could never imagine.

At the end of his story Yusuf(AS) says

“My Lord! You have surely granted me authority and taught me the interpretation of dreams. ˹O˺ Originator of the heavens and the earth! You are my Guardian in this world and the Hereafter. Allow me to die as one who submits and join me with the righteous.” [Surah Yusuf 12:101]

Sayyiduna Abu Bakr (radiyallahu’anhu) is reported to have said in du’a “O Allah, let the best part of my life be its ending, and my best deed be that which I seal [my life with], and the best of my days the day I meet You.”  (Musannaf Ibn Abi Shaybah, Hadith: 30124)

May Allah(SWT) bless us with a good life, good company and a good ending.


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