Prophet Yusuf was thrown into a well by his own brothers. He spent years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, forgotten by most people in the world. Some scholars say that his separation from his father lasted for 40 years.
His father Ya’qoub had gone blind with grief over his separation from his beloved son. But later in the story, when his other sons returned from Egypt after being in the presence of Yusuf, their father said, “Indeed, I find the smell of Yusuf.”
For 40 years he grieved, for 40 years he held on to hope, and for 40 years he didn’t forget the smell of his son.
And yet after all of it – after a lifetime of living through this ordeal, the two prophets Yusuf and Ya’qoub weren’t bitter. They weren’t seeking revenge for what had been done to them. They didn’t want to see their family members punished.
Instead, Yusuf said to his brothers:
“No blame will there be upon you today. Allah will forgive you; and He is the most merciful of the merciful.”
And Ya’qoub said to his sons:
“I will ask forgiveness for you from my Lord. Indeed, it is He who is the Forgiving, the Merciful.”
At the end of this story, Yusuf says to his father, “And [my Lord] was certainly good to me when He took me out of prison and brought you [here] from bedouin life after Satan had induced enmity between me and my brothers. Indeed, my Lord is Subtle in what He wills.”
What kind of mercy and gratitude is this? These two men were forgiving to others, and grateful to Allah (swt) even after experiencing years of pain, injustice, and uncertainty.
But they understood something that is sometimes lost on us – Allah (swt) is subtle in what He wills. The disappointments and tragedies we live through aren’t stand-alone events. There is no such thing as a meaningless moment of pain or a random sequence of setbacks.
Everything in our lives was planned just so, to call us back to Him, to push us towards the path of our righteous predecessors, to invite us to raise our hands and acknowledge Him as our Lord.
Sometimes when we have unpleasant days, we start questioning everything. We can’t immediately find meaning and epiphanies in our pain so we assume there are none.
But we can’t find meaning because we haven’t waited patiently. We don’t trust that with time, every event in our lives will unfurl itself and show us just how merciful God’s subtle plan was this whole time.
Allah (swt) brought Yusuf up from the bottom of a well, out from the darkness of a prison cell into a position of power and influence. Long after his death, his story continues, immortalized in the Quran and in the collective consciousness of believers throughout history.
We, too, can create legacy for ourselves through patiently trusting God and working hard even when we haven’t seen the first ray of the sunrise. Yet.
“Indeed, he who fears Allah and is patient, then indeed, Allah does not allow to be lost the reward of those who do good” (12:90).
“إِنَّهُ مَن يَتَّقِ وَيَصْبِرْ فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يُضِيعُ أَجْرَ الْمُحْسِنِينَ”