A surah is a chapter in the Qu’ran which tells a story – usually with hidden morals. There are 114 surahs in total, and the story of Yusuf is one of the most prolific as it was told as one whole as opposed to line by line. This story is also a personal favourite and most memorable from the Qu’ran. Please note that some of the story is subject to interpretation, but the following is a shortened version of how I recall it.
Yusuf – the son of Prophet Yaqoob – has a dream of 11 stars, the sun and the moon prostrating before him. He informs his father of the dream and Yaqoob instantly realises that his son is destined for prophecy. His father warns him not to discuss the dream to his brothers as they may see Yusuf as superior and become jealous.
Although Yusuf mentions nothing to his brothers, they witness the way Yaqoob treats him differently to his brothers and they inevitably grow jealous of their father’s favouritism and love towards Yusuf. Yusuf’s brothers plot to kill him as revenge, but cannot bring themselves to follow through, so they collectively decide to throw Yusuf down a well. After Yaqoob notices Yusuf’s disappearance, the brothers lie to their father and tell him that Yusuf was eaten by a wolf.
Meanwhile, a caravan traveller comes across the well that Yusuf resides in and takes him to another town to sell him as a slave. Yusuf is sold to Aziz, one of the powerful people within the community. Aziz’s wife falls in love with Yusuf and attempts to seduce him, but Yusuf – as a righteous person – refuses her attention. After word begins to spread of Aziz’s wife trying to lure her slave, she becomes embarrassed and proceeds to invite all of her female friends over to witness Yusuf’s beauty to prove that she is not to blame for her actions. Before Aziz’s wife presents Yusuf to her friends, she hands them each a knife to see if they would slip and lose their concentration when they see Yusuf. Alas, once Yusuf is presented before the women, they all cut their hands with the knives, demonstrating Yusuf’s mesmerizing allure.
After Yusuf declines the women’s invitation, he prays to Allah:
“O my Lord! Prison is more to my liking than that to which they invite me: unless you turn away their plot from me, I may feel inclined towards them and join the ranks of the ignorant.”
So Allah responds to Yusuf’s duaa and he is sent to prison. While in prison, Yusuf meets two prisoners who ask him to interpret their dreams; the first prisoner dreamt that he was pressing wine and the second prisoner dreamt that he was carrying a basket of bread on top of his head while birds fed from the bread. Yusuf predicted that the dream of the first prisoner meant that he would go on to serve wine for the King of Egypt and that the second prisoner would be crucified and birds will eat from his head.
Years later, the first prisoner has been released and – as Yusuf predicts – becomes a servant of the King of Egypt. The King has a dream and calls on the people to interpret his dream, so the servant – with Yusuf in mind – tells the King about Yusuf who is still locked away in prison. The King releases Yusuf and Yusuf illustrates the King’s dream:
“Verily, I saw seven fat cows, whom seven lean ones were devouring – and of seven green ears of corn, and seven others dry. O notables! Explain to me my dream, if it be that you can interpret dreams.”
To which Yusuf replied:
“For seven consecutive years, you shall sow as usual and that the harvest which you reap you shall leave in ears, all – except a little of it which you may eat. Then will come after that, seven hard years, which will devour what you have laid by in advance for them, all except a little of that which you have guarded stored. Then thereafter will come a year in which people will have abundant rain and in which they will press wine and oil.”
The King rewards Yusuf by making him the Treasurer of Egypt, and eventually, Yusuf’s family finds him after fleeing their village due to the famine and beg for forgiveness.