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Volume V - Spiritual Liberty


Chapter III

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 its forfeit.'

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.'

checked 4-Mar-2006