There Are Many Lessons To Be Learned From The Stories Of The Messengers
We tell you the best of stories in revealing this Qur’an to you, even though you were unaware of it before it came. (Surah Yusuf, 3)
In another verse, Allah outlined the following, with regards to the accounts of the prophets:
There is instruction in their stories for people of intelligence. This is not a narration which has been invented but confirmation of all that came before, a clarification of everything, and a guidance and a mercy for people who believe. (Surah Yusuf, 111)
As Allah revealed in this verse, the purpose of presenting the accounts of the messengers is to learn from them. Many, who lack a proper understanding of the Qur’an’s message, regard the lives of the prophets as mere myths, or legends. They do not consider the manner in which they live their lives, or how impeccable are their characters, as examples to follow. When considering the examples of the prophets, they do not recognize the vigilant effort they made to inform the world of the morality of the Qur’an, dedicating their whole lives to promote it, and fail to take a lesson from their unshakeable faith and devotion to Allah. However, for Muslims, from whatever era, many lessons are to be learned from the lives of the prophets.
For instance, Muslims can educate themselves by reading about Prophet Muhammad’s (saas) struggle against the unbelievers, pagans and hypocrites of his nation; Prophet Ibrahim’s (as) struggle against his people committed to idolatry, and the manner in which he reasoned with them, to convince them not to worship idols; Prophet Musa’s (as) courageous fight against the oppressive and tyrannical Pharaoh, and even against the ignorance of his own nation; Prophet Ayyub’s (as) patience and submission to Allah, Who tried him with illness and distress; and, Prophet Yusuf’s (as) faith in Allah, despite every stratagem conspired against him, from the time of his youth, and on into his later years.
A sincere believer can learn much about good conduct from the prophets’ accounts presented in the Qur’an. For instance, despite being among those who believe, being of sincere, honest, and good character, and of those who invite others to the morality of the Qur’an, he will be faced with other people’s hostility and slander. But, he will never be taken off guard when subjected to such injustice, because of his genuine efforts in the cause of Allah, and will not feel despondent. Because, as he has learned from the Qur’an, throughout history, sincere people, who lived according to the morality of the Qur’an, and invited others to the same, have been subjected to this sort of treatment. Another fact believers learn from the Qur’an is that all sincere believers who have experienced such difficulties and hardship have confronted it with patience, faith and submission.
For instance, when Prophet Muhammad (saas) was forced by the idolaters to leave Mecca with his friend, and sought refuge in the cave, he said: "... Do not be despondent, Allah is with us..." (Surat at-Tawba, 40) thereby showing his faith and devotion. Therefore, when encountering the same kind of difficulties, Muslims must remember to show similar devotion, not forgetting that Allah is with them.
Prophet Shu‘ayb (as) called his people to believe in Allah, and warned them against His punishment. However, out of both arrogance and ignorance, the leaders of his nation responded by threatening him and those who followed him. The discussion that took place between Shu‘ayb (as) and these leaders was revealed in the Qur’an:
The ruling circle of those of his people who were arrogant said, “We will drive you out of our city, Shu‘ayb, you and those who believe along with you, unless you return to our religion.” He said, “What, even though we detest it? We would be inventing lies against Allah if we returned to your religion after Allah has saved us from it. We could never return to it unless Allah our Lord so willed. Our Lord encompasses everything in His knowledge. We have put our trust in Allah. Our Lord, judge between us and our people with truth. You are the best of judges.” (Surat al-A‘raf, 88-89)
Shu‘ayb’s (as) determination, despite the threats and aggression issued against him, is another quality Muslims need to learn from prophets. Shu‘ayb’s (as) nation, on the other hand, was acting like all nations throughout history, who have denied Allah’s religion. Therefore, a Muslim, who has learned these lessons from the Qur’an, will not be taken aback, or saddened by the belligerence, calumny, and threats of the unbelievers.
Prophet Ibrahim (as) too is portrayed in the Qur’an as a role model, by his determination against the unbelievers. In order to convince them not to worship idols, Ibrahim (as) told them about Allah’s existence and unity, and demonstrated to them that the idols they worshipped were powerless objects carved from wood. Ibrahim’s (as) people responded by attempting to burn him in the fire:
They said, “Build a pyre for him and fling him into the blaze!” They tried to outwit him but We made them the lowest. (Surat as-Saffat, 97-98)
Ibrahim (as) responded to this aggression as follows:
He said, “I am going towards my Lord; He will be my guide.” (Surat as-Saffat, 99)
As we can discern from the accounts of the prophets related in the Qur’an, messengers and sincere Muslims were always confronted by their nation’s leaders who refused to believe. Despite the fact that believers merely call people to do good, throughout history, such leaders have shown hostility towards the believers, and especially to messengers, and tried to obstruct their mission. And, despite the passage of years, their methods have not changed. They accused these devout individuals of madness, corruption and greed; sought to discredit them in the eye of the people; and threatened them with imprisonment, exile and even death. Of the verses relating to the stratagems of these conspirators against the devout believers are the following:
They said, “Are we to follow a human being, one of us? Then we would truly be misguided, quite insane! Has the Reminder been given to him of all of us? No indeed! He is an impudent liar.” (Surat al-Qamar, 24-25)
There was a group of nine men in the city causing corruption in the land and not putting things right. They said, “Let us make an oath to one another by Allah that we will fall on him and his family in the night and then say to his protector, ‘We did not witness the destruction of his family and we are telling the truth.’” They hatched a plot and We hatched a plot while they were not aware. (Surat an-Naml, 48-50)
Before them the people of Nuh denied the truth. They denied Our servant, saying, “He is madman,” and he was driven away with jeers. (Surat al-Qamar, 9)
When those who disbelieve were plotting against you to imprison you or kill you or expel you: they were plotting and Allah was plotting, but Allah is the Best of Plotters. (Surat al-Anfal, 30)
The unbelievers have often resorted to imprisoning the messengers and the sincere believers, in order to prevent them from teaching Allah’s religion. The people were duped in assuming their guilt, despite their innocence, through the false accusations assailed against them. The purpose of imprisoning them was to prevent them from having contact with other people, and to suppress their activities. Yusuf (as) was a prophet imprisoned for such reasons. Musa (as) as well was threatened by Pharaoh with imprisonment. Musa (as), however, told him of Allah’s existence and said:
He said, “The Lord of the East and the West and everything between them if you used your intellect.” (Surat ash-Shu‘ara, 28)
Pharaoh responded with the following:
… “If you take any deity other than me, I will certainly throw you into prison.” (Surat ash-Shu‘ara, 29)
The reason Pharaoh threatened Musa (as) with imprisonment was for his faith in Allah, and his rejection of Pharaoh’s divinity, clearly not instances that would justify a prison sentence.
The following pages will demonstrate in detail that there was no crime to justify Yusuf’s (as) imprisonment. He was a victim of false accusations, and even though all recognize his innocence, “they thought that they should nevertheless imprison him for a time.” (Surah Yusuf, 35) Thus he spent many years in prison. For this reason, all the believers who, after Yusuf (as), were slandered and subjected to the unjustified attacks by the unbelievers, and then imprisoned, did not despair, but appreciated its educational opportunities and aspired to “graduate” from the School of Yusuf.
The subject of this book is imprisonment, which has become a form of education for believers, who have been subjected to it through the conspiring of the unbelievers. There, they are educated by our Lord. At first, those imprisoned for pursuing Allah’s path of righteousness, would appear to be punished, while in reality they are receiving an education, and gain insight that is beneficial both worldly and spiritually. It must be clearly remembered that such hardship is a means for attaining the blessings of Paradise.