Prophets of Allah – John: the harbinger of Jesus

Jalees Ahmad, Al Hakam

Johnas, known as Yahyaas, was a prophet of God who appeared before Jesusas. He was the son of Zachariahas, the guardian of Maryas. Yahyaas was known as Johnas of the New Testament – cousin of Jesusas. (Five Volume Commentary, Vol.2, p.482) It is said that, “The mother of Maryas (Hanna) and the mother of Johnas (Elizabeth) were sisters.” (The Encyclopedia of Islam, New Edition, 1986, Vol. 11, p. 249)

His name was bestowed upon him by  God. (Surah Maryam, Ch.19: V.8) The Holy Quran describes him as “noble and chaste and a Prophet.” (Surah Aal-e-Imran, Ch.3: V.40)

Birth of Prophet Johnas

John’sas birth is considered a miracle, as he was born to a barren mother and an aged father, Zachariahas.

Zachariahas was told about his birth while he was praying. Narrating this incident, the Holy Quran states:

فَنَادَتۡہُ الۡمَلٰٓئِکَةُ وَہُوَ قَآئِمٌ يُّصَلِّيۡ فِي الۡمِحۡرَابِ ۙ اَنَّ اللّٰہَ يُبَشِّرُکَ بِيَحۡيٰي مُصَدِّقًۢا بِکَلِمَةٍ مِّنَ اللّٰہِ وَسَيِّدًا وَّحَصُوۡرًا وَّنَبِيًّا مِّنَ الصّٰلِحِيۡنَ

“And the angels called to him as he stood praying in the chamber: ‘Allah gives thee glad tidings of Yahya, who shall testify to the truth of a word from Allah—noble and chaste and a Prophet, from among the righteous.’” (Surah Aal-e-Imran, Ch.3: V.40)

The verse portrays Johnas as a noble and chaste Prophet of God, chosen from among the righteous.

Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IVrh has stated:

“He [Prophet Zachariahas] desired to have a child, but he had so advanced in age that with white hair on his head, it was as if he was all aflame with hoariness, and the wife was not only old but she was barren as well. Thus, this was an example of miraculous birth that, despite both [of these apparent barriers], he was bestowed upon Hazrat Yahyaas [John]. He had developed the desire to have a child after pondering over the circumstances of Hazrat Maryamas who was to show the miracle of the fatherless birth of Hazrat Jesusas.”  (The Holy Quran, Urdu translation by Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IVrh, p. 79)

Johnas and Jesusas

Prophet Johnas, as mentioned above, appeared before Jesusas to serve as a sign in fulfilment of Malachi’s Biblical prophecy

“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes.” (Mal. 4:‌5)

When speaking of Johnas, Allah states:

سَيِّدًا وَّحَصُوۡرًا وَّنَبِيًّا

“Noble and chaste and a Prophet.” (Surah Aal-e-Imran, Ch.3: V.40)

“The Quranic expression حصور in the sense of ‘concealer of a secret’ also points to the above description, for Yahyaas (John) was the bearer of the hidden news of the coming of Jesusas.” (Five Volume Commentary, Vol.2, p. 485)

Further, in the Bible, we read:

“I indeed baptise you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptise you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:

“Whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.

“Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him.” (Mathew, 3:11-13)

Jesusas received baptism from Johnas, and both prophets followed the Law of Moses. Neither of them introduced a new Book or Law. (Five Volume Commentary, Vol.4, p.1935)

John’sas great efforts to assist Jesusas and prepare the Jews for his coming proved futile. As a result, he was imprisoned and killed (Mathew, 14:10), and his people rejected both Johnas and Jesusas. Despite Zachariah’sas prayer, Johnas couldn’t change their hearts. The divine will then transferred prophethood to the descendants of Ishmaelas. (Five Volume Commentary, Vol.4, p. 1930)

Was Prophet Johnas martyred?

One distinctive piece of information we find about Prophet Johnas is that God himself named him:

يٰزَکَرِيَّاۤ اِنَّا نُبَشِّرُکَ بِغُلٰمِ ۣاسۡمُہٗ يَحۡيٰي ۙ لَمۡ نَجۡعَلۡ لَّہٗ مِنۡ قَبۡلُ سَمِيًّا

“‘O Zachariah, We give thee glad tidings of a son whose name shall be Yahya. We have not made any one before him of that name.’” (Surah Maryam, Ch.19: V.8)

In light of this, we read in the Five Volume Commentary:

“The two words غلام and يحيٰي used in this verse are very significant. The word غلام signifies three periods of one’s life, i.e., childhood, youth, and middle age. Applied to Yahyaas or John it embodied a prophecy that he shall not die in childhood but shall grow up to be a young man before the eyes of his father and shall live up to middle age and so it actually came to pass. Yahyaas lived up to middle age and then was killed by the order of Herod to satisfy the wish of a dancing girl. The word يحييٰ literally meaning, ‘he lives’ or ‘he shall live,’ also implied a great prophecy, viz., that he will die the death of a martyr and thus will become immortalised.” (Five Volume Commentary, Vol.4, p.1931)

Further, we read: “Yahya is probably the only known Israelite Prophet who was actually killed.” (Five Volume Commentary, Vol.2, p. 484)

 “In Arabic, the word is derived from the root حياة (life) and means ‘he lives or he shall live’. The implication in the name was that he would not die in childhood but would live to the age of manhood or that he would lead a righteous life. The fact that Yahya did not die a natural death but was killed (Matt. 14:10) shows yet another implication in the name, i.e. that he would die the death of a martyr and would thus live forever in the sight of God.” (Five Volume Commentary, Vol.2, p. 484)

In light of this matter, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Vaa was once asked if Johnas and Zachariahas were murdered. Huzooraa answered:

 “Just as there is a difference of opinion found in the books of history and sirah and among the views of the classical scholars regarding the murder of Hazrat Yahya and Hazrat Zachariah, peace be upon them, so is there also a difference of opinion in the Jamaat on this among the Khulafa-e-Ahmadiyyat in light of their reasoning from the verses of the Holy Quran and their interpretation of ahadith.

“My view in this regard concurs with the opinion of Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra. In light of the Holy Quran, the ahadith of the Holy Prophetsa and the guidance given by the Promised Messiahas, I hold the position that the first and last prophet of any dispensation, or a prophet about whom Allah has promised that He would safeguard him from the reach of the people, cannot be killed. Apart from that, being killed is not a bad thing per se for the rest of the prophets, and it does not tarnish the honour of a prophet because being killed is also one way of being martyred. However, being killed in a state of failure does not behove prophets. Hence, when a prophet has completed his work, there is nothing wrong with him dying naturally or being martyred by someone else because no one is astounded at someone’s death in a state of success, and neither does the enemy rejoice in such a death.

“Thus, Hazrat Yahyaas and Hazrat Zachariahas were not the first or the last prophets of any dispensation, nor is there any promise of God Almighty mentioned somewhere about them that He would certainly safeguard them from the hands of the enemy. Moreover, we believe that when these prophets were martyred, they certainly must have fulfilled their responsibilities, which Allah had entrusted to them, in the best possible manner.” (Al Hakam, Issue 198)

Knowledge of Torah and judgement

Johnas was bestowed knowledge of the Torah at a young age. The Holy Quran states:

يٰيَحۡيٰي خُذِ الۡکِتٰبَ بِقُوَّةٍ ؕ وَاٰتَيۡنٰہُ الۡحُکۡمَ صَبِيًّا

“‘O Yahya, hold fast the Book.’ And We gave him wisdom while yet a child” (Surah Maryam, Ch.19: V.13)

In this context, the term “Book” refers to the Torah, as none of the three religious communities – Jews, Christians, or Muslims – believe that John was given a new Book containing a new Law.

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