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Yunus (a)

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Yunus (a)
The mosque & Tomb of Jonah, Mosul, Iraq.jpg
The mosque & Tomb of Jonah, Mosul, Iraq
Name in
the Qur'an:
Name in
the Bible:
Place(s) of
Before: Dhul-Kifl (a)
After: Elisha (a)
Religion: Monotheism
Repeat in
the Qur'an:
4 times.
Remaining in the belly of fish for 40 days

Yūnus (a) or Jonah (Arabic: یُونُس) was among the prophets attributed to Banu Israel who was swallowed by a whale after leaving the place of his mission. His name is mentioned four times in the Qur'an and a sura of the Qur'an is named after him. Based on historical and hadiths texts, Prophet Muhammad (s) praised Yunus (a) in his conversation with 'Addas, the Christian. The burial place of Yunus (a) is reported to be in Nineveh, north of Iraq, or near al-Khalil in Palestine. The supplication of Prophet Yunus (a) to rescue from inside the fish is known as al-Yunusiyya Dhikr.

The place of Yunus's (a) mission was in the ancient region of Nineveh in the north of Iraq. After the disobedience of the people of Nineveh and warning them about the punishment of God, Yunus (a) left his people and went to the sea and got on a ship. After the attack of a whale to the ship, passengers decided to give it one of the passengers as the food in order to escape from it. Yunus (a) was the result of the draw and was given to the whale as the food. By the will of God, the whale swallowed and held Yunus (a) in its belly. In the belly of the whale, Yunus (a) supplicated to God. By the order of God, the whale let Yunus (a) go after 40 days.


Yunus b. Matta [Amitai] is introduced among the descendants of Prophet Jacob (a)[1] or his son, Benjamin.[2] Therefore, he has been considered from Israelites.[3] There is a disagreement about attributing the name of Matta to his father or his mother.[4] Some believe that the name of his father was Matta and some considered it the name of his mother and believe that Jesus (a), son of lady Mary (a) and Yunus (a), son of Matta are the only prophets called by their mothers' names.[5] Some considered the first opinion widely accepted.[6] In five suras of the Qur'an, Yunus (a) has been mentioned.[7] In Qur'an 21:87 he has been mentioned with the title "Dhu l-Nun" meaning "the companion of the whale".[8]


In the Qur'an and historical sources, his prophethood has been confirmed.

Nineveh near Mosul is mentioned as the place he lived and was chosen 780 BC for prophethood.[9] Nineveh was an ancient town and was one of the villages of Mosul. Tigris river was between Nineveh and Mosul.[10]

God's Warning to Punish the People of Nineveh

By the order of God, Yunus (a) was sent to Nineveh which was the place idol-worshippers lived to invite them to monotheism, but they did not accept it. God gave them the warning of punishing if they do not accept monotheism. After they rejected it, the deadline of punishment was determined for them. Yunus (a) announced the deadline of punishment to his people. After seeing the signs of coming the punishment, he exited the city. The king of Nineveh realized that punishment was going to them by seeing its signs which were a fiery red cloud in the sky. Therefore, he gathered the people of the city and ordered to bring Yunus (a) to show his readiness to believe in God. He regretted about rejection of Yunus's (a) invitation to believe in God and calling him a liar in the past.[11]

After Yunus (a) realized that people were looking for him to express their belief in God, he became angry of their last moment belief, because they had not believed before seeing the signs of the punishment and left his people. He went toward the sea so that they could not find him.[12]

People and the king who were disappointed about finding Yunus (a), exited the city and took out all their cattle from the city too. Then, the king ordered to take the idols out and broke them. Afterwards, the king ordered to separate children from their mothers and also young animals from their mothers. Mothers were calling their children and the children asked for their mothers. The elderly ones were crying toward the sky and finally all of them repented. This condition even impressed the angels. After four days, God removed the shadow of the punishment from the people of Nineveh.[13]

It is mentioned in historical sources that when God willed to punish some people, He did not stop it, even though they repent at the moment when the punishment was to inflict upon them, except in the case of the people of Yunus (a), when He accepted their repentance, as it is mentioned in verse 98 of Qur'an 10.[14][15]

Happenings after Yunus's Exit from Nineveh

After Yunus (a) was informed about the removal of punishment from his people, he became angry and swore not to return to that city. He thought that they would call him a liar because of not happening the punishment.[16] Then, he arrived at the sea and got on a ship, so that people do not follow him to learn about religion.[17]

The Whale's Attack and Swallowing Yunus (a)

By the order of God, a whale attacked the ship in the middle of the sea. It turned around the ship to catch something for food. Passengers decided to make a draw and choose one of the passengers to throw into the sea for the whale to eat and let the ship go. They made draws three times and in all the three times, the name of Yunus (a) was out.[18] After his name was out of the draw, Yunus (a) threw himself into the sea. By the order of God, the Whale opened his mouth and swallowed Yunus (a). God ordered the whale not to eat Yunus (a) as its food and not to harm him. Yunus (a) stood to pray in the belly of the whale. In the Qur'an, it is mentioned that if Yunus (a) was not among those who perform prayer, he would be held in the belly of the whale until the Judgment Day.[19][20]

Yunus (a) was in the belly of the whale for 40 days, during which the whale did not eat anything in order to avoid making any harm to Yunus (a). When the 40th day came, Yunus (a) supplicated to God as he faced three darknesses of the night, the sea and the belly of the whale. So, God answered his prayer.[21]

Exiting the Belly of the Whale and Returning to Nineva

By the order of God, the whale went up to the surface of the sea and released Yunus (a) near a coast which was three days walk away from Nineveh. Yunus (a) who had not eaten anything for forty days, fell on the seaside. By the order of God, a bush grew near his head. Some said that it was squash. Yunus (a) ate from the squash and was then ordered to return to Nineveh.[22] Upon his return, Yunus (a) saw a shepherd who did not know him first. Yunus (a) showed him a wonder and made a sheep, which did not have milk due to famine, able to produce milk. When the shepherd saw that, he recognized Yunus (a). Then, Yunus (a) asked the shepherd to go to Nineveh and inform the people about his return and if they do not believe it, the sheep would speak by the will of God and would give testimony to it.[23]

Position in Islam

There are several historical and hadith reports that Prophet Muhammad (s) respected and praised Yunus (a). When the Prophet (s) was taking a rest in a garden after he (s) was being harassed in Ta'if, he had a conversation with 'Addas, the Christian, who was the servant of the people in the garden and asked him about his birth town. When he said that he was from Nineveh, the Prophet (s) said, "so, you are from the city of Yunus b. Matta?" In his conversation with 'Addas, the Prophet (s) introduced Yunus (a), an honorable man, his brother and the messenger of God. What the Prophet (s) mentioned about him made 'Addas astonished; so, he kissed the feet and hands of the Prophet (s).[24]

Al-Yunusiyya Dhikr

Main article: Al-Yunusiyya Dhikr

Verse 87 of Qur'an 21, which is 'There is no god except You! You are immaculate! I have indeed been among the wrongdoers!' is called Al-Yunusiyya Dhikr. This verse refers to the repentance and supplication of Yunus (a) to God from inside the whale, after which, God answered his prayer and by the will of God, he was safely released from the belly of the whale.

The Question of Committing a Sin by Yunus (a)

After Yunus (a) abandoned his people and the place of his mission, which led to being swallowed by the whale, he repented from his deed to God and confessed about his injustice. This was considered by some as a sin which questioned his infallibility. Some answered this question, saying that, abandoning the mission by Yunus (a) was not a sin, but it was abandoning the better (Tark al-Awla); meaning that after Yunus (a) became certain about the happening of the punishment, he thought that his mission among his disobedient people was finished. Therefore, he left the people of Nineveh and went away. His action is considered abandoning the better. Accordingly, it was better (the priority) that Yunus (a) stayed with his people and tolerated their disobedience.

His Burial

Based on a hadith from Imam Ali (a), some considered Yunus's (a) grave near al-Hamra' mosque, which is one of the four holy mosques in Kufa.[25] Also, in some sources, Hamra' mosque is called the mosque of Yunus b. Matta.[26] Based on a report, Imam Ali (a) performed prayer in this mosque and then visited the grave of Yunus (a) as ziyarah.[27]

Based on another report, the grave of Yunus b. Matta is in a region near Mosul.[28] Some sources considered this the widely accepted opinion.

Attributed Places

In historical sources, several places have been attributed to Yunus (a). Some of these places are considered as his burial place. The disagreement over his burial place has resulted in considering several locations to be his burial place. Some of these locations are Deyr Yunus (a) in the east of Tigris river (near Mosul),[29] Maqam Yunus (a) in Al-Khalil, Palestine[30] and Maqam Yunus (a) in Mosul, Iraq.[31]


  1. Ibn Saʿd, al-Ṭabaqāt al-kubrā, vol. 1, p. 47.
  2. Ibn Ḥabīb al-Baghdādī, al-Muḥabbar, p. 388.
  3. Balʿamī, Tārīkhnāma-yi Ṭabarī, vol. 2, p. 978.
  4. Ibn al-Jawzī, al-Muntaẓam, vol. 1, p. 395.
  5. Ibn Athīr, Kāmil, vol. 4, p. 140.
  6. Nāblusī, al-Ḥaḍra al-insīyya, p. 294.
  7. Qurʾān, 4:163; 6:86; 10:98; 37:139; 68:48.
  8. Qurʾān, 21:87-88.
  9. Ḥimyarī, al-Rawḍ al-miʿṭār, p. 585; Masʿūdī, Murūj al-dhahab, vol. 1, p. 237.
  10. Ḥimyarī, al-Rawḍ al-miʿṭār, p. 585.
  11. Balʿamī, Tārīkhnāma-yi Ṭabarī, vol. 1, p. 583-585.
  12. Balʿamī, Tārīkhnāma-yi Ṭabarī, vol. 1, p. 583-585.
  13. Balʿamī, Tārīkhnāma-yi Ṭabarī, vol. 1, p. 583.
  14. Balʿamī, Tārīkhnāma-yi Ṭabarī, vol. 1, p. 583-585.
  15. Why has there not been any town that might believe, so that its belief might benefit it, except the people of Jonah? When they believed, We removed from them the punishment of disgrace in the life of this world, and We provided for them for a while.
  16. Balʿamī, Tārīkhnāma-yi Ṭabarī, vol. 1, p. 583-585.
  17. Balʿamī, Tārīkhnāma-yi Ṭabarī, vol. 1, p. 585-587.
  18. Balʿamī, Tārīkhnāma-yi Ṭabarī, vol. 1, p. 585-587.
  19. Balʿamī, Tārīkhnāma-yi Ṭabarī, vol. 1, p. 585-587.
  20. Had he not been one of those who celebrate Allah’s glory, he would have surely remained in its belly till the day they will be resurrected. Qur'an, 37:143, 144
  21. Balʿamī, Tārīkhnāma-yi Ṭabarī, vol. 1, p. 585-587.
  22. Balʿamī, Tārīkhnāma-yi Ṭabarī, vol. 1, p. 585-587.
  23. Ibn ʿAsākir, Tarīkh madīnat Damascus, p. 290.
  24. Maqrizī, Imtāʿ al-asmāʾ, vol. 9, p. 180.
  25. Ibn al-Faqīh, Kitāb al-buldān, p. 211.
  26. Thaqafī, al-Ghārāt, p. 262.
  27. Barāqī, Tārīkh Kufa, p. 103.
  28. Qarichānlū, Jughrāfīyā-yi tārīkhī-yi kishwarhā-yi Islāmī, vol. 1, p. 289.
  29. Hamawī, Muʿjam al-buldān, vol. 2, p. 543; Maḥallātī, Maʾthar al-kubrāʾ, vol. 1, p. 157-158.
  30. ʿUbadarī, Riḥlat al-ʿUbadarī, p. 468.
  31. Maqdisī, Aḥsan al-taqāsīm, vol. 1, p. 206.


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