Jonah in the Quran has been mentioned a number of times and his story has been told, and a whole surah is by his name, that is, surah Yūnus, the Arabic form of Jonah. He was an Israelite prophet who left his people due to their disobedience and was thrown into the sea to be swallowed by a giant fish. Jonah’s name has been mentioned four times in the Quran and once by his title Dhu al-Nūn (ذوالنّون) and once by Ṣāḥib al-Ḥūt (صاحب الحوت), both meaning Man of the Fish. In this article on Islam4u, we will take a look at:
Jonah in the Quran: Receiver of Revelation
Jonah was among the prophets of God who used to receive revelation. The Quran says in this regard:
إِنَّا أَوْحَيْنَا إِلَيْكَ كَمَا أَوْحَيْنَا إِلَىٰ نُوحٍ وَالنَّبِيِّينَ مِن بَعْدِهِ ۚ وَأَوْحَيْنَا إِلَىٰ إِبْرَاهِيمَ وَإِسْمَاعِيلَ وَإِسْحَاقَ وَيَعْقُوبَ وَالْأَسْبَاطِ وَعِيسَىٰ وَأَيُّوبَ وَيُونُسَ وَهَارُونَ وَسُلَيْمَانَ ۚ وَآتَيْنَا دَاوُودَ زَبُورًا ﴿163﴾
We have indeed revealed to you as We revealed to Noah and the prophets after him, and [as] We revealed to Abraham and Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, Jesus and Job, Jonah, Aaron, and Solomon—and We gave David the Psalms— 1
As can be seen, Jonah is among the prophets to whom God revealed His messages. He was an Israelite prophet who lived in a region called Nineveh (نَينَوا), that is, modern day Iraq. His people disobeyed him and God had planned to punish them. However, the punishment was removed from his people. In order that his people do not accuse him of lying in terms of the punishment not being inflicted on them, he abandoned his people and went out of the city.
Jonah Boards a Ship
The Quran says:
وَإِنَّ يُونُسَ لَمِنَ الْمُرْسَلِينَ ﴿139﴾
Indeed Jonah was one of the apostles.
إِذْ أَبَقَ إِلَى الْفُلْكِ الْمَشْحُونِ ﴿140﴾
When he absconded toward the laden ship,
فَسَاهَمَ فَكَانَ مِنَ الْمُدْحَضِينَ ﴿141﴾
he drew lots with them and was the one to be condemned [as one to be thrown overboard].
فَالْتَقَمَهُ الْحُوتُ وَهُوَ مُلِيمٌ ﴿142﴾
Then the fish swallowed him while he was blameworthy.
فَلَوْلَا أَنَّهُ كَانَ مِنَ الْمُسَبِّحِينَ ﴿143﴾
Had he not been one of those who celebrate Allah’s glory,
لَلَبِثَ فِي بَطْنِهِ إِلَىٰ يَوْمِ يُبْعَثُونَ ﴿144﴾
he would have surely remained in its belly till the day they will be resurrected.
So Jonah left his people and boarded a ship. Then all of a sudden, a big fish starting swimming around the ship and attacked it. The ones on board became anxious and said one of us has committed a sin and must become the fish’s bait. Jonah said, throw me into the water, as he believed he had wronged himself. They asked who he was, and he said that he was the Prophet of Nineva, Jonah. So they decided to draw lots to see who they should throw overboard. Jonah’s name appeared. The ones on board said: No Jonah is a good man let us draw again. They drew lots several times and Jonah’s name appeared every single time. Therefore, they cast him into the sea. Then the giant fish came and swallowed Jonah.
Jonah in the Quran: Jonah’s Supplication
God quotes Jonah in the Quran as saying:
وَذَا النُّونِ إِذ ذَّهَبَ مُغَاضِبًا فَظَنَّ أَن لَّن نَّقْدِرَ عَلَيْهِ فَنَادَىٰ فِي الظُّلُمَاتِ أَن لَّا إِلَـٰهَ إِلَّا أَنتَ سُبْحَانَكَ إِنِّي كُنتُ مِنَ الظَّالِمِينَ ﴿87﴾
And [remember] the Man of the Fish, when he left in a rage, thinking that We would not put him to hardship. Then he cried out in the darkness, ‘There is no god except You! You are immaculate! I have indeed been among the wrongdoers!’
فَاسْتَجَبْنَا لَهُ وَنَجَّيْنَاهُ مِنَ الْغَمِّ ۚ وَكَذَٰلِكَ نُنجِي الْمُؤْمِنِينَ ﴿88﴾
So We answered his prayer and delivered him from the agony; and thus do We deliver the faithful. 2
So when Jonah was inside the belly of the fish, he repented and supplicated God and asked for his forgiveness. Of course, prophets do not commit sins as they are examples for people, but what Jonah did was a thing that was better avoided. Ultimately, God accepted Jonah’s repentance and delivered him.
Jonah Goes Back to His People
The Quran says:
فَنَبَذْنَاهُ بِالْعَرَاءِ وَهُوَ سَقِيمٌ ﴿145﴾
Then We cast him on a bare shore, and he was sick.
وَأَنبَتْنَا عَلَيْهِ شَجَرَةً مِّن يَقْطِينٍ ﴿146﴾
So We made a gourd plant grow above him.
وَأَرْسَلْنَاهُ إِلَىٰ مِائَةِ أَلْفٍ أَوْ يَزِيدُونَ ﴿147﴾
We sent him to a [community of] hundred thousand or more,
فَآمَنُوا فَمَتَّعْنَاهُمْ إِلَىٰ حِينٍ ﴿148﴾
and they believed [in him]. So We provided for them for a while. 3
Therefore, God saved Jonah and caused the fish to throw him out of the water. Jonah was very sick, that is why God made a gourd plant grow above him. This plant healed Jonah. Afterwards, God commanded Jonah to go back to his people who were a hundred thousand or more people of the Israelites. They believed in him and lived in peace and comfort for some time.
Jonah in the Quran: Surah Yūnus
An entire chapter of the Quran is named after Jonah. This surah is the tenth surah of the Noble Quran in juz 11 that God revealed to Prophet Muhammad in Mecca and has 109 verses. Surah Yūnus mostly tells the story of Moses and the Pharaoh . In fact, Jonah’s name has been mentioned only once in this surah, and that is verse 98 that reads:
فَلَوْلَا كَانَتْ قَرْيَةٌ آمَنَتْ فَنَفَعَهَا إِيمَانُهَا إِلَّا قَوْمَ يُونُسَ لَمَّا آمَنُوا كَشَفْنَا عَنْهُمْ عَذَابَ الْخِزْيِ فِي الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا وَمَتَّعْنَاهُمْ إِلَىٰ حِينٍ ﴿98﴾
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.
Therefore, if the people of Jonah had not believed, they would have been punished by God. However, they believed in God and His prophet Jonah and God removed the punishment from them.
Jonah in the Quran: Surah Qalam
The final verses of surah Qalam also talk about Jonah by calling him Man of the Fish or companion of the fish:
فَاصْبِرْ لِحُكْمِ رَبِّكَ وَلَا تَكُن كَصَاحِبِ الْحُوتِ إِذْ نَادَىٰ وَهُوَ مَكْظُومٌ ﴿48﴾
So submit patiently to the judgement of your Lord, and do not be like the Man of the Fish who called out as he choked with grief.
لَّوْلَا أَن تَدَارَكَهُ نِعْمَةٌ مِّن رَّبِّهِ لَنُبِذَ بِالْعَرَاءِ وَهُوَ مَذْمُومٌ ﴿49﴾
Had it not been for a blessing that came to his rescue from his Lord, he would surely have been cast on the bare shore, being blameworthy.
فَاجْتَبَاهُ رَبُّهُ فَجَعَلَهُ مِنَ الصَّالِحِينَ ﴿50﴾
So his Lord chose him and made him one of the righteous.
Jonah in the Quran: Lessons to be Learned
There are certain lessons one can learn by reading the story of Jonah:
- Never fear that people will call you a liar if you are on the path of God.
- Always believe in God and His prophets so that no calamity or punishment would befall you.
- Never lose hope in God even if you are trapped and there seems to be no way out.
- Supplicate your Lord earnestly and ask for his forgiveness at all times, even if you think you are not a sinner.
- Quran 4:163 (Qara’i).
- Quran 21:87-88 (Qara’i)
- Quran 37:139-148 (Qara’i).
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