Once again the blessings bestowed upon the Bani Israil are being recounted. They were subjected to great oppression by the Pharaoh and his Government. There were no visible means for their deliverance. Yet they relied on Allaah-SWT and followed in the footsteps of Prophet Musa-AS. The Pharaoh and his Army were destroyed and the Bani Israil were blessed with a beautiful and fertile valley, an abode of the earlier Messengers-AS of Allah-SWT, that is, the sacred land of Jordan and Palestine. They were also blessed with the kingdom of Egypt and with the best of provisions. They were blessed with furnished homes, good wives, healthy offspring, fertile fields, flourishing markets, Allah-SWT's Din and its knowledge, continuous Prophetic lights and a series of His-SWT Messengers-AS. In short, they were flooded with both worldly as well as eternal bounties.
But these unfortunate people dissented at a time when the clear Signs in the form of the Holy Prophet-SW and the Quran had arrived. The prophecy of these two great events was in their own Books, in which they had always believed. They used to pray for Allah-SWT's Succour in the name of the Holy Prophet-SW. Now that the long awaited personage was right in front of them in flesh and body, they dissented and failed to appreciate the Divine Blessings. Of course, they shall not escape Allah-SWT's Grip, for His-SWT Providence demands that every action must bear a result. So on the Day of Judgement all their dissentions will be sorted out. The effects thereof have already been experienced by them in this world in the form of disgrace and humiliation, yet they continue to disobey.
Doubts Must Be Clarified
"O' reader and listener of the Book of Allaah-SWT ! You should not have the slightest of doubts in this Book. And if there is any, you must go and ask the learned scholars and clarify it. In other words, if any one has any doubt over any aspect of Quranic teachings he should not harbour it in his mind but must seek guidance from the scholars in order to get to the correct interpretation. It is obligatory on the scholars to pull people out of the mire of confusion.
O’ reader! The Message of Allaah-SWT sent to you is infallible, and is surely from Him-SWT . It is befitting His-SWT Providence to guide mankind and as such there is no room for the remotest doubt in His-SWT Message. And do not ever be amongst those who deny the Divine Revelations, lest you suffer both in this world as well as in the Hereafter.
The case of those who have gone too far in disobedience is, of course, different. Because of their persistent defiance and sin they are deprived of the capacity to accept guidance. Hell indeed is their destiny. Certainly such people will never accept faith even in the presence of millions of clear evidences or open miracles. Once they witness the painful doom upon death or in Barzakh, they will acknowledge the truth when it will be of no avail to them. And except for the People of Prophet Yunus-AS no other nation was blessed with faith at the eleventh hour. It benefited them and saved them at a time when their destruction had become imminent. Mark that they embraced faith upon witnessing the Signs of visitation and Allah-SWT accepted it and withdrew the catastrophe, which would have destroyed and abased them. They thus got the respite once again.
Commentators and the Story of Prophet Yunus-AS's People
The People of Prophet Yunus-AS lived in the famous settlement of Nineva in the land of Mosul, in Iraq. They were approximately one hundred thousand in number. They did not accept the faith until the Prophet-AS was informed that his people were to be punished. He announced to them that they would perish after three days and left the settlement the same night. The people knew that Prophet Yunus-AS had never lied to them so they anxiously looked around whether he had himself stayed or left the settlement. The next day they found him missing and as they saw a portentous darkness appearing on the sky, they all embraced faith. They first searched but failing to find him, all men, women and children gathered in an open ground outside the settlement and cried to Allaah-SWT in penitence for His-SWT Mercy. Allah-SWT accepted their plea and the impending punishment was withdrawn. This unique event was in perfect accord with the law of nature, for they had repented before the beginning of the onslaught of death. Had the punishment commenced as in case of the Pharaoh, the contrition would not have been accepted, being too late. According to the Commentators the mention of this event adjacent to the ordeal of the Pharaoh highlights Allah-SWT ’s Clemency; how even so close to the end He-SWT accepts the repentance of the non believers.
On the other side, Prophet Yunus-AS awaited the promised doom from a distance. When the clouds of darkness dispersed without unleashing the punishment, he became very dejected at the thought of being deemed as a liar by his people, who he thought would certainly exploit it against him. So he boarded a boat in the Mediterranean to leave for a faraway place. Allah-SWT did not approve of this act and the boat was stranded on the high sea. The other passengers feared that there was possibly a runaway slave on board. Prophet Yunus-AS asserted that he was the one and should be thrown into the sea. Finally they drew a lot, and outcame his name in the draw. He was flung into the sea where, by a Divine Decree, a gigantic fish swallowed him, its stomach becoming his abode for some time.
According to various accounts he stayed inside the fish for forty or seven or five days, or a few hours. He prayed to Allah-SWT : "There is No Allah-SWT save You-SWT Be You-SWT Glorified. Lo! I have been a wrongdoer." (87:21). Allah-SWT accepted his prayer and the fish spewed him out ashore where Allah-SWT made vines to grow providing shade and protection and inspired a wild goat to yield milk for his sustenance. Eventually his people discovered him. This episode basically revolves around the embarrassment he had felt and the apprehensions he had over the possibility of being taken as a liar. It would have been more becoming of the Prophethood to wait for Allah-SWT ’s Decree but his inborn modesty compelled him to take a hasty decision, which was not approved by Allah-SWT . He ended his voyage miraculously and blessed him with even more grace and manifested many miracles at his hand Besides, He also apprised him of his slip and it is only the Prophets-AS who are cautioned against the slightest of tumble. This indeed is because of their innocence and it is a consensus that a Prophet-AS innocent.
The accounts given above are the gist of many exegetical works, for example, Ruh al M'ani, Zemahshari, Mazhari, Qartabi, Behr-e-Muheet, Tibri and Ibn-e-Khathir etc. With a slight variation in words all of them have discussed the event to this extent, except Maulana Maudoodi’s ’ Tafhim al Quran wherein he writes (p.312-Vol-2): "A careful study of the details of the Scriptures of Prophet Yunus-AS clearly indicates that there were some shortcomings on his part in the execution of his Prophetic assignments.” This discussion extends to a few more lines on the subject but it is only his personal opinion which is contrary to the consensus, and as such, heretic. If it can be expected of a Prophet-AS that he fell short in the discharge of his duty then where is the belief of innocence and what is the status of Prophethood? (Allah-SWT forbid)!
The fact is that the learned commentator (Maulana Maudoodi) has relied on suppositions. Firstly, the Scriptures of Prophet Yunus-AS are not authentic; secondly, he has assumed that the withdrawal of the catastrophe was against the Divine Law, whereas it was perfectly in accordance with it. Then he has supposed that the Prophet-AS had violated Allah-SWT ’s Decree and deserted the assignment of calling mankind to Allah-SWT . This is all wrong and improper. To hold such a belief regarding a Prophet-AS is pure infidelity. I cannot figure out why the scholars did dwell on this interpretation and passed verdict over it.
In fact, the Ayah under discussion highlights the limits until which repentance is accepted by Allaah-SWT and also when it is of no avail, as evident from the accounts of both the Pharaoh and the People of Prophet Yunus,as. Besides, his decision not to return to his people was caused by the thought of being termed as a liar, though it did not befit his exalted office. Also, he did not expect that he would be liable for it. Yet Allaah-SWT cautioned him and he had to remain confined inside a fish. In addition to being the censure it also served as a source of demonstrating his greatness to die people. The research scholars must show due regard to the status of Prophethood. This statement that he fell short of expounding Din properly, even if made about Maulana Maudoodi himself, would neither be approved by him nor his followers. Then how can he say such words about a Prophet-AS? May Allaah-SWT protect the Muslims from such a trial!
The Holy Prophet-SW is being told that if Allah-SWT had so desired, not a single soul would have remained a non believer on the face of earth and everyone would have embraced Islam. But Allah-SWT does not approve of such compulsion and has left the decision to accept or reject with every individual. Hence inspite of the Holy Prophet-SW‘s keen desire he-SW cannot forcibly convey the light of faith to anyone. And no human being can accept the faith outside the rules laid down by Allah-SWT . Only when he contemplates over Allah-SWT ’s Signs with a heart ready to accept the truth, will he be blessed with faith, and not otherwise. Rather, the law of nature is that those who do not even bother to think about Allah-SWT ’s Signs by making use of their intellect are left to enjoy the stench of disbelief.
The Holy Prophet-SW must invite the non believers to ponder over the heavens and the earth, the stars that twinkle in the sky, the incessant cycle of days and nights and the infallible administration of the universe. Are these not ample proofs of His Greatness? But this reasoning cannot be of any avail to those unfortunate wrongdoers, whose piles of sin have grown so much that they are deprived of the capacity to accept Islam. Neither any logical argument nor the forewarning of a doom or eternal punishment can benefit them. They are practically in a state, whereby like the preceding accursed nations, they too are awaiting a catastrophe. The Holy Prophet-SW must let them know that he is also waiting for that decisive moment. Allah-SWT , by His-SWT Grace, always protects His-SWT Prophets-AS and all those who follow them from calamities. His-SWT Magnificence dictates that He-SWT provides safety to those who adore Him-SWT .