In a description of the brothers of Yusuf Alayhis Salaam, the Noble Qur’an describes them as indifferent (Zaahid) in regards to him.
This Zuhd (indifference) that they felt towards him was due to their self-centred egoism, the Noble Qur’an describes it as Zuhd.
The reality of Zuhd is to vigorously restrain oneself from something to which he is inclined.
Zuhd fid-dunyaa refers to a disregard to worldly things even though a person may be susceptible to its charms.
Becoming a Zaahid means that one should forcefully steer his fantasies away from the world. For instance, you are walking on the road and your glance falls on an ‘epitome of beauty’. When you force yourself to look the other way, this is true Zuhd.
In essence, Zuhd refers to steering the Nafs away from something and this specifically applies in a situation where a person is inclined to it.
For instance, your gaze fell on a plate of sweetmeats. Your mouth is watering to consume the tantalising treats but you restrain yourself. This is Zuhd. On the other hand, you come across some filth on the road and you avoid it altogether. This obviously cannot be referred to as Zuhd because you already have a natural aversion to it.
So the Noble Qur’an uses the word Zaahid to describe the brothers of Yusuf Alayhis Salaam.
This demonstrates that although they cherished an inclination towards him, they were nonetheless overcome with pangs of jealousy towards him coupled with the deception of Shaytaan.
In short, they were swamped by a feeling of jealousy which led to their indifference towards him even though they cherished feelings of empathy for him.