By Nafiesa Dalwai
A ͑ūdhu billāhi minash shayṭā nirrajīm
Bismillāhir raḥmā nirraḥīm
Allāh humma salli ‘alā sayidina Muḥammad wa ͑alā ālihī Muḥammad (s.a.w.s)
Mādad yā Allāh, Dastūr Ya Sayyidī, Mādad Ya Rasūlallāh Mādad Mawlāna Shaykh Nāẓim, Mādad Shaykh Muḥammad ͑Ādil
Lā ḥawla wa lā quwwata iIlāh billāhil ͑alīhil aẓīm
Zulaykhah (r.a.) was the wife of the King, Al-Aziz during the era of Nabi Yūsuf (a.s.). No history could be found about her early life and accomplishments, however the love story of Zulaykhah is spoken of in the Qur’ ān and many scholars have also written about this.
After watching the series of Nabi Yūsuf (a.s.), the love story between Zulaykhah (r.a.) and Nabi Yūsuf (a.s.) truly inspired me, as it highlighted how Allāh Almighty changes a heart from worldly love to divine Love and how a woman of high status was stripped to be seen as nothing in the eyes of mankind, but became a beloved, righteous servant of Allāh Almighty. Reading the story by Hajjah Āmina in the Lore of Light further enlightened me on the many spiritual lessons that a relationship holds between a man and a woman.
As we all know, Nabi Yūsuf (a.s.) was the most beloved son of Nabi Ya’qūb (a.s.). As a young boy, Nabi Yūsuf (a.s.) beauty captivated his father Nabi Ya’qūb (a.s.), which caused ten out of his eleven brothers to become jealous. At 12 years old Nabi Yūsuf (a.s.) had a very special dream in which eleven stars, the sun and the moon prostrated before him. He retold his dream to his father, who in turn admonished him saying, “Oh my son! Do not relate your vision to your brothers for they will work against you.”
Nabi Ya’qūb knew that Nabi Yūsuf (a.s.) was special, as he was to be Prophet of Allāh Almighty and thus was very protective of him. The brothers came to hear of the dream and devised a plan to kill him. They threw him down the well and returned to their father telling him that Yūsuf (a.s.) was killed, which placed Nabi Ya’qūb (a.s.) in a deep state of grief. Nabi Yūsuf (a.s.) was found in the well and was taken by a caravan of camel men to be sold as a slave.
At that time Zulaykhah (r.a.) was the daughter of one of the noblemen of Egypt. She was one of the most beautiful women of her time and there were many suitors who vied for her hand in marriage, however none of them was suitable or good enough.
One night Zulaykhah had a dream and when she awoke it was as if she had lost her mind. For a long time her family was unsure as to what had happened to her. They were beside themselves and in order to control Zulaykhah (r.a.) they would tie her arms and legs.
A year later she had another dream and her altered state was restored to sanity, reason and happiness. Her father could not believe and asked her what had happened. She expressed that the previous year she had seen a vision of a man in her dream causing her to become insane, this year she once again saw the vision of the same man in her dream and thus her mind had been restored. Her father was overjoyed and asked her who he was and that they would do anything for her to marry the young man.
In the third year she saw the young man in her dream, who happened to be Nabi Yūsuf (a.s.). In this dream she asked him who he was and where he was from. He replied that he was the King of Egypt and before she could ask him any more questions she awoke. She informed her father, who informed the king of their intentions. Her father made the necessary arrangements and exquisite preparations were made for the most impressive and lavish wedding.
When Zulaykhah (r.a.) saw the king for the first time, her heart sank and she realised that he was not the young man in her dreams. Her hand maiden counselled her to continue with the marriage, since breaking it would dishonour her father and ruin their family name.
Zulaykhah (r.a.), through the divine plan and will of Allāh Almighty, was preserved in a state of purity. She and the king never had any children of their own.
When Nabi Yūsuf (a.s.) was 12 years old he was brought to the slave market and upon seeing him, the king told Zulaykhah that he would buy this boy and that she could take care of him as their son. Setting eyes on Nabi Yūsuf (a.s.) for the first time caused Zulaykhah to nearly faint as she realised that he was the young man in her dreams. Her hand maiden once again advised her to remain patient and that she must leave the matter in the hand of the Lord.
As Nabi Yūsuf (a.s.) grew up into a young man, his physical beauty not only radiated outwardly, but his internal qualities of obedience, modesty and self-restraint manifested quite strongly. As time passed, Zulaykhah’s (r.a.) admiration for Nabi Yūsuf (a.s.) turned into a deep love for him. Nabi Yūsuf (a.s.) on the other hand never raised his gaze on Zulaykhah (r.a.) — no matter how hard she tried.
Zulaykhah (r.a.) continued to pursue Nabi Yūsuf (a.s.) and she tried to trap him in her room that had seven doors with very specific locks. Nabi Yūsuf (a.s.) saw Allāh Almighty’s proof, which is spoken of in the Qur’ān :
Now the woman in whose house he was seduced him, and closed the doors on them and said, “Come, take me!”
He said, “Allāh Almighty be my refuge. Surely my Lord has given me a goodly lodging. Surely the evil doers do not prosper.”
For she desired him: and he would have taken her, but he saw the evidence of his Lord. So was it, that We might turn away from him evil and disgrace: he was one of our devoted, sincere and purified servants. (Qur’ān 12:23-24)
It is narrated that the evidence of his Lord was when he sought refuge from Allāh Almighty. He saw visions of his grandfather Nabi Ibrahim (a.s.), his father Nabi Ya’qūb (a.s.) and Jibril (a.s.), who were all crying and telling him that he is the link in their succession and that he should flee ‒ which he did. Sayiddina Zulaykhah chased after Nabi Yūsuf, and through Allāh Almighty’s divine intervention, Jibril (a.s.) unlocked all the doors until they were met by her husband the king. Zulaykhah (r.a.) tried to lay the blame on Nabi Yūsuf (a.s.), but with support from one of the maid servants he clarified his position. Nabi Yūsuf’s (a.s.) shirt, which was torn from behind, was enough evidence for the king to know that Zulaykhah (r.a.) was guilty. He asked her to repent and to ask Nabi Yūsuf (a.s.) for forgiveness. The king requested that Nabi Yūsuf (a.s.) remain silent about this incident to avoid tarnishing his wife’s reputation.
However, word got out about the incident and Zulaykhah’s (r.a.) status came into disrepute. Everyone gossiped about her, ridiculed her and thought of her to be inferior.
To regain her status or shall I say, to restore her dignity, she decided to organize a banquet for all the noble women to view Nabi Yūsuf’s (a.s.) beauty and to demonstrate, why she did what she did. When he entered the hall the women were so astonished and overwhelmed by his beauty that they cut their fingers as they were busy cutting with the knives handed out to them. Through this Zulaykhah proved her point. It is mentioned in the Qur’ān :
She said, “So now you see, this is he you blamed me for…. Yet if he will not do what I command him, he shall be imprisoned, and be one of the humbled.” (The Qur’ān 12:32)
Nabi Yūsuf (a.s.) in turn prayed to Allāh Almighty to protect him from the gazes and advances of the women and to grant him some safety and a form of protection so that he may not be tempted to sin.
He said, “My Lord, prison is more to my liking than to what they invite me…”
So His Lord answered him and He turned away from him their deviousness; surely He is the All-Hearing, the All Knowing. (Qur’ān 12:34)
Whilst Nabi Yūsuf (a.s.) was imprisoned, Zulaykhah (r.a.) continued to remain restless. She longed for him, saw his face everywhere and experienced no sense of happiness, peace, contentment or joy and thus reverted back to her state of insanity.
Zulaykhah’s (r.a.) separation from Nabi Yūsuf (a.s.) and the death of her husband, left her in a continued state of lamentation. Whenever she heard any news Nabi Yūsuf (a.s.) she would give away of her gold, until she eventually gave away all she had to become a poor old lady who lost her beauty, eyesight, wealth, status, honour and who was seen as nothing by those she encountered.
When we reflect on Zulaykhah’s (r.a.) life, she was a woman that was seen as honourable because she possessed great worldly status and due to this she thought that she could have control or command anyone/anything she desired. However, Allāh Almighty stripped her of this power that she assumed she had by testing her through her love for Nabi Yūsuf (a.s.). She came to realise that she could not exert her power over Nabi Yūsuf (a.s.).
Through her love for Nabi Yūsuf (a.s.) Allāh Almighty had a divine plan and purpose for Zulaykhah (r.a.), however she was to undergo several challenges, tests and trials to overcome her ego. As we noted, her ego let her down as Allāh Almighty slowly stripped her from being the most sought-after woman, a lady admired by all, honourable and powerful, to where she was seen as NOTHING.
When Nabi Yūsuf (a.s.) was made King of Egypt, Jibril (a.s.) was sent by Allāh Almighty to instruct him to have a huge feast for all the inhabitants of Egypt. However, Jibril (a.s.) returned telling Nabi Yūsuf (a.s.) that his feast was lacking as he did not include all the destitute and poor. A second feast was held and once again Jibril (a.s) returned and expressed that Nabi Yūsuf had omitted inviting one old lady to the feast. Jibril (a.s.) gave Nabi Yūsuf (a.s.) a description of her and told him where he would find her. Nabi Yūsuf (a.s.) sent of his servants to invite her, but she refused to attend as she wanted Nabi Yūsuf (a.s.) himself to come and fetch her. Since Nabi Yūsuf AS was reprimanded by Jibril (a.s.), he did not hesitate to go himself to fetch the old lady. When he met the lady, he saw how frail and old she was and addressed her saying, “Here I am, old lady…” She responded with annoyance saying, “How dare you speak to me in that manner when I was your mistress and you were my slave!” Upon this Nabi Yūsuf (a.s.) realised that it was Zulaykhah and replied by saying that he did not recognise her, apologised and asked her to forgive him. She handed him a whip, when he touched it, he immediately retracted his hand as it was extremely hot. Zulaykhah (r.a.) described this feeling to be the yearning and love that she had for him which had been burning intensely in her heart for many, many years. He asked her to forgive him, forget the past and to attend the feast.
Zulaykhah (r.a.) told Nabi Yūsuf (a.s.) that she will only accept his invitation and attend the feast on condition that he prays for her to his Lord as he is a prophet of Allāh Almighty and thus his prayers would be divinely accepted. She requested that he pray for three things:
a) Firstly, that he prays that her beauty and health be restored to what she was when she had met him for the first time.
b) Secondly, that he prays to his Lord of the Worlds that they must be married.
c) Thirdly, that she must bear his children as they will become prophets after him.
Nabi Yūsuf (a.s.) smiled with joy at her requests as he realised that Zulaykhah (r.a.) was surrendering her will to Allāh Almighty. He replied to her that he will marry her in her present state and regarding her other two prayers, that he leaves in the hands of Allāh Almighty.
Nabi Yūsuf (a.s.) prayed for Zulaykhah (r.a.) and at that moment Jibril (a.s.) appeared, stroked her face and she was restored to her former exquisite beauty and radiance. She was told that the feast would be their wedding celebration.
On this special day, she accepted the divine message of Islam at the blessed hand of Nabi Yūsuf (a.s.) thus becoming a believing servant of Allāh Almighty. Allāh Almighty, who is muqallibal qulūb (Turner of hearts), inspired and established His divine love within her precious heart. When she tasted the sweetness of Islam, her burning and extreme love, years of longing, desperation and unreciprocated love turned into divine love for Allāh Almighty. Through the divine mercy of Allāh Almighty, she went through a process of spiritual purification and cleansing of the heart.
On her wedding night she started praying intensely and spent half the night without paying any attention to Nabi Yūsuf (a.s.), as the burning love she now possessed was directed only to Allāh Almighty. Nabi Yūsuf (a.s.) tugged hard at Zulaykhah’s train of her dress and it tore and he felt ashamed. She responded to Nabi Yūsuf (a.s) saying, “Oh Yūsuf AS I tore your robe when it was forbidden, you have now torn mine when it is permissible. You must know that Allāh Almighty has preserved me for you and were it not intended by divine decree to be the mother of your children, I would not desire this union any longer. It is all the same to me.”
Subḥānallāh! This love story teaches one that we travel through life searching for love and experience different kinds of love – parental love, sibling love, familial love, love from friends, love of a spouse, etc. Yet at times our hearts continue to be restless.
So my question is: What type of love is it that our souls are searching for?
Alḥamdulillāh. Our search continues and through this yearning, like Zulaykhah was directed to fall in love with Nabi Yūsuf (a.s.), who possessed the qualities of obedience, humility, modesty, wisdom, forgiveness, mercy, beauty, generosity and truthfulness. Her process of cleansing resulted in her character changing from being full of pride and haughtiness to one of obedience and submission. Thus her love for Nabi Yūsuf (a.s.) evolved into love of Allāh Almighty.
Even we are guided through this yearning in our hearts to our Shaykhs, who are the representatives of Nabi Muḥammad (s.a.w.s), who is the ultimate representative and most beloved of Allāh Almighty’s messengers. As we travel on this path/ṭariqah we learn just as Zulaykhah (r.a.) did, that we need to go through a process of spiritual purification, forgo our love for worldly possessions and titles, become obedient servants, listen and obey and submit to the will of Allāh Almighty. On this divine path, we are supported by our Shuyūkh to work on improving our character so that beauty manifests outwardly and most importantly within us. By attaining annihilation of our self, which can only be divinely ordained, then only will we taste the sweetness of the ultimate love, which is the love that our souls know and our hearts long for. This kind of love is the love of Nabi Muḥammad (s.a.w.s), which is the door to attaining the divine love of Allāh Almighty.
The lives of Zulaykhah (r.a.), Nabi Yūsuf (a.s.) and Nabi Muḥammad (s.a.w.s), his family and sahabahs (r.a) reflect that suffering and success are interchangeable just as Allāh Almighty says:
“For indeed, with hardship is ease. Indeed, with hardship will be ease. So when you have finished your duties, stand up for worship. And to your Lord direct your longing.”
I would like for us to ponder over the following Hadith Qudsi 37 taught to me by our beloved Shaykh Yūsuf da Costa (r.a) and the above verses of the Qur’ān.
On the authority of Abu Hurayrah (r.a.), who said that the Messenger of Allāh Almighty (s.a.w.s) said that Allāh Almighty said:
“I have prepared for my righteous servants what no eye has seen, and no ear has heard, nor has it occurred to the human heart. Thus recite if you wish: “And no soul shall know what joy for them has been kept hidden.” (Al-Bukhari, Muslim Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah)
We thank Allāh Almighty for honouring us to know that Allāh Almighty is our Lord, Nabi Muḥammad (s.a.w.s) is our final messenger, Al-Qur’ān is our Holy Book, Islām is our religion, Naqshbandi Muḥammadi Order our ṭariqah and being with our Shuyūkh, the guides on our path to Allāh Almighty.
We make du ͑ā that Allāh Almighty continues to keep us on the straight path as we strive to become righteous servants so that we may attain His divine love. We pray that Allāh Almighty grants us what He has granted His pious servants – friendship of Allāh Almighty and to be in His presence and the presence of Rasūlullah (s.a.w.s), the Ambiyāh, the Awliyāh, the Muttaqīn, the Siddiqīn and the Sālihīn in the World of Eternity. Amīn.
Wa minAllāhi Tawfīq.
May Allāh Almighty forgive me for any errors in what has been written and for my shortcomings. Amīn
1. Lore of Light Volume 1 by Hajjah Amina Hatun, Translated by
3. Forty Hadith Qudsi by Ezzeddin Ebrahim and Denys Johnson-Davies