“And We did raise among every people a Messenger”
Jalees Ahmad, Al Hakam
Zachariah [زَكَرِيَّا] was a noble man from Israel and a prophet of God (Surah al-An‘am, Ch. 6: V.86). He was the father of Johnas [Yahya] – also known as John of the New Testament – cousin of Jesusas. (Five Volume Commentary, Vol.2, p.482)
In the Holy Quran, we read that Zachariahas is described as the guardian of Maryas.
“So her Lord accepted her with a gracious acceptance and caused her to grow an excellent growth and made Zachariah her guardian.” (Surah Aal-e-‘Imran, Ch.3: V.38)
Regarding Zachariah’sas profession, the Holy Prophetsa is reported to have said:
كَانَ زَكَرِيَّاءُ نَجَّارًا
Zachariahas was a carpenter. (Sahih Muslim, Kitab al-faza’il, Hadith 2379)
Hanna, the mother of Maryas
With regards to Mary’sas birth, we read in the Holy Quran:
“[Remember] when [the] woman of ‘Imran said, ‘My Lord, I have vowed to Thee what is in my womb to be dedicated to Thy service. So do accept it of me; verily, Thou alone art All-Hearing, All-Knowing.’
“But when she was delivered of it, she said, ‘My Lord, I am delivered of a female’ — and Allah knew best what she had brought forth and the male [she was thinking of] was not like the female [she had brought forth] — ‘and I have named her Mary, and I commit her and her offspring to Thy protection from Satan, the rejected.’” (Surah Aal-e-‘Imran, Ch.3: V.36-37)
Deeming that she would give birth to a son, Hannah (www.britannica.com/biography/Saint-Anne; Five Volume Commentary, Vol. 2, p. 477), the mother of Maryas, the woman of Imran, vowed to God that whatever was in her womb would be dedicated to His service. However, when she gave birth to a girl, she was puzzled. The mother of Maryas said and prayed, “‘I have named her Mary, and I commit her and her offspring to Thy protection from Satan, the rejected.’” (Surah Aal-e-‘Imran, Ch.3: V.37)
The Holy Quran informs us that Mary’sas mother’s prayer was granted, and indeed, Maryas grew up with remarkable virtues. Prophet Zachariahas was appointed her guardian. (Surah Aal-e-‘Imran, Ch.3: V.38)
Zachariahas as Mary’sas guardian, and the matter of finding ‘with her provisions’
It should be remembered that the words mentioned in the Holy Quran to denote Zachariahas as Mary’sas guardian are:
“and made Zachariah her guardian” (Surah Aal-e-‘Imran, Ch.3: V.38)
In light of this, in the Five Volume Commentary, it is explained:
“کفلھا (made him her guardian) is derived from کفل . They say کفله i.e,. he was or became responsible for him; he became his guardian. کفل خالدا زيدا means, he made Zaid the guardian of Khalid; he gave Khalid into the guardianship of Zaid (Aqrab).” (Five Volume Commentary, Vol.2, p. 482)
It is recorded in the Holy Quran that “Whenever Zachariah visited her in the chamber, he found with her provisions. He said, ‘O Mary, whence hast thou this?’ She replied, ‘It is from Allah.’ Surely, Allah gives to whomsoever He pleases without measure.” (Surah Aal-e-‘Imran, Ch.3: V.38)
In light of this verse, we read:
“Many fantastic stories have been woven around Mary’sas reply to Zachariah’sas question as to whence she got the gifts he found lying about her. The gifts were evidently brought by worshippers visiting the place and there was also nothing extraordinary in her reply that the gifts were from Allah, for every good thing that comes to man is really from God, He being the final agency. In fact, from a girl of Mary’sas religious upbringing, any other reply would rather have been surprising. The accounts of Maryas having been provided with heavenly fruits by angels are, therefore, nothing but the figment of the commentators’ own minds and find no support whatsoever from the Quran or the sayings of the Holy Prophetsa.” (Five Volume Commentary, Vol. 2, p.483)
This noble reply left a profound impact on Zachariahas, igniting within him a deep desire for righteous descendants of his own. There and then, with this deep impact, he prayed, “‘My Lord, grant me from Thyself pure offspring; surely, Thou art the Hearer of prayer.’” (Surah Aal-e-‘Imran, Ch.3: V.39)
The mention of Prophet Zachariah’sas prayer and desire in various places in the Holy Quran indicates that he must have made this supplication repeatedly. (Surah Aal-e-‘Imran, Ch.3: V.39; Surah Maryam, Ch.19: V.5-7; Surah al-Anbiya’, Ch.21: V.90)
Furthermore, this prayer was offered during Mary’sas childhood, and the fulfilment of Zachariah’sas supplication came to pass with the birth of his son, Yahya, when Maryas reached adulthood.
Allah’s favour upon Zachariahas
As Zachariahas prayed in the chamber, the angles called to him saying, “‘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)
Zachariahas replied that he was now old and his wife was barren. Upon this, it was said, “‘Such is the way of Allah: He does what He pleases.’” (Surah Aal-e-‘Imran, Ch.3: V.41)
Zachariah’sas question in no way implied any sort of disbelief; however, the Bible suggests otherwise. In Luke, we read: “because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season.” (Luke, 1:20)
In fact, Prophet Zachariah’sas response was purely innocent, stemming from a place of surprise. “It is simply a spontaneous expression of innocent surprise at the divine promise. It also contains a veiled prayer that he might live long enough to see the child born and grow up into a young man. Zachariahas has referred to his old age and the barrenness of his wife to make God’s mercy take a practical shape all the more speedily.” (Five Volume Commentary, Vol.2, p.485)
He further replied to his Lord, asking him to appoint a token for him. He was told, “‘Thy token shall be that thou shalt not speak to men for three days except by signs. And remember thy Lord much and glorify Him in the evening and in the early morning.’” (Surah Aal-e-‘Imran, Ch.3: V.42)
Prophet Zachariahas was instructed to refrain from speech for three days, yet he was permitted to communicate through gestures and signs. Through a study of the Bible, it is revealed that signs were often given as a confirmation of prophecies. (Genesis, 9:17 & 17:11; Exodus 31:13-17)
It should not be interpreted as Zachariahas being deprived of the ability to speak; this was not the case at all. Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Ira, under this verse, states that the words, “‘And remember thy Lord much and glorify Him in the evening and in the early morning’”, clearly indicate that his ability to speak was not obstructed. (Haqaiqul Furqan, Vol. 1, p. 468)
The command to remain silent for three days meant that Prophet Zachariahas would have more time to dedicate to meditation and remembrance of Allah. Further, Islam also teaches that one should refrain from excessive talking (Jami‘ at-Tirmidhi, Hadith 2853)
In light of Prophet Zachariah’sas prayer for offspring, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IVrh states:
“It seems that the desire for pure and pious progeny generated in the heart of Hazrat Zachariahas only due to looking at the piety of Hazrat Maryamas.” (The Holy Quran, Urdu translation by Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IVrh, p. 79)
Huzoorrh, in another place, states:
“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 having pondered over the circumstances of Hazrat Maryamas who was to show the miracle of the fatherless birth of Hazrat Jesusas.” (Ibid., p. 505)
A reminder and example from the prayer of Zachariahas
In light of the spiritual way to be blessed with offspring, Hazrat Musleh-e-Maud states: “The spiritual way [of getting offspring] is the same as that used by Zachariahas, (which is mentioned in the first ruku‘ of Surah Maryam).” (Al Fazl, 23-27 December 1920); (“100 Years Ago… – Hazrat Musleh-e-Maud’s insightful replies to essential questions”, Al Hakam, Issue 146, p. 8 )
As mentioned above, Zachariahas was bestowed with the glad tidings of a son. One interesting point to ponder is his ardent desire for offspring.
In the Holy Quran, we read:
“When he called upon his Lord, a secret calling, He said, ‘My Lord, the bones have indeed waxed feeble in me, and the head glistens with hoariness, but never, my Lord, have I been unblessed in my prayer to Thee.” (Surah Maryam, Ch.19: V.4-5)
Prophet Zachariah’sas plea to his Lord, expressed through secret cries, indicates that he had harboured a deeply cherished desire within the depths of his heart.
In the Five Volume Commentary, it is explained that “Zachariahas had understood from Biblical prophecies and heavenly warnings that were administered to the Jews for their repeated rejection of God’s Prophets that prophethood was soon to be transferred from the House of Isaac to that of Ishmael. So he gave vent to his feelings in the form of prayer for the birth of a righteous son.”
Yahya, also known as John of the New Testament, was the son of the Prophet Zachariahas. He indicated Jesus’as advent and offered the Jews the glad tidings of Jesus’as appearance.
Zachariahas, Johnas, Jesusas and Eliasas
“And [We guided] Zachariah and John and Jesus and Elias; each [one of them] was of the virtuous.” (Surah al-An‘am, Ch.6: V.86)
This verse highlights the mention of four prophets: Zachariahas, Johnas (known as Yahya in Arabic), Jesusas, and Eliasas (known as Ilyas in Arabic and referred to as Elijahas). These prophets share a connection with one another. Zachariahas, the father of John, is mentioned in relation to Mary’sas noble example, as discussed earlier. It signifies that after being inspired by Mary’sas virtuous character, Zachariahas became the father of John.
With regards to a link between Johnas, Jesusas and Elijahas, we find, in Malachi:
“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD” (Malachi, 4:5)
As mentioned in the previous article on Prophet Eliasas (Al Hakam, Issue 269), during that period, the Jews interpreted the prophecy mentioned above in a literal manner. As a consequence, their understanding of the prophecy hindered them from recognising Prophet Jesusas as the Messiah.
Prophet Jesusas, explaining this, is reported to have said the prophecy was fulfilled with the coming of John the Baptist. (Mathew, 11:14)
Hence, all the prophets mentioned in this verse are interconnected in various ways. As messengers of Allah, they exemplified exceptional moral conduct and are honoured in the Holy Quran as embodiments of virtue.