A Lesson in Akhlaq

By Zainab Abaid

(Taken from tafseer of Surah Yusuf, Ayah 100, as explained by Dr. Farhat Hashmi during Taleem ul Quran, 2002)

Surah Yusuf is one of those surahs of the Quran that contain a treasure trove of lessons. One of the most important lessons contained in this surah is the lesson of akhlaq. In particular, the theme that recurs repeatedly through the surah is that of positivity in thought, speech and behavior. Prophet Yusuf AS’s entire life, and hence this entire surah, is a lesson in positivity.

However, one ayah in particular sums up and captures the very essence of this lesson – Ayah 100, which reads:

“And he raised his parents upon the throne, and they bowed to him in prostration. And he said, “O my father, this is the explanation of my vision of before. My Lord has made it reality. And He was certainly good to me when He took me out of prison and brought you [here] from Bedouin life after Satan had induced [estrangement] between me and my brothers. Indeed, my Lord is Subtle in what He wills. Indeed, it is He who is the Knowing, the Wise.”

This ayah is about that point in his life when, having passed through all the hardships and estrangement, he was finally rewarded by Allah with the kingdom of Egypt and reunited at last with his family. Let us now examine, one by one, several things that we learn from this beautiful ayah.

Respect for Parents:

We know from preceding verses that Prophet Yusuf AS had had a very cultured upbringing in urban Egypt, and was at this point a highly influential figure in the civilized world. On the other hand were his parents, arrived after years of separation from a simple, rural background. Yet he seated them with him, right on the royal throne, treating both of them with immense and equal respect despite the fact that his mother was only a step mother. This is a demonstration of the value that must be given to parents, the value that they deserve, no matter how high above them we are in social status. Prophets are meant to be models for us, yet we see how often our parents are shunned and distanced by their successful offspring today; we see how ashamed the rich and famous feel today of simple, poor parents; we see how often we tend to distance ourselves from parents when our sophisticated friends visit!

Believing in Allah’s Promises:

“And they bowed to him in prostration” : this was the fulfillment of the dream that Prophet Yusuf AS had seen years ago, as a child. How many hardships he had passed through, how many turns his life had taken, before Allah’s promise at last reached its fulfillment! Here again the Quran becomes a mirror in which to see our own reflection – do we really believe in Allah’s promises as we claim to? Can we stick to this belief for years and years when we see no apparent signs of fulfillment? Would we have acted as Yusuf AS did, or would we have thought there was no point in being so good and patient, for what do we have to gain by that? Do we really believe Allah then, when He says:

(And We do not allow to be lost the reward of those who do good)

When we are depressed and in situations where there is no apparent way out, do we really trust Allah, believing His promise from Surah at Talaq that He will create a way out for all those who have taqwa? How much do we really believe in Allah’s promises then? This ayah is simply a reminder that every promise has its own time of fulfillment, and just that the fulfillment does not come at our beck and call is no reason to stop believing in it or to give in to disappointment and ingratitude!

Total Positivity:

Now comes the most moving part of the ayah – Yusuf AS recounts the story of his life, and we see in his style of narration a model of true prophetic akhlaq. Notice how the very start of his narration differs from our accounts of our past troubles.
He begins his narration: “O my father, this is the explanation of my vision of before. My Lord has made it reality. And He was certainly good to me when He took me out of prison…”

Notice that at the very start he mentions the ihsan of Allah. Recall from Yusuf AS’s story that this being taken out of prison came only after years and years of being away from his family, stranded in a strange land, and then being imprisoned. Yet not a word of complaint does he utter. He does not recall the injustice; rather he focuses only on the ihsan.

Ask yourself: Do we do this? Do we focus on only the solutions we found to our past troubles or on the injustices done to us? Do we thank Allah for bringing us out of our troubles or do we brood over the misery we went through? How much we brood indeed, and how much self-pity we wallow in, for months and years after a problem has passed! How many of us curse our luck, for having brought on us such problems, with no regard to the fact that Allah made us so much stronger through the trials that came on us, let alone thank Him! With every difficulty comes ease, yet how many of us take the ease for granted, exaggerating the difficulty!

Further, he mentions coming out of prison, but doesn’t say a word about coming out of the well; why? For saying so would embarrass his brothers who threw him in! Could there be akhlaq more beautiful?
Continuing his narration, he says: “And brought you [here] from Bedouin life after Satan had induced [estrangement] between me and my brothers.”

First thing to be noticed here is that he is thanking Allah for being merciful to him, that his relatives came to him. He does not say, “Allah has been kind to you by bringing you to this place of honor from Bedouin life.” He is a model of akhlaq here, of humility and of gratitude, and we see in him a true momin’s positivity.

Secondly, after all the cruelty from his brothers, all he says is that Satan led them astray. We see no blame, no grudges, no shouting and anger. For those who threw him into a well, who hurt his father so terribly, he simply suggests that they are good people who went astray. This is real forgiveness: forgiving so completely that others never even feel that they did wrong! Let us analyze ourselves a little here: what do we do when given power over somebody who once wronged us? We think we win only when we make others look bad and we throw them in negativity. Never do we consider that it does us no good to remind others of their faults when they have repented.
Indeed Yusuf AS was a model of beautiful manners. Truly love conquers all – it is only with such selfless love and forgiveness that others around us then claim, as those around Yusuf AS claimed,

“Indeed we see you to be of those who do good!”