Prophet Yunus (Peace be upon Him) also known as Dhan-Nun. His English name is Jonah. He is referred in ahadith and tafseer as Yunus bin Matta. Prophet Jonah was sent to a community in Iraq, in the city of Mosul. Renowned Islamic scholar, ibn Kathir calls it Nineveh. There is surah in the Quran, sunah number 10 which is named after Prophet Yunus.
The inhabitants of the town of Nineveh(Naynawa) lived a life worshiping idols. Prophet Jonah (pbuh) was sent to teach them the worship of Allah. The people disliked his interference in their way of worship, so they argued. "We and our forefathers have worshipped these gods for many years and no harm has come to us."
About his people Almighty Allah said: "Was there any town community that believed after seeing the punishment, and its Faith at that moment, saved it from the punishment? (the answer is none)--except the people of Jonah; when they believed, We removed from them the torment of disgrace in the life of the present world, and permitted them to enjoy for a while. Quran Surah Yunus 10:98
Try as he might to convince them of the foolishness of idolatry and of the goodness of Allah's laws, the ignored him. He warned them that if they kept on with their foolishness, Allah's punishment would soon follow. Instead of fearing Allah, they told Jonah that they were not afraid of his threats. "Let it happen," they told him. Jonah was disheartened. "in that case, I will leave you to your misery!" so saying, he left Nineveh, fearing that Allah's anger would soon follow.
"Remember Dhan Nun (Jonah), when he went off in anger, and imagined that We shall not punish him (the calamities which had befallen him)! Quran Surah Anbiya 21:87
“And remember when he (Jonah) went off in anger.” Quran Surah Anbiya 21:87
Ibn Kathir describes the scene in Nineveh immediately after Jonah left. The sky began to change colour, it turned as red as fire. The people were filled with fear and understood that they were only moments from destruction. They recalled the destruction of the people of 'Ad, Thamud and Nuh(Noah). Was theirs to be a similar fate? Slowly faith penetrated their hearts. The entire population of Nineveh gathered on a mountaintop and begged for God’s forgiveness.
Allah said: When they believed, We removed from them the punishment of disgrace in worldly life and gave them enjoyment for a time. Quran Surah Yunus 10:98
God accepted their repentance and removed the wrath that was hanging ominously over their heads. The sky returned to normal, and the people returned to their homes. They prayed that Jonah would come back to them and guide them to the straight path.
Meanwhile, Jonah had boarded a small ship in the company of other passengers. It sailed all day in calm waters with a good wind blowing at the sails. When night came, the sea suddenly changed. A horrible storm blew as if it were going to split the ship into pieces. The waves looked wild. They rose up as high as mountains then plunged down like valleys, tossing the ship and sweeping over the deck.
Behind the ship, a large whale was splitting the water and opening its mouth. A command had been issued from Almighty Allah to one of the greatest whales of the sea to surface. It obeyed. The whale hurried to the surface of the sea and followed the ship as it had been commanded.
The tempest continued and the chief crewman asked the crew to lighten the ship's heavy load. They threw their baggage overboard, but this was not enough. Their safety lay in reducing the weight further, so they decided among themselves to lighten their load by removing at least one person.
The captain directed: We will make lots with all of the travelers' names. The one whose name is drawn will be thrown into the sea." Jonah knew this was one of the seamen's traditions when facing a tempest(Storm). It was a strange polytheistic tradition, but it was practiced at that time. Jonah's affliction and crisis began.
Here was the prophet, subjected to polytheistic rules that considered the sea and the wind to have gods that riot. The captain had to please these gods. Jonah unwillingly participated in the lot, and his name was added to the other travelers' names. The lot was drawn and "Jonah" appeared.
Since they knew him to be the most honorable among them, they did not wish to throw him into the angry sea. Therefore, they decided to draw a second lot. Again Jonah's name was drawn. They gave him a final chance and drew a third lot. Unfortunately for Jonah, his name came up again.
Jonah realized that Allah's hand was in all this, for he had abandoned his mission without Allah's consent. The matter was over, and it was decided that Jonah should throw himself into the water. Jonah stood at the edge of the ship looking at the furious sea. It was night and there was no moon. The stars were hidden behind a black fog. But before he could be thrown overboard, Jonah kept mentioning Allah's name as he jumped into the raging sea and disappeared beneath the huge waves.
And, verily, Yunus (Jonah) was one of the Messengers. When he ran to the laden ship, He (agreed to) cast lots, and he was among the losers, Then a (big) fish swallowed him and he had done an act worthy of blame. Had he not been of them who glorify Allah, He would have indeed remained inside its belly (the fish) till the Day of Resurrection. But We threw him onto the open shore while he was ill. Quran Surah saffath 37: 145
Allah said regarding Maryam: This is a part of the news of the Ghaib (unseen, i.e. the news of the past nations of which you have no knowledge) which We inspire you with (O Muhammad). You were not with them, when they cast lots with their pens as to which of them should be charged with the care of Maryam (Mary); nor were you with them when they disputed. Quran Surah Al’e Imran 3:44
Allah commanded a large fish from the Green Sea (i.e., Mediterranean Sea) to cleave the oceans and come and swallow Yunus, peace be upon him, without cutting his flesh or breaking his bones.Prophet Yunus fell into the water to be scooped up in the enormous jaws of a giant fish. When Jonah awoke from unconsciousness, he thought that he was dead and was lying in the darkness of his grave. He felt around him and realized that this was not a grave but the belly of the giant fish. He was afraid. He felt his heart beating deep in his chest and lurching towards his throat with every ragged breath he took. Jonah was sitting in strong, acidic, digestive juices that were eating away at his skin and he cried out to God.
Three layers of darkness enveloped him, one above the other; the darkness of the whale's stomach, the darkness of the bottom of the sea, the darkness of the night. Jonah imaged himself to be dead, but his senses became alert when he found he could move. He knew that he was alive and imprisoned in the midst of three layers of darkness. His heart was moved by remembering Allah.
They differed as to how long he spent in the belly of the fish.
When Jonah awoke from unconsciousness, he thought that he was dead and was lying in the darkness of his grave. He felt around him and realised that this was not a grave but the belly of the giant fish. He was afraid. He felt his heart beating deep in his chest and lurching towards his throat with every ragged breath he took. Jonah was sitting in strong, acidic, digestive juices that were eating away at his skin and he cried out to God. In the darkness of the fish, in the darkness of the sea and in the darkness of the night, Jonah raised his voice and called out his distress to God.
لَّا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا أَنتَ سُبْحَانَكَ إِنِّي كُنتُ مِنَ الظَّالِمِينَ
Allah said: And he called out within the darknesses, "There is no deity except You; exalted are You. Indeed, I have been of the wrongdoers." Quran surah Anbiya 21:87
Allah Forgives Yunus
Jonah continued praying to Allah, repeating this invocation. While Yunus (AS) was in the belly of the whale, the animals of the sea heard his dhikr. So the sea creatures gathered around the whale; This call went and hovered around the (mighty) Throne, and the angels said, O Allah, who is that calling You from deep inside the sea. Allah replied that it is My servant Yunus (AS) He ran away from his commandments so I made the whale swallow him.
The angels interceded for Yunus (AS) and Allah (SWT) accepted their intercession. They said, "O Lord, will You not have mercy on him for what he did during his time of ease, and save him from this trial and tribulation?'' He said, "Of course.''
Allah Almighty saw the sincere repentance of Jonah and heard his invocation in the whale's stomach. Allah commanded the whale to surface and ejects Jonah onto an island. The whale obeyed and swam to the farthest side of the ocean. Allah commanded it to rise towards the warm, refreshing sun and the pleasant earth.
The whale ejected Jonah onto a remote island. His body was inflamed because of the acids inside the whale's stomach. He was ill, and when the sun rose, its ray burned his inflamed body so that he was on the verge of screaming for the pain. However, he endured the pain and continued to repeat his invocation to Allah.
Almighty Allah caused a vine to grow to considerable length over him for protection. Then Allah Exalted caused Jonah to recover and forgave him. Allah told Jonah that if it had not been for his praying to Him, he would have stayed in the whale's stomach till the Day of Judgment, as mentioned in Quran Surah saffath 37: 141-148
And, verily, Yunus (Jonah) was one of the Messengers. When he ran to the laden ship, He (agreed to) cast lots, and he was among the losers, Then a (big) fish swallowed him and he had done an act worthy of blame. Had he not been of them who glorify Allah, He would have indeed remained inside its belly (the fish) till the Day of Resurrection. But We threw him onto the open shore while he was ill. And We caused to grow over him a gourd vine. And We sent him to a hundred thousand people or even more, and they believed, so We gave them enjoyment for a while.” Quran Surah saffath 37: 139-148
Gradually he regained his strength and found his way to his hometown, Nineveh. When Jonah recovered he returned to Nineveh and was amazed at the change in his people. They informed Jonah of their fear when the sky had turned blood red and how they had gathered on the mountain to beg God’s forgiveness. They informed him that they had turned to believe in Allah. And more than 100,000 or more people living in Nineveh lived in tranquility. Jonah lived amongst his people and taught them to worship One God and to live lives of piety and righteousness.
Ibrahim bin Muhammad bin Sa’d narrated from his father, from Sa’d that the Messenger of Allah said: “The supplication of Dhun-Nun (Prophet Yunus) when he supplicated, while in the belly of the whale was: ‘There is none worthy of worship except You, Glory to You, Indeed, I have been of the transgressors. (La Ilaha Illa Anta Subhanaka Inni Kuntu Minaz-Zalimeen)’ So indeed, no Muslim man supplicated with it for anything, ever, except Allah responds to him.” Jami` at-Tirmidhi Vol’6: 3505
Narrated `Abdullah ibn Abbas(R):The Prophet (ﷺ) said, "None of you should say that I am better than Yunus (i.e. Jonah)." Musadded added, "Jonah bin Matta." Sahih al Bukhari 3412 (Vol4. 624)
ALLAH KNOWS BEST
Stories of the prophets by Ibn kathir