Zulaykha is the beautiful and infamous Egyptian socialite who tried to seduce Prophet Joseph also known as Yusuf (AS). So who was she besides that?
A loving landlady
Her first husband was Potiphar. And it was him who bought Yusuf (AS) for Zulaykha when he was about 10 years old in the slave market after Yusuf’s brothers had deceived him due to their jealousy. Zulaykha liked Yusuf (AS) right away and he became her beloved servant. She practically raised him and he was a loyal servant in her household.
A forbidden lover who loved well and chastised well
It wasn’t until he was about 17 years old that she started to make a move on him. Before that, she had basically started stalking and anticipating his arrival to her quarters. Zulaykha had made many attempts to seduce him and Yusuf remained firm on the negative even though he wasn’t completely indifferent from her. Potiphar was believed to be a eunuch. While Zulaykha had everything she could wish for because Potiphar was noble, powerful, and rich, he couldn’t satisfy her sexually.
After Zulaykha’s seduction scheme was uncovered and the Prophet was acquitted, Potiphar asked the members of his household to keep a lid on the scandal. Unfortunately, it got out and Zulaykha blamed it on Yusuf (AS) and convinced Potiphar of it. Zulaykha had punished Yusuf (AS) by plotting his incarceration without knowing Allah had decided that was better for his messenger.
Zulaykha resented the lack of compassion she experienced as the talk of the city. So, she took her revenge on some of the slanderers by inviting them. She gave them knives, fruits, and asked her beautiful servant to make an appearance to serve the women. His beauty caused these women to cut their hands without realizing it.
When he went to jail for his own safety as the women had started to throw themselves at him, Zulaykha became restless. She made sure to send Yusuf (AS) whatever he needed in prison because she loved him deeply. But seeing that he was comfortable in prison and was still not accepting her indecent proposal, she cut him off and gave orders to torture him in prison thinking that he would give into her advances.
A woman ravaged by lovesickness and old age
While Yusuf was jailed, Zulaykha felt like a piece of her was missing. She let herself go, cried her eyes out, and broke all her useless idols which couldn’t deliver. She gave her possessions to people and released her servants. Only a few of them refused to go and stayed by her side. All Zulaykha wanted was Yusuf; the love of her life. Ra’eel as she is also known in certain sources suffered for something close to 30 years from lovesickness. Her husband had died and her big house became empty. Zulaykha also became blind but like Yusuf’s father, she could smell his smell. So when Yusuf walked around the city or preached, she tracked him by his smell. She had also become a beggar that people of city including little rascals made fun of because of her obsession over Yusuf (AS).
Some reports say that Yusuf married Zulaykha because she crossed his path one day and was afflicted by famine. Feeling pity for her, he had decided to support her. They even go and say that Yusuf (AS) asked her what were her needs and she replied her youth. Other say she wanted her sight back to see him one last time.
A firm believer
Zulaykha’s love for Allah genuinely surpassed the love of Yusuf (AS) when the Prophet prayed his Lord so that her youth be restored. This was to show to some nearby disbelievers the favors of Allah. From that point on, she had declared her love to Him first. A strong woman of character, she remained steadfast in faith and prayers for long hours. Some sources say that the roles were reversed and Yusuf (AS) is the one who started to pursue her while she didn’t want him anymore.
She thought that her youth was what made him want her while he had been ordained by his Lord to marry her because she had been made pure for him. Eventually, she received the message from her Lord to go to Yusuf (AS) as a bride. Some say she came to him saying she wanted to be his slave. Me, I see it as a metaphor based on Umamah bint al-Harith’s words of advice, ““…be a servant to him, and he will become a servant to you…”.
When they became permissible for each other, Yusuf (AS) hinted to her that their new status was better than the route she had sought before. Zulaykha replied with something along the lines that she was only human and asked that he forgives her. Some say they had two children Afra’eem and Maysha while others say the children were from his first marriage with another woman who didn’t see any issue with polygamy.
In conclusion, Zulaykha experienced the normal path of the sinner. She went through highs and lows. In the end, she was copiously rewarded.