The Prophet Saleh AS

The Story of Prophet Yaqub (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ)

Prophet Yaqub (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) descended from a line of devout Prophets of Allah (سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ) and continued to carry the message of Oneness through his progeny. He was the son of Prophet Ishaq (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ), and his grandfather was none other than Prophet Ibrahim (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ).

prophet yaqub AS story is often told alongside Prophet Yusuf
The story of Prophet Yaqub (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) mentioned in Islamic literature, is often intertwined with the story of Prophet Yusuf (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ).

The Qur'an does not delve into the details of the life of Prophet Ishaq (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) and, subsequently, Yaqub (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ). Hence, what is known about Yaqub's early life is often adapted by reliable Qur'anic commentators from the people of the book.

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The Origin of Banu Israel (Children of Israel)

Prophet Yaqub (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) was the father to twelve sons. The first ten were born to his first wife, while Prophet Yusuf (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) and his brother Binyamin were born to his second wife. The twelve sons made up the original twelve tribes of Banu Israel.

The Qur'an mentions,
"Say, [O believers], "We have believed in Allāh and what has been revealed to us and what has been revealed to Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and the Descendants [al-Asbāṭ] and what was given to Moses and Jesus and what was given to the prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and we are Muslims [in submission] to Him."
— (Surah Baqarah, ayah 36)

From this ayah, it mentions the descendants of Yaqub (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ), referring to his twelve children. After Yusuf's (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) rise in Egypt becoming the chief minister, his whole family moved there. They lived there peacefully for many generations until they fell under the tyranny of a Pharaoh. Here, they suffered greatly. It wasn't until Prophet Musa (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) came that they found liberation.

After helping the children of Israel escape, Musa (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) performed a miracle,

“And [recall] when Moses prayed for water for his people, so We said,
'Strike with your staff the stone.'

And there gushed forth from it twelve springs, and every person (referring to the twelve tribes) knew its watering place.
'Eat and drink from the provision of Allah, and do not commit abuse on the earth, spreading corruption.'”
— (Surah Baqarah, ayah 60)

prophet musa strike stone for water
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Yaqub (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) story in the Qur'an.

When Yusuf (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) was still a young boy, he awoke one morning and narrated to his father of a dream he had.
“O my father, indeed I have seen eleven stars and the sun and the moon; I saw them prostrating to me.”
— (Surah Yusuf, ayah 4)

Prophet Yaqub (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ), gifted with the ability to interpret dreams, was overcome with immense joy. He understood that the dream was a sign from Allah (سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ) that he had chosen Yusuf (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) for a special purpose, which is to continue his legacy and succeed him in Prophethood. In the dream, it is believed the eleven stars symbolize his brothers, and the sun and the moon are his parents.

Yaqub (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) was also concerned about the brothers’ reaction to this narration, for although Yaqub (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) treated them equally, they did feel envious of Yusuf (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ). He knew that jealousy was a vicious emotion that had the power to cause significant harm. So he warned Yusuf (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) against relating his dream to his brothers.

Despite Yaqub’s (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) efforts, the malice in the hearts of his sons against Yusuf (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) grew over the years. One day, his older sons approached Yaqub (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) and suggested that he permit Yusuf (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) to join them on an outing.

"O our father! Why do you not trust us with Yusuf, although we truly wish him well? Send him out with us tomorrow so that he may enjoy himself and play. And we will really watch over him," they said.
— (Surah Yusus, Ayat 11-12)

Yaqub (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) was reluctant.
“Indeed, it saddens me that you should take him, and I fear that a wolf would eat him while you are unaware.”
— (Surah Yusus, Ayat 13)

The sons replied:
“If a wolf were to devour him, despite our strong group, then we would certainly be losers!”
— (Surah Yusus, Ayat 14)

So he conceded to their request.

As Yaqub (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) feared, the brothers returned weeping on the evening of the outing.
“Our father! We went racing and left Yusuf with our belongings, and a wolf devoured him! But you will not believe us, no matter how truthful we are,” they claimed, producing the blood-stained and ripped shirt of Yusuf (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ).

Yaqub (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) understood that his sons had given in to Shaitan's whispers. He knew that they had deliberately harmed their brother Yusuf (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ). But Yaqub (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) also had faith that Yusuf (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) was still alive and that Allah (سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ) was protecting him. “No! Your souls must have tempted you to do something evil,” he enraged. “So I can only endure with˺ (Fa Saabrun Jameel) beautiful patience! It is Allah’s help that I seek to bear your claims.”

وَجَآءُو عَلَىٰ قَمِيصِهِۦ بِدَمٖ كَذِبٖۚ قَالَ بَلۡ سَوَّلَتۡ لَكُمۡ أَنفُسُكُمۡ أَمۡرٗاۖ فَصَبۡرٞ جَمِيلٞۖ وَٱللَّهُ ٱلۡمُسۡتَعَانُ عَلَىٰ مَا تَصِفُونَ ayah 18

Wa jaaa’oo ‘alaa qameesi hee bidamin kazib qaala bal sawwalat lakum anfusukum amraa; fasabrun jameel; wallaahul musta’aanu ‘alaa maatasifoon

English Translation:

"And they brought Joseph’s shirt, stained with false blood. Seeing this their father exclaimed: “Nay (this is not true); rather your evil souls have made it easy for you to commit a heinous act. So I will bear this patiently, and in good grace. It is Allah’s help alone that I seek against your fabrication.”"
(Surah Yusuf 12:18)

Yaqub AS Grief

Years passed as Yaqub (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) continued to grieve for Yusuf (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) in silence. His eyes turned white as he slowly lost his eyesight. But his faith in Allah’s (سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ) power to return his son to him never wavered.

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A terrible famine hit Egypt and the neighboring regions. Prophet Yaqub (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) instructed his sons, except Binyamin, to travel to the King’s palace in Egypt to secure provisions. Upon their return, they informed their father that the storekeeper of the King's Palace had refused to provide them with further provisions if they did not return with their youngest brother.

famine comes to egypt

Yaqub (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) was not pleased with the news. How could he trust them once again after they had let him down with Yusuf (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ)?

He demanded:
“Should I trust you with him as I once trusted you with his brother Yusuf? But only Allah is the best Protector, and He is the Most Merciful of the merciful.”
(Surah Yusuf 12:64)

The brothers also discovered upon opening their bags that their money had been returned to them. This pushed them further to plead with their father:
“O our father! What more can we ask for? Here is our money, fully returned to us. Now we can buy more food for our family. We will watch over our brother and obtain an extra camel-load of grain. That load can be easily secured.”
(Surah Yusuf 12:65)

Yaqub (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) was once again compelled to concede. But he demanded:
“I will not send him with you until you give me a solemn oath by Allah that you will certainly bring him back to me unless you are totally overpowered.”

Once the sons had given their oath, he said:
“Allah is a Witness to what we have said.”
(Surah Yusuf 12:66)

He then instructed:
“O my sons! Do not enter the city all through one gate, but through separate gates. I cannot help you against what is destined by Allah in the least. It is only Allah Who decides. In Him I put my trust. And in Him, let the faithful put their trust.”
(Surah Yusuf 12:67)

yusuf brother return from egypt

The sons returned once again with grave news. They reported to their father that the youngest, Binyamin, had been accused of theft and was detained in Egypt. Yaqub (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) was enraged.

“No! Your souls must have tempted you to do something evil. So I am left with nothing but (Fa Saabrun Jameel) beautiful patience! I trust Allah will return them all to me. Surely He alone is the All-Knowing, All-Wise.”
(Surah Yusuf 12:83)

He then turned away from them and lamented: “Alas, poor Yusuf.”
(Surah Yusuf 12:84)

The brothers were infuriated by their father's love for their long-forgotten brother.
“By Allah! You will not cease to remember Yusuf until you lose your health or even your life.”
— (Surah Yusuf 12:85)

Yaqub (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) replied,
“I complain of my anguish and sorrow only to Allah, and I know from Allah what you do not know.”
(Surah Yusuf 12:86)

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The Beautiful Lesson of Yaqub (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ)

What is most commendable about this is the way Yaqub (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) responded to the challenging situations. In times of distress, he turned to Allah (سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ), embodying the phrase, (فَصَبۡرٞ جَمِيلٞۖ) 'Fa Saabrun Jameel', meaning "beautiful patience." It is a special kind of patience characterized by maintaining a positive outlook and unwavering trust in Allah's (سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ) plan, especially in difficult times.

The Prophet (ﷺ) said,
"The real patience is at the first stroke of a calamity."
(Sahih al-Bukhari 1302)

It's about displaying calmness and faith instead of succumbing to anger or frustration. To a believer, every circumstance, however challenging, is ultimately beneficial, although its goodness may not be immediately apparent.

We are often guided by Allah (سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ) in ways beyond our understanding, unable to see the full picture until we look back at our journey seeing how all the dots were connected.

For instance, Yusuf's (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) betrayal by his brothers and subsequent hardships eventually led to his role working for the King and saving countless lives. The ways of Allah (سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ) are indeed mysterious and always for the best, even if they are not immediately clear to us.

We must soften our hearts and truly understand that Allah (سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ) knows what's best for each and every one of us.

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Yaqub (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) reunited with his son.

Yaqub (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) then commanded his sons to go back and look for both their brothers.

“O my sons! Go and search diligently for Yusuf and his brother. And do not lose hope in the mercy of Allah, for no one loses hope in Allah’s mercy except those with no faith.” (Surah Yusuf 12:87) So, the sons set off once again.

Before long, Prophet Yaqub (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ), blinded by his grief for his lost son, informed those around him:
“You may think I am senile, but I certainly sense the smell of Joseph.”
— (Surah Yusuf 12:94)

They replied:
“By Allah! You are definitely still in your old delusion.”
— (Surah Yusuf 12:95)

When his sons returned once again, they cast a shirt over their father’s face. By the miracle of Allah (سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ), Yaqub (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) regained his vision. It was a shirt belonging to none other than Yusuf (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ), the storekeeper of the King’s palace!

Overjoyed, Yaqub (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) informed his children:
“Did I not tell you that I truly know from Allah what you do not know?”
— (Surah Yusuf 12:96)

His children begged Yaqub (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ):
“O our father! Pray for the forgiveness of our sins. We have certainly been sinful.”
— (Surah Yusuf 12:97)

Yaqub (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) said,
“I will pray to my Lord for your forgiveness. He alone is indeed the All-Forgiving, Most Merciful.”
— (Surah Yusuf 12:98)

So the sons took their eager father to Egypt to reunite him with his beloved son and Prophet Yusuf (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ).

Upon receiving his family, Yusuf (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) announced:
“Enter Egypt, Allah willing, in security.”
— (Surah Yusuf 12:99)

Yusuf (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) then raised his father to the throne and said,

وَرَفَعَ أَبَوَيۡهِ عَلَى ٱلۡعَرۡشِ وَخَرُّواْ لَهُۥ سُجَّدٗاۖ وَقَالَ يَـٰٓأَبَتِ هَٰذَا تَأۡوِيلُ رُءۡيَٰيَ مِن قَبۡلُ قَدۡ جَعَلَهَا رَبِّي حَقّٗاۖ وَقَدۡ أَحۡسَنَ بِيٓ إِذۡ أَخۡرَجَنِي مِنَ ٱلسِّجۡنِ وَجَآءَ بِكُم مِّنَ ٱلۡبَدۡوِ مِنۢ بَعۡدِ أَن نَّزَغَ ٱلشَّيۡطَٰنُ بَيۡنِي وَبَيۡنَ إِخۡوَتِيٓۚ إِنَّ رَبِّي لَطِيفٞ لِّمَا يَشَآءُۚ إِنَّهُۥ هُوَ ٱلۡعَلِيمُ ٱلۡحَكِيمُ ayah 100

Wa raf’a abawaihi ‘alal ‘arshi wa kharroo lahoo sujjadaa; wa qaala yaaa abati haaza taaweelu ru’yaaya min qablu qad ja’alahaa Rabbee haqqaa; wa qad ahsana beee iz akhrajanee minas sijni wa jaaa’a bikum minal badwi mim ba’di an nazaghash Shaitaanu bainee wa baina ikhwatee; inna Rabbee lateeful limaa yashaaa’; innahoo Huwal ‘Aleemul Hakeem

English Translation:

And he raised his parents upon the throne, and they bowed to him in prostration. And he said, “O my father, this is the explanation of my vision of before. My Lord has made it reality. And He was certainly good to me when He took me out of prison and brought you [here] from bedouin life after Satan had induced [estrangement] between me and my brothers. Indeed, my Lord is Subtle in what He wills. Indeed, it is He who is the Knowing, the Wise.
(Surah Yusuf 12:100)

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The Passing of Yaqub (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ)

Before Prophet Yaqub (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) passed away, he asked his sons one final question.

"What will you worship after me?"

They said,
"We will worship your God and the God of your fathers, Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac – one God. And we are Muslims [in submission] to Him."
— (Surah Baqarah, ayah 133)

This verse is believed to be part of the argument in the Qur'an that all the Prophets who came before worshipped one God and, therefore, can not be claimed by the people of the book in an exclusive way.

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