Virtues of the Dhikr Yunusiyah (The Call of Jonah) – Commentary of the Quran – By: Mohammad Sobhanie

Shafaqna (International Shia News Agency)

Virtues of the Dhikr Yunusiyah (The Call of Jonah)

By: Mohammad Sobhanie


بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ

وَذَا النُّونِ إِذ ذَّهَبَ مُغَاضِبًا فَظَنَّ أَن لَّن نَّقْدِرَ عَلَيْهِ فَنَادَىٰ فِي الظُّلُمَاتِ أَن لَّا إِلَـٰهَ إِلَّا أَنتَ سُبْحَانَكَ إِنِّي كُنتُ مِنَ الظَّالِمِينَ ﴿٨٧﴾

Translation: Dhun Nun went away in anger and thought that We would never have power over him, but in darkness he cried, “Lord, You are the Only God whom I glorify. I have certainly done wrong to myself (so forgive me)”.

Commentary: “Dhikr-e-Yunusiyyah” is the prayer that Prophet Yunus recited when he found himself in the belly of the whale.  During that dire situation, he asked for forgiveness and repentance by reciting “there is none worthy of Worship besides You, You are far exalted and above all weaknesses, Surely, I’ am from among the wrongdoers1”.

Prophet Yunus (یونس) or Jonah, whose prophet hood proceeded Prophet Musa and Aaron, was one of the messengers of Allah (swt) whose mission covered the region of Nineveh, a territory in present day Iraq. He is known as “Dhun-Nun1” and “Sahibi alhoot2” which means “the companion of fish” since he was swallowed whole by a whale.  He is well known by all members of the Abrahamic faith, and in the Quran, his name is mentioned four times, and a chapter is named after him.

Prophet Yunus began preaching and inviting the People of Nineveh to accept the teachings and religion of God for forty years; however these teaching would fall upon deaf ears. He was often ignored, had very few followers, which led to great frustration and anguish.  Allah (swt) commanded Prophet Yunus to warn his people that there was a great calamity impending upon them, but due to his anger and frustration with the people of Nineveh he boarded a ship and departed the city. In essence his action was not preferable from a messenger of God.

There are two different narrations as how Prophet Yunus ended up in belly of the whale.  One of the narrations describes a great storm that began to engulf the vessel threatening to send it below the sea. The crew, sensing impending doom, suspected that a sinner was amongst them that caused the waves to crash upon the ship.

They decided to cast lots, or to draw straws, to see who amongst them was responsible for this calamity.  Three separate lots were drawn and each time Prophet Yunus was chosen.  He was immediately cast upon the sea, where a whale engulfed him.

The second narration describes that during the voyage of the ship a great whale blocked its path and opened its mouth in gesture of hunger.  The crew, fearful it was to be swallowed whole, suspected that there was a sinner on their ship that the whale was after.  Similar to the previous narration, three separate lots were drawn and Prophet Yunus was chosen each time.  He was cast upon the sea, where the whale swallowed him.

Realizing his partial judgment, the Prophet Yunus, asked forgiveness while he was in the belly of Fish:

فَنَادَىٰ فِي الظُّلُمَاتِ أَن لَّا إِلَـٰهَ إِلَّا أَنتَ سُبْحَانَكَ إِنِّي كُنتُ مِنَ الظَّالِمِينَ ﴿٨٧﴾

Then he (the Prophet Yunus) cried out in the darkness, ‘There is no god except You! You are immaculate! I have indeed been among the wrongdoers!’

His sincere remorse and confession along with glorification of his Lord saved him from agony. The whale cast him to shore and finally he returned back as a divine messenger to his nation. The Quran mentioned had he not returned to his Lord in repentance, he would have surely remained in the belly of the whale till the day of resurrection3.

It is narrated from the Prophet of Islam (s.a.w.) that whomever invokes the ‘Call of Prophet Yunus’ [holy Quran 21:87-88] to Allah (svw) his call would be granted.  A man asked if that call was only restricted for Prophet Yunus?  The Prophet of Islam replied the succeeding verse:

فَاسْتَجَبْنَا لَهُ وَنَجَّيْنَاهُ مِنَ الْغَمِّ ۚ وَكَذَٰلِكَ نُنجِي الْمُؤْمِنِينَ ﴿٨٨﴾

Thereupon We accepted his prayer, and rescued him from grief. Thus do We rescue the believers.

This verse asserts that this prayer rescued Prophet Yunus from his grief and suffering, why should it not apply to all of the believers of Islam.  Therefore this prayer is not unique to Prophet Yunus alone; it is for all of those who believe.

The distinguished jurisprudent Haj Mirza Javad Agha Maliki Tabrizi states in ‘Asrarul-Salaat’ (اسرار الصلاة): “I asked my mentor, “Which prayer from your experience is more effective in enlightening the heart?  He replied: long prostration for about an hour or ¾ of an hour in which you repeatedly say “Dhikr Yunusiyah”; which it is “Laa Elaaha Ellaa Ant Sobhanaka Enni Konto Mena Zalemin.”

In prostration one should remember that the soul is captive of immoral behaviour and sin; Invoking Allah (svt) during a state of prostration can save one from the prison of their ignorance, sins and illicit desires; similar to the way Allah (swt) saved Prophet Yunus.

Ones ill intentions, poor judgment and disobedience may be the cause of difficulties and hardship that one faces. The remembrance of Allah (svt), along with sincere sorrow and confession will save one from the agonies of misfortunes.


1-       ( 21:87)

2-      (68:48)

3-      (37:143-144)

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