Züleyhâ State of Love

Jale Karakaya
8 minutes

Let me start with Ahmad al-Ghazali’s definition of love: Love is the name of the gravitational force that is created by the task of bringing together two beings that are separated from each other. Therefore, the greater the distance between these two beings, the greater the love.

Yes, the examples of love are countless; but I wanted to approach the subject through the lens of Yûsuf and Züleyhâ. After all, it is mentioned in the Qur’an as the best of parables. What makes her so beautiful? I wanted to write down what I had read and what was in my heart.

The parable is familiar to most of us, but let me summarize it very briefly for those who don’t know it or want to look at it again:

Hz. Joseph, the Prophet. Yakûb’s son was a beautiful child. A messenger dreams in the sense that Yûsuf, who was already jealous of his twelve brothers, becomes even more jealous when his dream is heard among them and is thrown into the well by his brothers. Yûsuf, who had been in the well for a while, was recognized by the caravans passing by in need of water; he was rescued from the well and sold as a slave. The saint of Egypt, who was the husband of Zuleyhâ, bought her. However, Züleyhâ cannot stand the beauty of Yûsuf and falls in love with him. Yusûf, overcome by his nafs, wants to get closer, but when Yusûf sees the sign from his Lord and runs away, he meets the saint of Egypt at the gate. As a result, Joseph is imprisoned without charge and remains in prison for many years. Years later, he became the vizier of the king through his dream interpretations. During this time, Züleyhâ loses her husband, becomes ugly, poor, and loses her eyes from weeping for the love of Yûsuf. In short, she has lost everything except Yûsuf’s love.

Meanwhile, they made peace with their brothers who had come to Egypt to buy wheat because of the famine. His father, who was blinded by weeping, asked Hz. They are also reunited with Ya’akûb and at the end of the story, Hz. Ya’qub’s eyes were opened.

In the Qur’anic story, Zuleyhā is mentioned as the wife of the Egyptian saint and the woman who fell in love with Joseph; she is not mentioned by the name of Zuleyhā and the rest of the story is not mentioned. However, in the literal interpretations of the parable and in literature, we come across the inner meaning of the story and interpretations of reunion.

We see Ibn Atā’s comment about the peace of mind that the sūrah gives:

Anyone who is in grief and sorrow will surely be relieved when he hears the sûrah of Yûsuf.

Ayn al-Qudāt Hemadānī said in a letter;

The beginning of the sūrah points to the beginning of the path to Allah Almighty and the end of the path points to the end of this path; for this reason, it is said to be the most beautiful of the sūrahs.

In another letter, we see that he sets a criterion for understanding this sūrah. To be fully understood, the sûrah requires a lover like Züleyhâ and Majnûn, who see their beloved wherever they look. He said:

In order to understand the wisdom in this sûrah, one must have the attribute of Züleyhâ and the nickname of Majnûn; the people of heedlessness cannot be aware of this parable.

If so, this parable is special for those whose paths cross with love. The path is difficult, but the cure is within. Reaching the state of humanity is the gift of this love.

Hz. Mawlana quotes his interpretation of this sūrah in the Masnavi as follows:

The story of Joseph is such a story that its beginning is familiarity and acquaintance, its middle is longing and hijra, and its end is mercy and forgiveness.

Qur’ânic commentaries explain that this sūrah contains the secrets of the human being, that is, the secrets necessary to be human. It is said that the Prophet Ya’qub was the soul of the human being, Hz. Yûsuf represents the human heart and Züleyhâ represents the soul. Züleyhâ, representing the nafs, wants to reach the station of the heart, but she is married to the world. Beauty, power and might, he has it all. However, love comes and Züleyhâ loses everything. First his reputation, then his wealth, then his eyes… but one thing is increasing day by day: his love. As Yûnus Emre says, ” When Love comes, all deficiencies end,” he has lost everything in the world, but he has Yûsuf, so he has everything.

As Hazrat Kenân Rifâî says; Love has destroyed in order to build, the state of absence that Züleyhâ experienced was instrumental in her upbringing, and she realized existence in absence.

Züleyhâ not only experienced poverty, but also a serious loss of dignity and, one might say, a state of humiliation. One of the comments I read mentioned that this state of humiliation must be experienced in order to be the owner of glory. Isn’t that so? Everything is revealed by its opposite. We are tested with the opposite of whatever we demand, and if we pass, we are gifted our demand.

Of course, Zuleyhâ is not the only one tested in the parable. Yûsuf was tested first with his brothers and then with Züleyhâ, and as a result of the test, he was tested with years of imprisonment. Jacob was tested by the absence and longing for his son, and Joseph’s brothers were tested by their jealousy.

Joseph, too, was imprisoned for no crime, humiliated and suffered hardships in prison. Regarding the wisdom in this, Maybûdî has the following comment:

It was Our command and Our decree that Joseph should be king over Egypt. We first showed him humiliation through slavery, so that he would be aware of the repentance of slaves and captives. We tested him by throwing him into the dungeon so that he would be aware of the suffering and the fire of the prisoners. We made him grieve over his exile so that he would not be ignorant of the helplessness of those in exile.

Even if he was a Prophet, he was tested with the qualities he possessed, and at the end of the test, he became the sultan of Egypt.

In many narrations it is said that Zuleyhâ was reunited with Yûsuf. Züleyhâ, who had lost everything, changed her belief patterns with the love of Yûsuf and turned from idol worship to the belief in Allah. Allah answered his prayer of many years and paved the way for their marriage. A story is told as a proof of the greatness of his love in his heart:

As Zuleyhâ waits by the side of the road to see Yûsuf in his pitiful state, they meet him. Yûsuf sees that Züleyhâ’s joy is gone and asks her where everything has gone. Zuleyhâ also says that she lost for his sake. This time, he wonders about her love and asks what has happened to it; Züleyhâ replies that it is the same as it was in the first time, not one iota less. Yûsuf asks Züleyhâ for proof of this statement and while on his horse, the tip of his whip touches Züleyhâ. Züleyhâ sighs deeply and the whip catches fire. His hand burns from the heat of the whip and he throws it away. Zulayha is reported to have said these words:

O weakling! I have been carrying this fire inside me for forty years, burning with it. I was not afraid of this fire for a moment! And you couldn’t stand this fire for a moment!

It is narrated that when the fire of Züleyhâ’s love in this helplessness is revealed, Allah’s mercy swells and He orders Yûsuf to marry Züleyhâ. At the same time, Zuleyhâ regains her former charm and beauty.

What I humbly understand from the mention of this sūrah as the most beautiful of the parables is not to be faultless on the road to humanity, but to be able to handle the ecstasies that come with love within the framework of decency, and that love leads us to the state of being human.

Let us take the interpretation we quoted at the beginning that the sūrah refreshes the heart both materially and spiritually:

For those whose hearts burn with the fire of love, Allah Almighty is reported to have said to the Prophet

If those who are afflicted by the fire of love come to your presence and complain about their situation, recite the sûrah of Yûsuf to them and say: “Just as We made Zuleyhâ, who could not reach her goal, reach her goal, We will make you reach your goal.”

This parable is for those who fall into the desert of hijrân with the fire of love and search for their origin. Those who find their origin are those who reach the state of humanity.

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