The story of Jonah is mentioned a number of times in the Quran. Jonah was sent by God as a messenger to a nation in modern-day Iraq according to Muslim historians. It was a thriving nation and city. God describes it in the Quran, “We sent him, Jonah, to a hundred thousand people or more.” 37:147 Jonah called his people to worship God alone and reject false gods, however they rejected his call and message. Jonah warned his people of God’s impending punishment and then left the city.
When Jonah’s people saw God’s punishment they repented to God and believed in Him. God withdrew His punishment. Jonah felt that his people would consider him to have been dishonest as the punishment he promised did not come. Jonah embarked on a ship and decided to leave without God’s permission. The ship fell into a storm and was overloaded. The passengers of the ship decided that someone would have to be thrown overboard in order to save the rest.
They began to draw lots. The first lot drawn was Jonah’s. The passengers, knowing that he was God’s messenger, decided to redraw the lots. However, each time it would be Jonah’s lot that was drawn. Jonah realised this was God’s decision. He was then cast into the sea. God says, “Jonah too was one of the messengers. He fled to the overloaded ship. They cast lots, and he suffered defeat.” 37:140-142
God decreed that Jonah would be swallowed by a whale in the sea. It was in the depths of the belly of the whale in the depths of the sea that Jonah turned to God, seeking His aid and forgiveness. God says, “If he had not been one of those who glorified God and declared His perfection, he would have stayed in its belly until the Day when all are raised up.” 37:143-144 The supplication made by Jonah is also recorded in the Quran, “None has the right to be worshipped except You, You are perfect, I was from the wrongdoers.” 21:87
God saved Jonah from the whale and he was placed on the shore of a land where God gave him sustenance. God says, “We cast him out, sick on a barren shore. And made a gourd tree grow above him.” 37:145-146 God praises Jonah for his realisation of his mistake and turning back in repentance in the Quran. The Messenger Muhammad mentioned Jonah’s virtues in his teachings.
God says addressing the Messenger Muhammad and his followers, “Wait patiently for your Lord’s judgement: do not be like the man in the whale who called out in distress. If his Lord’s grace had not reached him, he would have been left, abandoned and blameworthy, on the barren shore. But his Lord chose him and made him one of the righteous.” 68:48-50