Quranic Reflection No. 425. Ayat 12:3 – The Best of Stories

نَحْنُ نَقُصُّ عَلَيْكَ أَحْسَنَ الْقَصَصِ
Nahnu naqussu ‘alayka ahsanal-qasas
We narrate to you the best of stories
(Sūrat Yūsuf, No 12, Āyat 3)

Stories have always been an important part of human connection. Even before they could read and write human beings were telling stories. It connected people together and was important in passing on information in an engaging manner. Stories help people derive meaning from the experiences of others.

The Quran narrates many real stories. These stories are a means for educating and training the believers. The history of the Prophets is narrated through the stories of their experiences. Some stories are repeated with a focus on different aspects of the story to reveal various dimensions of the same story.

The verse above comes at the beginning of the narrative about Prophet Yūsuf ‘alayhis-salām. Allah subhanahu wa-ta’ala says He reveals the best of stories. The criteria for a story to be the best include having a significant message which is narrated in the most engaging manner and which has a reality that refines the human character. The best of stories could refer to the entire Quran or it could specifically refer to the story of Prophet Yūsuf (a). There are hadith that refer to the Quran as the best of stories. Imam al-Bāqir (a) says: Surely the Book of Allah is the most truthful of all narrations, and the best of all stories (al-Kāfī, v. 3, p. 422). However, in the context of the verses that follow the above verse it could be connected to the story of Prophet Yūsuf itself.

The following points make the story of Prophet Yūsuf (a) the best of stories:
1) It shows the evil effects of jealousy and the fact that jealousy of human beings does not obstruct the plan of Allah for a person.
2) Awakens compassion for the victimization of Prophet Yūsuf when he is thrown in the well and when he is imprisoned without being guilty of a crime.
3) Narrates a story of desire in a most modest and indiscreet manner and shows how passion can be controlled.
4) Gives hope through the eventual victory of the protagonist.
5) Reveals family dynamics that play a big role in human life.
6) Many stories of the Prophets narrate their encounters with tyrants and the fight between truth and falsehood. This story follows Prophet Yūsuf through the stages of life, from childhood to youth to adulthood.
7) It is only the story of Prophet Yūsuf that has been discussed in one sura with a comprehensive coverage of various topics that can be gleaned from his life.

The story of Prophet Yūsuf has much to teach us. Let this verse remind you of the best of stories. Its richness will continue to fascinate believers and lead them to personal growth and development.

Sources: Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (Ed.), Tafsīr-e Namūneh