The Story of Zulaikha who Seduced Prophet Yusuf


The Story of Zulaikha and Yusuf

The Story of Zulaikha and Yusuf(pbuh) is an amazing tale of attempted seduction. Zulaikha is  mentioned as the Quran as the  “wife of Aziz” . The story is also mentioned in jew and christian traditions where she is known as the Potipher’s Wife. Prophet Yusuf(pbuh) was the Prophet of Allah and the son of Prophet Yaqub . There is a Whole Surah named after him-Surah Yusuf(Chapter 12,Quran) .

Yusuf (peace be upon him) lived for years in the house of Zulaikha, a woman of beauty, power and influence. Day in and day out, Zulaikha was exposed to his physical allure, a composition so stunning that the Messenger Muhammad [peace be upon him and his family] said “Yusuf AS has been given half of all beauty” [Muslim].  Zulaikha suppressed her desire for Yusuf AS until she could no longer control it.  She waited until her husband left the home. Alone with Yusuf AS, she locked the doors and called him to fulfill her desire.

Imam Muhammad Al Qurtubi, the great Quranic commentator, recounts the story:

[After locking the doors] Zulekha attempts to seduce Yusuf. She beautifies herself in the most attractive of ways and says

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“Oh Yusuf! You have the most handsome of faces.”  Yusuf, sensing what Zulekha is attempting to do, replies, “This is how my Lord fashioned me in the womb.”

“Oh Yusuf!”she says, “You have the finest of hair!”  “It will be the first portion of me to wither in my grave,” he replies.

Undeterred, Zulaikha presses on. “Oh Yusuf! Your eyes are so beautiful.”  “I use them to look at my Lord,” he retorts.

“Yusuf, raise your sight and gaze at my face,” she responds.  “I fear [if I do so] that I will be resurrected blind in the afterlife,” Yusuf answers.

She tries to press herself close to Yusuf, but he moves away. “I come close to you, yet you distance yourself from me?” she asks. “ I desire, by that, the closeness of my Lord,” he says.

“Yusuf, I have prepared my bed for you so enter under its sheets with me,” she says.  Yusuf replies, “Your sheets will not shield me from my Lord.”

“Yusuf, I have prepared the finest of silk covers, so I order you to fulfill my desires!” she exclaims.  “If I do so,” he says, “My portion of paradise will be lost.”

Story of Zulaikha and yusuf AS in Quran

Zulaikha’s  attempt to seduce him was fruitless, and his desire to remind her of Allah was falling on a deaf heart. Allah recounts the story Himself:

وَرَٰوَدَتْهُ ٱلَّتِى هُوَ فِى بَيْتِهَا عَن نَّفْسِهِۦ وَغَلَّقَتِ ٱلْأَبْوَٰبَ وَقَالَتْ هَيْتَ لَكَ ۚ قَالَ مَعَاذَ ٱللَّهِ ۖ إِنَّهُۥ رَبِّىٓ أَحْسَنَ مَثْوَاىَ ۖ إِنَّهُۥ لَا يُفْلِحُ ٱلظَّـٰلِمُونَ

Sahih International: And she, in whose house he was, sought to seduce him. She closed the doors and said, “Come, you.” He said, “[I seek] the refuge of Allah. Indeed, he is my master, who has made good my residence. Indeed, wrongdoers will not succeed.”(12:23)

Sahih International: And she certainly determined [to seduce] him, and he would have inclined to her had he not seen the proof of his Lord. And thus [it was] that We should avert from him evil and immorality. Indeed, he was of Our chosen servants.(12:24)

Sahih International: And they both raced to the door, and she tore his shirt from the back, and they found her husband at the door. She said, “What is the recompense of one who intended evil for your wife but that he be imprisoned or a painful punishment?”(12:25)

Sahih International: [Joseph] said, “It was she who sought to seduce me.” And a witness from her family testified. “If his shirt is torn from the front, then she has told the truth, and he is of the liars.

Sahih International:But if his shirt is torn from the back, then she has lied, and he is of the truthful.”

Sahih International: So when her husband saw his shirt torn from the back, he said, “Indeed, it is of the women’s plan. Indeed, your plan is great.

Sahih International: O Joseph, ignore this. And, [O woman], ask forgiveness for your sin. Indeed, you were of the sinful.”

Sahih International: And women in the city said, “The wife of al-‘Azeez is seeking to seduce her slave boy; he has impassioned her with love. Indeed, we see her [to be] in clear error.”

Sahih International: So when she heard of their scheming, she sent for them and prepared for them a banquet and gave each one of them a knife and said [to Joseph], “Come out before them.” And when they saw him, they greatly admired him and cut their hands and said, “Perfect is Allah ! This is not a man; this is none but a noble angel.”

Sahih International: She said, “That is the one about whom you blamed me. And I certainly sought to seduce him, but he firmly refused; and if he will not do what I order him, he will surely be imprisoned and will be of those debased.”

Sahih International: He said, “My Lord, prison is more to my liking than that to which they invite me. And if You do not avert from me their plan, I might incline toward them and [thus] be of the ignorant.”

Yusuf [alayhi as’salam] was a prophet of Allah who was in control of his desires. Zulaikha, like you and I, was not. She allowed her desires to overcome her love for Allah. She found herself to be living with the object of her want, Yusuf (alayhi as’salam). Zulaikha eventually diagnoses the root cause of her disease when she says:

وَمَا أُبَرِّئُ نَفْسِي إِنَّ النَّفْسَ لَأَمَّارَةٌ بِالسُّوءِ إِلَّا مَا رَحِمَ رَبِّي إِنَّ رَبِّي غَفُورٌ رَحِيمٌ
Yet I claim not that my soul [nafs] was innocent — surely the soul of man incites to evil — except inasmuch as my Lord had mercy; truly my Lord is All-forgiving, All-compassionate.’ [12:53]

Her Nafs. Our Nafs. A beast inside each and every one of us that we must tame. An unbridled nafs will lead us to prefer all carnal desires over the love of what Allah and His Messenger Muhammad (peace be upon him and his family) call us to. Doing so will cause us ruin in this world, and in the next. Yet a nafs that has been tamed will learn to prefer Allah and His Messenger (peace be upon him and his family) over all else, causing happiness in this world and in the next.

The Messengers of Allah [Peace and blessings be upon them] taught us the cognizance of our souls, and gave us the tools to control our caprice, while reminding us that success can only come by the mercy of Allah [May He be glorified]. The story of Yusuf and Zulaikha explores the nature of desire, temptation, and envy that occupies space in all of our souls and leads many of us astray.

Ref: Tafseer, Reflection of Surah Yusuf by Moutasem Atiya ,islam q A

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The Author of this website is Fahmina Jawed, an Alimah graduate who believes in spreading the Pearls of Islam and offering guidance through her knowledge(ilm) to help you navigate the complexities of modern living while keeping you connected with your faith (deen)."

This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. Please note that the narration of the story from Quran and from other narrations are clearly separated with a disclaimer that We believe in Quranic narration and these are the narrations from israeliyat which we may or may not believe.we have been commanded not to believe them and not to disbelieve them either. Reference is also given in the article and we are sharing the link here too :

  2. Khalilah

    Why do you call it the love of zalaikah?! That wasn’t love, she was being abusive and controlling all because she felt untitled to sleeping with someone who didn’t want her. She tried to force herself onto Yusuf (pbuh) and yet you call it “the love of zalaikah”. She was sadistic and threw him in prison because of her selfish desires, that’s not love. And why do you make it seem as if she is the victim under “the love of zalaikah” part of the article as if she didn’t try to r*ape/force herself on Yusuf (pbuh) and not only that but put him in prison?!

    1. @Khalilah-“And women in the city said, “The wife of the minister is seducing her youthful slave. His love has entered the depth of her heart. Surely, we see her in open error.”: Quran-12:30

  3. Kaifa

    Oh and the title of your piece and its contents is MASSIVELY MISLEADING AND LITTERED WITH MYTH than actual fact.ONLY WHAT THE QUR’AN STATES IS RELIABLE. Their was NO LOVE that Zulaikha had , NOR DID SHE SEDUCE HIM- TOTALLY FALSE!! She demonstrated a grotesque, conceited lust and he was NOT persuaded no matter her threats ! Please take it down!

  4. Kaifa

    Zulaikha’s entreaty to Allah that He is ‘oft-forgiving and merciful’ is NO indication that she WAS in anyway forgiven at all. She merely sought to ‘recognise’ that quality of Allah at a time when it was expedient for her – it was her Aziz husband that she hoped to fall back on , in order to retain her so-called social prestige. There is no reason to suppose that Allah(SWT) forgave a bitch like her- an apt name for her for did connive to put an innocent person indeed a Prophet in the dungeons for a long while. And even though the people who were party to Prophet Joseph’s imprisonment( the Aziz, prison officials, ladies of the town who were already aware of how he had already been wrongly accused once) were also to blame she continued to indulge in her sick ego to keep him jailed. I realise that in the grander scheme of human existence she is a mere prop used by Allah(SWT) to cite the example of Joseph of how to stay steadfast o the value of Islamic principles. But, she failed badly even after she had been given a chance to make apology once. I believe Allah delivered punishment to her because nothing is more important to Allah(SWT) than justice- be it after her death – equal to her initiation, stubborness to accept guilt and continued pursuit of oppressive evil conduct. It was Joseph’s fellow prisoner who eventually got him out of jail & due to his own resourcefullness of being helpful rather than anyone else’s sense of remorse!!!

  5. Amina

    The story of Yusuf and Zulaikha always brings tears to my eyes. It has many still relevant messages. However, I think the author of the post, Aafia, has misunderstood the message entirely. The restraint shown in Yusuf is not because he was a prophet. Prophets are still humans just like you and I. It ia because he was human and a man ans still able to restrain himself. We are after all not animals who follow their instincts. So man or woman, prophet or not, you are ARE able to restrain yourself. There is no excuse. As Yusuf says, he is overwhelmed but seeks refuge in his iman. We are at times tempted but it is art of life. In this case the seductress was a woman. So the roles are reversed and I believe Muslims today have a lot to learn from this beautiful story of taqwa instead of assuming men are wild animals who have no control of their genitals. They do. Everything else is cultural and manmade excuses to justify evil and void of taqwa.

  6. sarah

    Been so curious of the story of Zulaikha and Prophet Yusof. And Alhamdulillah thank you for posting this, I hope that I’ll find some hard copy of this same as the other Islamic books. Goodjob ❤