Jonah/Yunus & the Quran 2 Interpertations

Sura Al Saaffat, Chapter 37, ayats 139-148 briefly describe the biography of the Prophet Yunus (as). Yusuf’s land of origin is pinpointed in aya 146 which states: “We caused a gourd tree (shajarata min yaqtin) to grow over him.” Gourds do not grow on trees. However, trees are used to support gourd plants as the bottle gourd (Lagenaria siceraria). In the case of aya 146, the Quran makes it very clear that the particular tree under which Yunus was thrown was a gourd producing tree. According to Wikipedia, there is only one tree on planet Earth which produces gourds and that tree is Dendrosicyos socotranus, the cucumber tree. The species is endemic to the island of Socotra in Yemen, and is the only species in the Cucurbitaceae to grow in a tree form. So, Yunus is from Yemen and he was sent to his own people, but, for reasons unknown, attempted to escape his prophetic mission by boarding a ship laden with merchandise. There are a few words in this story that allow two interpretations of this tale which describes Yunus being swallowed by a whale.

The aya begins: “And the whale (hwt) swallowed (ltaqamah) him while he was blame worthy. The word is ‘ltaqamah’, whose root may be qwm, which does not mean ‘to swallow’. In this case, qwm means, in the context of this aya ‘he was revived.’ Given the meaning of ltaqamah as revived, the translation of the word ‘hwt’ as ‘whale’ makes no sense as the whale did not revive Yunus. The Arabic word ‘hwt’ is a close match for the Egyptian word xwdw (khudu) Aal-G43-V26-G43 which means a crew of fishermen. If ‘hwt’ means crew of fishermen and it was the crew of fishermen who revived Yunus, then the story can be understood in a different manner.

It appears that Yunus have been a wealthy Yemeni merchant who was reluctant to deliver Allah’s message to the people to whom he was sent. (Probably a rival tribe???). He fled the scene on a ship laden (fulkil-mash-hun) with goods to trade, but was tossed overboard by the crew. A crew of fishermen (hwt/khudu) happened upon him, revived him, robbed him and concealed him in the hull (belly) of their ship to hide their crime. They landed on the island of Socotra where the crew, thinking he was either dead or dying, threw him beneath the gourd tree aka the cucumber tree (shajarata-miny-yaqtin), where he eventually revived. Having learned his lesson, he preached the message of Allah (swt) to the numerous, wealthy tribes in the area.

Assuming that the story of Yunus has something to do with Egypt, the Red Sea, the Arabian Sea and Yemen, then Yunus’ name must be consistent with the theme of the story. Yonah (Jonah) means dove in Hebrew and Aramaic; a name which has nothing to do with Egypt and revival. However, if the name Yunus is Egyptian in origin, then the name fits the story. The name would be ii-wn-is (Yunis) or M18-M17-Z4-D54-U33-M17-E34-N35_M17-S29. The name means The Ever-Living One is Welcome or Al Hayy is Welcome. This name would be consistent with Yusuf’s name in Egyptian which is iiw-sf (Yusef) or Mercy is welcome or perhaps, the Merciful (ArRahman) is welcome. These names are consistent with known Egyptian names as Unas, an Egyptian king of the 5th Dynasty, and the name iiw y ptH or the (god) Ptah is welcome. These names can be traced to the Egyptian Old Kingdom which was involved with trade with Punt (modern Somalia, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Yemen).

Or, alternatively, an Arabian humpback whale (these whales inhabit the Arabian Sea) actually tried to eat him but spat him out on the island of Socotra. Such an event happened June 11th, 2021 to a lobster fisherman, Michael Packard, from Provincetown, Massachusetts. The humpback whale spat him out in the water and he survived with minor injuries. It appears that whales do not like the taste of human flesh. In any case, the word ‘ltqamah’ would mean, in this case, that, ‘he (the whale/hwt) swept him up’ (into his maw).” This act of sweeping food into it the mouth accurately describes the method by which humpback whales sweep food into their mouths. This feeding habits of the humpback whale is a very recent observation which makes the description of the whale’s method of sweeping Yunus into its maw another miracle of the Quran!!! It appears that Yunus was swept up by a whale as was Michael Packard of Provincetown, MA who survived a similar incident while he was fishing off of Cape Cod. Therefore, the preferred scenario, which best describes Yunus’ ordeal with the whale, is the one in which he was actually swept into the whale’s maw. Yunus recuperated or revived from his ordeal beneath the shade of the ‘cucumber tree’. Yusuf, having learned his lesson, returned to the mainland to execute the divine mission with which he was entrusted.

In either case, being pulled from the sea by Egyptian fishermen or being swept into the mouth of a whale, if Yunus was a Yemeni merchant trading with Egypt and using an Egyptian name to facilitate trade, this would explain his journey by ship in the Arabian Sea, the habitat of the Arabian humpback whale. It would also explain why he ended up in Yemen to preach to more than 100 thousand. According to Wikipedia: “With its long sea border between eastern and western civilizations, Yemen has long existed at a crossroads of cultures with a strategic location in terms of trade on the west of the Arabian Peninsula. Large settlements for their era existed in the mountains of northern Yemen as early as 5000 BCE.” Both versions of the Yunus story explain why Yunus landed on Socotra underneath Dendrosicyos socotranus, the cucumber tree.

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