Prophet of the Fish
Adapted from Machli Wale Nabi by Muhammad Abdul Hai
For quite some time the boat was trembling and everybody believed it would sink. All passengers seemed helpless.
In those days it was a belief among the voyagers that the boats would tremble in balance whenever a sinful person happened to be among the passengers. Sensing this someone said: “Assuredly, there is some sinful man in our boat.” Everyone thought of himself but no one could recall having done any sin. So they remained quiet. And the boat was about to sink.
All of a sudden one of the passengers said: “I am the sinner, throw me into the sea so that your boat is saved.”
“No, no “, said the boatman, “we know, you are not the sinner; you are a good man, a saint. We have heard that you have been preaching good to the people and you have been calling people to the Right Path. You are a Prophet of Allah. Someone else in the boat is a sinner”.
“Now let us decide by tossing up”, said one of them.
“No, no, there is no sinner here except me”, said the Prophet.
The boatman did not relent and said they would decide it by drawing a lot. “We would not let a good man like you die like this”, they insisted.
Then, they tossed up, and all of them were surprised when they saw the name of the Prophet in the draw.
The Prophet said: “I have left the city without the orders or permission of my Lord. I have lost all hopes about the fate and condition of the people there. Hence I left them abandoning the mission assigned to me by my Lord. Therefore, I am the sinner.”
Everybody was stunned. The boat was still trembling. They were afraid of it being sunk. Now the boatman became more concerned about the safety of other passengers. They thought the life of others cannot be lost for the sake of one passenger: so they decided to act according to the draw. Hence, the Prophet was thrown into the waters.
This Prophet was Prophet Yunus (peace be upon him).
While in the waters, a fish swallowed him up. It was complete darkness all around in the belly of the fish under the deep waters with dark night over on earth. Prophet Yunus (peace be upon him) was most worried. He was most worried over leaving the city without the permission of his Lord. The darkness within the belly of fish under deep waters added up to his worries.
Allah says about him: “And remember Zun-Nun, when he departed in wrath: he imagined that We had no power over him.”
When he could not bear the wrath, Yunus (peace be upon him) cried to Allah in distress and sought His forgiveness.
Allah says: “he cried through the depths of darkness (saying) “There is no god but You: glory be to You: I was indeed wrong!”
Repenting over his act, he prayed to Allah for forgiveness saying that it is He who willed the fish to swallow him up, and even then he was safe; there was no suffocation for him despite darkness around. He felt repentant over leaving behind the countrymen without the permission of his Lord.
Allah, the most Gracious, heard his cry:
“So We listened to him: and relieved him from distress: and thus do We deliver those who have faith’ says Allah.
The fish came up to the surface of the water and ejected Prophet Yunus on the bank of the river. He was again in the open, under the sun. He thanked Allah forgiving him and relieving him. Allah has assured to save all His righteous servants from distress in the same manner.
You have read the example of the Prophet of the fish. All sorts of such examples carry some moral lesson for us. Now, let us assess as to how we can derive lessons from this.
1. Imagine the intensity of the responsibility ordained by Allah on His righteous servants and its accountability to Him. We know that no more Prophets are going to come to this world. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was the last Prophet of Allah. Qur’an is Allah’s last and complete guidance for man. It is the best law and system of life on earth. It is the responsibility of those who follow the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) to spread the message of Islam to others in its true form. But it is imperative for those who spread it to practice it first and follow the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and the Divine guidance accordingly. The righteous persons will have tough time in explaining to Allah on the Day of Judgment if the wrong-doers would say to Him that they were not told about the Divine Guidance or there was no one who practiced it in its true form so that they might learn something. So, the responsibility of Dawah – conveying the message of Islam is great on the shoulders of those who have knowledge of Islam and those who practice Islam in their life.
2. If someone errs, it is better for him to seek pardon from Allah for his lapses, and that he would not repeat the wrong doing.
3. There are certain calamities that come from Allah only to caution and warn us. And those who take clues from the warning signs are the lucky ones. Heeding from the warning, they look into their faults soon and rectify them and abstain from any further misdeeds. They try to find out every kind of ills in themselves and try to mould their life according to the Divine Guidance. They do not hold others responsible for the ills that creep in them. Blaming themselves for the wrong doing, they seek pardon from Allah for their lapses.
4. Thus they are granted pardon. Allah bestows His special blessing on them; He clears them of all sufferings; He saves them from the hardships; He showers His Blessings and bestows Peace on them even in hard times.
Same was the case of Prophet Yunus (peace be upon him). Allah saved him from the jaws of death and provided him with all the amenities of life both within the fish’s belly and on the bank of the river. Above all, He saved the people of Prophet Yunus, who had rejected him.
We know that those who rejected Allah’s teachings and disbelieved in Him were ruined and banished from the earth. But it was only the people of Prophet Yunus who saved themselves from the punishment and wrath of Allah and gave up all wrong doing; they adopted the right way of life at right time, i.e., before the wrath overtook them. Allah, then bestowed on them wealth and happiness. And they lived a life of happiness for a long time.