This is the story of Prophet Yunus (peace be upon him), also called Dhun-Nun. He was sent to the people of Nineveh, a place in what is now Northern Iraq. At first, his people rejected his message to worship one God and stop their evil ways. After a while, he got frustrated and upset and without waiting for God’s instructions, he abandoned his people. He set out to sea.
Prophet Yunus (pbuh) was on board a ship when a storm started. In their desperation and fear, the crew decided to throw some things overboard. When the ship wouldn’t stop sinking, they knew someone had to leave the ship.
The captain liked Yunus and did not want him to be the one so they decided to draw a lot. It was Yunus’ name that kept coming up so he had to throw himself into the sea. But this was all God’s plan, and a whale had already been commanded to swallow Yunus without hurting him.
In the belly of the fish, Yunus thought he was dead. But when he felt his legs, he realized he was alive. It was very dark and Yunus was afraid. He knew he had done a bad thing by abandoning his mission. He was a Prophet and he should not have walked away from his people unless commanded by God.
He became sorry and prostrated saying:
“O Lord, I have taken a place of worship to You in a place where no other person has reached before.” And then he made the famous supplication saying: “There is no God but You, Glorified be You! Truly, I have been of the wrongdoers” (Surah Al Anbiya, 21:87).
Yunus kept repeating this supplication. It is said that even the fishes in the sea were making this supplication with him.
Allah forgave him, and saved him from the belly of the whale and from the darkness. He was cast ashore and was very ill. Allah protected him and when he recovered, he went back to his people. Allah touched their hearts and they listened to Yunus and turned from their evil ways.
The Quran says: “Was there any town that believed (after seeing the punishment), and its faith saved it except the people of Yunus; when they believed, We removed from them the torment of disgrace in the life of the world, and permitted them to enjoy for a while.” (Surah Yunus, 10:98).
From this story we learn three key things: Patience, acknowledging our wrong, and repentance. Yunus was impatient so he left his people, but he realized what he did and admitted it. Then he repented sincerely. This is a lesson for us all.