The Litany of Jonah (a.s.)

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

The following is translated from an article in Malay by Brother Sufian King.  I have made some edits to the article.

This is the du’a of Prophet Jonah (a.s.).

… “There is no god but Thou: Glory to Thee: I was indeed wrong!” (Surah al-Anbiya’:87)

It is said in the Qur’an:

Had it not been that he (repented and) glorified Allah, he would certainly have remained inside the fish until the Day of Resurrection. (Surah asw-Swaffat:143-144)

Salutations, praises and peace upon the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.), his family, companions and followers who follow him closely until the end of time.  The Qur’an has mentioned the story of Prophet Jonah (a.s.) which can be used as a lesson and application of the prayer of Prophet Jonah (a.s.) that Allah (s.w.t.) will relieve from His slaves hardships, troubles and calamities in times of urgent need, provided that the individual is a believer.  Let us follow this story in hopes of attaining the pleasure of Allah (s.w.t.) until the Day of Judgement.

The real name of Prophet Jonah (a.s.) is Yunus ibn Mata.  He is also known as Dzu an-Nun.  He is a noble prophet Sent by Allah (s.w.t.) to his people, the Assyrians.  He counselled and guided them to the straight path of the truth, reminded them of the terrible realities of doomsday, forewarned them of the terrifying Hellfire and gave hope in reminding them of Paradise.  He lead his people virtuously and brought them to worship Allah (s.w.t.).  Jonah (a.s.) was always advising and motivating his followers but not even a soul had a hint of faith in their hearts.  Then came a day when Jonah (a.s.) made the decision to leave his followers.  His heart was filled with anger because his people had no faith in God.

And remember Dzu an-Nun, when he departed in wrath: he imagined that We had no power over him!  But he cried through the depths of darkness "There is no god but Thou: Glory to Thee: I was indeed wrong!" (Surah al-Anbiya’:87)

Not a soul knew of the intense emotions running through Jonah (a.s.) except for Allah (s.w.t.), or with Jonah’s (a.s.) displeasure to his people for not putting their faith in Allah (s.w.t.).  And so, he left his people.  Jonah (a.s.) boarded a vessel to take him elsewhere without being mindful of Allah (s.w.t.).  Jonah (a.s.) had given up on them without considering that it is Allah (s.w.t.) Alone Who Moves the hearts and it was unbecoming of a prophet of God to be moved by his passions, even if righteous anger, without Divine Permission.  The prophets were sent solely for da’wah, callers in the path of Allah (s.w.t.).  Guidance, hidayah, is Allah’s (s.w.t) Right on how, who and when He wants to Give.  Da’wah is to be done with submission and humility, for success is only His Determination.

The vessel was caught in a storm.  The people on board, as was the superstition of the time, drew lots to decide who to throw overboard to ‘appease’ the sea.  Initially, they declined to include Jonah (a.s.) since he was viewed as a holy man but Jonah (a.s.) insisted.  Jonah’s name came up in the first draw so they decided to repeat the process, such was their affection and esteem for him.  They drew lots three times and Jonah’s (a.s.) name came up each time.

Jonah (a.s.) threw himself overboard and was swallowed by a gigantic fish.  This fish settled on the seabed.  Jonah (a.s.) experienced three levels of darkness: the darkness in the belly of the fish, the darkness in the depths of the sea, and the darkness of the moonless night.  In this state of seclusion, Jonah’s (a.s.) heart was moved to repeat this litany:

… “There is no god but Thou: Glory to Thee: I was indeed wrong!” (Surah al-Anbiya’:87)

Jonah (a.s.) fasted continuously, as penance, for forty days.  He repeated this supplication over and over.  The fishes and the other animals in the surrounding ocean heard his litany and they joined in, congregating around the great fish.  The plants joined in and even the surrounding rocks and water echoed with the dzikr.  Every creature supplicated in their own language.  Even the great fish which had swallowed Jonah (a.s.) recited along with him.  After forty days, Jonah (a.s.) was regurgitated from the belly of the creature onto a beach.  Allah (s.w.t.) had Accepted his repentance.

On the shore, Jonah (a.s.) was seared by the heat of the sun.  That short time in the creature had stripped off the topmost layer his skin and removed his ability to stand the sun.  Allah (s.w.t.) in His Mercy had a type of pumpkin plant grow nearby with leaves wide enough to shade Jonah (a.s.) from the light of the sun.  Allah (s.w.t.) Restored his health.  Allah (s.w.t.) Said that were it not for the tasbih he had recited, Jonah (a.s.) would have remained in the belly of the fish until the end of his time.

So also was Jonah among those Sent (by us).  When he ran away (like slave from captivity) to the ship (fully) laden.  He (agreed to) cast lots, and he was condemned: Then the big Fish did swallow him, and he had done acts worthy of blame.  Had it not been that he (repented and) glorified Allah, he would certainly have remained inside the fish until the Day of Resurrection.  But We Cast him forth, on the naked shore in a state of sickness.  And We Caused to grow, over him a spreading plant of the gourd kind.  And We Sent him (on a mission) to a hundred thousand (men) or more.  And they believed; so We Permitted them to enjoy (their life) for a while. (Surah asw-Swaffat:139-148)

Again, Allah (s.w.t.) also Says, as mentioned above:

And remember Dzu an-Nun, when he departed in wrath: he imagined that We had no Power over him!  But he cried through the depths of darkness, "There is no god but Thou: Glory to Thee: I was indeed wrong!"  So We Listened to him: and Delivered him from distress: and thus do We Deliver those who have faith. (Surah al-Anbiya’:87-88)

This short story is one to be reflected many times upon; mainly the benefits and magnitude of such a blessed supplication, what the different layers of darkness represent in our lives and inner selves, what level of concentration and suppressed depression it takes to reach a level of sincerity fit for a prophet.  This teaches us to engage in da’wah with wisdom.  It is not for us to dictate anything.  We are mere facilitators and pillars for support.  Guidance is Allah’s (s.w.t.) Right on what, how, who and when He wants to Give.

The benefits of the litany of Jonah (a.s.) are many as supported by ahadits.  One of them being, “Anyone with intended wishes to attain something, with ablution followed by prostration to Allah (s.w.t.) and reciting the supplication of Jonah forty times, will have his prayers and deep intentions Answered.”

The Prophet (s.a.w.) also said, “I know of a supplication, once recited by those who are in distress and urgent need will get relief from his calamity.  That supplication is the supplication of Prophet Jonah.”


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