It was an amazing tale of attempted seduction. Yusuf (peace be upon him) lived for years in the house of Zulekha, a woman of beauty, power and influence. Day in and day out, Zulekha was exposed to his physical allure, a composition so stunning that the Messenger Muhammad [peace be upon him and his family] said "Yusuf has been given half of all beauty" [Muslim]. Zulekha suppressed her desire for Yusuf until she could no longer control it. She waited until her husband left the home. Alone with Yusuf, she locked the doors and called him to fulfill her lust.
[After locking the doors] Zulekha attempts to seduce Yusuf. She beautifies herself in the most attractive of ways and says:
“Oh Yusuf! You have the most handsome of faces.” Yusuf, sensing what Zulekha is attempting to do, replies, “This is how my Lord fashioned me in the womb.”
“Oh Yusuf!"she says, “You have the finest of hair!” "It will be the first portion of me to wither in my grave," he replies.
Undeterred, Zulekha presses on. “Oh Yusuf! Your eyes are so beautiful.” “I use them to look at my Lord,” he retorts.
“Yusuf, raise your sight and gaze at my face,” she responds. “I fear [if I do so] that I will be resurrected blind in the afterlife,” Yusuf answers.
She tries to press herself close to Yusuf, but he moves away. “I come close to you, yet you distance yourself from me?” she asks. “ I desire, by that, the closeness of my Lord,” he says.
“Yusuf, I have prepared my bed for you so enter under its sheets with me,” she says. Yusuf replies, “Your sheets will not shield me from my Lord.”
“Yusuf, I have prepared the finest of silk covers, so I order you to fulfill my desires!” she exclaims. “If I do so,” he says, “My portion of paradise will be lost.”
Her attempt to seduce him was fruitless, and his desire to remind her of Allah was falling on a deaf heart. Allah recounts the story Himself:
وَلَقَدْ هَمَّتْ بِهِ وَهَمَّ بِهَا لَوْلَا أَنْ رَأَى بُرْهَانَ رَبِّهِ كَذَلِكَ لِنَصْرِفَ عَنْهُ السُّوءَ وَالْفَحْشَاءَ إِنَّهُ مِنْ عِبَادِنَا الْمُخْلَصِينَ
And she certainly determined [to seduce] him, and he would have inclined to her had he not seen the proof of his Lord. And thus [it was] that We should avert from him evil and immorality. Indeed, he was of Our chosen servants. [ 12:24]
Yusuf [alayhi as’salam] was a prophet of Allah who was in control of his desires. Zulekha, like you and I, was not. She allowed her desires to overcome her love for Allah. She found herself to be living with the object of her want, Yusuf (alayhi as’salam). Zulekha eventually diagnoses the root cause of her disease when she says:
وَمَا أُبَرِّئُ نَفْسِي إِنَّ النَّفْسَ لَأَمَّارَةٌ بِالسُّوءِ إِلَّا مَا رَحِمَ رَبِّي إِنَّ رَبِّي غَفُورٌ رَحِيمٌ
Yet I claim not that my soul [nafs] was innocent -- surely the soul of man incites to evil -- except inasmuch as my Lord had mercy; truly my Lord is All-forgiving, All-compassionate.' [12:53]
Her Nafs. Our Nafs. A beast inside each and every one of us that we must tame. An unbridled nafs will lead us to prefer all carnal desires over the love of what Allah and His Messenger Muhammad (peace be upon him and his family) call us to. Doing so will cause us ruin in this world, and in the next. Yet a nafs that has been tamed will learn to prefer Allah and His Messenger (peace be upon him and his family) over all else, causing happiness in this world and in the next, as Allah tells us:
وَنَفْسٍ وَمَا سَوَّاهَا () فَأَلْهَمَهَا فُجُورَهَا وَتَقْوَاهَا () قَدْ أَفْلَحَ مَنْ زَكَّاهَا () وَقَدْ خَابَ مَنْ دَسَّاهَا
By the soul, and That which shaped it. and inspired it to lewdness and Godfearing! Prosperous is he who purifies it, and failed has he who seduces it.
The Messengers of Allah [Peace and blessings be upon them] taught us the cognizance of our souls, and gave us the tools to control our caprice, while reminding us that success can only come by the mercy of Allah [May He be glorified]. The story of Yusuf and Zulekha explores the nature of desire, temptation, and envy that occupies space in all of our souls and leads many of us astray.
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