The central theme of this late Makkan surah is the history of human disobedience. The Messenger ﷺ and the Muslims are reassured by a narrative based on the experiences of seven prophets. It supports the line, “Prophet say, “I am certainly a warner for you and giver of good news from Him” (2). The response from the pagans was mockery and denial. They were warned of the dire consequences of their belligerent attitude and challenged to write ten Surahs like it (13).
Prophet Nuh عليه السلام preaches boldly. His people were prejudiced against the poor. They said to him “It is clear that you are human like us, and only the lowest of society follow you, and we don’t see you have any special quality” (27). Eventually, the Divine retribution of the flood drowns them, but Nuh عليه السلام and his followers are saved.
The story of Prophet Hud عليه السلام follows in the same manner. His people rejected him by saying, “You haven’t brought any proof” (53), so finally, they are destroyed. The people of Makkah were familiar with the ruins of the People of Thamud. Salih عليه السلام was their Prophet. Their moral disease seems to be the caste system, discriminating against people from poor backgrounds. They were punished with a blast that killed them.
Prophet Ibrahim عليه السلام is the next, he pleads on behalf of his nephew Lut عليه السلام. Lut was sent to the infamous people of Sodom and Gomorrah, beleaguered by homosexuality. This is followed by the story of Prophet Shu’ayb عليه السلام in Madyan, a prosperous community that refused to listen to him. Their problem seems to be double-dealing when doing business. He warned them: “My people let not your hostility to me lead you to suffer like the people of Nuh or the people of Hud or the people of Salih suffered, and the people of Lut are not far from you. So, seek forgiveness from your Lord and turn to Him in repentance; My Lord is kind and loving (90).”
The seventh story in this series is Musa عليه السلام and the Pharaoh. The Pharaoh, like his predecessors, rejected the teachings of Musa عليه السلام, and was drowned for his injustice and his oppression of the Israelites.
Lessons learnt from the Lives of the Prophets
The common thread that weaves through these seven stories is the rejection of the prophets, the punishment of the disbelievers, and the final victory of the righteous. The Quran in its unique way is reassuring the beloved Messenger ﷺ of a victory but is also advising him ﷺ to be patient, to perform the prayer and to accept this unfortunate human condition. In these stories, the reader is reminded that people rebel and deny because of the love of wealth, which makes them greedy and mindless. The antidote is to believe in the resurrection and to reform yourselves. To overcome prejudice against the poor, be thankful to Allah and accept the Prophet.
Why does the Quran tell so many stories? “We tell you the stories of the messengers to make your heart strong, and what has come to you in this account is the truth, as well as a warning and a reminder for the believers.” (120)
In conclusion, humanity is divided into two groups: the blessed heirs of Paradise, and the wretched inhabitants of Hellfire.
Juz 12 continues with Surat Yusuf, Joseph
A late Makkan surah called “the most beautiful story.” It tells the story of Prophet Yusuf عليه السلام It employs a commanding lyrical narrative, with an intriguing drama woven around moral and spiritual values. Values that are deeply embedded in Quranic guidance:
They are presented in a variety of contexts in this story, to prove that in the end, goodness wins over tyranny and immorality.
Through its twenty-seven episodes, Surat Yusuf effectively plots the complexity of human life and sudden and unexpected changes in fortunes. One day living at home, the next languishing in a dark, dank well. One moment enjoying life in a palace, the next in a prison cell; one moment a prisoner, the next a Prince. Here are the first 11 episodes mentioned in Juz 12:
- Young Yusuf Dreams that eleven stars, the sun and moon are prostrating to him. His father Yaqub cautions him ‘don’t tell your brothers unless they plot against you.’
- Yusuf couldn’t keep his dream secret so reveals the dream to his half-brothers. The brothers hatch a nasty plot. They are jealous so they plot to kill him.
- Yusuf accompanies his brothers to a picnic, but they tie him up inside a disused well. A caravan passing by picks him up.
- Yusuf is sold as a slave to the King of Egypt’s Chamberlain.
- Yusuf is incredibly handsome. The chamberlain’s wife, Zulaikha is infatuated with him and tries to seduce him.
- Yusuf prays to Allah for help and by the grace of Allah is saved from her advances.
- The rumours of the encounter soon spread and give a bad name to Zulaikha.
- Yusuf is thrown into prison where he begins to teach and preach to the prisoners.
- Two inmates, the baker and the butler, have dreams and Yusuf interprets their dreams. His interpretation comes true. The butler goes back to the King’s court and mentions Yusuf to the king.
- The butler returns to Yusuf and asks him to interpret one of the King’s dreams. Yusuf interprets it and also gives the King a solution to overcome the looming famine that will ruin his country.
- The King is fascinated by this interpretation and asks Yusuf to appear before him, Yusuf demands that first his name must be cleared so that the Chamberlin knows he was innocent. Zulaikha admits her infatuation and her sin and Yusuf leaves the prison, an honourable man.
The story of Yusuf عليه السلام provides a real-life illustration of a Quranic principle: “It may well be that you dislike a thing yet it is good for you, and it may well be that you love something, yet it is bad for you: and Allah knows, but you don’t know” (2:216). The surah teaches life on earth is an extraordinary gift, full of trials and tribulations, but with endless opportunities. The message is patience and perseverance give lasting joy. On the other hand, short-term, instant gratification can be damaging.
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