Tranquility, through nearness to God

Everything we do in life, everything that is prescribed in Islam, has only one purpose, to help us be mindful of Allah. It’s natural to make mistakes, but really when we sin, we are only wronging ourselves. We have fallen short of our chance to draw closer to Allah.

Tranquility, through nearness to God

Yunus (Jonah) in the Qur’an

The events of Prophet Yunus’s life in the Qur’an are somewhat lesser-known compared to the lives of the Prophets Musa (Moses), Isa (Jesus) and Muhammad(ﷺ). The story of Yunus (Jonah) is nonetheless profound and provides us valuable lessons on perseverance, repentance (tawbah) and of course trust in Allah (tawakkul).

وَإِنَّ يُونُسَ لَمِنَ ٱلْمُرْسَلِينَ

إِذْ أَبَقَ إِلَى ٱلْفُلْكِ ٱلْمَشْحُونِ

فَسَاهَمَ فَكَانَ مِنَ ٱلْمُدْحَضِينَ

فَٱلْتَقَمَهُ ٱلْحُوتُ وَهُوَ مُلِيمٌ

فَلَوْلَآ أَنَّهُۥ كَانَ مِنَ ٱلْمُسَبِّحِينَ

لَلَبِثَ فِى بَطْنِهِۦٓ إِلَىٰ يَوْمِ يُبْعَثُونَ

۞ فَنَبَذْنَـٰهُ بِٱلْعَرَآءِ وَهُوَ سَقِيمٌ

"And Jonah was indeed one of the messengers.

˹Remember˺ when he fled to the overloaded ship.

Then ˹to save it from sinking,˺ he drew straws ˹with other passengers˺. He lost ˹and was thrown overboard˺.

The whale engulfed him while he was blameworthy.

Had he not ˹constantly˺ glorified ˹Allah, while in the belly of the whale˺ , he would have certainly remained in its belly until the Day of Resurrection.

But We cast him onto the open ˹shore˺, ˹totally˺ worn out"

— Quran 37:139-145

When the prophet Yunus (Jonah) was preaching to his people, their initial response was mostly disinterest, and rejection of Allah’s message. Jonah left his city and abandoned his people in anger and frustration. As we see in the Qur’an, he did not get far however before he was engulfed by a whale, and soon realised his mistake.

وَذَا ٱلنُّونِ إِذ ذَّهَبَ مُغَـٰضِبًا فَظَنَّ أَن لَّن نَّقْدِرَ عَلَيْهِ فَنَادَىٰ فِى ٱلظُّلُمَـٰتِ أَن لَّآ إِلَـٰهَ إِلَّآ أَنتَ سُبْحَـٰنَكَ إِنِّى كُنتُ مِنَ ٱلظَّـٰلِمِينَ

And ˹remember˺ when the Man of the Whale stormed off ˹from his city˺ in a rage, thinking We would not restrain him. Then in the ˹veils of˺ darkness he cried out, “There is no god ˹worthy of worship˺ except You. Glory be to You! I have certainly been of the wrongdoers.” — Qur’an 21:87

Knowing that he should have persevered and not given up on his people, he repented to Allah. Allah, accepting his repentance, delivered him to safety, even returning him to his home city and granting him success.

وَأَرْسَلْنَـٰهُ إِلَىٰ مِا۟ئَةِ أَلْفٍ أَوْ يَزِيدُونَ

فَـَٔامَنُوا۟ فَمَتَّعْنَـٰهُمْ إِلَىٰ حِينٍ

"We ˹later˺ sent him ˹back˺ to ˹his city of˺ at least one hundred thousand people, who then believed ˹in him˺, so We allowed them enjoyment for a while." — Quran 37:147-148

In his absence, his people had become worried and began to heed his warnings, praying to Allah and finding peace therein. Not only was their punishment averted but in finding faith, they found peace, benefit and tranquility for their souls.

Repentance, Guidance & Absolution

فَلَوْلَا كَانَتْ قَرْيَةٌ ءَامَنَتْ فَنَفَعَهَآ إِيمَـٰنُهَآ إِلَّا قَوْمَ يُونُسَ لَمَّآ ءَامَنُوا۟ كَشَفْنَا عَنْهُمْ عَذَابَ ٱلْخِزْىِ فِى ٱلْحَيَوٰةِ ٱلدُّنْيَا وَمَتَّعْنَـٰهُمْ إِلَىٰ حِينٍ

If only there had been a society which believed ˹before seeing the torment˺ and, therefore, benefited from its belief, like the people of Jonah. When they believed, We lifted from them the torment of disgrace in this world and allowed them enjoyment for a while. —Quran 10:98

After reflection and seeing the signs presented to them they came to believe and benefit. What does Allah mean that they benefited from their belief?

قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ  ﷺ " الدُّنْيَا سِجْنُ الْمُؤْمِنِ وَجَنَّةُ الْكَافِرِ"

The Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) said: "This world is a prison for a believer and Paradise for a non-believer." [Sahih]

This world is like a prison, a temporary resting place before the after-life and the everlasting felicity of knowing and being present with Allah.

For the people of Yunus, they were granted enjoyment and respite from the prison for the rest of their time on earth. Apart from just finding truth and following the correct path in life, they began following the path to know Allah and finding felicity and benefit therein.

Through belief and knowing Allah in this world, the people of Yunus, and ourselves, are able to taste some of that everlasting bliss. To know Allah is our path to peace and benefit, while fulfilling our purpose in this life.

Allah saves them from the "disgrace in this world", the abasement they would have wrought upon themselves by living a heedless life; forgetting their purpose and straying from the light of Allah.

Drawing Close to Allah — The Purpose of Life

Everything we do in this life, everything that is prescribed in Islam has only one purpose, to help us be mindful and gain taqwa of Allah.

Likewise the only reason Allah tests us and makes things happens to us, is to lead us back to Him. Everything is an opportunity to go back to Him and live in the bliss of closeness to Him.

أَمْ حَسِبْتُمْ أَن تَدْخُلُوا۟ ٱلْجَنَّةَ وَلَمَّا يَعْلَمِ ٱللَّهُ ٱلَّذِينَ جَـٰهَدُوا۟ مِنكُمْ وَيَعْلَمَ ٱلصَّـٰبِرِينَ

Do you think you will enter Paradise without Allah proving which of you ˹truly˺ struggled ˹for His cause˺ and patiently endured? — Quran 3:142

Dua of Yunus

Similarly if we look at the dua of Yunus (Jonah) when he was in the belly of the Whale it reminds us that we all make mistakes and may slip while on this path:

وَذَا ٱلنُّونِ إِذ ذَّهَبَ مُغَـٰضِبًا فَظَنَّ أَن لَّن نَّقْدِرَ عَلَيْهِ فَنَادَىٰ فِى ٱلظُّلُمَـٰتِ أَن لَّآ إِلَـٰهَ إِلَّآ أَنتَ سُبْحَـٰنَكَ إِنِّى كُنتُ مِنَ ٱلظَّـٰلِمِينَ

And ˹remember˺ when the Man of the Whale stormed off ˹from his city˺ in a rage, thinking We would not restrain him. Then in the ˹veils of˺ darkness he cried out, “There is no god ˹worthy of worship˺ except You. Glory be to You! I have certainly been of the wrongdoers.” — Qur’an 21:87

It’s natural to make mistakes, we see in the Qur’an that even the prophets sometimes made mistakes (although it’s important to differentiate this from sin). After he was swallowed by the Whale, Yunus called out to Allah, beseeching Him by his greatness and confessing his weakness in front of Allah.

There are many ways we can repent and turn back to Allah. Simply saying Astaughfirla (I seek forgiveness from Allah) is one form of repentance but this dua of the prophet Yunus reminds us of something deeper.

His verbiage is interesting how he describes himself as a "wrongdoer"; "thalimmuun" from the root word thulm "ظلم" meaning oppression. What was his sin? Was it so great? Why would a prophet use such strong language to describe himself?

When any of us one slips or sins we are not harming Allah even in the slightest:

وَلَا يَحْزُنكَ ٱلَّذِينَ يُسَـٰرِعُونَ فِى ٱلْكُفْرِ ۚ إِنَّهُمْ لَن يَضُرُّوا۟ ٱللَّهَ شَيْـًٔا ۗ

"Do not be grieved by those who are quick to disbelieve. They will not harm God in the least" — Qur’an 3:176

Really when we sin, we are wronging ourselves. We are oppressing our own souls.

We have fallen short of our potential for greatness and robbed ourselves of a chance to draw closer to Allah.

The difference between humans and angels is that angels always obey Allah — humans are given the choice to obey or disobey. In actively choosing to obey Allah, seeking his pleasure we can be even better than Angels. In sin however we have chosen to stray further from Allah, even temporarily and as such we have oppressed ourself in that moment by denying ourselves that moment of nearness to Allah.

Dua of Adam

We all make mistakes — none of us are perfect. Even Adam in the garden was tempted to eat from the forbidden tree. After his slip Adam and Huwa (Eve) made a similar dua to the dua made by Yunus:

قَالَا رَبَّنَا ظَلَمْنَآ أَنفُسَنَا وَإِن لَّمْ تَغْفِرْ لَنَا وَتَرْحَمْنَا لَنَكُونَنَّ مِنَ ٱلْخَـٰسِرِينَ

They said, “Our Lord! We have wronged ourselves. If You do not forgive us and have mercy on us, we will certainly be among the losers.” — Qur’an 7:23

Adam mentions not so much that he fears retribution or hell-fire, but rather just that he regrets his mis-step. Acknowledging that he hasn’t harmed Allah at all, it is only himself and his wife that have something to lose.

Without Allah’s help we would all be destitute and impoverished. Not just in a physical, material or financial sense but any moment that we’re not spending in remembrance and awe of Allah, most exalted, is a moment we are distant from Him and have deprived ourselves of that beautiful experience.

Adam beseeched Allah to forgive him and his wife so that they may be of those who are successful. We see this in many prayers throughout the Qur’an. Seeking Allah, His salvation and accepting our utter need and reliance on Him alone:

رَبِّ إِنِّى لِمَآ أَنزَلْتَ إِلَىَّ مِنْ خَيْرٍ فَقِيرٌ

"My lord, indeed I am completely in need of whatever good you may send down to me" — Qur’an 28:24

Summary

لَّآ إِلَـٰهَ إِلَّآ أَنتَ سُبْحَـٰنَكَ إِنِّى كُنتُ مِنَٱلظَّـٰلِمِينَ

“There is no god ˹worthy of worship˺ except You. Glory be to You! I have certainly been of the wrongdoers.” — Qur’an 21:87

Everything we do in life, everything that is prescribed in Islam, has only one purpose, to help us be mindful of Allah.

It’s natural to make mistakes, but really when we sin, we are only wronging ourselves. We have fallen short of our potential for greatness and robbed ourselves of a chance to draw closer to Allah.

Any moment that we’re not spending in remembrance and awe of Allah, most exalted, is a moment we are distant from Him and have deprived ourselves of that beautiful experience.

قَالَا رَبَّنَا ظَلَمْنَآ أَنفُسَنَا وَإِن لَّمْ تَغْفِرْ لَنَا وَتَرْحَمْنَا لَنَكُونَنَّ مِنَ ٱلْخَـٰسِرِينَ

They said, “Our Lord! We have wronged ourselves. If You do not forgive us and have mercy on us, we will certainly be among the losers.” — Qur’an 7:23

We are in complete and utter need of Allah always:

رَبِّ إِنِّى لِمَآ أَنزَلْتَ إِلَىَّ مِنْ خَيْرٍ فَقِيرٌ

"My lord, indeed I am completely in need of whatever good you may send down to me" — Qur’an 28:24

Further reading:

https://seekersguidance.org/answers/islamic-belief/did-the-prophet-yunus-sin-when-he-left-his-people/

More recent incident of a man swallowed by a whale: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/jun/11/lobster-diver-swallowed-by-whale-cape-cod

https://seekersguidance.org/show/spiritual-counsel-wisdom-on-turning-to-god-from-the-islamic-tradition/02-spiritual-counsel-wisdom-on-turning-to-god-from-the-islamic-tradition-shaykh-faraz-rabbani/

https://seekersguidance.org/articles/general-artices/our-only-concern-is-reliance-on-allah-shaykha-ieasha-prime/

The Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) said: "This world is a prison for a believer and Paradise for a non-believer." — https://sunnah.com/muslim:2956

"Every son of Adam sins, and the best of the sinners are the repentant."

أَنَّ النَّبِيَّ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ  " كُلُّ ابْنِ آدَمَ خَطَّاءٌ وَخَيْرُ الْخَطَّائِينَ التَّوَّابُونَ "

هَذَا حَدِيثٌ غَرِيبٌ لاَ نَعْرِفُهُ إِلاَّ مِنْ حَدِيثِ عَلِيِّ بْنِ مَسْعَدَةَ عَنْ قَتَادَةَ

https://sunnah.com/tirmidhi:2499 - Tirmidhi (Da’if)

https://seekersguidance.org/articles/general-artices/when-hearts-go-hard-hadiths-to-revive-the-heart/

https://seekersguidance.org/answers/islamic-belief/did-adam-sin-in-paradise/