“La ilaha illa anTa SubhanaKa Inni kuntu minaz zalimin” (There is none worthy of worship besides You; You are far exalted and above all weaknesses. Surely, I am from among the wrongdoers”)
This was the Du’a (or Invocation) of Prophet Yunus ibn Matta (known in the Bible as Jonah the son of Amittai), upon whom be peace, when he was seeking salvation from the belly of the whale, as Allah (exalted be His Name) Himself narrated the story to us in the Qur’an Sura Anbiya (Chapter of The Prophets) 21:87.
The story of Yunus, upon whom be peace, is summarised by renowned Islamic Scholar, Exegete and Historian Imam ibn Kathir (may Allah have mercy on him) in his “The Stories of the Prophets” (see www.islamreligion.com/articles/2548/prophet-jonah):
“Prophet Jonah was sent to a community in Iraq [which ibn Kathir recognises as Nineveh]. As is the case with all the Prophets, Jonah came to Nineveh to call the people to worship One God. However, the people refused to listen. He gave a warning that God would punish their arrogant behaviour, but the people jeered and claimed they were not afraid. The conduct of his people exasperated Jonah and he decided to leave.
“Immediately Jonah left, the sky began to change colour and turned as red as fire. The people were filled with fear and understood that they were only moments from destruction. The entire population gathered on a mountaintop and begged God for forgiveness. God accepted their repentance and removed the wrath that was hanging ominously over their heads. The sky returned to normal, and the people were delivered. They prayed that Jonah would come back to them and guide them to the straight path.
“In the meantime, Jonah had boarded a ship in the hope it would take him far away from his heedless people. The ship and its many passengers sailed into calm seas, but soon encountered violent storms. The waves were as high as mountains and the wild storm plunged the boat up and down as if it were a feather. It seemed it would break into pieces and sink. The people huddled in the dark and decided to throw their luggage overboard, but it made no difference. The wind blew and the boat trembled.
“The passengers concluded there had to be someone among them with whom God was angry. It was a seafaring tradition to cast lots and draw up such person who would then be cast overboard. The ballot was drawn and it fell on Jonah. The people were appalled as Jonah was known to be a pious and righteous man. They cast again and again, but both times the name drawn was Jonah’s.
“Jonah knew that this was not random. He understood it was from God, for leaving Nineveh before permission was given. He flung himself over the side of the boat and disappeared into the angry waves. The passengers gasped in horror. But to their relief, the sea immediately calmed down.
“Jonah was scooped up into the enormous jaws of a whale. When he awoke from unconsciousness, he thought he was dead and was lying in the darkness of his grave. He felt around and realised that this was not a grave, but the belly of a whale. He felt his heart beating deep in his chest and lurching towards his throat with every ragged breath he took. Jonah was sitting in strong, acidic, digestive juices that were eating away at his skin. In the darkness of the fish, in the darkness of the sea and in the darkness of the night, Jonah raised his voice and cried out to God: ‘La ilaha illa anTa SubhanaKa Inni kuntu minaz zalimin!’”
Could it be so with Coronavirus. Is God angry with one of us? Or a nation among us? There have been many transgressions throughout contemporary history, but how can humanity isolate that particular offending individual or nation? Could there be a ballot to isolate them and cast them ‘overboard’ so that humanity may be saved from COVID-19? Could, for example, the Shaikh of Azhar, the Pope and the Chief Rabbi of Israel (representing the three Monotheistic Religions) hold a ballot and help us identify such culprit?
Another article that further illustrates the story of Jonah, ‘Insight Into the Prayer of Jonah (upon whom be peace) in the Qur’an’ by Asma Mermer and Umeyye Yazicioglu in the ‘The Journal of Scriptural Reasoning’ (www.jsr.shanti.virginia.edu/back-issues/vol-3-no-1-extending-the-signs-jonah-in-scriptural-reasoning/an-insight-into-the-prayer-of-jonah-p-in-the-quran) says:
“The Qur’anic account of the story of Prophet Jonah is similar to the Biblical story in many grounds. Prophet Muhammad (upon whom be peace) is reported to have said if a Muslim recites the prayer of Jonah, God would definitely respond to him/her. Hence, the prayer of Jonah in the Qur’an is well known among Muslims and is often invoked in times of distress. The event of Jonah’s salvation points to a universal truth, namely that a needy human being can only be delivered from the threatening vicissitudes of life through forming a connection with Allah.
“Heedlessness is the source of the evil. For, when in a state of heedlessness, man forgets that everything is under the control of his Creator, and he imagines that events are unrelated and meaningless. Thus, he falls into despair. It is only when he re-affirms Divine Unity that he can seek refuge in the mercy of God and attain salvation. Thus, although Jonah’s prayer is talking about an event that occurred in the past, it is possible to witness its truthfulness because it refers to a truth which everyone experiences.”
So Allah MUN TUBA! You promised in Sura Anfal, Chapter of The Spoils of War 8:33 that: “But God was not going to send them (the people) an azaba (penalty, torment) whilst you (Muhammad) was among them; nor was He going to send it (azaba) whilst they seek for pardon (and forgiveness).
And we again invoke La ilaha illa anTa SubhanaKa Inni kuntu minaz zalimin!