Bi-smi llāhi r-raḥmāni r-raḥīm.
❝The Story of Prophet Yūnus [عليه السلام] (Jonah) and the Du’ā for Distress❞
This story of Prophet Yūnus [عليه السلام] is taken from the Qur’ān with a detailed explanation based on Tafsīr Ibn Kathīr.
The story of Prophet Yūnus [عليه السلام] is mentioned in Sūrah al-Ṣaffāt
(The Ranged Ones), Sūrah al-Anbiyāʾ (The Prophets) and Sūrah Yūnus (Jonah). We learn the following lessons from this story:
― the need for patience in all our affairs
― the reward for acknowledging our mistakes / weakness
repenting for the wrong done
― constantly praising Allāh and seeking Allāh’s forgiveness (that can then help later in challenging situations.)
Prophet Yūnus bin Matta [عليه السلام] ― also referred to as Jonah, was sent by Allāh to the people of Nineveh, a town in the area of Mawsil in northern Iraq. He called his people to the message of Allāh and truth, but initially they rejected his message and persisted in their disbelief and wrongdoings. Disappointed and frustrated, Prophet Yūnus (ʿalay-hi salām) left them in anger, threatening them with punishment after three days.
However, soon Allāh guided the hearts of his people and they realized their mistakes and went out to the desert asking for Allāh’s forgiveness. On this, Allāh spared them from the punishment. Allāh says in the Qur’ān, Sūrah Yūnus (Jonah), Chapter 10, verse 98:
❝fa-law-lā kānat qaryatun ʾāmanat fa-nafaʿahā ʾīmānuhā ʾillā qawma yūnusa lammā ʾāmanū kashafnā ʿanhum ʿadhāba l-khizyi fī l-ḥayāti d-dunyā wa-mattaʿnāhum ʾilā ḥīn❞
[Why has there not been any town that might believe, so that its belief might benefit it, except the people of Jonah? When they believed, We removed from them the punishment of disgrace in the life of this world, and We provided for them for a while].
About Prophet Yūnus (ʿalay-hi salām) behavior, Allāh says in the Qur’ān, Sūrah al-Anbiyāʾ (The Prophets) Chapter 21, verse 87:
❝wa-dhā n-nūni ʾidh dhahaba mughāḍiban❞
[And the Man of the Fish, when he left in a rage]
About the fact that he showed impatience with his people and did not wait for Allāh’s instructions, the Qur’ān, Sūrah al-Anbiyāʾ (The Prophets) Chapter 21, verse 87 says:
❝fa-ẓanna ʾan lan naqdira ʿalayhi❞
[Thinking that We would not put him to hardship]
Prophet Yūnus (ʿalay-hi salām), after leaving his people, went on to board a ship that got caught up in a storm and its people thought that they would drown. In such a desperate situation when the ship was being pounded by waves on all sides, and they were at risk of drowning, they drew lots to decide to throw someone out of the ship in an effort to lighten the load. The Prophet of Allāh, Yūnus (ʿalay-hi salām), lost the draw three times. However, the people of the ship did not want to throw him out of the ship. So, he took off his garment so that he could throw himself into the sea, and they tried to stop him.
Allāh says in Qur’ān, Sūrah al-Ṣaffāt (The Ranged Ones), Chapter 37, verse 141:
❝fa-sāhama fa-kāna mina l-mudḥaḍīn❞
[Then he (agreed to) cast lots, and he was among the losers].
After he threw himself into the sea, Allāh sent — a large fish, which cleaved the oceans until it came and swallowed Yūnus (ʿalay-hi salām). Allāh inspired that large fish not to devour his flesh or break his bones.
When in the belly of the fish, Prophet Yūnus (ʿalay-hi salām) realized his mistake and called out to Allāh:
❝fa-nādā fī ẓ-ẓulumāti ʾan lā ʾilāha ʾillā ʾanta subḥānaka ʾinnī kuntu mina ẓ-ẓālimīn❞
[He cried out in the darkness, ‘There is no god except You! You are immaculate! I have indeed been among the wrongdoers!’]
― Sūrah al-Anbiyāʾ (The Prophets) Chapter 21, verse 87.
`Depths of darkness’ means:
― the darkness of the belly of the fish
― the darkness of the sea
― the darkness of the night
Allāh, then tells us in the Qur’ān, Sūrah al-Anbiyāʾ (The Prophets) Chapter 21, verse 88:
❝fa-stajabnā lahū wa-najjaynāhu mina l-ghammi wa-ka-dhālika nunjī l-muʾminīn❞
[So We answered his prayer and delivered him from the agony; and thus do We deliver the faithful]
This clearly shows, that when we are in a difficulty or a distressful situation and turn to Allāh and call upon Him with sincere repentance, especially with these words, Allāh responds to our call. Prophet Muḥammad (ṣall Allāhu ʿalay-hi wa-sallam) also encouraged us to call upon Allāh with these words.
❝No Muslim ever prays to his Lord with these words for anything, but He will answer his prayer.❞ ― Recorded by At-Tirmidhi
Almighty Allāh accepted Prophet Yūnus’s (ʿalay-hi salām) supplication, and cast him on the shore and protected him there.
Allāh the Exalted forgave him his error of impatience in deserting his people without waiting for Allāh’s instruction.
Allāh also made it known, that had it not been for Yūnus’s (ʿalay-hi salām sincere repentance and his invocations to Him, he would have stayed in the whale’s stomach till the Day of Judgment! The Qur’ān says in Sūrah al-Ṣaffāt (The Ranged Ones), Chapter 37, Verse 143-144:
❝fa-law-lā ʾannahū kāna mina l-musabbiḥīn❞
[And had he not been one of those who celebrate Allah’s glory,]
❝la-labitha fī baṭnihī ʾilā yawmi yubʿathūn❞
[he would have surely remained in its belly till the day they will be resurrected]
We learn from this, that not only we should be patient in all matters of our life, but we should repent to Allāh often and should constantly remember Him and say His praises, as that can help save us from the tough situations in life.