Verily in Joseph and his brethren are signs (or symbols) for seekers (after Truth). (Surah Yusuf: 7)
The Qur'an was sent down to mankind by Allah to serve as a guide, it contains the very truest accounts, bringing glad tidings to man, warning him and instilling fear in him. It is a great mercy and the sole Divine Book. For that reason, it is the Qur'an that people must read and study above all else.
As well as containing the commandments of Allah, the Qur'an also gives people the most accurate information on a number of subjects.
Allah teaches us important wisdom in those sections that describe the lives of the prophets of the past. The life story of every prophet furnishes us both with lessons in faith and with examples of how we should behave in the time and society in which we live. Studying these life stories in detail, trying to grasp the wisdom they contain and praying to Allah that we might do so, is the duty of every Muslim.
In this book we shall be examining the life and struggles of one of these prophets of the past, Yusuf (as), and considering the knowledge that Allah imparts to us concerning him.
Prophet Yusuf (as), known in the Bible as Joseph, is one of those prophets about whose life the Qur'an has most to say. Almost all of Surah Yusuf, one of the longest in the Qur'an, is devoted to his life and that of his family. Early on in this surah, Allah reveals that his life story contains important indications, proofs and wisdom:
In Yusuf and his brothers there are Signs for every one of those who want to ask. (Surah Yusuf: 7)
Since Allah devotes a lot of space to the details of the life of Prophet Yusuf (as), we may be sure that believers have a great deal to learn from it. In fact, the final verse of the surah stresses that the life stories of the prophets contain important lessons for those who possess wisdom and reason and are capable of grasping the essential meanings inherent in creation:
There is instruction in their stories for people of intelligence. This is not a narration which has been invented but confirmation of all that came before, a clarification of everything, and a guidance and a mercy for people who believe. (Surah Yusuf: 111)
One of the great examples of wisdom in the life stories of the prophets is the way the verses do not merely describe events in the past, but also provide lessons for people of future generations while pointing to events that have yet to take place. In this sense, the life of Yusuf (as) has several meanings. When we look at his life we see that Muslims have faced similar difficulties in all ages, that they have been subjected to unfounded allegations by people who do not share their religion and that they have experienced a great many situations in which they have needed to exhibit patience and resignation before the will of Allah. We are told that at an early age Prophet Yusuf (as) was thrown down a well by his brothers and left to die, that he was later sold into slavery and spent long years in prison as a result of false accusations, and that he was tested with a number of difficulties. So when believers look at his life they find a great many similarities with their own lives. It is the immutable design of Allah that believers over the ages have faced similar situations. Allah makes this clear in a number of verses:
That was the pattern with those We sent before you as Our Messengers. You will not find any changing of Our pattern. (Surat al-Isra': 77)
That is Allah's pattern which has passed away before.You will not find any changing in the pattern of Allah. (Surat al-Fath: 23)
In addition to this, after all the traps that had been set for him; the way he was thrown into a well, slandered, unjustly imprisoned and left there for years, Allah eventually made Yusuf (as) head of the Treasury. He gave him power, rank and wealth. The unalterable pattern of Allah applies here, just as it does in every other field. Allah promises in several verses that the faithful will be delivered after all their tribulations:
Allah has promised those of you who believe and do right actions that He will make them successors in the land as He made those before them successors, and will firmly establish for them their religion with which He is pleased and give them, in place of their fear, security. "They worship Me, not associating anything with Me." Any who disbelieve after that, such people are deviators. (Surat an-Nur: 55)
Just as with the other prophets, believers who read the life story of Prophet Yusuf (as) will encounter many glad tidings and learn a great many lessons. That being the case, every believer must read these stories and attempt to grasp the wisdom they contain. A thorough understanding of the life of Prophet Yusuf (as) will provide believers with the kind of insight that will be of use to them in their daily lives and throughout their lives.