Ibn Kathir has described several possibilities as to why Sayyidna Yusuf (علیہ السلام) acted the way he did: (1) It occurred to him that, perhaps they may not have anything other than the cash and jewelry they had brought. If so, they would be unable to come for the grains again. (2) Perhaps, he could not bear by the idea of taking the price of foodstuff from his father and brothers, therefore, he paid the amount due from his pocket and had it deposited in the royal treasury, and returned their cash and jewelry back to them. (3) He knew when their cash and jewelry is found in their supplies back home and his father learns about it, then he, being a prophet of Allah, would consider what has been thus found to be a trust of the Egyptian Treasury and would certainly have it returned, therefore, the return of their brothers would become more assured.
However, it can be said briefly that Sayyidna Yusuf (علیہ السلام) made all these arrangements so that his brothers could keep coming to him in the future and that he could also meet his younger real brother.
From this event relating to Sayyidna Yusuf (علیہ السلام) ، we learn that, should the economic condition of a country worsen to the limit that the failure of the government to check the decline may cause people to be-come deprived of the basic necessities of life, then, the government is justified in taking over the regulation and control of such supplies and it could also fix an appropriate price of food grains. Muslim jurists have explained this provision in details.
A Special Note:
There is something which strikes as unusual in this story of Sayyidna Yusuf (علیہ السلام) . We see that his exalted father, the prophet of Allah, Sayyidna Ya` qub (علیہ السلام) was so affected by his separation that constant weeping made him lose his eyesight. Then, on the other hand, we have Sayyidna Yusuf (علیہ السلام) ، a prophet and messenger of Allah like him, one who naturally loved his father and knew his rights on him fully well. But, during this long period of forty years, how was it that it did not occur to him even once that his father must be missing him miserably and that it would be nice to let him know about his wellbeing through some source. The sending of such information was not too far out a proposition even when he had reached Egypt as a slave. Then, once he was in the home of the ` Aziz of Misr, he had the freedom, comfort and time to do that. It was not so difficult to send a message to his home through some source. For that matter, this could have been done when he was in the prison as well. Who does not know that messages from inside those walls can be delivered anywhere, near or far? Then, came the time when Allah Ta’ ala took him out of the prison with all honours and the authority over the land of Egypt became his own. That was a time when he should have presented himself before his father as his primary task. And had it been against some state consideration, he could have at the least sent an emissary to comfort his father, something ordinary given the status he had.
But, Sayyidna Yusuf (علیہ السلام) has not been reported to have even intended to do that. Not to say much about his intention, when his brothers came to procure food grains, he sent them back without telling them about the real situation.
These are conditions which cannot be imagined about an ordinary human being. How was it possible for an exalted messenger of Allah to bear by this situation?
The only answer to this surprising silence which kept returning to me was that may be Allah Ta’ ala, in His infinite wisdom, had stopped Sayyidna Yusuf (علیہ السلام) from exposing himself. This was found authentically clarified in Tafsir al-Qurtubi that Allah Ta` a1a had, through a Way (revelation), stopped Sayyidna Yusuf (علیہ السلام) from sending any news about himself to his home.
It is Allah alone who knows the workings of His infinite wisdom. To comprehend it all is humanly impossible. But, once in a while, there may be something one could see through. Here too, as it appears, the real consideration of wisdom was to complete the trial of Sayyidna Ya` qub (علیہ السلام) .
This was the reason why, at the very initial stage of the event, when Sayyidna Ya` qub (علیہ السلام) had realized that his son, Yusuf (علیہ السلام) ، was not eaten up by a wolf but that it was some trick of his brothers, the natural demand of the situation was that he should have visited the place of the reported incident and made necessary investigations. But, as Allah Ta ala would have it, he was unable to think on those lines. Then, after a long passage of time, he also said to his brothers: ` Go and search for Yusuf (علیہ السلام) and his brother.' When Allah Ta ala wills to do something, this is the way He would put all its causes together.