An Introduction to Surat Yunus (Jonah)
Names of the Surah
1- Surat Yunus (Jonah)
This title is taken from the verse that mentions the Prophet Yunus (peace be upon him):
Then has there not been a [single] city that believed so its faith benefited it except the people of Jonah? (Yunus 10:98)
Period of Revelation
We learn from traditions, and this is supported by the contents of the Surah itself, that the whole of this Surah was revealed at Makkah. But there are some people who are of the opinion that some of its verses were revealed at Al-Madinah. This is, however, a superficial view. The continuity of the theme clearly shows that this does not comprise isolated verses or discourses that were revealed at different times and on different occasions. On the contrary, it is, from the beginning to the end, a closely connected discourse which must have been revealed at one sitting. Besides this, the nature of its theme is itself a clear proof that the Surah belongs to the Makkan period.
Time of Revelation
There is no tradition in regard to the time of its revelation, but its subject matter gives clear indication that it must have been revealed during the last stage of the Prophet’s residence at Makkah. For the mode of the discourse suggests that at the time of its revelation, the antagonism of the opponents of the Message had become so intense that they could not tolerate even the presence of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and his followers among themselves, and that things had come to such a pass as to leave no hope that they would ever understand and accept the Message of the Prophet. This indicates that the last stage of the Prophet’s life among these people had come, and the final warning like the one in this Surah had to be given. These characteristics of the discourse are clear proof that it was revealed during the last stage of the Movement at Makkah.
Topics of the Surah
1- The Surah first addresses the idolaters’ attitude to the fact that the Prophet received revelations from on high, and to the Qur’an itself. It makes clear that there is nothing to wonder about with regard to revelation. It further asserts that the Qur’an could not have been invented by anyone who might have then attributed it to God.
2- Graphic descriptions of the life in the Hereafter have been presented in order to warn the people beforehand so that they should mend their ways here and be not sorry afterwards for their conduct in this world.
3- The surah makes clear to them that the basic evidence of the truth of the Islamic faith is the Qur’an itself which embodies, through its superior qualities, evidence of its divine nature.
4- It also explains that signs and evidence are given by Allah and subject to His will. The time when they receive their reward is determined by Allah alone. The Prophet has no say in this, as he is only a servant of Allah, like the rest of Allah’s creation. All this contributes to the expostulation on the Islamic concept of Godhead and people’s submission to Him.
5- The surah also addresses the unbelievers’ confused ideas about Allah and people’s relation to Him. This is essentially what the Prophet talked to them about, but they denied the truth of revelation, expressed doubts about it, demanding at times that the Prophet should produce a different Qur’an, and at other times that he should produce a physical miracle.
6- Furthermore, the surah points out that the unbelievers often have a false sense of security in this life, overlooking the hereafter and denying man’s inevitable meeting with Allah on the Day of Judgment.
Sayyed Abu A`la Maududi’s Tafhim Al-Qur’an.
Sayyid Qutb’s Fi Zhilal Al-Qur’an.