قَالَ بَلْ سَوَّلَتْ لَكُمْ أَنْفُسُكُمْ أَمْرًا
Qāla: bal sawwalt lakum anfusakum
Nay, your souls have tempted you in the matter.
(Sūrat Yusuf, No.12, Āyat 18)
When the brothers of Nabī Yūsuf bring his shirt to their father with false blood on it, Nabī Ya‘qūb is not fooled. They tell him that a wolf ate Yūsuf while they raced but he knows it is a lie. He smells the shirt and then examines it with a surprised expression. He turns to his sons and says; ‘Why is there not even a tear in this shirt? O God, what a kind wolf it must have been that it did not tear the shirt!’ The enormity of the deception must have made him wonder at the way his sons could glibly make up false stories. But he only tells them that their souls have deceived them and made the matter light for them. They failed to see the seriousness of their actions.
Such is the depravity a soul can stoop to. It is able to commit a sin and not understand the gravity of disobedience to the Creator and Master of the Universe. Human soul cannot comprehend the negative energy that has been released through its actions and the consequences of it. Shaytān and the nafs of the human being make the evil action fair seeming, adorn it with excuses and justification. They put a curtain over the conscience of the human being until s/he begins to take disobeying God lightly. This becomes a barrier to having a correct perspective and does not allow guilt and remorse to come through. Imam Zaynul ‘Ābidīn (a) says: My God, to You I complain of a soul commanding to evil, rushing to offences . . . full of heedlessness and inattention, it hurries me to misdeeds and makes me delay repentance . . . My God, I complain to You of an enemy who misguides me and a Shaytān who leads me astray (Du‘ā 70, passages 1 & 2, Sahīfa Sajjādiyya).
The Holy Prophet (s) warned believers not to take sins lightly. He said: The believer sees his sin as a big boulder which he fears may fall on him, while the disbeliever sees his sin as a fly that has brushed past him. (Bihār, v. 77, p. 77).
The problem in taking sins lightly is manifold:
– it shows a lack of awe of the Lord who is being disobeyed
– prevents repentance and turning back to Allah
– makes it easy to repeat the sin
A continuation of this process creates a seal on the heart after which there cannot be much hope for redemption.
It is important that we think of the wrong we have done and worry about it. It should be a burden on our backs that we can never really get rid of, until we reach God and know if we have been forgiven for it. This verse can remind us that it is easy to take wrong lightly, even that of disposing of a brother and lying to the father. Human beings are all susceptible to it, and we must be on guard to prevent that.
Sources: Imam Zaynul Ābidīn (a), Sahīfa Sajjādiyya; Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (Ed.), Tafsīr-e Namūneh; Shaykh Rizwan Arastu, God’s Emissaries -Adam to Jesus.