Allah sent Sayyiduna Yunus علیہ السلام as a Prophet for the guidance of the people of the city called ‘Naynawa’.
It was a big city of Mosul. The people of the area were idolworshippers and were indulged in unbelief and polytheism. Sayyiduna Yunus علیہ السلام commanded them to abandon idol-worshipping and embrace the true faith but these people refuted the Prophet of Allah and denied to embrace the true faith due to their insolence and wickedness. Sayyiduna Yunus علیہ السلام warned them that very soon a Divine torment will strike them. After listening to this warning, the people of the city consulted one another that Sayyiduna Yunus علیہ السلام has never told a lie. Therefore, keep an eye on Sayyiduna Yunus علیہ السلام . If he علیہ السلام stays in this city overnight; then it means there is no danger but if he ;< = does not spend the night in the city; then we should expect the onset of the Divine torment.
At night, the people saw that Sayyiduna Yunus علیہ السلام has left the city. And indeed in the morning, the signs of the Divine torment appeared because black clouds started emerging from all four sides and darkness fell over the whole city with a smoke from everywhere. Witnessing this, the people of the city realised that the torment will now definitely strike them. Therefore, in the quest of Sayyiduna Yunus علیہ السلام , the people started searching for him but Sayyiduna Yunus علیہ السلام could not be found far and wide. Now the people of the city became even more terrified. Therefore they all took their women, children along with their cattle, wearing threadbare and torn clothes and went to the jungle crying and repenting. They sincerely committed to embrace faith in Sayyiduna Yunus علیہ السلام . Husbands separated from wives and mothers separated from their children and all of them engaged in seeking absolution and were weeping bitterly in the court of Allah . They started seeking pardon for all the violations regarding mutual rights.
In short, all of them repented sincerely and promised Allah that they have firm belief in the message of Allah brought by Sayyiduna Yunus علیہ السلام . Allah did mercy on the sincere repenting of the inhabitants of the city and the torment shunned away. All of a sudden, the hazy clouds and smoke disappeared and all of the people came back to the city and resumed living with peace and comfort. Allah described this event in Holy Quran in the following words:
So if only had there been one town that believed and its faith would have benefited it – yes the people of Yunus (Jonah)! When they accepted faith, We removed the disgraceful punishment in the life of this world from them, and let them enjoy for a precise time.
[Kanz-ul-Iman (Translation of Quran)] (Part 11, Surah Yunus, verse 98)
It means that it does not benefit the people to embrace faith once the Divine torment from Allah has commenced. But despite the clouds of the Divine torment commenced towards the people of Sayyiduna Yunus, the torment was still withdrawn from them upon embracing the true faith.
Du’a for redemption from torment
It is mentioned in Tabarani that when the signs of the Divine torment were at onset in the city of Naynawa and Sayyiduna Yunus علیہ السلام was not found by the people even after thorough search; the people of the city became worried and they approached the famous religious scholar of the city who was a faithful believer and a spiritual luminary of those times. They all entreated him. He advised them to supplicate after reciting the following invocation:
Therefore, the people supplicated after reciting above invocation. Consequently, the torment was withdrawn. However in the same context, there is a different reporting by the famous Muhaddis and miraculous saint Sayyiduna Fudayl Bin ‘Iyaad that the invocation by virtue of which the torment from the city of Naynawa was shunned away was:
However, after the withdrawal of the torment, when Sayyiduna Yunus علیہ السلام arrived near the city, he علیہ السلام did not find any symptoms of the torment on the city. The people asked him to join his people. He علیہ السلام replied, ‘How can I go back to my people? I had left the city after revealing the news of the Divine torment to them but same did not happen. Now those people will kill me considering me a liar.’
Out of anger, Sayyiduna Yunus علیہ السلام left the city and embarked a boat. When the boat reached in the middle of the sea, it stopped. According to an established tradition those times only that boat would jam in the midst of the sea that carry some fugitive slave. Therefore, the passengers balloted and the name of Sayyiduna Yunus علیہ السلام came out. The passengers threw him into the sea and departed. When Sayyiduna Yunus علیہ السلام fell down into the water, a fish swallowed him and he علیہ السلام became confined in the stomach of the fish where there was an utter darkness. Under these circumstances, he علیہ السلام commenced invoking:
By virtue of this invocation, Allah blessed him freedom from that dark cell and the fish ejected him out of her mouth at the bank of the sea. He علیہ السلام had gone very weak by that time. By the grace of Allah the plant of gourd grew there and he علیہ السلام used to take rest under its shade. Afterwards, when he علیہ السلام regained some energy, he علیہ السلام went back to his people and all of the people treated him with utmost love and reverence and embraced
faith unto him. (Tafseer As-Saawi, vol. 3, pp. 893; part 11, Surah Yunus, verse 98)
The Holy Quran has mentioned this wonderful event of Sayyiduna Yunus علیہ السلام in the following words:
And indeed Yunus is one of the Noble Prophets. When he left towards the loaded ship, then he draw lots and he became of those who were pushed into the sea. The fish then swallowed him and he blamed himself (for not waiting for Allah’s command). And had he not been those who glorify (Allah), he would have remained in its belly till the day when all will be raised. We then put him ashore on a plain, and he was sick. And We grew a tree of gourd (as a shelter) above him. And We sent him (as a Messenger) towards a hundred thousand people, in fact more. So they accepted faith – We therefore allowed them to enjoy life for a while.
[Kanz-ul-Iman (Translation of Quran)] (Part 23, Surah As-Saffaat, verse 139-148)
- From the event of the people of Naynawa, the moral lesson we get is that whenever any calamity strikes any nation in the form of a torment, then the only remedy is to engage in supplications after repenting. One can then hope that the Most Merciful Allah will shower His blessings and the torment will be withdrawn.
- From the heart-trembling trials faced by Sayyiduna Yunus علیہ السلام , we learnt how Allah puts his chosen people into trial. But when these chosen people observe patience and do not become negligent in the remembrance of Allah despite being struck with troubles; then Allah arranges means of their salvation from the unseen that are beyond imagination.
Just ponder over the fact that when the people of the boat threw Sayyiduna Yunus علیہ السلام into the sea, were there any means for his survival and safety? Then the fish swallowed him. Now who was the saviour of his life? But when he علیہ السلام invoked Aayat-e-Karimah under those circumstances, Allah kept him alive and safe even inside the stomach of the fish. Moreover, Allah rescued him from the stomach of the fish towards a field. Afterwards, Allah bestowed him with good health and peace and took him back to his native land and more than one hundred thousand people embraced the right path by virtue of his preaching.