From the story of Yusuf and Zulaikha we learn what part
beauty plays in the world of love. Yusuf was the youngest
son of Jacob, the seer, who was blest with the gift of prophecy
as were several among his ancestors. He was thrown into
a well by his elder brothers, who were jealous of his beauty
and the influence that it had on their father and everyone
that met him. 'Not love alone, but beauty also has to pay
Some merchants traveling that way saw Yusuf in the well
as they were drawing water, and took him up and sold him
as a slave to a chief of Misr, who, charmed by the beautiful
manner of this youth, made him his personal attendant.
Zulaikha, the wife of this chief, grew fonder every day
of this handsome youth. She talked to him, she played with
him, she admired him, and she raised him in her eyes from
a slave to a king. 'Those crowned with beauty are always
kings, even if they are in rags or sold as slaves.' 'A true
king is always a king, with or without a throne.'
The friends and relations of Zulaikha began to tell tales
about her having fallen in love with Yusuf, and, as it is
natural for people to take interest in the faults of others,
it eventually put Zulaikha in a difficult position.
She once invited all her relations and friends, and put
into the hands of each of them a lemon and a knife, and
told them all to cut the lemons when she should tell them,
and then called Yusuf. When he came she told them to cut
the lemons, but the eyes of everyone among them were so
attracted by the appearance of Yusuf, that many instead
of cutting the lemon cut their fingers, thereby stamping
on their fingers also the love of Yusuf. 'Beauty takes away
from the lover the consciousness of self.'
Zulaikha, so entirely won by Yusuf, forgot in the love
of him what is right, what is wrong. 'Reason falls when
love rises.' They became more intimate every day until a
spell of passion came and separated them. When the shadow
of passion fell upon the soul of Yusuf, Zulaikha happened
to think of covering the face of the idol, which was in
her room. This astonished Yusuf and made him ask her, 'What
doest thou?' She said, 'I cover the face of my god that
seeth us with his eyes full of wrath.' This startled Yusuf.
He was the vision of his father pointing his finger towards
heaven. Yusuf said, 'Stay, O Zulaikha, of what hast thou
put me in mind! The eyes of thy god can be covered with
a piece of cloth, but the eyes of my God cannot be covered.
He seeth me wherever I am.' 'He is man who remembers God
in anger and fears God in passion,' says Zafar.
Zulaikha, blinded by the overwhelming darkness of passion,
would not desist, and when he still refused, her passion
turned into wrath. She hated him and cursed him and reminded
him of his low position as a slave. On this he began to
leave the room, and she caught him by the nape of the neck
and thus Yusuf's garment was torn. The chief happened to
enter the room during this. He was amazed at this sight,
which neither Zulaikha nor Yusuf could hide. Before he asked
her anything she complained to him, in order to hide her
evident fault, that Yusuf had made an attempt to lay hands
upon her, which naturally enraged the chief, and he at once
gave orders that Yusuf should be taken to prison for life.
'The righteous have more trials in life than the unrighteous.'
Prison was a delight to the truthful Yusuf, who had kept
his torch alight through the darkness of passion while walking
in the path of love.
It was not long before the spell upon Zulaikha faded,
and then came a settled melancholy. There was no end to
her sorrow and repentance. 'Love dies in passion, and is
again born of passion.' Years passed, and the pain of Zulaikha's
heart consumed her flesh and blood. She wasted away. On
one side was the love of Yusuf, on the other side the constant
trouble that her guilty conscience caused her and the idea
that her own beloved had been thrown into prison on her
account, which almost took her life away.
Time, which changes all things, changed the conditions
of Yusuf's life. Though he was in prison he had never blamed
Zulaikha, by reason of her love, but he became every day
more deeply immersed in the thought of her and yet remained
firm in his principle, which is the sign of the godly. He
was loved and liked by those in the prison, and he interpreted
their dreams whenever they asked him. Yusuf's presence made
the prison heaven for the prisoners. But Zulaikha, after
the death of her husband, fell into still greater misery.
After many years it happened that Pharaoh dreamed a dream
which greatly startled and alarmed him. Among all the soothsayers
and magicians in the land there was none who could interpret
his dream. Then he was told by his servants of Yusuf and
his wonderful gift of interpreting dreams. He sent for Yusuf,
who after having been told Pharaoh's dream gave the interpretation
of it, and by his wise counsel he greatly relieved the King
in his cares. Pharaoh made him chief over all his treasures,
and bestowed on him honor and power that raised him in the
eyes of the world. 'Verily the truth at last is victorious.'
Then his brothers came to Yusuf, and afterwards his father
Jacob, who was released from the years of pain that he had
suffered through his love of Yusuf. 'The reward of love
never fails the lover.'
Once Yusuf, riding with his retinue, happened to pass
by the place where Zulaikha in her utter misery was spending
her days. On hearing the sound of horses' hoofs many people
ran to see the company passing, and all called out, 'It
is Yusuf, Yusuf!' On hearing this, Zulaikha desired to look
at him once again. When Yusuf saw her he did not recognize
her, but he halted, seeing that some woman wished to speak
with him. He was moved to see a person in such misery, and
asked her, 'What desirest thou of me?' She said, 'Zulaikha
has still the same desire, O Yusuf, and it will continue
here and in the hereafter. I have desired thee, and thee
alone I will desire.' Yusuf became very convinced of her
constant love, and was moved by her state of misery. He
kissed her on the forehead, and took her in his arms and
prayed to God. The prayer of the prophet and the appeal
of long-continued love attracted the blessing of God, and
Zulaikha regained her youth and beauty. Yusuf said to Zulaikha,
'From this day thou becomest my beloved queen.' They were
then married and lived in happiness. 'Verily God hearkens
attentively to the cry of every wretched heart.'