This post shall focus on another single virtue that runs through the heart of the most famous challenge faced by Prophet Joseph, perhaps the most difficult of all which he had to live through and exemplarily combat- Chastity it is!
In the previous episodes we sketched a number of moral values that are strictly tied to embracing a genuine Muslim character and developing pure and strong faith in Almighty, and what this involves of love for and fear of Him, sound reliance on Him and trust in His divine wisdom.
We’ve already analyzed many merits extracted from the eventful life of Prophet Joseph (peace be upon him), that was rich in lessons as much as it’s filled with all sorts of hardships that can be faced by a single human.
Last episode particularly tackled the elusive yet crucial value of patience.
In this post, I shall focus on another single virtue around which revolves much of the debate and talk over the life of Prophet Jospeh (PBUH), and one that runs through the heart of the most famous challenge faced by Joseph, perhaps the most difficult of all which he had to live through and exemplarily combat- Chastity it is.
Islamic Law, and by extension culture, has be revealed and defined to bring about chastity, moral purity and mutual respect among humanity. And Chastity in particular is one extremely influential human value upon which depends the moral fabric of the entire Muslim society, and without which, such moral frame would fall apart, thereby obliterating much of the society’s moral standards and thus human qualities.
Prophet Joseph (pbuh) preferred being jailed (for no crime he committed) over falling into sexual sin. He set exemplary standard in preserving chastity and resisting temptation. He fought with all that’s in his power against all wicked plots and attempts exploited by the wife of the Aziz, Zulaykha was her name, to lure him into sinning- and God helped him all the way through and aided his noble struggle.
Joseph’s struggle against temptation was manyfold.
Shaikh al Islam Ibn Taymiyah states:
“Joseph showed great patience in resisting the temptation of the concupiscent woman; a situation that was far greater than that when his brothers concocted a plot against him and threw him in a well leaving him alone to face loneliness and starvation. Moreover, it is far greater than when he was sold as a slave to the passing peddlers, separating between him and his father. This is because he had to endure such troubles and mortification without any choice or acquirement, and he had no other way to face this but to be patient. Joseph’s patience and perseverance in resisting carnal sin was qualified by free choice, satisfaction and struggle against ego, especially when all means and circumstances encouraged its occurrence. To clarify this, at the time of temptation Joseph was a youth, unmarried, foreigner and slave, on the one hand, the tempting woman was very beautiful, of high-rank and his mistress, and they were alone. Add to this the fact that it was she who attempted to seduce Joseph, but Joseph spurned her attempt.”
– Crucial Human Virtue;
The reason I’m focusing here on this single virtue has many dimensions. Preserving chastity has come to be a virtue largely lacking in our modern societies, even those perceived as Muslim countries, probably due to lack of comprehensive understanding of the noble teachings of Islam and failing to grasp the morals of the stories of the Quran, most of which sketch the lives of the Prophets and Messengers sent by Allah (PBUT).
On another note, preserving one’s chastity or failing to do so can have unlimited impact on one’s life and in so many ways. Its impact stretches to contain many areas of a single person life and can go as far as impacting an entire society.
Preserving Chastity also has so many forms and is thus perceived in so much varying ways, which may, at some point, cause a bit of confusion to some. Last by not least, preserving chastity, besides being one popular notion framing the life of Prophet Joseph, was a potent weapon which, not only protected him against evil plots, but also saved the whole life of the Prophet, and wihout which his entire course of life would have taken a different downturn- but it was God’s will and wisdom that paved the road that Prophet Joseph treaded, heroically, thereby setting a good example of how a balanced and virtuous Muslim character should be.
What does being Chaste require and how should it be applied?
Falling into heinous immorality such as illicit sex affair is a decision involves an alert state of consciousness- contrary to what’s claimed by those who mistakenly believe that it hits people unintentionally, or falls beyond humans’ boundaries of will and power- if that was a the case God wouldn’t have set punishment for those who fall into serious sins.
The fact that Allah has ordained that human beings should refrain from such sins, warning against strong punishment befalling those who fall into them is the best prove that we do have the authority over ourselves and can revert our inclination to commit such sins before it’s too late. Allah is All-Wise, All-Knowing, and over and above, All-Merciful- He wouldn’t punish us humans over matters that are beyond our capacities or authority. Similarly, when Allah prohibits a matter, it’s because of its detrimental impact on human beings and societies- it just happens that sometimes our limited mentalities fail to grasp His unfathomable divine wisdom.
So chastity does require a great deal of self-restraint, self-discipline and will power.
Also chastity involves shielding oneself against all actions preceding or leading his way down to sinning. So a man shouldn’t for example go dating a lady, sit in a closed area that gives them much privacy, engage in intimate talk, and then complain about having difficulty refraining from falling into intimate relation. It’s just nonsensical.
So a due distance between the two genders is one element crucial to preserving people’s chastity.
And remember, Prophet Joseph rejected temptation since the beginning and continued communicating the same rejection each and every time he was invited to the same sinful action. Know that to be chaste you need a good start and resolute continuation of rejecting unchaste attitude and actions. A good start without a strong willpower may eventually lead to falling into sinning. So be careful- you need to say No, and continue saying No.
Also one must develop an alert conscience that’s aware of God’s punishment as well as a heart that’s filled with love for Allah and gratitude for His bounties. A mind that’s constantly engaged in remembrance of the limitless power and authority of the Almighty and the Hereafter is one crucial element interceding between an individual and his inclination and desire to fall into sinning, especially a grave sin like committing adultery. So be watchful of Allah’s limits- Prophet Joseph dealt with those limits in an exemplary practical manner, setting them as his prime source of guidance, moral standards and watchful guardian warning him against any failings or transgression.
Also one way of overcoming temptation is remembering that God is watching you. Envisioning how you’d be looking in the eyes of God would really fill you with sentiments of disgust that pushes you away from falling into such sin.
The Impact of Chastity;
Chastity is one element differentiating humans form animals. In the animal kingdom we don’t have such moral standards, do we? So usurping yourself such human quality, is rippling yourself of one vital layer of human nature that’s supposedly disturbed by immoral attitude and naturally attached to virtuousness and moral purity. Probably that’s why those who fall into what’s perceived among their community as immoral or beyond the standards of chastity, tend to hide their action and wish nobody would learn about they’ve done.
Such natural inclination towards preserving chastity is what developed over the history of human development taking the form of traditions and moral frame bounding each society and community with varying level of commitment and strictness that wavered over the years with traces still impacting Eastern societies, although now tend to suffer from some dualities and confusion giving priority of what disgraces the public image over the secret attitudes and practices of individuals.
Lack or, God forbids, absence of chastity, would lead to a society where men cheat on their wives and wives cheat on their husbands- a society living without one intricate element of the moral fabric of normal and sound human communities.
The life story of Prophet Joseph while rich in so many human values and moral lessons, is especially inspirational with regards to preserving chastity and fighting temptation to fall into heinous sin such as illicit sex. If wisely grasped, the story of Joseph can be a good source of guidance for people to live through the intriguing moral challenges of modern our age that pays little attention to the value of chastity and is largely confused over how a chaste society should be.- More into the life of Prophet Joseph in Part V
Posted on November 28, 2011
Check previous episodes of Prophet Joseph SERIES Here;
– Part I
– Part II
– Part III
– Part IV
– Part V
– Part VI
– Part VII
Also listen to the Audio Version of the Full Series