Surah al-Anbiya' (The Prophets ) 21 : 87
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We would decree
Then he called
Glory be to You
1. Lessons/Guidance/Reflections/Gems[ edit ]
We then have a brief outline of Jonah’s story to fit with the approach followed in this sūrah. It is however given in more detail in Sūrah 37, al-Şāffāt
Jonah is here called Dhu’l-Nūn, which means ‘man of the whale’ because he was swallowed by the whale and then thrown out. He was sent to a particular city, and he called on its people to believe in God, but they rejected both him and his message. By way of response to their stubbornness, he left in anger. He showed little inclination to persevere with them on account of their rejection. He thought that God would not restrict him to a particular place, given there were many cities and communities, and that he would thus be directed to go somewhere else. This is what is meant by the expression rendered here as “thinking that We would not force him into a tight situation!”
Angry and frustrated, he walked away, and found himself sometime later by the sea, where he saw a laden boat. He boarded it. When the boat was in the middle of the sea, it was apparent that its load was too heavy. The shipmaster said that one passenger must be thrown overboard in order to give the rest a chance to survive. They all drew lots and the draw fell to Jonah. The other passengers threw him into the sea, or he might have jumped overboard. It was then that the whale swallowed him and he found himself in a most tight situation. He felt shrouded by several layers of darkness: the darkness of the whale’s belly, the darkness of the deep blue sea and the darkness of the night. At this moment, he cried out: “There is no deity other than You! Limitless are You in Your glory! I have done wrong indeed.” God answered his prayer and saved him from the distress he was suffering. The whale thus threw him out near the shore. The remainder of his story is taken up in Sūrah 37, al-Şāffāt.
There are in Jonah’s story some significant points we need to reflect upon. First, Jonah did not initially show enough patience and willingness to endure the difficulties of delivering God’s message. He quickly became fed up, abandoned his people and moved on, angry and frustrated. He felt his situation to be very tight. But God exposed him to a much tighter and harder distress as compared with the opposition of unbelievers. Had Jonah not turned to his Lord in repentance and admitted that he had wronged himself by leaving his position of duty, he would not have been relieved of his distress. It was God’s care that saved him.
The advocates of a message must be ready to bear the burden involved in such advocacy, remain patient in the face of rejection and vicious opposition. When a person is certain of the truth of the message he advocates, he finds the opposition of people who accuse him of false inventions and deliberate lying difficult to handle. Yet to remain patient in the face of such adversity is only part of the duties of such advocacy. Those who are entrusted with delivering a message and advocate the truth must remain patient, face the difficulties and persevere with their advocacy. They must continue to present their message to people and call on them to believe in it, time after time.
Such advocates cannot give in to despair. They cannot give up on people, believing that they will never respond to the truth, no matter how much opposition they face, and how often they are rejected and accused of falsehood. If their hundred attempts to touch people’s hearts meet with failure, their next attempt may have a positive result. Indeed, such a result may come only after one thousand and one attempts. Hence, if they have already tried a thousand times and failed, they should try once more in the hope that, with God’s grace, their next attempt will be more successful.
The way a message must follow in order to touch people’s hearts is neither easy nor comfortable. Positive responses may not be forthcoming. A great heap of false beliefs, erring practices, customs, traditions and situations weigh heavily on people’s hearts and minds. This heap must be removed, and hearts must be revived in every possible way. A touch on every sensitive receptor must be made to try to find the effective nerve. With determination and diligence the right touch will inevitably be made, and a complete transformation of the addressee is achieved. We are often surprised that a thousand attempts may be made with one particular person, but without success. Then a casual gesture, coming at the right time, touches the right cord, and the person concerned goes through a complete transformation without any difficulty.
2. Linguistic Analysis[ edit ]
4. Miscellaneous Information[ edit ]
5. Connected/Related Ayat[ edit ]
6. Frequency of the word[ edit ]
7. Period of Revelation[ edit ]
According to Ibn Attiyah and Qurtubi there is consensus on this Surah being a Makki Surah -
"Both the subject matter and the style of the Surah indicate that it was sent down in the third stage of the life of the Prophet at Makkah" [Ref: Mawdudi]