Wednesday, February 21, 2007

One Meaning of Joseph

In terms of sheer “history” and things like temporal authority and reign, Prophets Moses, David, and Solomon occupied greater prominence than Prophet Joseph. The Quran gives a good deal of attention to Moses and, to a lesser degree, David and Solomon. Still, the longest running narrative in the Quran is about Joseph. Almost all of the twelfth sura (or chapter) of the Quran is devoted to him, his father, his brothers, and men and women of the Egyptian elite, as well as some caravan runners and two prison-mates. The Quran leaves out details, thus narrowing the narrative down to archetypical contexts and lessons that can survive the passage of time. So we ask, What is the meaning of Joseph? Here's one possible answer.

As we're reminded often enough these days, human beings are especially vulnerable to corruption in two circumstances: when they are very powerful and when they are powerless. Joseph experienced both of these disparate conditions: the life of a boy forced into slavery, who matures into a startlingly handsome young man, who becomes the object of a failed attempted seduction, then later falsely accused and sent to prison. Then he lived the life of a key figure in the ruling elite of the leading nation of the world, an economic and political powerhouse. In both “lives,” as we learn from the narrative, Joseph held to his morals and ethics. As a slave, he resisted the indelicate advances of a beautiful woman, powerful in the upper echelons of Egypt, a formidable lady of both political and social sway. And in the dungeons, as a slave prisoner, Joseph hardly coiled up in bitterness, but shared with his prison-mates his gift of prophecy and teachings about God, His oneness, power, and mercy.

When Joseph was finally released and cleared of the accusations that sent him away, he showed no acrimony. Instead of wishing ruin to rain down upon the nation that took his freedom, he sought to help it. At his request -- a self-aware man -- he was appointed as a high minister of Egypt. In the position to enrich himself without fear of reprisal or scandal, Joseph turned his attention toward the wise and scrupulous management of the resources and harvests of Egypt, and he freely helped the people of the neighboring regions suffering from a long drought. Had it not been for his generosity and foresight, many would have perished. And finally, when his brothers came before him in his court to seek food rations—the same envy-driven brothers who threw young Joseph in a well, giving him up for random exile—he pardoned them and offered them and his parents refuge and comfort in the land of Egypt.

Alayhi - salam


Anonymous Maliha said...

Thank you for sharing, the chapter of Prophet Yusuf is one of my favorite. And of course every Muslim girl's dream is to make it to Jannah and see his *gorgeous* face :) (Sorry I know I am being petty :) )

2/23/2007 12:02 PM  
Anonymous Irving said...

Salaam Dear Brother:

To me, the chapter on Joseph has always mirrored the life of the Prophet (pbuh) in so many respects, including his devotion to God in all circumstances, and his forgiveness and love and mercy toward all his "brothers."
That makes it all the more lovely and endearing to me.

Ya Haqq!

2/24/2007 6:04 PM  
Blogger abuzuhri said...

The surah Yusuf reality and unfoldings show itself clearly today in the never ending blood thirsty, betrayal,intra-family arab tribal conflicts among brotherly states of saudi, iraq, aljeria,libya, lebanon,yemen, somalia,syria, kurdish, shias,wahabis, nusayris, alqaedaists and many more self righteous self destruct bombers. Normally the youngest, purest and weakest states will suffer like jordan,tunisia, morocco and yemen but somehow proctected by divine cares. Not all arab big brothers are bad and evil towards its smaler brothers but also toward its own inhouse smaller body of believers, awliya, shuyukh and ulama who taken 'retreat' stances toward the harsh political suppressions and mad wealth spending mega projects in gulf dubai/ abu dhabi etc.

Surely after seven years of success and oil booms, the bubble luxury market will crash one day, turning to 7 long years of mutual killings and strifes like afghanistan now and iraq. Lebanon need more than 7 years to rebuild what achieved by the hizbullah symbolic victory. How many billions needed from generous bankers.

When a mumin given power and kingdom, it must be balanced with wisdom or hikmah from divine gifts in order to manage this dunya of sheikhdoms and one man/family/ tribal regimes. Let us see and test it on our travels to middle east.

4/05/2007 9:55 PM  

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