Yunis was appointed-prophet when he was only 28 years of age. He was given the book, which is included in the Old Testament by his name, ‘the book of Jonah’. He was deputed to work in Nineveh.
After the demise of Solomon the people of Israel turned back on their heals and got involved in the practices of infidelity, idol worshipping and disobedience of ‘the Lord. When people’s faith in God weakened and people fell in love with worldly riches and aimed at amassing wealth, the laws of nature became active, Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem and massacred more than seventy thousand Israelis and more than this were taken as captives. After ﬁfty years, Romans invaded the holy land and these ungrateful people were once again punished for their sins. After the period of Romans Nineveh and Babylon once again saw good days.
In the times of Assyrians, when the city of Ashur was the capital, Nineveh was a small town on the bank of River Tigris. One of the Assyrian kings built a temple in the name of his god. Other kings also following his precedence constructed palaces, libraries and other monumental buildings, which made this small village one of the most respected cities of the Northern Mesopotamia and was made the capital of Assyrian empire. King Ashurbanipal built magniﬁcent palace and library.
The royal palace and temple stood in the center of the city, which enabled the king to look over the busy streets, markets and parks. In the north blocks of multistoried buildings were situated, in west it had fields and farms, gardens and orchards. To add to the decor of the city fountains, decoration slabs of onyx and marble and plantation of exuberant beauty in the streets and open places had their role. Assyrians were famous for their an and sculptures. They carved and ﬁlled the stones with vibrant colors to portray the pictures of their gods and animals. People of Nineveh used to speak Semitic language. People of this highly developed civilization were cruel and tyrant. When they subjugated a territory, they erased it from the face of the earth; buildings were demolished, subjects were put to sword indiscriminately. Soldiers were rewarded for every head he had beheaded. Ashor was their greatest god. Kings being representatives of God on earth were revered like gods.
As God had commanded Jonah, he went to Nineveh and preached the message of God to king Banipal and told him to release the Israeli captives. King got angry and wanted to punish him but God made him to refrain. Jonah kept on trying to convince him but he had turned his ears deaf to him. When Jonah saw that king was in no mood to listen to him. He started preaching the word of God to the general public. But, people were no different from their king. They mocked Jonah and ridiculed his teachings of worshipping One God, refraining from moral turpitudes and practicing righteousness.
When Jonah was convinced that those people would not embrace faith like that he resolved to warn them from the wrath of God. People did not listen to this even. Jonah eventually said, “If ye did not quit idol worshipping and practicing infidelity and released the Israeli captives within forty days wrath of God would seize you and this city of yours would be destroyed completely.”
People as usual remained adamant in their stand and said, “We will be looking forward to your Wrath of God.”
When thirty days passed, Jonah left the city and went to a place about 12 miles away from Nineveh. On the 35th day of Jonah’s warning, smoke engulfed the city and fire started raining of the city. This frightened and worried all the people of the city including the king. All the men, women and children of the city put on ragged clothes and gathered in the open park of the city. Expressed their repentance and asked for the forgiveness of God and promised to follow Jonah with sincerity. God listened to their cries of penitence and the inflicted penalty was withheld.
This incident is reported in the Old Testament in these words:
And Jonah began to enter into the city a day ’s journey, and he cried and said; yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be over thrown. So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them. For word came unto the king of Nineveh and he arose from his thrown and he laid his rob from him and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. Ana’ he caused it to be proclaimed and publish through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, let neither man nor beast-herd nor ﬂock, taste anything‘: let them not feed, nor drink water: but let man and man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God: yea, let them turn everyone from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands. Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his ﬁerce anger that we perish not? And God saw their works that they turned from they evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that e would do unto them; and He did it not. (Jonah Ch. 3, 4-10)
Why was there not a single township among those We warned, which believed, so its faith should have profited it, except the people of Jonah? When they believed, We removed from them the penalty of ignominy in the life of the present, and permitted them to enjoy their life for a while.
(S: 18, V: 98)
Jonah was waiting for the inflicted destruction out of the city. But, God had not inﬂicted His wrath upon them seeing their penitence and the punishment was withheld. Jonah thought that God had failed him and, if he returned to the city people would call him untruthful and a liar and he left from there without waiting for the further instructions of God.
According to the legends, he started journeying towards Rome, with his wife and two children. During their journey he camped in the wilderness and to arrange for the provisions, leaving his wife with the children, he went towards the town.
When he went away a king happened to pass by, when he saw a pretty woman in the wilderness, he abducted her forcefully. When Jonah returned and the children related the event, he taking it as the will of God, kept his composure and consoled the children.
Next day he started his journey. On his way, he came across a rivulet. In order to cross the water, he made the elder son to sit on the bank and carried the younger on his shoulders towards the other side of the water. When he reached in the middle of that stream, a wolf took his son that was sitting on the bank. Jonah looked at the disappearing wolf with his son helplessly and grieved. In that a strong current of water unbalanced him and the child on his shoulders dropped into the water. Despite all his efforts, he could not save him and somehow or the other managed to reach the bank.
When he reached Euphrates, he found a boat full of passengers ready to leave; he boarded into it. Not before long, storm seized the boat. People in those times believed that if a runaway salve was riding a boat, that boat would surly sink. So the captain announced that if anyone, who was absconding from his master, should jump into the water otherwise the boat would capsize and all the passengers would also die.
When Jonah heard this announcement, it came to his mind that it was he who had not waited for the will of his Lord and now is on the run. He said to the captain, “I am that slave, who have left without the will of his Master.”
Keeping his graceful personality in view, the captain did not believe him and did not allow him to jump from the boat. When the tempest and rage of the storm increased further, people in the boat decided to cast lots for a name. They drew three times and every time the name of Jonah came out. So ﬁnally they threw him in the water, where a large ﬁsh swallowed him.
So also was Jonah among those sent by Us. When he ran away like a slave from captivity to the ship fully laden, He agreed to cast lots, and he was condemned: Then the big Fish did swallow him, and he had done acts worthy of blame. Had it not been that he repented and glorified God.
(S: 37,V: 139-I43)
ln the darkness of the stomach of the fish, Jonah had a true realization of his mistake and forgetfulness, so he expressed penitence and celebrated the praises of his Lord: God and asked for the forgiveness. Merciful God very graciously acceded to his prayers and relieved him from the pain in which he had fallen.
And remember Zun-nun, when he departed in wrath: He imagined that We had no power over him! But he cried through the depths of darkness, "There is no god but Thou: glory to Thee: I was indeed wrong!" So We listened to him: and delivered him from distress: and thus do We deliver those who have faith.
(S: 21,V: 87-88)
The second chapter of the book of Jonah in the Old Testaments consists of those prayers, which Jonah prayed in penitence while he was in the abdomen of the fish. According to Torah, he remained in the belly of fish for three days and three lights. When God heard his prayer the ﬁshed vomited him on shore. To protect him from the heat of the sun, God grew a tree upon him to shade over him.
Had it not been that he repented and glorified God, he would certainly have remained inside the Fish till the Day of Resurrection. But We cast him forth on the naked shore in a state of sickness, and We caused to grow, over him, a spreading plant of the gourd kind.
(S: 37,V: 143-146)
It is stated that that was a gourd plant. The body of Jonah had turned raw and tender like a hatchling because of remaining in the fish stomach. Gradually he recovered and his body became normal. He built a hut for himself. Soon after the completion of the hut, the plant root got infested with termite and the plant dried up and withered. Jonah felt grieved upon withering of that plant. It was then, when God addressed him and said, “You are feeling sorry for this one plant, why didn’t you think that I might have felt bad upon the destruction of Nineveh, a city with one hundred thousand people?”
Jonah fell on his knees and prostrated before his Lord God. Expressed his penitence and asked for His forgiveness and mercy.
God commanded him to go to the people of Nineveh and guide them towards His path. When Jonah reached Nineveh, the people welcomed him heartily and they all embraced faith on One God and practiced upon his teachings.
And We sent him (on a mission) to a hundred thousand (men) or more. And they believed; so We permitted them to enjoy their life for a While.
(S: 37,V: 147-148)
His wife and children also returned to him by the grace of God. Elle spent rest of his life in Nineveh and was buried near Mussel.
Scholars are of the opinion that there were three mistakes on the part of Jonah, for which he was made to suffer the inﬂictions.
1. He ﬁxed the day of punishment at his own. God had not decreed any such thing.
2. He left that place before the day announced and an apostle in such a situation, like the captain of the ship, is not supposed to abandon his people till the last.
3. When God withheld the punishment of his people, he did not return and to save his face assumed that the people would further disgrace and dishonor him. It is against the mercy of God that if people ask forgiveness, he should reject them. Indeed God is Oft- Returning and Blotter of the sins.
And, this point is also noteworthy that Jonah issued warning of the infliction at his own. God is all-powerful and has every authority upon life and death. Jonah remained in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights and God did not allow the fish to digest him, he even sustained there and when God willed the fish threw him up and he survived and recovered to health.
This is also noteworthy that when lots were cast, his name came out three times consecutively and he was thrown into the water.
This story has a moral beﬁtting the Muslims of today. As every sane person can see that the earth is full of evil and every one of us, in one or the other way, is refraining from the path of God, our Lord. We all are free but from the point of Laws of God, everyone is a fugitive and runaway of his Master.
From this story of Jonah we have to learn this lesson that if We would act upon the teachings of the prophets and follow the Path of God with penitence and righteousness, we would also be delivered.
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