ZAKARIYA (AS) AND YAHYA (AS) (JOHN)
After the death of Suleiman (AS) there came some pious people who were from the ancestry of Ibrahim and of Yaakub (AS). They were from the family of Imraan (the Aal Imraan); however, the lmraan mentioned in the Quraan was a descendant of Daud (AS) and is not Musa’s (AS) father. Ashyaa’ (Elisabeth) the wife of Zakariya (AS) and Maiyam (Marry), Issa’s (Jesus) mother were sisters, daughters of Imraan. Zakariya bin Daan (AS) was a descendant of Suleiman bin Daud (AS), and therefore Yahya (AS) (Zakariya’s son) was Issa’s cousin, the son of his maternal aunt.
Our parable explains that Maryam’s mother; the wife of Imraan, was barren and could not conceive and her husband had passed the age of being able to get any children. One day the wife of Imraan prayed to her Lord: “O my Lord! If you give me a son I will dedicate him to work in Baitil-Maqdis.” Thus by the Will of God she conceived. This is narrated in Sura Aal Irmaan (iii) verse 35 as follows:
Behold! A woman of Imraan said: “O my Lord! I do dedicate unto thee what is in my womb for Thy special services: so accept this of me: for Thou hearest and knowest all things.”*
It was customary among the people to send their sons to Baitil- Maqdis to work in the temple under the supervision of priests, and be taught the religion and read the Tawraat at the same time. As we have seen Maryam’s mother had dedicated what was in her womb for the special services of Baitil-Maqdis; but when she gave birth, it was a girl, who was named Maryam, meaning the servant of God in Hebrew.
When she was delivered, she said: “O my Lord! Behold! I am delivered of a female child!” — And God knew best what she brought forth — “And nowise is the male like the female. I have named her Maryam, and I commend her and her offspring to Thy protection from the Evil One, The Rejected.”* (Aal-Imraan (iii) 36)
Malyam’s mother expected a male child, was she disappointed that it was a female child? No, for she had faith and she knew that God’s Plan was better than any wishes of hers. Maryam (AS) was no ordinary girl, only God knew what it was that her mother brought forth.
Imraan was one of those learned priests of Baitil-Maqdis, thus his wife asked him for his advice about the child, as the female child could not be devoted to the Temple services under their law as she had intended. He therefore said that there is no other way except to take her to the Temple and let the priests decide, therefore Maryam (AS) was taken to Baitil-Maqdis. Imraan himself died soon after the birth of his daughter.
The priests argued on the matter, since the child was a girl, she could not work in the Temple. It was customary that any boy who was sent to work in the Temple, he was put under the care of one of the priests who would look after and train him in the matters of religion. So who would look alter Maiyam (AS), was their argument; every one of them wanted to take the child and bring her up under his care. Zakariya (AS) who was a priest of the Most High order, stood up and said: “I have more right on this child than any of you; my wife is her maternal aunt, so let me take her under my care.”
The others said: “If anyone had the right then she should be sent back to her mother.”
Then all of them decided to take a vote, by casting their lots in the water. They did this three times, and all the tree times fell on Zakariya (AS), he therefore took her to his wife to be brought up in his house. When she grew up, Zakariya (AS) wanted to keep her away from the people. He therefore built for her a room on top of the temple, where no one could get to her except by climbing up using a ladder. He left her there so that she could concentrate with her worshiping, and used to visit her every now and then and bring to her what she needed. He used to lock the door from outside when he went away.
Maryam (AS) was a very beautiful lady, well mannered, pure and God fearing who had great belief in her religion. She was freed from all worldly affairs and specially dedicated to God’s services. It was God’s wishes that this lady was to become the best lady (in all respects) among all the ladies of the world. She was to be the mother of Issa (AS), the Prophet, whose birth was to be a miracle. God says in the following verse:
Behold! The angels sad: “O Mary! God hath chosen thee and purified thee — chosen thee above the women of all nations.* (Aal-Imran (iii) 42)
Zakariya (AS) was astonished at what he saw whenever he entered Maryam’s (AS) chamber; he found her supplied with sustenance, the sort of food which is not normal in this world. One day he said to her: “O Maryam! From where does all this come to you? All I know is what I bring you, and as far as I know the door is locked and no one can get in to you.”
She said: “From God, for God provides sustenance to whom He pleases, without measure.”
Maryam (AS) grew under God’s special protection. Her sustenance, which may include both her physical needs and her spiritual food, came from God.
When Zakariya (AS) heard the words ‘for God provides sustenance to whom He pleases, without measure’ he felt that he too should pray to his Lord to give him a son. He therefore prayed to his Lord and said: “O my Lord! Indeed my bones are feeble, and the hair of my head glistens with gray, and my prayers to you has never been unanswered. Now I fear what my relatives (and colleagues) will do after me, and my wife is barren. So give me an heir as from you, one that will truly represent me, and represent the future generations of Yaakub; and make him O my Lord one with whom You are well-pleased!”
While he was standing in a prayer chamber, the Angels called unto him and said: “O Zakariya! We give you good news of a son. His name shall be Yahya, no one by that name have We conferred distinction before.”
He said: “O my Lord! How shall I have a son, when my wife is barren and I have grown quite feeble from old age?”
The Angels said: “So it will be, Your Lord says, ‘That is easy for me, I did indeed created you before, when you have been nothing!’”
This is how his Lord wished it to be.
He said: “O my Lord! Give me a Sign.”
He was told that as a Sign for him to know that his wife had conceived there would be a lapse of three nights that he would not be able to speak, not because he was dumb. So when this happened, Zakariya (AS) came out to his people from his prayer chamber and told them by sign of hands, to celebrate God’s praises in the morning and in the evening.
Thus Yahya (AS) was born, and it was God that had chosen for him the name. He was a quiet type since he was a child. God gave him the instructions: “Keep fast hold of God’s revelation with all your might.” For the unbelieving world had either corrupted or neglected it, and Yahya (John the Baptist) was to prepare the way for Issa (Jesus), who was coming to renew and re-interpret it. God says: “And given him Wisdom even as a youth, and pity (for all creatures) as from us, and purity. He was devout and kind to his parents, and he was not overbearing or rebellious.”
He learned religion and law and how to judge people with justice. He used to teach people since he was a youth, and told them to repent to their Lord for all their mistakes. The people liked him and so the animals used to like him too because he was very kind to them.
The worldly affairs never used to bother Yahya (AS); he used to seclude himself by going out to the desert or to the mountains and stay there for days, worshiping God. He ate anything he could get and at times he even ate leaves from the trees and drank from the streams. The presence of wild animals never bothered him even when he was deep in his meditation; as a matter of fact the animals kept away from him. At times when he was having his meals animals came near him and he shared the food with them.
During his time there was a king by the name of Harrods who was from the Bani Israiyl. Yahya (AS) had a high status at the king’s council and attended most of his sittings, and the king sought his advice in many of his affairs. One day the king called on Yahya (AS) and told him that he wanted to marry a certain girl whom he had fancied. The girl is said to have been his niece, which was not allowed morally or legally.
Thus Yahya (AS) said to him: “My lord you can not many this girl, it is against the religion.”
The king said to him: “Find a way to make it legal for me.”
Yahya (AS) said: “This is how it is, there is no way out. You are just not allowed to marry her.”
Yahya (AS) therefore made the marriage illegal, and for that fact for anyone who would want to marry in such cases. The king became very upset. The girl herself, became greedy of the king’s riches and wanted to have the status. She therefore made every means of convincing the king in marrying her, and in the end she told the king: “If you really want me then I want you to bring for me Yahya’s head in a platter for my dowry.
The king therefore ordered his guards to ﬁnd Yahya (AS) wherever he was, kill him and bring his head to him. The guards went to Yahya (AS) and found him praying; they slew him and took his head to the king, which was then presented to the girl. Therefore the king married the girl he wanted illegally, and the Lord is the more knowledgeable.
After this they went after Zakariya (AS); who had tried to protect his son in the affair, and killed him too. It is said that when he was trying to run away, he arrived at a big tree and with God’s miracle the tree opened up and he got inside to hide. After he had gone in, the tree closed again but unfortunately a part of his robe was caught and could be seen from outside. When they were looking for him, Satan came in the shape of a human and pointed to them that part of the robe so they knew that he was inside the tree. The tree was therefore cut and they killed him, and the Lord is the more knowledgeable.
During that time there were three Prophets all at the same time; Zakariya, Yahya and Issa (AS). The two died and Issa (AS), remained alive. He was a little over thirty years old when Zakariya and Yahya (AS) died.
Reference: The Twenty five Prophets (The Parable of the Apostles Mentioned in the Holy Quraan)", by Nassir ibn Issa ibn Said Al-Kindy. (p 146-152)