Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Jonah and the Bush in the Quran

The readings in our Lectionary or daily readings, have been from Jonah. Johan has always been very real to me, growing up in Alaska, where great whales would swim in front of my house and occasionally a whale would beach, to the sorrow of all. Then one day, in far away Doha, a world away from Alaska, my Arabic instructor started telling us this story of Younis, and it sounded remarkably similar. I’d lived in the MIddle East for years, and I had no idea how many of our prophets also appear in the Quran.

So this morning, as the chapter of Jonas was finishing, I came to this one part, which has never made a lot of sense to me, Jonah mad at God because when Nineveh repents, God relents and does not destroy Nineveh (Jonah 3:10 – 4:11):

10 When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.
4 But this was very displeasing to Jonah, and he became angry. 2 He prayed to the Lord and said, ‘O Lord! Is not this what I said while I was still in my own country? That is why I fled to Tarshish at the beginning; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing. 3 And now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.’ 4 And the Lord said, ‘Is it right for you to be angry?’ 5 Then Jonah went out of the city and sat down east of the city, and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, waiting to see what would become of the city.

6 The Lord God appointed a bush,* and made it come up over Jonah, to give shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort; so Jonah was very happy about the bush. 7 But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the bush, so that it withered. 8 When the sun rose, God prepared a sultry east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint and asked that he might die. He said, ‘It is better for me to die than to live.’

9 But God said to Jonah, ‘Is it right for you to be angry about the bush?’ And he said, ‘Yes, angry enough to die.’ 10 Then the Lord said, ‘You are concerned about the bush, for which you did not labour and which you did not grow; it came into being in a night and perished in a night. 11 And should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who do not know their right hand from their left, and also many animals?’

Jonah is sulking? Jonah is angry that Nineveh listened, and turned from their evil ways?

(This time, too, as I read, I saw that last line where God is talking and he asks Jonah should he not be concerned about more than a hundred and twenty thousand people AND also many animals. 🙂 I love having a verse to quote from a book about a prophet common to both Christianity and Islam which clearly shows God has a concern for how animals are treated. )

So I Googled “Jonah in Quran” and found a Wikipedia article describing Jonah’s story from the Quran, which

Jonah’s Qur’anic narrative is extremely similar to the Hebrew Bible story. The Qur’an describes Jonah as a righteous preacher of the message of Islam but a messenger who, one day, fled from his mission because it’s overwhelming difficulty. The Qur’an says that Jonah made it onto a ship but, because of the powerfully stormy weather, the men aboard the ship suggested casting lots to throw off the individual responsible for this ‘bad luck’. When the lots were cast, Jonah’s name came out, and he was thrown into the open ocean that night. A gigantic fish came and swallowed him, and Jonah remained in the belly of the fish repenting and glorifying God to the maximum.

As God says: So also was Jonah among those sent (by Us). When he ran away (like a 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 God, He would certainly have remained inside the Fish till the Day of Resurrection. (37:139-144).

God forgave Jonah out of His mercy and kindness for the man, and because he knew that Jonah was, at heart, one of the best of men. Therefore, the fish cast Jonah out onto dry land, with Jonah in a state of sickness. Thus, God caused a plant to grow where Jonah was lying to provide shade and comfort for the man. After Jonah got up, fresh and well, God told him to go back and preach at his land. As the Qur’an says:

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. (37:145-148).

Aha! Jonah was sick. If I were in the belly of a fish for three days, I might be sick, too. And when I am sick, I can be irrational, and cranky, and like a sick cat I just want to crawl away and hide under a bush. In another commentary, the author suggests that as a Hebrew, Jonah might wish for the demolition of an Assyrian stronghold, which also makes sense.

October 14, 2010 - Posted by | Adventure, Character, Cross Cultural, Doha, Education, ExPat Life, Living Conditions, Poetry/Literature, Qatar, Spiritual

4 Comments »

  1. These are the prophets mentioned in the Quran:

    Adam
    Idris (Enoch)
    Nuh (Noah)
    Hud
    Saleh
    Ibrahim (Abraham)
    Isma’il (Ishmael)
    Ishaq (Isaac)
    Lut (Lot)
    Ya’qub (Jacob)
    Yousef (Joseph)
    Shu’aib
    Ayyub (Job)
    Musa (Moses)
    Harun (Aaron)
    Dhu’l-kifl (Ezekiel)
    Dawud (David)
    Sulaiman (Solomon)
    Ilias (Elias)
    Al-Yasa (Elisha)
    Yunus (Jonah)
    Zakariyya (Zechariah)
    Yahya (John)
    ‘Isa (Jesus)
    Muhammad

    There are 25 names mentioned in the Quran. However, There are some more prophets that weren’t mentioned.

    Comment by Yousef | October 17, 2010 | Reply

  2. From wikipedia:

    His story is recounted in As-Saaffat (sura 37, Those Who Set The Ranks, Drawn Up In Ranks) of the Qur’an. God says, in the Qur’an:

    So also was Jonah among those sent (by Us).
    When he ran away (like a 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 till 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.

    —Qur’an, sura 37 (As-Saaffat), ayat 139-148[2]

    Link http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islamic_view_of_Jonah

    Comment by Yousef | October 17, 2010 | Reply

  3. Thank you, Yousef! 🙂 Our books also carry the same message, that first, we are to love and submit to God, and second, we are to take care of one another.

    Comment by intlxpatr | October 17, 2010 | Reply

  4. yep 🙂

    Comment by Yousef | October 18, 2010 | Reply


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