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Yusuf and Zulaikha, a lesson of the time

By: Ayatullah Shaheed Syed Abdul Husayn Dastaghaib Shirazi
Zulaikha ran after Yusuf who had fled from her. She caught hold of his shirt, which got torn from behind. Yusuf ran away. In the meantime the Aziz of Egypt arrived there. When Zulaikha saw her husband, she, in order to ward off allegations from herself and to escape trouble, hurled an allegation against Yusuf and blamed him.


"She said: What is the punishment of him who intends evil to your wife except imprisonment or a painful chastisement?"
Looking at her husband. She said, "Yusuf intended to be dishonest with me. I wanted to catch and punish him so I ran after him." Thus she turned the matter upside down and said that Yusuf had a bad intention about her and she ran after him. Now what could Yusuf do? God always helps an oppressed person, especially in the event of a false allegation because no oppression is severer than a false allegation. Imam Sadiq says: It is heavier than a mountain. In short God helped the helpless Yusuf. What could Yusuf do? Should say: No? Who would believe him? But the Lord of the Universe exposed the piety of Yusuf. A baby in the cradle testified and produced two evidences. The whole world has testified to it. It said: Look at the shirt of Yusuf. If it is torn from the front it means Yusuf was guilty of embracing Zulaikha. But if it is torn behind it shows that Zulaikha was at fault. Almighty Allah absolved Yusuf and produced a testimony to his truthfulness and piety. The Aziz of Egypt also looked at Zulaikha and said, "Repent over your sin as you are an offender."
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"O Yusuf! Turn aside from this; and (O my wife)! Ask forgiveness for your fault, surely you are one of the wrongdoers."
He also asked Yusuf, "Drop the matter here, let it go. Ignore it."
Now, we are not dealing with the story of Yusuf except the aspect that man must not blame others for hiding his error or sin and for proving his innocence or piety. Accountability is there for sure. Be sure that if the matter is not compensated in this world, there is the Hereafter for doing justice. In fact, this world is not a place for compensation.
The place for such compensation is the Hereafter, on the Day of Judgment. It is not without a motive when He says that every man will be raised in the Grand Gathering on that Day so that all can see him and an announcer will announce: O people! Whoever has to take back his trampled right from this person may come up and ask for it. The rightful persons will be those who were backbitten, whose wealth was snatched, who were made helpless. Amirul Momineen says, "O My Shias! If possible die in such a state that your hands are not dirtied with blood or property of a Muslim. Your tongue must also not be dirty due to insulting and disgracing a Muslim." It is correct; Ali wants this from you
We have discussed about backbiting. Now an explanation of the Holy verse and its application to what we talked about. This Arabic word gheebat (backbiting) should be pronounced with vowel ee after the first letter g. If it is read with vowel a after g it becomes ghaebat meaning disappearance.

"nor let some of you backbite others. (49:12)"
This is a negative command. None of you should backbite some of you. This style of ordering is for stimulation, meaning you are one. O Muslims! Do not backbite your own selves.

"Does one of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? (49:12)"
A strange comparison is made so that man may hate backbiting to the utmost extent. Does anyone of you like to eat the flesh of his brother who had died? Would he like to cut his dear brothers flesh with a knife or with his own teeth and chew it or devour it? Imagine this scene. Can anyone ever like this gruesome deed! Doubtlessly, it is an extremely abhorring thought. Eating corpse is the deed of a vulture and of a dog. God desired that no corpse should remain lying on the surface of the earth so that the earth may be clean for habitation of mankind. A man does not do this. This is an example for making people detest backbiting and for explaining the facts of the other world.

Comparing backbiting with eating of dead
God says that backbiting is like eating the flesh of a corpse. To deprive one of his honor or respect is just like snatching his flesh. It is mentioned in a narration that if someone disrupts the talk of others and does not allow him to speak a word, it is just like piercing claws into someones face and scratching flesh off his face. The honor, which you snatched is like blood, flesh and skin. By backbiting him you have snatched flesh from his face.
Being dead is in the sense of being unaware. The poor fellow is sitting in his house and does not know that you are snatching away his honor. He is in the dark. He does not know so that he may defend himself. He is just like a dead person who cannot defend himself!

Collective benefit
Another comparison is with "brothers flesh." God says: O People! Do not harm yourselves by yourselves. Do not clash with one another in this wild way. This snatching of the flesh of one another! It is like eating corpses of one another! There is a subtle aspect in this comparison to which I had hinted a few days back. It has a logical proof. It exposes the impermissibility of backbiting.
The logic is this. God has made this mankind in such a way that everyone benefits everyone so that the system of the world may work nicely. In other words, every person (whoever he or she may be) has his or her own influence or effect. It must become manifest and he or she should also get benefit of the influence of others. I will give an example. One knows how to bake bread nicely. He should continue working and bake bread for the benefit of people with the influence of his existence. He must also buy oil and rice etc. from the one who sells provision. He should also take the services of a tailor for his clothing needs. Thus one must benefit from others and benefit others.
This worlds face is like the eye and the skin and the eyebrow. Everything is good in its place. (Persian couplet)
Here, everyone should benefit from one another. This is possible when they are together and in unison. It should also be the same with the class of spiritual leadership. The scholar should also benefit others and get benefit from others. He must correct the religion of the people and it can be so only when they are joined with one another. If they have relations with the people they get benefit from them. If there is no unison, benefit will not be available.
Backbiting is the cause of creating disunity between the organs of human society. It is like killing one and throwing him away from society. They have thus made him useless. The one who backbites anyone from a pulpit or from any place wants to prevent people from taking any benefit from him.
This is why God had prohibited backbiting and so also He has prohibited spying. Such spying and peeping into the affairs of others becomes a prelude to disunity. Disunity causes non-availability of one anothers benefit. If this ruthless fellow had not backbitten about him, people would have continued to go to him and take benefit of his knowledge. But the backbiter killed him and disconnected him from society, cut off his relation with the Islamic society and religious brotherhood and thus he (the backbiter) became the cause of depriving both the society and the individual from the benefit of each another.

Pious Shaykh, yet known as unclean
About fifty or sixty years ago, there was a man with knowledge living in Shiraz. No one prayed behind him and it was alleged that this Shaykh does not purify himself, though he had all the niceties and virtues of being a scholar and a just man. Despite all these specialties he was alleged to remain unclean so much so that no one was prepared to pray behind him (in his leadership or Imamat). Formerly he was being very much respected and honored. Due to this when he decided to go to Mashad for Ziyarat a number of people arrived with him. They had prayed behind him earlier.
They were traveling on donkeys and mules. The Shaykh felt the urge to urinate but it was not possible to urinate in the middle of the road. So he came down from his donkey, distanced somewhat from the people and went to a corner in the forest. There was no water for purification so he dried himself after urinating with the intention that when water is available he would purify the private parts with water as required by Islamic Law. (Sometimes, when it is harmful for health it is prohibited to restrain urine). But no one ever saw him cleansing himself.
Then he saw that people praying behind him were decreasing by and by. O God! But what should we do? Then they returned to Shiraz. But then no one from those who had prayed behind him came to pray behind him in the mosque. This situation continued till the last part of his life. Those reckless fellows who had traveled with him had brought about this adverse change.
They said that this Shaykh does not purify himself and the masses that do not make any inquiry after hearing anything believed the talk. They blindly accepted whatever was said. It is the case with masses that if it is said he is good they also say he is good. If it is alleged that he is bad, they also say he is bad. They say what the whole town says that the Shaykh does not purify himself. As a consequence they cut off an existence, which was beneficial to the society. Then no one offered prayers behind him till he lived. Formerly, a number of people used to benefit from his knowledge. Woe unto one who backbites a scholar. There is quite a difference between backbiting about a scholar and a grocer. The difference is on the basis of giving and taking of benefit to and from one another in the society.

Refer a definite sin to yourself
You are told that if you have seen a defect in any Muslim, you have no right to talk about it. First, you think about the matter positively and in a nice manner. Think and imagine that perhaps there is no defect in him. But if the sinning is definite then it is obligatory for you to address yourself from the viewpoint of "Nahy Anil Munkar" (stopping evil). Make a decision to make him give up this sin. Do not stand up and begin to degrade and disgrace others. For example, you say: I have seen him walking behind a woman. May be she was his wife.
You do not know him. She may be his mother or sister. Even if you are sure that she was a stranger lady, it is obligatory for you to tell him: What is this deed that you did? And not that you may disgrace him. Yes, I saw him going to the house of an ill-famed woman. Whatever sin you see in anybody, you have no right to expose it, so that the society may not be disintegrated and its parts may not get separated. The system of taking and giving benefit to one another may not be paralyzed. With the opening of the gate of backbiting the door of corruption, dishonesty and unfaithfulness also open wide.

Corruptions resulting from backbiting scholars
Most dishonesty and faithlessness seen in the masses is due to their being distanced from scholars, due to backbiting, rather by making false allegations against them. Take some trouble, bring a man for attending sermons and for attending congregation prayers in the mosque. But these things are against selfish desires. However for giving it up, it is enough to say a word. If you are a man then pick up one and bring him to the sermons, not that you drive away one who is attending the sermons. It is a devilish deed. Instead of bringing one who does not pray to the mosque. You make the worshippers leave the mosque. For example, you ask one: In which mosque do you pray? There? O Man, there is a talk about that Imam.
Did you not hear? Now due to this, one who used to attend a mosque not only leaves attending that mosque but also does not go to any other mosque. He becomes free and loose. It takes a long time for that man to find someone whom he may trust and follow. Curse of God on one who, by his backbiting, creates disunity in Muslim society and comes in the way of those who want to turn their face towards God in prayers. Such a fellow becomes:

"(To) those who love this worlds life more than the hereafter, and turn away from Allahs path and desire to make it crooked; these are in a great error."
He says: I do not lie. I am telling truth. If you tell a lie, it is allegation. Backbiting means to say a thing, which you know, a thing, which you saw with your own eyes. If you relay it to others it is backbiting. What you are ordered is: Not only do not say what you do not know, but also do not say what you know. Many narrations show that whatever a man does in this world has two aspects: Apparent and hidden (bodily and spiritual). When you describe someones defect what is apparent is the deed of your tongue and mouth etc. What is hidden is the eating of a corpse.

Abu Bakr and Umar backbite Salman and Usamah
Abu Bakr and Umar sent Salman to the Holy Prophet for getting some food. The Messenger of God sent him to Usamah, the son of Zaid, who was the treasurer or accountant of the Prophet. Usamah said, "I do not have anything." So Salman returned to Abu Bakr and Umar. These two persons said, "Usamah has shown stinginess." Then said to one another, "If we send Salman to a well which never dries, its water will dry up."
Thereafter Abu Bakr and Umar came to the Prophet who asked them, "What is the matter: I smell meat in your mouth?" They said, "We did not eat meat today." The Prophet said, "Why? You did eat the flesh of Salman and Usamah (You did backbite about them)."
That is the spiritual effect of the deed of Abu Bakr and Umar; same as eating carrion, and it was detected by Muhammad.
He also is reported to have said, "I can see the flesh of Salman and Usamah in your teeth."
Man does not understand this now. At the time of his death, he himself sees that dead body and smells its offensive smell.
Once, in the gathering of the Holy Prophet, an offensive smell came out without any apparent reason. It was the offensive smell of a corpse. It made the Holy Prophet restless. He said, "This is the smell of backbiting" and added that some hypocrites have backbitten the faithful, which created this stench.

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