‘Some other time………in another life. Not every man is Prophet Yusuf.’ (AikMohabbat Sau Afsanay: Maah e Kunaan)

These last words, uttered in a dismal tone by Farida, a middle-aged character from Ashfaq Ahmad’s play Maah-e-Kunaan to a young man, incline us to revert to the pages of Islamic history and find out the trait which gives a novel aspect to the personality of Prophet Yusuf and puts him at a superior position as compared to the rest of the men.

Maah-e-Kunaan, the English translation of which is ‘the moon of Kunaan’ is used to refer to Prophet Yusuf owing to his possession of beauty incomparable with any of God’s prophets. This angelic beauty like that of the moon’s white radiance resulted in his coming to be known as the moon of his birthplace, Kunaan.

In order to know why Ashfaq Ahmad’s character of a young man has been told by a woman that not every man is like Prophet Yusuf, we need to look up the most famous incident of his life, that of his encounter with Zulaikha, the wife of Egypt’s president who bought Yusuf in the days when people used to be sold in markets as slaves. While the king’s desire was to raise Yusuf as a son, the wife was so taken aback by his unusual beauty that she sought to form illicit relations with him. Prophet Yusuf is still known for what he did at the spot, which was the resistance towards Zulaikha’s sexual advances. It is a characteristic unusual for a youth to not succumb to the desires of a woman, specifically the most beautiful of her country and holding a high status. This strength of character is presented as a model to men who follow the religion of Islam, that their character must be as strong as Yusuf. They are forbidden to give way to their personal wishes and are advised to wait for the right time, which, according to Islam, is when a man and woman are tied in a nuptial knot.

In Ashfaq Ahmad’s Maah-e-Kunaan, a story from his series Aik Mohabbat Sau Afsanay, a middle-aged woman, betrayed by her husband, falls in love with a young man who comes for a short period of time to her house in order to seek shelter after having been stranded in heavy rain. Both start to have sentiments of endearment for each other, when a young, attractive cousin of the man arrives and stimulates him to abandon the old lady. When Farida acquaints him with the fact that it is a common practice of men to readily fall for young age and beauty, his pride is somewhat piqued, and he vows to stand beside Farida. In return, he is again told regarding the impossibility of the act, but this time with a reference to Prophet Yusuf. She makes him realise that resisting beauty is a prophetic attribute, not performed by ordinary men. Men who claim to be followers of God’s prophets do not follow them in the real sense.

Ashfaq Ahmad must be commended for incorporating in an Urdu piece of literature, what we praise in English literary works. It is a common practice among the students of English Literature to open several other books, those of histories or biographies besides the one they happen to be reading. This is done in order to apply certain perspectives to the works, which often contain biblical connotations or mythological references. What makes Maah-e-Kunaan an admirable piece of literature is the fact that a historical perspective can be applied to it. Prophet Yusuf is not strange to the ones who have been brought up being told the stories of Prophets, but people who belong to other religions when come across an intensive study of Urdu Literature, would certainly have to look up to Islamic history in order to understand what Ashfaq Ahmad has been trying to say in this one line: ‘Not every man is Prophet Yusuf.’