This is the first part of a series of articles looking at Ayaat 22-25 of Surah Yunus, which describe the reality of the life of this world, employing very powerful language and imagery. Written by Shafiul Huq.
Verses 22-25 of Surah Yunus touch upon some important themes in a very powerful manner. Some of these themes include the sudden changes that can take place in life, shifting human attitudes with changing circumstances, Allah’s (swt) mercy despite our wrongdoings, the fleeting nature of the life of this world and the everlasting nature of the hereafter.
The language and imagery employed in the verses are absolutely mind blowing. Although a deep appreciation of the verses require knowledge of the Arabic language and cannot be achieved in a brief article, it is still worth highlighting some aspects of the language and aesthetics of the verses which, hopefully, will help us appreciate the verses a bit better.
“He is the One who enables you to travel on land and at sea, until when you are aboard the boats, and they sail with those on board, under a favourable wind, and they are pleased with it, there comes upon them a violent wind, and the wave comes upon them from every direction, and they think that they are surrounded from all sides, they pray to Allah, having faith in Him alone, (and say,) “If You deliver us form this, we shall be grateful indeed” [Yunus:22]
Verse 22 mentions one of the greatest bounties that Allah (swt) has bestowed upon us – the ability to move about on land and at sea. The verse starts off by describing a scene of great happiness – people on board a ship, enjoying a wind that is blowing favourably in the direction of their sail.
However, things change all of a sudden when a strong, unfavourable, merciless wind comes unexpectedly from the opposite direction causing waves to rise from every direction. Then the scene is that of chaos. The people’s happiness vanishes in a moment, and, again:
“they think that they are surrounded from all sides.”
The imagery is similar to that of being surrounded by enemies on all sides with no hope of rescue.
In such a dire situation, the people on board the ship turn to Allah in sincere du’a:
“They pray to Allah, having faith in Him alone, (and say,) “If You deliver us from this, we shall be grateful indeed.” [Yunus:22]
Note the multiple agents of emphasis employed in the du’a that is quoted in the verse:
- “La in anjaitanaa” (if you deliver us…): The laam at the front denotes an omitted qasam, or swearing an oath. Almost like: “We swear by You, oh Allah, that if You deliver us from this…”
- “La nakoonanna” is in the most emphatic form possible in the Arabic language. Almost as in: “We definitely, definitely, definitely will be…”
- “min al-shakireen” (…of the thankful): Note that the people did not say la nashkuranna i.e. “We will definitely thank you.” Rather they said, “We will definitely be from amongst the thankful.” There is a significant difference between the two. If they said, “We will definitely thank you”, that could mean they would thank Allah (swt) once, twice or a handful of times. Rather they said they would be from amongst the thankful, which means that thankfulness is going to be their state of being – they are continuously going to be in a state of thankfulness, instead of thanking Allah (swt) merely once or twice and remaining heedless the rest of the time!
For these desperate people, it was a strong and passionate du’a reflecting the utter desperation of the people on board the troubled ship:
“We swear by You oh Allah that if You deliver us from this, we shall definitely, definitely, definitely be from amongst the thankful!”
In the next article, we will look at Allah’s merciful response to the du’a and people’s ingratitude despite being shown such mercy.
Shafiul Huq is a Melbourne-based activist. He is also a student of Classical Arabic and Cultural Studies.