Devotional — Jonah’s whale

Published 2:01 pm Saturday, November 5, 2022

The story of Jonah, given in scripture, provides an interesting metaphor of struggles that we face.

Jonah was given a mission, by The Almighty, to guide his people toward spiritual consciousness. His people ignored him and his initial attempts were unsuccessful. Finding the task too difficult, Jonah left and took to the sea by ship.

Displeased with Jonah’s denial of his mission, The Almighty brought a great storm on the sea and his shipmates, fearful for their lives, cast Jonah into the sea. When he entered the water he was swallowed by a big fish. He eventually repented and was cast onto shore to continue his mission. Upon his return, his community was more receptive to his teaching and repented from their ungodly behavior. (Jonah 1-3; Qur’an 37:139-148).

The Almighty creates each of us with a mission. He endows us with intuitive knowledge of moral and ethical behavior. What is good, right, honest and just is sharply contrasted to bad, wrong, dishonesty and injustice in the quiet recesses of our mind and heart. If we accept to follow His Divine moral compass, we can navigate our lives progressing from stage to stage without severe hardships.

If, on the other hand, we decline to follow His Divine laws of equity, metaphorical storms befall us. Hardships find fertile soil in our being until they seem to overpower us with hopelessness.

When despair overtakes us, we engage in destructive practices. The big fish swallows us. We turn to abusive behavior to ourselves and others. In the dark cavity of the whale, we may resort to substance abuse or other self-destructive habits. Just as Jonah, we remain in that condition until we repent and choose to live consistent with Divinely inspired human characteristics.

The most fascinating aspect of this metaphor is that the big fish can take many forms. It may, for example, be that one is so preoccupied with material wealth and power that consideration for the welfare of others is completely disregarded. Greed and self-interest overshadow human qualities of good, right, honesty and justice.

Just as Jonah’s repentance freed him from his personal horror, so too does each of us have a similar opportunity. Divorcing ourselves from avarice and hedonistic behavior propels us closer to guidance from our Creator. His warm cloak of tranquility comforts us, inviting our body, mind and spirit to a state of eternal peace.

Qadir Abdus-Sabur, Ph.D. is an Imam at the Islamic Center of Prince Edward. His email address is