Here we present the method of invitation used by the Prophet Yusuf (peace be upon him). The relevant verses are:
And two young men went to prison with him. One of them said: ‘I dreamt that I was pressing wine.’ The other said: ‘I dreamt that I was carrying upon my head bread from which the birds were eating. Tell us the interpretation, for we see you of those who do good.’ He said: ‘The food which you are given (daily) shall not come to you but I shall tell you the interpretation before it comes to you. This is of that which my Lord has taught me. Truly, I have forsaken the religion of folk who don’t believe in Allah and are disbelievers in the Hereafter. And I follow the religion of my fathers, Ibrahim and Ishaq and Ya`qub. lt never was for us to attribute anything as partner to Allah. This is of the bounty of Allah to us (the seed of Ibrahim) and to mankind; but most men do not give thanks. 0 my two fellow prisoners! Are many lords better, or Allah the One, the Almighty? Those who in you worship besides Him are but names which you have named, you and your fathers. Allah has revealed no sanction for them. The decision rests with Allah only, Who has commanded you that you worship none save Him. This is the right religion, but most men know not. 0 my two fellow prisoners! As for one of you, he will pour out wine for his lord to drink; and as for the other he will be crucified so that the birds will eat from his head. This is the case judged concerning which you inquired. (Yusuf 12:36-41)
The Unusual Circumstances
Before I elucidate the meaning of these noble verses, I want you to visualize the unusual environment in which the Prophet Yusuf (peace be upon him) had to carry out his mission.
First of all, think for a while about who the Prophet Yusuf was. He was the son of the Prophet Ya`qub(Jacob), and grandson of the Prophet Ishaq (Isaac) and great-grandson of the Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon them) all, – eminent in lineage, a prophet by heredity, noble in disposition, excellent in morals and manners, mentioned in revealed books, narrated in religious, literary and philosophical works and matchless in beauty.
Then go through the following verses, before enjoying the literary excellence of these verses:
And there came a caravan, and they sent their water drawer. He let down his pail (in the pit). (Yusuf 12:19)
And it seemed good to them (the menfolk) after they had seen the signs (of his innocence)to imprison him for a time. (Yusuf 12:35)
The Prophet Yusuf (peace be upon him) was imprisoned on a charge from which he had been acquitted. His innocence was as much established by Allah as was the wolf free from the guilt of killing him (an Arabic proverb).
Anyway, the Prophet Yusuf was sent to jail as a convict on a false charge. The prison staff had to carry out the orders of the higher authorities. They were not concerned with the facts of the case. They treated the inmates as chattels. They were not aware of the status of the Prophet Yusuf, the family he belonged to or the noble character he bore. The atmosphere in prison is different from the outside world and the inmates had a lot of time at their disposal.
Though all the prisoners were treated as equals, the Prophet Yusuf (peace be upon him) became the centre of attention- other prisoners being impressed by his character.
Perhaps the fellow prisoners were attracted towards him on account of his devotion to prayers, dignified manners, strength of character, and broadmindedness. They were obliged to respect him for his sterling qualities of head and heart. It was all in accordance with the will of Allah.
The two prisoners had dreams which is nothing unusual, but their dreams were a bit strange. One of them dreamt that he was extracting wine (from grapes). He did not know what the dream meant and fear caught him as if it was a nightmare. The other man dreamt that he was carrying bread in a basket over his head and the birds were eating from it. It was also a strange dream.
They referred their dreams to the Prophet Yusuf, peace be upon him. It shows that their instinct had not become dull. They had the faculty of observation and it is a common practice that people judge by their own experiences rather than depending on logic and reason. They told their dreams to the Prophet Yusuf and asked him for their interpretations saying, “We see you (to be one) of those who act excellently well”.
The Meaning of “lhsan”
The two prisoners who asked for interpretation of their dreams said:
“ … for we see you (to be one)of those who act excellently well.”
lhsan thus signifies doing anything in a manner which is the highest degree of perfection.
When asked about lhsan the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said:
“lhsan is that you worship Allah as if you see Him, because if you do not see Him, then He sees you.” (AL-Bukhari)
Ihsan here means that the Prophet Yusuf was perfect in every way. Because he was accused of an offense (which he did not commit) there must have been some talk about it in the prison. His co-prisoners must have thought at first that there must be some truth in the charge or else he would not have been in prison.
Others might have said that the charge was false. But all this loose talk ended in the prison when they saw him at close quarters and experienced his perfect manners and excellent disposition. The aura of guilt which preceded his coming to the prison disappeared and the prisoners instead saw a halo of glory around him.
A Thought-provoking Matter
The Prophet Yusuf, (peace be upon him) realized that the frightening dreams had brought these persons to him since they considered such matters important in their time.
They gave great importance to such incidents and prognostications and placed implicit faith in them.
But the Prophet Yusuf was brought up in the lap of prophethood, endowed with a rare insight and moulded for prophethood; he understood that these two prisoners were forgetting the grave realities which needed more attention than these dreams. He knew that the present life, however long it may be, is, in fact, no better than a dream.
These two prisoners were more in need of knowing the interpretation of the reality of life and death since their forgetfulness of Allah laid them open to a more serious loss and danger.
Yusuf who was blessed with sympathy for people and had their welfare at heart, knew that it was more important to warn them about the real danger to come. They ought to be told about the thing which was more profitable to them, especially when they had experienced a shock and were mentally prepared to heed his advice. He had now an opportunity to tell them what he wanted; there probably would be no other occasion.
Yusuf (peace be upon him) thought it better not to lose that chance as the interpretation of dreams had presented him with an opportunity to invite them to the way of Allah. He thought that their natural sense of reason ought to be awakened so that they might grasp the meaning of tawheed, the easy and natural belief in One God.
To be continued…..
The article is excerpted from the book “Inviting to the Way of Allah”, by Sayyed Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi, Translated by Qazi Abdul Hamid, published by Ta-Ha Publishers Ltd. and UK Islamic Academy, 1996/1416 H.