Story of Prophet Yunus AS

The Story of Prophet Yunus (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ)

Prophet Yunus Calligraphy

Yunus Ibn Matta was a Messenger of Allah (سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ) sent to Nineveh, a city in northern Iraq with a population of over a hundred thousand. Prophet Yunus (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) was seemingly an ordinary man who was born and raised amongst the fellow citizens of Nineveh.

The booming city of Nineveh had long forgotten the message of Allah (سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ) and became a city filled with idol worshiping and sin. Allah (سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ) decided to send Prophet Yunus (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ), a man born amongst them, as a Messenger to guide them to His path — the path of light.

Prophet Yunus immediately set out to fulfill his Lord’s wish and invited his people to turn to Allah (سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ) and shun idol worship. But the people of Nineveh rejected Yunus, just as many nations rejected the prophets and messengers before him.

Idols Image

Yunus was not deterred; he continued to call them to the worship of Allah (سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ), reminding them of the terrible wrath of Allah (سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ) that was directed at Ad, Thamud, and the people of Nuh.

But they rejected this and said,

“We and our forefathers have worshipped these gods for many years and no harm has come to us.”

Prophet Yunus (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) wanted to help them and was persistent, he did not give up on his people; despite their ignorance and harsh words, he continued to warn them of Allah’s punishment.

“Let it happen,” the men laughed and informed Yunus that they were not the least afraid of his empty threats. Prophet Yunus (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) was disheartened. Despite his desire to help his people, he feared their fate was sealed. Anticipating the forthcoming wrath of Allah (سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ), he fled the city, fearing the prophecy of its destruction might soon be fulfilled. Allah (سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ) was displeased with His prophet for departing from his people without specific command.

English Translation:

"And [mention] the man of the fish, when he went off in anger and thought that We would not decree [anything] upon him..."
Qur'an 21:87

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The Saved City:

The calm skies over Nineveh soon turned red with anger, preparing to spit out the wrath of Allah (سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ). Men, women, and children gathered at the mountaintops, watching the combat of the skies above them with hearts filled with fear.

Red Storm Mountain Image

They soon remembered Yunus’s warning of Allah’s punishment and feared the predicament of Ad, Thamud, and the people of Nuh. With newfound faith, they fell on their knees, with their hands stretched out, as they began to beg for Allah’s forgiveness and mercy. Moved by this display of sincere repentance, Allah (سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ) lifted His punishment, forgave his subjects, and showered his blessings upon them.

As the skies cleared, the people prayed for the safe return of their Prophet Yunus (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) so that he could further guide them along the path of righteousness.

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Yunus (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) and the Whale.

Sail Boat

Meanwhile, Prophet Yunus (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ), who had left Nineveh, had boarded a small passenger ship with the intention of travelling as far away from his people as possible. The ship traveled through the calm waters during the day, but as the night closed in, a storm raged on, rocking the ship wildly to and fro.

The crew and passengers began to fear for their lives as the sea water gradually began flooding into the deck, slowly sinking the ship.

As the storm raged through the night, the ship's captain ordered his men to throw off all the unnecessary luggage and extra weight to lighten the ship's load. As instructed, the crew, one by one, discarded just about anything they could, but their efforts fell short as the ship struggled to stay afloat.

The Captain was left with no choice — he realized that the sacrifice of one might be necessary to save the many. As was common practice among men during those times, the Captain decided to draw lots to choose the passengers to be sacrificed.

The lots were cast, and Prophet Yunus’s name was selected.The men knew that Yunus (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) was a young, righteous, honest, and blessed man, so they refused to throw him out and agreed to draw lots again.

So the lots were cast, and Yunus’s name appeared again.

Draw Lots

The men refused to throw Yunus, saying,

“We are not going to get rid of Yunus. He is our blessing on the boat. He is the best man we have on the boat; we are not going to get rid of him.”

So they drew lots for the third time, and Yunus’s name appeared yet again! The men were baffled, but Prophet Yunus (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) knew that this was the verdict of Allah (سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ), for he had left his people without his Lord’s consent. So Yunus (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) jumped out of the ship into the dark, angry waves in the middle of the ocean.

As Allah (سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ) commanded, the largest whale in the ocean surfaced and swallowed Yunus (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) just as he hit the water.

The whale then descended to the depths of the ocean. Yunus, who was initially unconscious, awoke to find himself enveloped by three layers of darkness.

The first layer is the night's darkness, then the sea's darkness, and lastly, the dark confines of the whale's stomach.

prophet yunus AS whale

He believed he was in his grave, but as his senses awakened, he realized that he was not in his grave but was, in fact, in the stomach of a large fish.

Deep in the stomach of the whale, Prophet Yunus prostrated to Allah (سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ) and said,
“O Allah, I am prostrating to you in a place where no one has prostrated to you before, in the stomach of a fish.”

He then cried out to Allah (سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ), engulfed in the layers of darkness, repeating,
“There is no god but You. Glory be to You! I have done wrong.”

The creatures of the deep sea heard the invocations of Yunus (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) and gathered around the whale to join in the celebration of the praises of Allah (سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ).

لَّآ إِلَٰهَ إِلَّآ أَنتَ سُبۡحَٰنَكَ إِنِّي كُنتُ مِنَ ٱلظَّـٰلِمِينَ ayah 87

laaa ilaaha illaaa Anta Subhaanaka innee kuntu minaz zaalimeen (87)

English Translation:

"There is no god but You. Glory be to You! I have done wrong." (87)
Qur'an 21:87

Allah, the Most Merciful, was immensely moved by Yunus’s repentance.

“So bear with patience until the Judgement of your Lord comes, and do not belike the man in the fish (i.e., Jonah) who called out, choking with grief: had his Lord not bestowed His favour upon him, he would have been cast upon that barren shore (and would have remained there) in disgrace. But his Lord exalted him, and included him among His righteous servants.”
Surah Qalam, ayat 48-50

He commanded the whale to spit out His Messenger at the nearest shore. The whale obeyed Allah’s command, swam to the nearest shore, and ejected Yunus (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ). Yunus’s body was inflamed as a result of the acids in the whale’s stomach.

He had no protection against the sun and wind, so Allah commanded a tree to grow over Yunus to provide him with food and shade. Allah (سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ) forgave him and informed him that if it were not for his sincere invocations, Yunus would continue to be in the stomach of the whale till the Day of Judgment.

Prophet Yunus Whale AS

Yunus was the only Prophet whose entire community accepted Islam. Allah stated in the Holy Quran regarding the people of Yunus Ibn Matta:

English Translation:

“Was there any town community that believed after seeing the punishment, and its Faith at that moment, saved it from the punishment? (the answer is none) — except the people of Yunus; when they believed, We removed from them the torment of disgrace in the life of the present world, and permitted them to enjoy for a while.”
Surah Yunus, Ayah 98

The life and trials of Prophet Yunus's (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) life are summarized in Surah Saffat verses 139 to 148.

Allah (سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ) recounts,
"And Jonah too was one of the Messengers. Call to mind when he fled to the laden ship, cast lots, and was among the losers. Then a fish swallowed him, and he was blameworthy. Had he not been one of those who glorify Allah, he would certainly have remained in its belly till the Day of Resurrection. But We threw him on a wide bare tract of land while he was ill; and caused a gourd tree to grow over him, and We sent him forth to a nation of a hundred thousand or more, and they believed. So We let them enjoy life for a while."
Surah Saffat, ayat 139-148

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