Yousaf – Zulaikha


Love is seemingly a four-letter word, but it spins our world around more than the merry-go-round. Still, our lives are incomplete without it. No matter how much has been written on this emotion, it remains a mystery and inexplicable. Every time, it manifests something new and not two experiences of love can ever be the same. This four letter word is the reason behind the creation and expansion of the universe in every imaginable sense. People have sacrificed lives and taken the lives of the other all in the name of love. In the end, it comes down to every individual’s perception. Poetry, prose, stories and quotes are all incomplete without the element of love. Late Ashfaq Ahmed wrote one hundred stories of different facets of love, but even after all, that one question remains unanswered that whether love chooses us or we choose to love. One thing is for sure, we hopelessly fall for it unaware, unplanned and without knowledge. The legends have proven that cupid takes a strike at you and one glimpse is enough for it to take place. Heer Ranjha, Laila Majnu, Shireen Farhad, Mirza Sahiban, Sassi Pannu and Romeo Juliet are some of the great stories of love and sacrifice. One such love story is also of Yousaf – Zulaikha.

Yaqoob (A.S) had as many as twelve sons and Yousaf (A.S) was the youngest child from his fourth wife. Yousaf was attractive with the best imaginable features a child can have. In addition to his good looks, he was wise too. The youngest ones are usually the darling of their parents, it is not that elder ones are not but somehow they find a special place. Yousaf enjoyed this benefit as well and like every other father Yaqoob (A.S) was even more inclined and affectionate towards him.  So, naturally, the other children were not quite impressed.

Interpretation of a dream is an art and a unique one. Not many have knowledge of this talent regardless of the claims. Yaqoob (A.S) was the pioneer of this art in the world and possessed the divine knowledge of interpretation. One fine morning, a visibly agitated Yousaf (A.S) came running to his father and told him a dream he saw in the night. Yaqoob (A.S) intently listened and smiled after decoding the signs in his mind. But he didn’t tell his son that according to his dream, he was destined to become a Prophet. Because of this, he used to care a lot more and become very protective and ensured Yousuf always stayed in front of his eyes. He seldom allowed Yousaf to go out of home, fearing he might get hurt knowing his sons will not take care of him. Yousaf’s brothers, Yahooda, in particular, were not pleased with this protective attitude of their father towards him. He wanted to enjoy the attention and care of his father because he was the eldest one and as per the customs the first in line to be Yaqoob’s successor.

Yahooda was clever and took his brothers under his wings by telling them that their father only cared for Yousaf and pay no attention to us. We must do something to get our share of affection, until he (Yousuf) will remain in front of his father’s eyes, he will continue ignoring us. So, he asked them to support him and planned to take Yousaf out with them, but their father was ever so cautious. After several failed attempts, one-day Yaqoob (A.S) gave into their wish after assurances from them that they all will take care of Yousaf like he does. But in reality, the jealousy was at work and plotting a mischief. They were playing with each other in the field and felt thirsty. They came close to a nearby well to draw water from it as it used to happen in that era. It was when Yahooda executed his plan and threw Yousaf, when he was busy looking at his brother drawing water, into the well.

Yahooda and his brothers ran back and started to wail as soon as they entered the house. Yaqoob (A.S) got anxious and when he did not see Yousaf, he panicked and asked what happened and where did they leave him. Yahooda started crying and cooked up a story that they were hunting in the field and Yousaf was not able to keep pace with them. When they turned around to see where he was, they saw a wolf had killed him and was eating him. Yaqoob (A.S) was shocked to hear this news though he knew nothing could happen to him as he was destined to be a Prophet. He was confident that it was not possible, but he still was a father and felt the pain of losing the sight of his favourite son. He knew that nothing could happen to him based on the interpretation of the dream Yousaf saw but he kept crying. He was unable to trace his whereabouts and developed a feeling of love for his son and it reached a level that with its immense heat he lost his eyesight.

When the night set in a group of traders passing by the area decided to stay there unable to continue their journey onward in the dark. They erected their tents and settled there. Later in the night, they heard the voice of a child crying, which lead them to the well. They rescued him and took him under their care. In the morning, they left for Egypt and carried him with them. The young Yousaf had no idea of his whereabouts and that he was heading to Egypt miles away from Cairo. His brothers planned to kill him, but he was saved as per the divine will. Just like he didn’t have the idea where he was heading to, his brothers also didn’t know that he was safe and alive. They were happy in their ignorance, but in reality, they gained nothing as Yaqoob (A.S) continued to cry for his lost son, the apple of his eyes.

In that era, slavery was a common practice and buying and selling of slaves was a business. As per the custom, the slave bought was duty bound to obey his master. He was not allowed to say no to any imaginable task ordered. In a way, it was   another form of prostitution and a lifelong one too. The traders who took Yousaf (A.S) in their care passed through the market where the buying and selling of slaves was taking place. It was difficult for them to carry him all along; they had already taken quite a trouble in bringing him   all the way to Egypt. They made a decision to sell him in the market. By chance, Zulaikha, the queen of Egypt, was there and saw Yousaf, who was holding the hand of one of the traders. She was bowled over by his innocence and bought him from the traders paying whatever they asked for. Zulaikha was married for a number of years with the king, but had no child from him. The legends say that the king was impotent, so in all those years Zulaikha had not experienced the particular relationship between man and woman. So at that time, she decided to raise Yousaf (A.S) on her own and made a pact a pact that when he will grow up, she will experience that particular relationship with him. Something which was missing from her life all that long but now she was willing to wait even longer for Yousaf (A.S) to reach that age.

The wheel of time continued to veer; Yousaf reached the age Zulaikha had patiently waited for years. In all that time her admiration for Yousaf grew immensely that it became difficult for her to hold back. Yousaf (A.S) had the finest set of hair, most handsome of faces and beautiful eyes. It was impossible for someone to take eyes off him without getting inspired. One day, riding on the untamed horse of her emotions and desire she expressed intentions by calling Yousaf in her room and closing doors behind her. He froze after hearing this revelation. He stopped her advancing hands and said, “Fear Allah, you have nurtured me like a mother and held me in your arms when I was a child. What you’re saying and trying to do is not right.” Zulaikha snapped at him and said, “You know, you cannot say no and talk back to me like this.”

Yousaf (A.S) sensed that the unrelenting Zulaikha will not hear any of his arguments so he ran towards the door. He opened the seven doors, one after the other and she madly ran after him. When he reached the seventh door, Zulaikha was behind. As he stretched his hand to open the last door, she tried to grab him by force. She failed to hold him, but in the process, his shirt got ripped and he awkwardly jumped out of the door with a piece of his shirt in Zulaikha’s hand. When she saw the guards have seen it all, she started shouting that he laid his hands on her and ordered them to catch him. She was the queen and her orders were obeyed. Yousaf (A.S) was caught by guards.

Zulaikha was the queen, hence her words got precedence. Unfortunately, the evidence was against Yousaf (A.S) so his words didn’t matter. The matter was taken to the Royal Court. She presented her plea, “I bought Yousaf as a slave and raised him on my own. When he got mature, he tried to lay hands on me and attempted to commit rape. He should be punished for his action.” Yousaf was in no position to defend and even if he had tried to explain to himself no one would have believed   him. After hearing the arguments and the evidence, the king was about to give the verdict in the case when a miracle happened. A one year child in the lap of a woman sitting in the court spoke, to the surprise of everyone. He said, “Honourable king, before reaching a decision, please check whether the shirt got ripped from the front or back. If it got ripped from the front, then Yousaf (A.S) attacked her, but, if it was from the back then the queen attacked him and he was trying to save himself.”

The logical explanation of the one year child was acknowledged by the king and he ordered the court man to examine the shirt. The analysis revealed that it was torn from the back and that proved the innocence of Yousaf (A.S).  The matter was closed, but Zulaikha used her authority to send him to the jail. She knew if the king released him, he will go away and she will not be able to see him again. She didn’t want this to happen and put her all energies in convincing the king that Yousaf must go to jail. He was not guilty, but still as per queen’s desire he was imprisoned. She was happy and went to jail every day religiously just to see his face and ensure he was still there. As the days passed, she started visiting the jail barefoot just to have a glimpse of Yousaf (A.S). She was burning with the love inside and moment of madness and overflow of emotions settled down in a new direction. One day a jailer asked her, “Honourable queen, you’re not wearing your shoes.” A confused Zulaikha looked at her feet and said, “Oh! I forgot to wear them as I came in a hurry to see if he is still there or you people have released him.” She quickly saw Yousaf and ran back as if she got caught stealing.

Ever since the trial in the Royal Court had took place  and Yousaf was sent to jail, the women of Egypt started shaming Zulaikha for what she tried to do with her slave. She was listening to these jarring remarks every day and one day decided to teach them all a lesson. She invited them all to her palace for women only party. The women sitting and leaning on pillows while enjoying the food. In addition to that, the room was filled with chatter and laughter. Once the food was finished, Zulaikha asked the helpers to bring fruit and knives and put them in front of women. She had already made arrangement and got Yousaf released for a brief moment and asked him to stand behind a curtain. When the women started cutting the fruit, she raised the curtain and he came in front of them. The women were stunned to see him and were so engrossed in looking at him that they cut their own hands instead of fruits. They lost their senses and forgot everything else, on seeing such a handsome young man. When the spell was broken, they realised what they have done and saw blood everywhere. Zulaikha asked them to cover their hands with towels placed in front of them. She looked at them and said, “I’m not ashamed of what I did but look at you. You all have been taunting me every single day and lost your own minds at just one glimpse of Yousaf. And I am the one who has raised him. He conquered me with his appeal. Do you still think that I was wrong in my action?” The women held their heads down and said, “No, we would have done the same if we were at your place.”

The divine nature has its own sweet way of bringing its chosen people to prominence without stalling the process and system. The task is carried out by the circumstance and things take the natural course of action. When the king died, the circumstances were aligned in such a way that Yousaf (A.S) was chosen to become the king of Egypt. Zulaikha grew old in paying visits daily, but her love remained vibrant. She cried her eyes out and later vanished in a jungle. She ultimately lost her eyesight due to the warmth of love rather she was unable to resist the glow of the Unique Beauty.

Soon after Yousaf (A.S) became the king, the world faced a famine of a severe nature. He had been wise since birth and using his capability he made the availability of food provision for the next many years in Egypt. The news of the resources spread across and people started coming in from different parts of the world to buy food supplies. Some even bartered their government and because of that Yousaf (A.S) technically became the ruler of the world. Yaqoob (A.S), the Prophet of the time, was spending his days with his eleven sons in Cairo. The situation in Cairo was getting worse by the day and was on the verge of reaching to a point where people would start dying because of starvation. When Yaqoob (A.S) got aware of the condition, he asked his sons to go and see the congenial king of Egypt and buy food provision from him for the people of Cairo.

They reached Egypt and when they got the chance to meet the king, Yousaf (A.S), he instantly recognised them. As a king, he started to put the customary veil on his face so they were not able to recognise him and they would not have even imagined him there as in their books he was dead long ago. But Yousaf teased his youngest brother Benyamin and removed the veil when he came in front of him. He was shocked and happy to see his brother and asked, “Yousaf, is that you?” Yousaf (A.S) smiled and said, “Yes.” Benyamin was about to shriek with joy but Yousaf (A.S) asked him to keep quiet and not to tell his brothers. He gave them the food provision and reprimanded them that he hated thieves, they should think twice before stealing anything and if anyone got caught, he will keep him as a slave. They proudly told him that they’re the sons of the Prophet and stealing was not one of their things. Yousaf (A.S) asked one of his entourage to put the king’s gold cup, used for measurement, in Benyamin’s saddlebag. When they left, he sent his police to search and retrieve it from them. They searched and found it in Benyamin’s bag. This was a rare happening for them and they started talking ill about their brother. “You have proven that you’re Yousaf’s brother, he was like that and now you’re caught as a thief. Take him away, we don’t want to see him” Yahooda said and pushed Benyamin away.

Yousaf and Benyamin had seen each other after years and were happy at this sudden happening. They sat down in seclusion and shared the stories of many years they were apart in two different countries. Benyamin told Yousaf that their father has lost his eyesight by endlessly crying for him. He requested him to come back home to his father. There was one question which was pinching him ever since he saw his long lost brother. When Yousaf remained quiet at his request, he asked him, “Yousaf, you were thrown in the well in Cairo by our brothers and you were so young to even swim. How did you manage to reach here and become the king?” Yousaf (A.S) smiled and said, “By the will and magnificence of my Lord. I know that I cannot return home soon, so give this shirt to father and by the grace of Almighty everything will be fine.”

Benyamin could not make anything out of it, but kept the shirt safe in his saddlebag. In the morning, Yousaf (A.S) asked him to leave for Cairo as their father would be worried. He knew his brother will cook up a story and it will not be good for their father. When Benyamin left for Cairo from Egypt, his brothers had already reached Egypt. They told their father the account of what had happened and how his two sons, whom he rated so high, were a source of embarrassment. Yaqoob (A.S) listened to their story and suddenly said, “I can smell the aroma of my son.” They looked at him with wonder and said, “Father, you have lost your mind? After what your son has done to you, you’re still waiting for him.” Yaqoob (A.S) again said, “I can smell the aroma of my son.” It was strange because Benyamin had only just started his journey and Yaqoob (A.S) felt it sitting in Cairo. When he finally reached home, he gave Yousaf’s shirt to his father. Yaqoob (A.S) took the shirt and rubbed his eyes with affection and cried. After sobbing for some time, he removed the shirt from his eyes and realised he had got his eyesight back. He could see the world now.

Zulaikha’s love changed direction since she became the habitat of the jungle. She no longer longed for Yousaf (A.S) for whom she had left everything in her possession. But love was still vibrant. Her love was pure when she tried to pull Yousaf to fulfill her desire. One can raise the question on the way she tried to express but love was pure and existed in all its force. At that time she wanted to get her love, but now it has been just selfless love. With age, she matured and found the right direction. That one glimpse changed her life forever. Years ago a sight introduced her to the metaphysical love and later to the metaphorical love. However, her love for Yousaf was the path to reach there. Metaphorical love always uses metaphysical love as a medium to reveal itself. It has always happened like this and the pattern will remain the same.

One day, she was strolling in the jungle and person passing by from there saw her in unkempt hair and dirty attire. She was chanting ‘Yousaf, Yousaf’ and he stopped after hearing this. He was the court man of the Royal Court and was surprised to hear her calling the name of the king, so he assumed. He stopped and asked her, “What have you achieved by calling the name of Yousaf?”

“Do you have anything in your hand?” Zulaikha smiled and asked.

“I have a stick,” he said.

“Give it to me.”

He placed the sick in her hand and started looking at her intently, wondering what she will do with it. His trail of thoughts stopped when she heaved a sigh and burned the stick to ashes. She said to him, “The world cannot bear my sigh; I have achieved this in Yousaf’s love.” The person was already surprised and after hearing her, ran as if his life was in danger. Zulaikha continued her stroll like nothing had happened.

The person who had met Zulaikha in the jungle told Yousaf (A.S), after returning from holidays; about the blind lady, he saw there who burnt his stick to ashes and who religiously called his name. Yousaf (A.S) was shocked to hear this account and could not believe Zulaikha had reached this far in his love. He got up, got the information where the person saw her and immediately went after her. When Yousaf (A.S) set off from Egypt, Zulaikha received the blissful prophecy from the Divine Nature of acknowledging her love and grating her youth back for Yousaf (A.S). When she heard the news, she made a request, “My Lord, I am incapable of questioning and halting your will but there was a time I used to worship an idol. When I pulled Yousaf close to me, I put a veil on it because I had a great regard and didn’t want it to see all that I planned. My Lord, you’re arranging our reunion and I cannot cover you. So, please give me back everything but my eyesight. In this way, I will get to keep my standing in front of him.” Her request was accepted and the will was amended to give Zulaikha back everything and hold back her vision for a later stage. When Yousaf (A.S) reached the location and saw her, he was surprised to see a young Zulaikha. She was unable to see him, but smiled when he called her by her name, the voice she had yearned to hear.

Yousaf (A.S) brought her to his palace and settled her on the bed in his room. Zulaikha said to him, “I know, I got my youth because of you and I want to thank my Lord for endowing it to me. I cannot see, so please lay down the holy carpet on the floor in the direction of your True Lord. Then help me stand on it and set my direction straight.” Yousaf (A.S) did what she asked for and she started offering supererogatory prayers. She got up after a long prostration but could not resist and prepared to offer another one.  At that moment, Yousaf (A.S) pulled her towards him and in the process ripped her shirt. She turned around to see what has transpired with her and at that very moment, Divine Nature annulled the amendment made on Zulaikha’s request. She got her vision back and saw her tattered shirt in Yousaf’s hand. She heard the Voice, “Till the time your love was for the Creator, we didn’t return your eyesight. We have granted your vision back because of your love for the man holding your shirt.”

When Yousaf’s (A.S) shirt touched the eyes of Yaqoob (A.S) got his vision back, but the Mother Nature didn’t intervene directly and got the job done through an event in the world of cause and effect. However, whatever Zulaikha received was without cause and effect. It was done as an acknowledgement of her steadfastness in love. So much so that she communicated with Him and got the response as well. She still had the ill feeling in her heart about the act she committed years ago when she was in love. Paying tribute to her love, Almighty didn’t leave the slightest of regret in her heart and her lifelong remorse was removed when she got her eyesight back and saw the ripped shirt in Yousaf’s hand. Zulaikha was steadfast in her love, then too, but her direction was wrong. Now, step by step moving forward, she reached a point where she gave priority to the Creator of Yousaf over Yousaf (A.S) in love, representing the veracity of love – the Real Love.

Grant stability to my restlessness,

Embellish my days and nights,

Bestow blessings and mercy,

Mend my path,

The direction your beloved likes,

Makes its impression in my heart,

I keep praising and mentioning,

That you have recognised my ignorance,

I was blessed with a direct road,

When the direction of my heart changed

It is a commonly believed fact that the meaning of Huroof-e-Muqatta’at (Acronyms) is only known to the Almighty and His Apostle Muhammad (PBUH). There is a lot that is hidden in these Acronyms, and it is purposely done to encourage people to make at least an effort to understand what these Acronyms mean. And all those who acquire the meaning, even if it is in some part, they get to keep it as a keepsake and endorsement for their attempt and innovation.

The structure of the word Ishq (Real Love) is not mentioned anywhere in the Holy Quran. However, the first two verses of Chapter 42 of the Holy Quran, Surah Ash-Shūraá (The Consultation) are Huroof-e-Muqatta’at (Acronyms) and Oعسق “Ayn Ceen Qaf” is one of them. In Arabic, Ibriyani and Surriyani languages ‘ceen’ and ‘sheen’ carries similar meanings and there is not much difference while speaking these two words. The connotations of “Ayn Ceen Qaf” are the same in both Ibriyani and Surriyani language.

Ishq-e-Haqeeqi, the commonly used word for Real Love is no mean feat, it is a riveting and laborious struggle, and only a few lucky ones climb this steep and gigantic mountain. Being, the Creator and Owner of the Universe, Almighty knew and that is why the Holy Quran used the word Issq instead of Ishq. The Quran purposely mentions it in only one place and one time. Interestingly, the real love is once in a lifetime happening.

Ishq (real love) is a huge mountain to climb and an enormous exam. So, had it been mentioned in the Quran often, it would have become obligatory for every person, who could recite and understand the Quran. So to make sure that Ishq does not become compulsory and binding for everyone concealed it in the word عسق (Ayn Seen Qaf).

Real love (Ishq) ensues when the person has seen his beloved at least once from the eyes, and after that it becomes inaccessible, and the person will not get a hold of that particular sight again. The feeling which starts afterwards is real love (Ishq). The prerequisite of love is that the person must see his beloved once with his own eyes.

However, it is not the case with affection, it can happen just by hearing praise of somebody. There is no compulsion of seeing the object of love. It is entirely possible that the object becomes beloved after the person has caught a glimpse. The feeling for someone in the case of metaphorical love can develop just by hearing the voice.

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