This Surah is an example of the most beautiful form of story telling in the Quran. It is the only surah that is dedicated to one narrative from beginning to end.
The thematic studies of Surat Yusuf:
This is a modern form of story telling and it is present in Surat Yusuf. This is where you elude to something that is going to happen and then eventually it does happen.
A) Yusuf AS's dad tells his sons "a wolf might eat him".
What happens? The story comes out, the sons claim a wolf ate him.
B) Yusuf AS's dad says to Yusuf that "they (your brothers) may plot against you".
What happens? His own brothers plot against him.
C) When Yusuf's brothers leave him in a dried up well & walk away, they reassure themselves that he will be okay as some caravan will pass by although they knew this was unlikely. But guess what it does, it was foreshadowed, it was already eluded too.
2) Comparison & contrast in the Quran:
From Yusuf (AS) and his brothers there is a lot to learn-
A) In the 8th ayaah they have a conversation amongst themselves and near the end in the 88th ayaah ironically they have a conversation again. So the brothers of Yusuf are having a conversation twice & both time they are conversing about their younger brothers. The first time they talk about Yusuf & the second time they talk about Binyamin. Now the contrast is that the first time they are talking about how they can hurt one of their brothers (Yusuf), and later on they converse about how they can help one of their brothers (Binyamin). So they are not the same people, they have gone through an evolution. This shows that there is some good in them and it is an example to show that people aren't always the same, they can change. The brothers turned themselves around and tried to do something good.
B) When Yusuf (AS) comes out of one dark place (the well) he turns into a slave and when he comes out of the other dark place ( prison) he turns into a ruler. So you may come out from the same place but what happens to you after is all in Allah's control & is part of his plan. The situation doesn't determine the outcome, Allah's plan does. This is another example of contrast.
3) Structure of the Surah:
The entire Surah is in symmetrical form. Allah creates 5 problems in the beginning of the Surah-
A) Yusufs dream
B)The brothers plot against Yusuf (AS)
C)Ministers wife's attempt to seduce Yusuf (AS)
D) a similar attempt by Egyptian ladies
E) Yusufs imprisonment
F)The Kings dream
Allah then subsequently solves them in reverse order.
F) The kings dream interpreted
E) Yusuf's release from prison
C and D) Confession of the ladies followed by ministers wife
B) Brothers learn their lesson
A) Yusuf's dream interpreted
Allah has rolled something up and then unfolded it in its reflection. This in itself is amazing. To fully understand the beauty of this, remember that this Surah was not originally written it was recited and when you recite something, you cannot move the parts around to make it go in reverse. This is a miracle of the Quran.
Finally Some lessons from the Surah:
A lesson to be learned from the trials and difficulties of Yusuf (AS) is that, he was thrown in the well & into prison due to no fault of his own. Yet when he was faced with such trials his faith only grew stronger, he never questioned Allah & asked "why me?"
If anyone had an excuse to turn away from Allah due to all the trials and tribulations they have undergone, it's Yusuf (AS). But what does he do when he is faced with trials? He turns more and more towards Allah. As a result this Surah has been called the Surah of therapy.
Notes from lecture by Nouman Ali Khan
The Islamic Ummah