Allah mentions many prophets by name in the Quran. However, we know that there are many more prophets. From the Sunnah, we come to know that Allah sent prophets to various nations and tribes of the past to guide them. In most cases, however, their people weren’t receptive. The final prophet who Allah sent to mankind was Muhammad (PBUH). Among the earlier prophets, there are many famous ones. One of the ones with a very compelling story in the Quran is Prophet Zakariya (AS).
And Zechariah and John and Jesus and Elias – and all were of the righteous.(Quran 6:85)
Prophet Zakariya (AS) is a respected prophet (Zachariah) in the traditions of Christianity as well as Islam. In the Quran and the Bible, we also know him as the father of Prophet Yahya (AS). We can find his story in the Quran in Surah Maryam, where Allah narrates details about him and his family.
Who was Prophet Zakariya (AS)?
Prophet Zakariya (AS) was one of the prophets from the Bani Israel. As we already know, Allah sent many prophets to this nation, and he was among them. He was one of Prophet Sulaiman’s (AS) descendants. He earned his livelihood as a carpenter. Furthermore, he was a very righteous person. He was in charge of a temple, and there, he prayed to Allah and worshiped Him as a true believer.
Prophet Zakariya (AS) was a very humble man and constantly remained thankful toward Allah. He lived a life of simplicity and was not at all extravagant in his lifestyle. Most of the people around them lacked qualities such as being obedient worshipers of Allah. However, Zakariya (AS) followed the law of Musa (AS), and he would live in the way Allah has commanded human beings to. He would spend long hours praying and preaching.
The people around him lacked the strong belief that he had. Rather than obey Allah and do the things He commands them to do, they followed their own whims and wishes. Hence, they would commit all kinds of evil deeds and partake in sin. As a result, they were deviating from the strong path that Zakariya (AS) was on. He was worried about what would happen, and he anxiously tried to make the people return to the straight path by preaching to them.
The Family of Imran
While we do not know the exact relation between Prophet Zakariya (Zachariah A.S) and Imran, we do know that they were related. Imran’s wife gave birth to a girl who they named Maryam. Additionally, they vowed to make Maryam one of those humans who purely focused on the worship of Allah. However, while she was quite young, her father, Imran, passed away. As a result, there was considerable debate about who should look after her.
According to various reports, Zakariya (AS) was either the brother-in-law or the uncle of Maryam. He was also a prophet, who people knew well for his moral values and ethical behavior. Hence, it made sense for him to be her guardian immediately. However, the people of Israel were all desperate to have this honor themselves.
And you were not with them when they cast their pens as to which of them should be responsible for Mary. Nor were you with them when they disputed.(Quran 3:44)
Allah narrates in the Quran how the people decided regarding Maryam’s guardianship. They eventually proposed to write down their names and put them in a container. A child would then pick one out randomly. It was Zakariya (AS). However, the people weren’t pleased with this outcome, and they cast lots once again. Again, the result was in his favor. Yet again, the obstinate people refused to accept it. Once again, they drew lots, and again, it was in his favor. Hence, the people had to eventually accept the outcome and let Allah’s will takes its course.
Zakariya (AS) Looks After Maryam – Prophet Zakariya Story
So her Lord accepted her with good acceptance and caused her to grow in a good manner and put her in the care of Zechariah. Every time Zechariah entered upon her in the prayer chamber, he found with her provision. He said, “O Mary, from where is this [coming] to you?” She said, “It is from Allah. Indeed, Allah provides for whom He wills without account.”(Quran 3:37)
Allah narrates in the Quran how Maryam grew up as a righteous woman. She always had the best manners and focused on Allah’s worship. Additionally, she would stay away from the rest of the people in seclusion in her prayer chamber, as Allah describes in the Quran. Zakariya (AS) would frequently go and check up on her. When he would get there, he would find various assortments of food around her. He didn’t bring it for her, so he wondered how it got there and asked her. She replied that it was a provision from her Lord, Allah.
Hence, Zakariya (AS) witnessed such miracles with his own eyes. He saw Allah bless and provide for Maryam after her father passed away. He himself was just a means for Allah to take care of her and provide her with shelter. Therefore, he had complete faith in Allah and always trusted that things would pan out in the best way. He had a burning desire at this point to have a child to continue preaching the message of Allah and Islam. Despite his advanced age, he never gave up hope.
Zakariya (AS) Prays for a Child
[This is] a mention of the mercy of your Lord to His servant Zechariah when he called to his Lord a private call [i.e., supplication]. He said, “My Lord, indeed my bones have weakened, and my head has filled with white, and never have I been in my supplication to You, my Lord, unhappy [i.e., disappointed]. And indeed, I fear the successors after me, and my wife has been barren, so give me from Yourself an heir Who will inherit me and inherit from the family of Jacob. And make him, my Lord, pleasing [to You].”(Quran 19:2-5)
At this point in his life, Zakariya (AS) was old. His wife was also barren, unable to bear children. However, he still made the dua to Allah because he knew that nothing is impossible for Him. Allah has mentioned the dua multiple times in the Quran. Besides the above, he mentions this incident in Surah aal-Imran and Surah al-Anbiya as well, showing the immense importance of what took place.
In his dua, Zakariyah (AS) asked Allah to bless him with a child who would inherit from him and his family. Additionally, he made it a point to ask for an offspring who would be pleasing to Allah, not one who would displease and disobey Him. It was a truly beautiful and heartfelt dua, coming purely from the heart.
Allah Answers His Prayer
So the angels called him while he was standing in prayer in the chamber, “Indeed, Allah gives you good tidings of John, confirming a word from Allah and [who will be] honorable, abstaining [from women], and a prophet from among the righteous.” He said, “My Lord, how will I have a boy when I have reached old age and my wife is barren?” He [the angel] said, “Such is Allah; He does what He wills.”(Quran 3:39-40)
[He was told], “O Zechariah, indeed We give you good tidings of a boy whose name will be John. We have not assigned to any before [this] name.” He said, “My Lord, how will I have a boy when my wife has been barren and I have reached extreme old age?” [An angel] said, “Thus [it will be]; your Lord says, ‘It is easy for Me, for I created you before, while you were nothing.’”(Quran 19:7-9)
Allah responded to Zakariya’s (AS) prayer and informed him that his wife would bear a child. Not only that, but He also told him that the child would be a prophet. Allah named the son Yahya, a name that He had not given to anyone before him. Thus, not only was Zakariya’s (AS) prayer answered, but he received a great blessing from Allah.
The prophet was scarcely able to believe what he had heard. He asked how he could have a child with a barren wife. The angel replied and told him that anything is easy for Allah. He does what He wills. Therefore, we can think of this as one of His miracles.
Zakariya (AS) Asks for a Sign and Yahya (AS) Is Born
He said, “My Lord, make for me a sign.” He said, “Your sign is that you will not [be able to] speak to the people for three days except by gesture. And remember your Lord much and exalt [Him with praise] in the evening and the morning.”(Quran 3:41)
[Zechariah] said, “My Lord, make for me a sign.” He said, “Your sign is that you will not speak to the people for three nights, [being] sound.” So he came out to his people from the prayer chamber and signaled to them to exalt [Allah] in the morning and afternoon.(Quran 19:10-11)
The Prophet asked Allah for a sign, and once again, Allah accepted his request. Hence, Zakariya (AS) accepted what was to come and was joyful and thankful toward Allah for all His blessings.
[Allah said], “O John, take the Scripture [i.e., adhere to it] with determination.” And We gave him judgement [while yet] a boy and affection from Us and purity, and he was fearing of Allah and dutiful to his parents, and he was not a disobedient tyrant. And peace be upon him the day he was born and the day he dies and the day he is raised alive.(Quran 19:12-15)
Allah gave Prophet Yahya wisdom in his childhood. According to Islamic traditions and narrations, he was a gentle child and loved to learn. He would go on to become a noble man who worshiped Allah, often remembering Him. Not only that, but he was concerned about the affairs of the people around him. He preached Allah’s message to them and often wept due to his devotion as well as fear of the Almighty.
Lessons from Prophet Zakariya’s (AS) Story
There are many lessons we can learn from this amazing story of one of Allah’s most beloved prophets.
Allah Is the Best of Planners
Allah tells us on many occasions in the Quran that He is the best of planners. We see this come to fruition time and time again. People can have all kinds of plans, but everything that will ever happen has already been written. What Allah wills to happen will eventually come to pass, whether it’s something we are in favor of or not.
In the story of Prophet Zachariah (Zakariya AS), we see this pan out in the way he was worried about succession. He was wary that after him, there wouldn’t be anyone who would carry on his message and raise the voice for emaan and belief. However, after he asked Allah for offspring, Allah granted him that, despite his being in old age with a barren wife.
We also saw this effect in the part of the story when the people were deciding who would take care of Maryam. The people of Israel wanted to have this honor. Therefore, they drew lots, and every time, they came out in favor of Zakariya (AS). Hence, while they may have wanted something else, Allah’s command supersedes everything else.
Zakariya’s (AS) Prayer
When the prophet asked Allah for something, he didn’t do it for a selfish purpose. He asked Allah to bless him with a child so that the child could continue to spread the word of Islam. He wasn’t worried about his lineage so that his descendants could benefit from his belongings and wealth or uplift his name in the future.
Instead, he wanted a child so that he would be able to keep raising the voice of Allah among people. The people of Israel weren’t very receptive to his message, so a messenger was necessary to keep plugging at them and ensuring that they remain on the straight path. Zakariya’s (AS) child would be able to understand Islam and continue to advocate for the worship of Allah.
Moreover, this also puts into perspective some of the selfish attitudes we see around us nowadays. People want children for all the wrong reasons. They want to show off, have them inherit wealth, and in some cases, make dynasties of rulers! These are not righteous reasons for wanting children whatsoever.
True Faith and Allah’s Power
Sometimes, we may want something that is outrageous, impossible, or highly unlikely to happen. However, the reality is that Allah is the Lord and Creator of the universe, and everything is possible for Him. For that to happen, though, we have to ensure that we fulfill a certain set of criteria.
Many people ask for things without really having true faith. They might believe in Allah, but they will neglect some of the basic facts, such as offering the daily prayers, giving the annual poor-due, and fasting during Ramadan. A Muslim must ensure that he does the basic things that Islam requires from him. Then, he should ask for what he wants with sincere intentions as Zakariya (AS) did.
Additionally, we must also remember that while Allah has the power to grant any of our requests, He may not always do that. That is because Allah alone has ultimate wisdom. We might ask for something that we think is beneficial, but it might not actually be good for us. He alone knows what is best for us, and He ordains for us accordingly.
Keep Doing Whatever Is Right
Story of Prophet Zakariya (AS) lived for many decades. It is said that he was in his 90s when Allah finally blessed him with a son, Yahya (AS). Through all these decades, Zakariya (AS) would keep preaching to his people to obey Allah and accept him alone as their Lord and Creator. However, the people kept going off the right path.
During Zakariya’s (AS) time, the people of Israel would commit many types of evil deeds. They would commit various types of sins. Yet, the prophet never felt disheartened about his task. He persistently kept at it, and Allah was well pleased with his efforts. So much so that he granted his request for a child straight away.
This is a great lesson for people nowadays. We often start doing the right thing, but we lose heart if people don’t agree with us or follow our lead. However, that is the wrong attitude. What other people do shouldn’t affect us. We should remain in the same way, focusing on doing good and always worshiping Allah, calling others to do the same.
Prophet Zakariya (AS) was one of Allah’s beloved prophets. His story contains many lessons for us, and the way he took care of Maryam is also touching. Despite not making much headway with his people as he preached to them, he diligently kept at is, since that is what Allah asked him to do and sent him down for.
We must love and respect all prophets of Allah, and Zakariya (AS) is no different. In fact, due to his nature and attitude, he is undoubtedly a role model for Muslims alongside the other prophets. The purpose of reading such stories is to gain knowledge from them; however, it’s also possible to be inspired, and that is a good thing too.