By Saiyida Nazneen Rizvi.
It is the story of the Prophet of Almighty Allah who lived temporarily, for three days and three nights in the belly of a big aquatic animal. He was the Prophet Hazrat Younus (peace be upon him), whose name is Jonah in Gospel and Bible. He was selected as a messenger of Allah at the age of 30 years, 800 years before the birth of Prophet Hazrat Essa (Jesus) (peace be upon him) for the people of Nineveh City. It was an ancient city of upper Mesopotamia located on the out skirt of Mosul, now it is northern Iraq. It is on the eastern bank of Tigris River, which after joining two great rivers i.e. Mesopotamia and Euphrates flows south from the Iraq empties itself into the Persian Gulf which merges into the Arabian Sea. It is a contiguous sea of Indian Ocean.
The people of Nineveh were more than one hundred thousand. They were idolaters like their forefathers. Hazrat Younus (peace be upon him) preached them for 33 or 37 years but only two person obeyed him, one was Robel who was an educated man and treated ill people (Hakim) while the other man was Tanukha who was a wood cutter by profession. Hazrat Younus (peace be upon him) tried his best to convince them to leave their foolishness of idolatry and to believe in Almighty Allah. He warned them if they would not change their worship of idolatry and foolishness, Allah would soon give them punishment. Instead of fearing Allah they replied we are not afraid because our forefathers had also worshipped these idols but no harm happened to them. Hazrat Younus (peace be upon him) became very disheartened by their reply and prayed to God for his wrath upon them. Allah ordered him to be patient but when he insisted for the wrath the he informed him that his wrath would occur on Thursday, 15th Shawwal. His friend Robel asked him to wait to announce the time of God’s wrath and did not leave the city in hurry, but on the suggestion of Tanukha he announced the time of wrath and went out of that city angrily from his people along with other fellow to hide himself into a mountain.
Later on Robel climbed on the top of the mountain and told his people for their ignorance about the coming wrath and asked them to follow the guidance of their prophet and obey Almighty Allah. He further asked them to pray and weep bitterly in front of Allah to stop his wrath. At the same time the skies began to change colour showing the sign of fire. By seeing that they feared and all of them went out of the city as suggested by Robel and separated children from their mothers and elders to youngsters and all were crying and weeping bitterly to beseech Allah for His mercy and forgiveness.
Although the said wrath occurred at the given time but they were safe from the wrath, as they pleaded for their sins and obeyed Allah. Next day Hazrat Younus (peace be upon him) came to the city to see the after effects of that wrath but when he saw that the life was normal in the city he got afraid that now the disbelievers would call him a false prophet because the wrath did not occur as he had reported to his people. He then went towards the river or sea to board a boat or ship (in Gospel and Bible it is described that he went to the sea to board a ship). The boat sailed all day in calm water but as the night started a sudden horrible storm surrounded the boat which was already overload, the sailors threw extra luggage from the boat and every man started praying to the God to safe the boat along with the people, the waves turned wild. At that time Hazrat Younus (peace be upon him) was lying fast asleep, then the chief sailor came to him and said how could you sleep peacefully at such a dreadful time? Please pray to your God as maybe your prayers might save us. Hazrat Younus (peace be upon him) prayed but the storm continued to rage around the boat. Sailors then said that it appears that on the boat there is someone who has brought this trouble on us. They decided to cast lots including names of all the passengers. They drew lots thrice but unfortunately each time the lot fell on the name of Hazrat Younus (peace be upon him). They then said to him what shall we do to you. Hazrat Younus (peace be upon him) said, take me up and throw me into the water, then the storm would cease and water would get calm, because I know that has happened due to my mistake. Although they were not willing to throw him in the water, they tried hard to row the boat near the land but they failed in that struggle as the horrible storm increased to split the boat into pieces. Finally he threw himself into the water, and at once the storm ceased.
Hazrat Younus (peace be upon him) realized that all of that happened due his mistake, as he left that city without Allah’s consent. It was night time, there was no light as the moon and stars were hidden behind the dark fog. Hazrat Younus (peace be upon him) after realizing his mistake called Allah’s name before jumping into the water. However by Allah’s order a great creature appeared from the sea, followed the boat and came on the surface of the water to swallow him into his big belly and shut his mouth tightly just as locking the door of its prison on Allah’s command. Now he was under three layers of darkness, one above the other, as the darkness of stomach of that animal, the darkness of the deep sea and the darkness of night. When he became alert and felt that he could move in that prison, he started to call Almighty Allah continuously by weeping bitterly, saying:
لا إلهَ إلا أنتَ سُبْحَانَكَ إِنِّي كُنْتُ مِنَ الظّالِمِيْنَ
La ilaha illa anta subhanaka inni kuntu minaz zalimin
(O Allah! There is no ease except that which you make easy, and indeed you, when you want, make difficulties easy).
He was praying to Allah to forgive him as he was among the wrongdoers. All creatures within water heard his pray and gathered around that big animal and started to praise Allah’s along with Hazrat Younus as his voice could be easily heard around that animal, who was also praying with the prophet.
In the Surah As Saffat verses 139-148 the word ‘Hooth’ is used for that big creature whose meaning both in Arabic and English languages is used for Whale but in the Urdu translation of this surah of Quran it is translated as a fish may be due to its body shape which apparently resembles with a fish. However, both in Gospel and Bible it was referred as Whale. Exactly it could not be a fish because all fishes are poikilothermic (cold blooded) which respire dissolved oxygen and they have gills, their fins have fin rays while whale is an aquatic mammal which respire free oxygen of the air because it has lungs, its fins are paddle like. Whales are of different types, perhaps it was a blue whale (Baleen), and it is a marine mammal. A largest blue whale has been reported in the Indian Ocean at least there are three sub species of blue whales, among them Baleen (Balaenoptera musculus brivicauda, also known as pygmy blue whale due to its greyish blue colour), and is found in the Arabian Sea and South Pacific Ocean. They do extensive migration for feeding and breeding purposes, they travel in cold waters for feeding and move towards warm waters to give birth. They are mammals like human beings, both are endothermic (warm blooded), give birth to live babies, they even have hairs and nurse their babies with milk as it has mammary glands.
A blue whale is the largest animal ever found on the earth because in length it reaches up to 30 meters and weighs up to 100 to 150 tons. It has a big body with a stomach of the size of a minivan. It has a very big mouth to swallow a bus may be to gulp huge quantity of water up to 15000 gallons but it doesn’t swallow the water and immediately forces most of the water by shutting its mouth, which has no teeth . Instead of teeth, it has many closely fit plastic like plates called baleen, around its mouth from which stuck shrimp like animals called krill which it swallows and feed tons of food per day. These plates also help in squeezing the water from its mouth, as reported by Dr. Joe Francis in his on line article on big blue whale.
It was a great mercy of Allah on his prophet to choose that mammal to swallow him in which he could survive easily till the day of judgement as referred in the Surah As-Saffat of Quran. When Almighty Allah saw that Hazrat Younus (peace be upon him) sincerely regret and is continuously asking for forgiveness in the belly of that whale then, he commanded the whale to come on the surface and eject his prophet on the dry land. Due to living in the stomach of the whale his body was inflamed, he was very weak and ill, his skin became very soft and delicate which could not bear the heat of the sun or any other thing to touch his body, otherwise his skin would be wounded. Although he felt great pain but he still continued to pray and praise Allah.
Finally Allah showed his blessing and forgave him and grew up a plant of gourd which had large thick leaves to provide him shelter from the heat of sun and to safe him from the attack of the flies which never sit on the leaves of that plant. His diet was only the milk of the mountain goat. Now he became healthy and glad for those blessings of God but on one day warm air destroyed that plant he again suffered from the heat of the sun. He wished that he would have died, then Allah said to him you felt sorry to see that plant die, although you did not grow it, think that it grew up for a little period and then dried but you did not think that I should not have pity on that city, where there are more than one hundred thousand people and many animals, all helpless and knowing nothing. Hazrat Younus (peace be upon him) then realized, that all the people are precious in the eyes of Allah. Even if, they do not believe in their real creator i.e. Allah.
Later on Allah commanded him to go back to his homeland because the People had left idolatry and their foolishness. Now they believe in the blessings of Allah and guidance of their prophet, when Hazrat Younus (peace be upon him) reached his city all people became very happy to see him and gave him great welcome.
In this article the scientific reasons of whale as the temporary resident of Hazrat Younus (peace be upon him) are based on the different articles and research papers studied by the author, and has no religious importance.
About the Author:
Professor (Rtd) Saiyida Nazneen Rizvi
Ex Chairperson Department of Zoology
University of Karachi