Yunus (Jonah) lived about 2,800 years ago in modern-day Iraq. He was sent by Allah to preach to the people of Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, which was one of the largest cities in the world, with a population of over 100,000. However, because of his people’s hostile attitude to the word of Allah, Yunus abandoned his mission and decided to forsake his people – without Allah’s permission. He boarded a ship to take him away but it encountered a storm in the sea. The sailors cast lots to determine who had brought “bad luck” to the ship, and the name of Yunus came up. He was then cast into the sea where a huge fish swallowed him.
Miraculously, Yunus survived inside the fish; he became remorseful and repented to Allah sincerely, Who caused the fish to choke him out onto a shore. Yunus was seriously ill by then, so Allah caused a gourd plant to grow over him, providing him cool shade while he recovered. He then returned to his people who eventually believed in his message and accepted true faith.
- Anger is ever a cause for regret
Anger makes you act hastily and irrationally; it causes you to say or do something that you end up regretting. It was anger at his people’s disbelief that caused Yunus to disregard the command of Allah, as He says, “And [mention] the man of the fish [Yunus] when he went off in anger and deemed that We had no power over him…” (21:87) It is important to avoid making decisions while in a state of anger; wait until you can think clearly, take a deep breath, and ask Allah to guide you, before deciding a matter.
- No human is beyond erring
It is in human nature to err, and no human being – regardless of his or her status with Allah – is perfect or beyond making an error. Yunus, despite being a prophet of Allah, made a mistake, which shows a common person is all the more liable to sin. In fact, imperfection in conduct is one of the defining traits of the human race. Allah never expects you not to err, but He wants you to repent to Him after sinning, and not to become a habitual transgressor. For this reason, Prophet Muhammad said, “By Him in Whose Hand is my life, if you were not to commit sin, Allah would have swept you out of existence and He would have replaced you by those people who would commit sin and seek forgiveness from Allah so that He forgives them.” (Muslim)
- Never despair of Allah’s help
Survival seemed highly improbable for Yunus inside the belly of the fish, yet, he had faith in Allah’s help, and cried, “There is no deity except You; exalted are You. Indeed, I have been of the wrongdoers.” (21:87) Allah not only forgave Yunus but saved him and helped him regain his health. This further conveys that it is always a good time to repent to Allah; it is never too late to admit your sin, and hope for His mercy in the remainder of this life and in the hereafter.
- Make the most of your second chance
Sometimes, having faltered once, you are given an opportunity to make amends and put things back on track. Never miss that second chance, for it is usually the last one you get. Consider how Yunus corrected his earlier mistake of forsaking his people in anger: he returned to his city and persisted with the people until they believed in Allah. He, therefore, saved one of the great cities of the time from divine punishment – unlike so many other estimable cities that had perished in the past. Allah says, “Then why has there not been a city that believed, so its faith benefited it, except the people of Yunus? When they believed, We removed from them the punishment of disgrace in worldly life and gave them enjoyment for a time.” (10:98)