This Sûrah, as usual, symbolically has been taken its name from verse 98, in which there is a mention of Prophet Yûnus (Jonah). However, the topic of discussion of this Sûrah is not the story of Prophet Yûnus.
Place of Revelation:
We learn from traditions and the contents of Sûrah support it -- that this complete Sûrah was reveled in Makkah. It is opinion of some people that some of its verses are of the Madanni period, but this is a shallow guess. It is very clear from the continuity of the speech that this is not a collection of isolated verses or discourses revealed on different occasions – but from the beginning to the end it is a complete speech that would have been revealed at the same time, and the contents of the speech itself is a clear proof that it is a speech of Makki period.
Period of Revelation:
We could not find any tradition about the period of revelation. However, it appears from the subject matter that it would have been revealed during the last period of the Prophet Muhammad sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam's stay at Makkah. Because the style of the speech gives the feelings that the hostility of the opponents of the Message has reached to the limits, they are not ready to tolerate the presence of the Prophet Muhammad sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and his followers among themselves, now there is no hope that they would come to the straight path in a peaceful way, and now the time has come to warn them from the consequences they would have to face for not accepting the Message of Prophet Muhammad sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. These characteristics of the subject clearly show us that which Sûrahs are related to the last period of Makkah. But there is no mentioning of emigration (Hijrat) in this Sûrah, this is why the period of revelation of this Sûrah should be considered before those Sûrahs in which we do find some type of indication about the emigration --- after determining about the time period there is no need to present its historical background, because the historical background of that period has already been stated in Sûrah Al-An'âm (VI) and Sûrah A’râf (VII).
The topics of the speech are -- the invitation, advice and warning. The speech starts like this:
The people are surprised that a human being has presented a Message of Prophethood and they are blaming him of being a magician, whereas whatever he is presenting has nothing strange and has no connection with magic. He is warning you of two realities. First, Allâh subhaana wa ta’aala, WHO is creator of the universe and practically managing it, HE Alone is your Master and Owner and HE Alone has the right to be served. Second, there will be another life period after the life in this world, in which you will be bring back to life again, there will be full accountability of this worldly life and will be rewarded or punished according to the basic question whether acknowledging HIM as your Master you obeyed Allâh subhaana wa ta’aala and adopted the righteous attitude according to HIS Command or acted against HIS Command. Both of these realities, which he is presenting before you -- are Realities in themselves whether you accept them as such or not. He invites you to accept these and regulate your lives according to them. If you will accept his this invitation -- you will have a very blessed end, otherwise will see the evil end.
After this introduction -- the following topics come in a special order:
In this connection, a brief story about Prophet Noah and detailed story of Prophet Musâ has been narrated; there are four things to learn from it:
First, the behavior you are adopting towards Prophet Muhammad sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam; is like the one which has been adopted by your predecessors towards Prophet Noah and Prophet Musâ, and be certain the consequences they have suffered for this act -- you will also meet with the same. Secondly, today you are observing the situation of helplessness and weakness of the Prophet Muhammad sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and his followers -- you should not take it for granted that it will remain forever. You should know that the same Allâh subhaana wa ta’aala is supporting them WHO supported Prophet Moses and Aaron, and that HE turns the circumstances in such a way that no one can foresee it. Thirdly, the opportunity Allâh subhaana wa ta’aala is giving you to mend your ways -- if you wasted it – then like Fir’aun (Pharaoh) if you repented at the last moment it will not be accepted. Fourthly, those people who had brought Faith in Prophet Muhammad sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam were advised that they should not be dishearten because of the severity of the opposition and their helpless condition, and they should know how to work in such circumstances. In addition, they have been warned not to adopt the behavior which was adopted by the Israelites, when Allâh subhaana wa ta’aala rescue them from this situation.
At the end of this Sûrah it has been announced that this is the Faith and the Right Path, which Allâh subhaana wa ta’aala has commanded HIS Prophet Muhammad sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam to follow – in it no change can be made at all, whosoever will embrace it he/she will do so for his/her own good and whosoever will reject it and does evil deeds he/she will do so at his/her own risk."