The Story of Prophet Yunus (Jonah)

Prophet Yunus, known as Jonah in the Bible, has a remarkable tale that involves a giant fish, a symbolic plant, and lessons of repentance and mercy.

He was chosen by Allah Almighty to guide the inhabitants of the historic city of Nineveh, the oldest and most populous city of the ancient Assyrian empire. Nineveh is surrounded by the modern city of Mosul in Iraq and is located on the east bank of the Tigris River.

Mallowan, M. (2023, July 9). Nineveh. Encyclopedia Britannica.

Prophet Yunus’s Mission and Initial Challenges

In the beginning, Prophet Yunus started his mission with enthusiasm, using his wisdom and charisma to guide the people of Nineveh towards monotheism. Unfortunately, his words fell on deaf ears, and they refused to listen to him. His people continued to worship their idols in their polytheistic ways. Prophet Yunus forewarned his people of divine punishment as a result of their stubborn disbelief. But his people continued to ignore him and kept worshipping their idols.

Disheartened by the persistent disbelief of his people, Prophet Yunus left Nineveh in frustration without waiting for Allah Almighty’s instructions.

Right after Prophet Yunus left Nineveh, signs started appearing of a storm in the sky and the people realized that Prophet Yunus was right in showing them the path of monotheism (worshipping only one true God). They were repentant and regretted how badly they treated him and ignored his teachings. They prayed to Allah Almighty to show them mercy. Allah Almighty accepted their repentance, and they were spared from the destruction of the storm.

Prophet Yunus and The Big Fish

Meanwhile, on his journey away from Nineveh, Prophet Yunus found himself on a ship with other passengers. After some calm waters, the ship ran amidst a violent storm, tossing it up and down. The captain of the ship asked everyone to throw extra baggage overboard to lessen the weight of the ship, but even after that, the ship would not become stable. It was then decided to throw one person into the sea. The crew drew names three times, and each time, the name Yunus came out. As a result, Prophet Yunus was thrown into the sea to lighten the load on the ship.

This is when a giant whale swallowed him whole, on order from Allah Almighty. Inside the belly of the whale, Prophet Yunus recognized his disregard for Allah’s plan and that he should have been more patient with his people in inviting them to monotheism.

He was very repentant and started to pray to Allah Almighty, and he uttered the following beautiful words of repentance described in the Quran in Surah Al-Anbiya (Chapter 21, verse 87):

لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا أَنْتَ سُبْحَانَكَ إِنِّي كُنْتُ مِنَ الظَّالِمِينَ

Transliteration: laaa ilaaha illaaa Anta Subhaanaka innee kuntu minaz zaalimeen

Translation: “There is no God [worthy of worship] except You. Glory be to You! I have certainly done wrong.”

Allah’s Forgiveness and the Return to Nineveh

One of the most uplifting aspects of the story of Prophet Yunus is the display of Allah Almighty’s infinite mercy.

Allah accepted Prophet Yunus’s sincere repentance and ordered the whale to release him onto the surface of the water. Prophet Yunus was thrown out onto a barren shore. He felt sick because he was covered in acid from being in the whale’s body, and he started to feel immense pain. Prophet Yunus started praying to Allah Almighty again. As a symbol of new beginnings, Allah Almighty caused a vine plant to grow where he was, providing him with shade from the harsh sun and food, signifying his acceptance of Prophet Yunus’s repentance.

Upon recovering, Prophet Yunus returned to Nineveh with renewed faith and perseverance. This time, his words struck a chord, and the people of Nineveh repented genuinely and recognized the monotheistic truth.

The story of Prophet Yunus serves as a reminder that, no matter how bleak the situation seems, sincere repentance is always accepted by Allah Almighty.


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