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The Story of Yunus Print E-mail

We have already discussed the story of Yunus, peace be upon him, in Surat Al-Anbiya' (21:87-88). In the Two Sahihs it is reported that the Messenger of Allah said:

«مَا يَنْبَغِي لِعَبْدٍ أَنْ يَقُولَ: أَنَا خَيْرٌ مِنْ يُونُسَ بْنِ مَتَّى»

(It is not right for any person to say I am better than Yunus bin Matta.)

﴿إِذْ أَبَقَ إِلَى الْفُلْكِ الْمَشْحُونِ ﴾

(When he ran to the laden ship.) Ibn `Abbas, may Allah be pleased with him, said, "It was filled with cargo.

﴿فَسَـهَمَ﴾

(Then he (agreed to) cast lots,) means, to draw lots.''

﴿فَكَانَ مِنَ الْمُدْحَضِينَ﴾

(and he was among the losers.) means among those who have been overcome. This was because the ship was being pounded by the waves on all sides, and they were at risk of drowning, so they drew lots, and whoever lost would be thrown overboard so as to lighten the load. The Prophet of Allah Yunus, peace be upon him, lost the draw three times, but they did not want to throw him overboard. He took off his garment so that he could throw himself into the sea, and they tried to stop him. Then Allah commanded a large fish from the Green Sea (i.e., Mediterranian Sea) to cleave the oceans and come and swallow Yunus, peace be upon him, without cutting his flesh or breaking his bones. The fish came and Yunus, peace be upon him, threw himself overboard, and the fish swallowed him and took him away, traveling through all the seas with him. When Yunus had stayed for some time in the fish's belly, he thought that he had died; then he moved his head and legs and arms, and saw that he was alive. He prayed in the belly of the fish, and one of the things he said in his main prayer was: "O Lord, I have taken as a place of worship to You a place which no other person has reached.'' They differed as to how long he spent in the belly of the fish. Some said three days; this was the view of Qatadah. Some said seven days; this was the view of Ja`far As-Sadiq, may Allah be pleased with him. Some said forty days; this was the view of Abu Malik. Mujahid said, narrating from Ash-Sha`bi, "It swallowed him in the morning and cast him forth in the evening.'' And Allah knows best how long exactly was. Allah says,

﴿فَلَوْلاَ أَنَّهُ كَانَ مِنَ الْمُسَبِّحِينَ - لَلَبِثَ فِى بَطْنِهِ إِلَى يَوْمِ يُبْعَثُونَ ﴾

(Had he not been of them who glorify Allah, He would have indeed remained inside its belly (the fish) till the Day of Resurrection.) It was said that, if he had not already done righteous deeds during his time of ease. This was the view of Ad-Dahhak bin Qays, Abu Al-`Aliyah, Wahb bin Munabbih, Qatadah and others, and it was the view favored by Ibn Jarir. This is what is indicated in the authentic Hadith which we quote below, if Allah wills. In a Hadith narrated from Ibn `Abbas, may Allah be pleased with him, he said:

«تَعَرَّفْ إِلَى اللهِ فِي الرَّخَاءِ، يَعْرِفْكَ فِي الشِّدَّة»

(Remember Allah during times of ease and He will remember you during times of difficulty.) And it was said that what was meant by the Ayah:

﴿فَلَوْلاَ أَنَّهُ كَانَ مِنَ الْمُسَبِّحِينَ ﴾

(Had he not been of them who glorify Allah,) was the meaning of the following Ayat:

﴿فَنَادَى فِى الظُّلُمَـتِ أَن لاَّ إِلَـهَ إِلاَّ أَنتَ سُبْحَـنَكَ إِنِّى كُنتُ مِنَ الظَّـلِمِينَ﴾

﴿فَاسْتَجَبْنَا لَهُ وَنَجَّيْنَـهُ مِنَ الْغَمِّ وَكَذلِكَ نُنجِـى الْمُؤْمِنِينَ ﴾

(But he cried through the darkness (saying): "La ilaha illa Anta, You are glorified! Truly, I have been of the wrongdoers.'' So We answered his call, and delivered him from the distress. And thus We do deliver the believers.) (21:87-88). This was the view of Sa`id bin Jubayr and others. Ibn Abi Hatim recorded that Anas bin Malik, may Allah be pleased with him -- and I do not know of anything narrated from Anas that he did not attribute to the Messenger of Allah :

«إِنَّ يُونُسَ النَّبِيَّ عَلَيْهِ الصَّلَاةُ وَالسَّلَامُ حِينَ بَدَا لَهُ أَنْ يَدْعُوَ بِهَذِهِ الْكَلِمَاتِ وَهُوَ فِي بَطْنِ الْحُوتِ فَقَالَ: اللْهُمَّ لَا إِلَهَ إِلَّا أَنْتَ سُبْحَانَكَ إِنِّي كُنْتُ مِنَ الظَّالِمِينَ،فَأَقْبَلَتِ الدَّعْوَةُ تَحُفُّ بِالْعَرْشِ، قَالَتِ الْمَلَائِكَةُ: يَا رَبِّ هَذَا صَوْتٌ ضَعِيفٌ مَعْرُوفٌ مِنْ بِلَادٍ بَعِيدَةٍ غَرِيبَةٍ فَقَالَ اللهُ تَعَالَى: أَمَا تَعْرِفُونَ ذَلِكَ؟ قَالُوا: يَا رَبِّ وَمَنْ هُوَ؟ قَالَ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ: عَبْدِي يُونُسُ، قَالُوا: عَبْدُكَ يُونُسُ الَّذِي لَمْ يَزَلْ يُرْفَعُ لَهُ عَمَلٌ مُتَقَبَّلٌ وَدَعْوَةٌ مُسْتَجَابَةٌ؟ قَالُوا: يَا رَبِّ أَوَلَا تَرْحَمُ مَا كَانَ يَصْنَعُ فِي الرَّخَاءِ فَتُنْجِيَهُ فِي الْبَلَاءِ، قَالَ: بَلَى، فَأَمَرَ الْحُوتَ فَطَرَحَهُ بِالْعَرَاء»

(When it occurred to the Prophet Yunus, upon him be peace, to call upon Allah in these words when he was in the belly of the great fish, he said, "La ilaha illa Anta, Yo are glorified! Truly, I have been of the wrongdoers.'' This call went and hovered around the (mighty) Throne, and the angels said, "O Lord, this is the voice of one who is weak but known, in a faraway strange land. Allah, may He be exalted, said, "How do you know this'' They said, "O Lord, who is he'' Allah, may He be exalted, said, "My servant Yunus.'' They said, "Your servant Yunus, from whom there kept coming acceptable deeds and supplications which were answered!'' They said, "O Lord, will You not have mercy on him for what he did during his time of ease, and save him from this trial and tribulation'' He said, "Of course.'' So, He commanded the great fish, and it cast him forth on the naked shore.) Allah says:

﴿فَنَبَذْنَـهُ﴾

(But We cast him forth) meaning, `We threw him out,'

﴿بِالْعَرَآءِ﴾

(on the naked shore) Ibn `Abbas, may Allah be pleased with him, and others said that this refers to land in which there is no vegetation and no buildings.

﴿وَهُوَ سَقِيمٌ﴾

(while he was sick,) means, when he was weak of body.

﴿وَأَنبَتْنَا عَلَيْهِ شَجَرَةً مِّن يَقْطِينٍ ﴾

(And We caused a plant of gourd to grow over him.) Ibn Mas`ud and Ibn `Abbas, may Allah be pleased with them both, Mujahid, `Ikrimah, Sa`id bin Jubayr, Wahb bin Munabbih, Hilal bin Yasaf, `Abdullah bin Tawus, As-Suddi, Qatadah, Ad-Dahhak, `Ata' Al-Khurasani and several others, all said that gourd means squash. Some of them mentioned that the squash has a number of benefits: it grows quickly, its leaves offer shade because of their large size and smooth texture, flies do not come near it, and its fruits provide good nourishment; they may be eaten raw or cooked, and both the pulp and the peel may be eaten. It was reported that the Messenger of Allah used to like squash and would look for it wherever it was on the serving dish.

﴿وَأَرْسَلْنَـهُ إِلَى مِاْئَةِ أَلْفٍ أَوْ يَزِيدُونَ ﴾

(And We sent him to a hundred thousand (people) or even more.) It is as if he was commanded, after he came forth from the fish, to go back to those to whom he had been sent in the first place, and they all believed in him.

﴿أَوْ يَزِيدُونَ﴾

(or even more.) Makhul said, "They numbered one hundred and ten thousand. This was reported by Ibn Abi Hatim. Ibn Jarir said, "Some of the scholars of Arabic, the people of Basrah, said that this means up to one hundred thousand or more.'' Ibn Jarir interpreted this Ayah as he interpreted the Ayat:

﴿ثُمَّ قَسَتْ قُلُوبُكُمْ مِّن بَعْدِ ذلِكَ فَهِىَ كَالْحِجَارَةِ أَوْ أَشَدُّ قَسْوَةً﴾

(Then, after that, your hearts were hardened and became as stones or even worse in hardness) (2:74).

﴿إِذَا فَرِيقٌ مِّنْهُمْ يَخْشَوْنَ النَّاسَ كَخَشْيَةِ اللَّهِ أَوْ أَشَدَّ خَشْيَةً﴾

(Behold! a section of them fear men as they fear Allah or even more) (4:77), and

﴿فَكَانَ قَابَ قَوْسَيْنِ أَوْ أَدْنَى ﴾

(And was at a distance of two bows' length or (even) nearer) (53:9). The meaning is, not less than that, but rather more.

﴿فَـَامِنُواْ﴾

(And they believed;) means, these people to whom Yunus, peace be upon him, had been sent all believed.

﴿فَمَتَّعْنَـهُمْ إِلَى حِينٍ﴾

(so We gave them enjoyment for a while. ) means, until the time of their appointed end. This is like the Ayah,

﴿فَلَوْلاَ كَانَتْ قَرْيَةٌ ءَامَنَتْ فَنَفَعَهَآ إِيمَانُهَا إِلاَّ قَوْمَ يُونُسَ لَمَّآ ءَامَنُواْ كَشَفْنَا عَنْهُمْ عَذَابَ الخِزْىِ فِى الْحَيَوةَ الدُّنْيَا وَمَتَّعْنَاهُمْ إِلَى حِينٍ ﴾

(Was there any town (community) that believed, and its faith (at that moment) saved it -- 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.) (10:98)

﴿فَاسْتَفْتِهِمْ أَلِرَبِّكَ الْبَنَاتُ وَلَهُمُ الْبَنُونَ - أَمْ خَلَقْنَا الْمَلَـئِكَةَ إِنَـثاً وَهُمْ شَـهِدُونَ - أَلاَ إِنَّهُم مِّنْ إِفْكِهِمْ لَيَقُولُونَ - وَلَدَ اللَّهُ وَإِنَّهُمْ لَكَـذِبُونَ - أَصْطَفَى الْبَنَاتِ عَلَى الْبَنِينَ مَا لَكُمْ كَيْفَ تَحْكُمُونَ أَفَلاَ تَذَكَّرُونَ أَمْ لَكُمْ سُلْطَـنٌ مُّبِينٌ فَأْتُواْ بِكِتَـبِكُمْ إِن كُنتُمْ صَـدِقِينَ وَجَعَلُواْ بَيْنَهُ وَبَيْنَ الْجِنَّةِ نَسَباً وَلَقَدْ عَلِمَتِ الجِنَّةُ إِنَّهُمْ لَمُحْضَرُونَ ﴾

﴿سُبْحَـنَ اللَّهِ عَمَّا يَصِفُونَ إِلاَّ عِبَادَ اللَّهِ الْمُخْلَصِينَ ﴾

(149. Now ask them: "Are there (only) daughters for your Lord and sons for them'') (150. Or did We create the angels female while they were witnesses) (151. Verily, it is of their falsehood that they say:) (152. "Allah has begotten.'' And, verily, they are liars!) (153. Has He (then) chosen daughters rather than sons) (154. What is the matter with you How do you decide) (155. Will you not then remember) (156. Or is there for you a plain authority) (157. Then bring your Book if you are truthful!) (158. And they have invented a kinship between Him and the Jinn, but the Jinn know well that they have indeed to appear (before Him).) (159. Glorified be Allah! (He is free) from what they attribute unto Him!) (160. Except the servants of Allah, whom He chooses.)

 
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