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When Nineveh Met Taif

Zeba Khan

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Nineveh

It was a sad day in Ninevah. The Prophet Yunus, peace be upon him, was leaving.

Angry, frustrated, and unable to continue what felt like a hopeless endeavor, he boarded the first ship out of town, leaving his homeland behind. He had tried and tried and tried– but no matter how hard he argued or how sincerely he reasoned, his people were unwilling to see that reason. And he couldn’t see himself staying there anymore, so he left.

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The ship left the shore, and as it sailed towards the open sea his homeland grew smaller in the distance. He looked towards its shore and he could see the land, the trees, the sky above the place where he had been born and brought up. He could also see clouds- dark, angry rolling clouds gathering above. A storm was brewing.

Yunus assumed that the storm would be unleashed on his people, but it turns out that the people of Nineveh did something unusual when they saw the wrath of God coming- they actually repented. And Allah forgave them.

Wow. I know, right? All those other times people saw the wrath of God coming and thought, “Wow, those are some ominous-looking clouds. I bet it’s going to be a lovely drizzle! It’s not like God’s angry at us or anything…” but the people of Nineveh got it right. So that storm never hit them. It hit Prophet Yunus 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) instead.

Back on the boat, there was chaos. The ocean waves had grown into rolling hills, and the ship scaled their heights before racing down their depths and into the danger of capsizing. People began throwing their belongings over- their life’s possessions, their wares, their financial investments in the future- to save the reality of their present. It wasn’t enough. That’s when they threw Yunus 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) over instead.

Man, first his own people rejected him. Now the people on the boat chucked him into the monstrous waves of a Wrath Level storm. It couldn’t get any worse. Or maybe it did, because that’s when an enormous whale swallowed Yunus 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) and swam straight to the bottom of the ocean.

Beneath the darkness of the storm lay the darkness of the water. Within the darkness of the water swam the darkness within the whale. And in the darkness of the whale, Yunus 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) thought he was dead.

He lay unmoving, unseeing, unsure of what-if anything- was to come. Then, in silence of the darkness he heard a tiny sound. He listened closer and realized he was hearing the pebbles on the ocean floor. They were making tasbih.

That is when Yunus 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) understood he was still alive. Grateful, ashamed, humbled – he began to turn his body. He squeezed and pushed against the crushing insides of the whale until he was lying on his stomach. Then he strained, he pulled, he fought until his knees were bent beneath him, and pulled his hands around to his face. There, in the belly of the whale, in the darkness within the darkness within the darkness- Yunus 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) made sujood.

He prayed.

لَّا إِلَهَ إِلَّا أَنتَ سُبْحَانَكَ إِنِّي كُنتُ مِنَ الظَّالِمِينَ

La illaha illa Anta Subhanak, inni kuntu min adhdhalimeen 

There is no God but you Allah, and truly I am from among those who have sinned.

There is no God but you Allah, and truly I am from among those who have sinned.

There is no God but you Allah, and truly I am from among those who have sinned.

He made this dua over and over again, and he kept repeated it until the whale began to swim upwards, rising from the ocean’s darkness to the shore’s light, where he spat Yunus onto the shore.

Sunlight seared Yunus’s raw, acid-burned skin. He screamed, and then turned that scream into prayer- GAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaathere is no God but you Allah, and truly I am from among those who have sinned. There is no God but you Allah, and truly I am from among those who have sinned.

He kept praying until the pain subsided and the skin healed, and to make a long story short- it turns out the people that Yunus AS ran away from were looking for him. They wanted him to teach them the faith that they had earlier rejected. And here is where Nineveh meets Taif.

When the Messenger of Allah, Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was ten years into his mission, he was hit with terrible loss. His wife Khadijah raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her)– who had been best friend, his wife, his first believer and his first supporter- died. In the same year, his Uncle Abu Taleb— who had been his protector and friend —also died. And not only did he die- he died without accepting Islam or becoming a Muslim.

In this state of grief, Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) had a big problem.

The chiefs of the Quraysh controlled who could live or stay in Makkah, and getting the chief’s stamp was kind of like getting a visa or a greencard. No visa? No residence. Abu Talib had been stamping Muhammad’s ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) proverbial visa to this point, but when he died, his brother stood next in line to head the tribe of Bani Hashim.

You know Abu Talib’s younger brother don’t you? Abdul Uzza- aka- your jolly old uncle Abu Lahab?

Abu Lahab was one of the Prophet’s most hateful opponents. Despite being related by blood, he was viciously opposed to his nephew’s mission. His wife put thorns outside the Prophet’s door, and Abu Lahab himself dumped camel guts there. Because when cursing, rejecting, and disowning your own family members isn’t enough, the next logical step is guts.

Having lost his wife, his uncle, and the protection needed to stay in his hometown, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) went to Taif to see if the people there would be receptive to the message of Islam.

Contrary to pop-seerah, he didn’t just walk in and then get pelted out with stones on the same day. He was there for weeks- talking, reasoning, calling people to the beauty of Islam and instead facing the ugliness of rejection.

“What, you? A messenger?” people spat in his direction.

He faced weeks of spite, arrogance, and verbal abuse. Finally, he was forced to leave the city, and on his way out, the children of Taif pelted him with stones until he bled all the way into his sandals.

In physical pain and emotional anguish, the Messenger of Allah slumped down against a palm tree outside a home at the outskirts of Taif, and covered in blood- he began to cry.

The owners of the home looked out their window and took pity on him, sending out a slave with a plate of grapes. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) accepted the grapes and before eating said, “Bismillah hir-Rahman nir-Raheem.”

Curious, the slave asked Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) what his name was. Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) introduced himself and asked the slave what his name was.   The slave’s name was Addas.

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) asked where he was from, as Addas was not a local name. Addas said he was from Nineveh.

“Nineveh?” The Prophet remarked, “You are of the people of Yunus.”

“What would you know about Yunus?” Addas challenged, surprised that some random bleeding Arab would have anything to say about his Christian homeland.

The Prophet said, “Yunus was a prophet, and I am a prophet, and the prophets are brothers.”

And there the story of Yunus intertwined with the story of Muhammad, and Addas— a Christian slave— became the only person to embrace both the Prophet and Islam in Taif that day.

And Allah is the Best of Planners.

Update: For the source of this story and more detailed information, please refer to Tafseer of Surah Al Anbiyyah, Shaykh Abdul Naser Jangda, Ayah 87, video available here.  

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Zeba Khan is the Director of Development for MuslimMatters.org and the producer of the newly launched Muslimmatters Podcast, as well as a writer, speaker, and disability awareness advocate. In addition to having a child with autism, she herself lives with Ehlers-Danlos Sydrome, Dysautonomia, Mast-Cell Activation Disorder, and a random assortment of acronyms that collectively translate to chronic illness and progressive disability.

13 Comments

13 Comments

  1. Avatar

    RedCloakedGirl

    June 7, 2016 at 6:26 AM

    Hilariously written, yet apt in description. Jaza kallah khair :)
    *chuckles in the corner* Pop Seerah

  2. Avatar

    Nuraini

    June 7, 2016 at 7:53 AM

    Could you provide citations sister? This is a lovely story.

  3. Avatar

    Zakariya

    June 7, 2016 at 1:26 PM

    Subhanallah beautiful ☺

  4. Avatar

    M

    June 7, 2016 at 1:47 PM

    Pop-seerah? Loll. I would really love it if you could provide citations sister. I never heard this part of Prophet Yunus’s (PBUH) story before; I never knew his people repented. And how did they end up being Christian?

  5. Avatar

    Umm Jehan

    June 8, 2016 at 5:05 AM

    Although the article is well written, its below the dignity to use words like pop seerah when writting about RasoolAllah (pbuh), Allah’s beloved prophet. RasoolalAllah (pbuh) position is so exalted that he (pbuh) conversed with Allah without any barriers on the night of Isra. Please be careful.

    • Zeba Khan

      Zeba Khan

      June 8, 2016 at 11:34 PM

      AssalamuAlaikum Sister, JazakAllahuKheiran for the feed-back. :) Pop-Seerah refers to the popular practice of shortening and over-simplifying the actual Seerah of the Prophet ﷺ. Stories of much pain, importance, and significance get turned into sound-bytes and the details become lost in their translation from true seerah to pop-seerah. That is what is being referred to InshaAllah.

  6. Avatar

    Jemil Ahmed

    June 8, 2016 at 5:14 AM

    Subhanellah!! Very Beautiful Story

  7. Avatar

    Spirituality

    June 8, 2016 at 1:22 PM

    Jazak Allau Khayran a million times for these stories!

    The telling was light hearted, culturally relevant, and very picturesque. I am going through some hardships now, and found it very moving and deep as well.

    لَّا إِلَهَ إِلَّا أَنتَ سُبْحَانَكَ إِنِّي كُنتُ مِنَ الظَّالِمِينَ

  8. Avatar

    Suleman

    June 9, 2016 at 3:55 AM

    well written
    May Allah bestow all of us with the main crux regarding this article.
    All Prophets bear so many hardships only and only so that ummah get successful in this world and Hereafter.
    So lets we all decide and start to practice religion ourself and also to make effort so that all the ummah get start practicing 100% religion.

  9. Avatar

    Muhammed ali mirza

    June 9, 2016 at 6:03 AM

    Subhanallah mashallah

  10. Avatar

    Umaneesa

    June 10, 2016 at 1:40 AM

    Just marvelling over the significance and symbolism of the 2 cities: the guided and the to-be-guided. Also how Addas was not going to repeat history by rejecting again. Great writing sis!

  11. Avatar

    Zain Zubair

    June 13, 2016 at 6:43 AM

    SubhanAllah. .Amazing post. .Thanks for Sharing!!!! :-)

  12. Avatar

    Khadhija

    June 18, 2016 at 12:38 PM

    Somehow i wish u had not tried to make a fun version out of the seerah. It difficult to connect to harship of our prophet saw in the manner presented.
    May allah forgive all our short comings

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