Prophet Yunus (as) was one of the messengers of Allah whose blessed name has been four times mentioned in the Holy Qur’an, and also one chapter of the Holy Qur’an (Surah 10) is named after him. He was one of the messengers that appeared after Prophet Suleiman [Salomon] (as). He is considered by some people to be among the grandsons of Prophet Ibrahim[Abraham] (as). Prophet Yunus is nicknamed ‘Zun-noon’ because of spending several days in the belly of a whale since ‘noon’ means fish), or “the companion of the whaale”. His father – Matta, was an intellectual and an upright devotee as well as ever-grateful to God. That was why God revealed to Dawud [David] (as) that “Your neighbor in heaven (Matta) is the father of Yunus.”

Prophet Yunus’s story (as) is very sad and shaking but with a nice ending. According to some tradition, Yunus was born in 825 BC on the land of Nineveh. Nineveh was a town near Mosul (in the present day Iraq) or around Kufa towards Karbala. The people of Nineveh were idol-worshippers, steeped in corruption and wickedness. They needed a director and a guide to show them the right path and invite them towards salvation. Yunus (as) set out on the admonishing of his people and by various methods invited them towards monotheism and the acceptance of the Only One God and to abstain from any kind of idolatry.

But the more he directed them, they only got more indifferent. They drove him out of their midst and paid him no attention at all. Yunus (as) set foot on Nineveh at the age of 30 to start his mission. But after 33 years of invitation, none but only two people developed belief in him, one of which was an old friend of his called Rubil, a scholar. The other was a servant and a devotee called Tanukha who was not learned. Rubil’s job was shepherd while Tanukha cut wood for livelihood. When Yunus lost all hope of his people’s guidance, he complained to his Lord requesting their punishment. At last God revealed to him that His punishment will descend on them after sunrise on Wednesday in the middle of the month of Shawwal and ordered him to inform them accordingly. Yunus(as) went to Rubil with this news. Rubil prevailed upon him to plead with the Lord not to send the punishment, for God is the All-Merciful. However, Yunus did not agree and went off to his people with Tanukha to warn them about the imminence of God’s punishment on Wednesday morning. The people confronted Yunus and his companion with anger and hostility and drove them out of Nineveh. Yunus (as) abandoned Nineveh and went away till he got to the sea. Suddenly a passenger ship came by and he went on board the ship.

In the middle of the sea, a big fish came in way of the ship and opened its mouth in a gesture of hunger. The people of the ship said that it seemed there was a sinner in their midst who must be fed to the fish. They then cast lots by which Yunus (as) was chosen. Twice more they repeated but the result was still the same.. Therefore, they cast him out into the sea, where he was swallowed by the fish.

Yunus was away from his people for four weeks (28 days) – 7 days to get to the sea, 7 days in the body of the fish, 7 days under a pumpkin creeper after being cast ashore by the fish and 7 days to return to Nineveh. He had promised his people the wrath of God at sunrise on Wednesday in the middle of Shawwal, but Rubil, who was a wise scholar from the household of prophethood remained in their midst. When it got to Shawwal, Rubil went to the top of a mountain and shouted at the top of his voice: O’ people! The hour of punishment has drawn close. I feel sympathy and compassion for you and thus appeal to you to repent to God while you still have the opportunity to beg Him to spare His punishment from you. The people were moved by his speech. They went to him and said “We know you are a wise and compassionate man. In your opinion what should we do in order not be victims of the punishment?”

Rubil said: Bring your children and their mothers to the desert and separate them from one another, doing same with your animals and their children. And when you see a yellow windstorm from the east, you should all unanimously fall to weeping and moaning and repent to God, begging Him to forgive you. All the people listened to Rubil’s words and did as he directed, when they saw the signs of punishment. They suddenly saw, at sunrise, the rising of a very fast yellow and dark windstorm. Immediately, the wailing and moaning of men and animals; young and old rose sincerely in repentance. When they saw the punishment of God had been moved away from them, they fell to thanks and gratitude to God.

While in the belly of the fish, Yunus felt himself in the hands of God, and repented. God, then, ordered the fish to carry him to the shore and cast him out of the sea. Yunus was thus cast ashore like a frail and featherless chick. He lacked the slightest ability of movement. God was kind to him. On the same shore, Yunus (as) was given the shelter of a big pumpkin creeper where he fell to perpetual remembrance of God. Gradually, he regained his health. At that moment, God sent a worm to eat up the roots of the creeper causing it to dry. This incident proved very difficult and agonizing for Yunus and depressed him tremendously.

God, in a revelation, asked him why he was depressed. He answered: “The plant provided cover for me but You have made a worm eat up the roots and dry it up.” God told him: you are worried over the drying of a plant which you neither planted nor watered, but not over the descent of punishment on a hundred thousand or more people. Know already that the people of Nineveh have developed faith and adopted the path of piety. The punishment has been turned away from them. Return to them. When the people learned about the return of Yunus (as), they hurried to him and welcomed him with dignity into Nineveh. They established faith in him and lived for ages under his guidance and leadership steadfastly.

Great lessons are hidden in the life and short story of Yunus (as) in the Qur’an:

1- One should not hasten in matters of curse for the destruction of people but should strive for their guidance with all patience, resistance and soberness, as long as there is the probability.

2- Of all sinful nations who deserved the punishment of God, only one nation which is Yunus’ developed belief before their punishment and were saved. And this great achievement was accomplished due to one enlightened and compassionate intellectual.

3- The mystics say that though the placement of Yunus in the belly of the fish was a kind of retribution, but it was some ascension that revealed the secrets of the sea to him as well as trained and strengthened him to return to his people, cleansed and refreshed.

Yunus, as can be inferred from the foregoing story was tested in four darknesses:

1- The darkness of ignorance.

2- The darkness of panic and retribution.

3- The darkness of the sea and storm.

4- The darkness of the fish’s stomach.

Thus Yunus (as) suffered a lot, until found his way to the summit of ascension

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