The years had taken their toll on the Prophet Zakariyah (pbuh). He was
now old and bent with age, in his nineties. Despite his feebleness, he
went to the temple daily to deliver his sermons.
Zakariyah was not a rich man, but he was always ready to help those in
need. His one disappointment in life was that he had no children, for his
wife was barren. This worried him, for he feared there was no one after
him to carry out his work. The people needed a strong leader, for it they
were left on their own, they would move away from Allah's teachings and
change the Holy Laws to suit themselves.
During one of his visits to the temple, he went to check on Mary, who
was living in a secluded room of the temple. He was surprised to find
fresh out of season fruit in her room. Besides him, no one had entry to
her room. When he inquired, she told him that the fruit was from Allah.
She found it every morning. But why was he so surprised, she asked him.
Did he not know that Allah provides without measure for whom He wills?
This noble girl had opened this eyes to a startling idea. Could he not
ask his Lord to bless him with a child in his old age? Even if his wife
was past childbearing age, nothing was impossible for his Gracious
Allah the Almighty revealed: 'Kaf, Ha, Ya, Ain, Sad, (These letters are
one of the miracles of the Quran, and none but Allah Alone knows their
meanings). This is a mention of the Mercy of your Lord to His slave
Zakariyah. When he called out his Lord (Allah) - a call in secret, saying:
"My Lord! Indeed my bones have grown feeble, and gray hair has spread on
my head, and I have never been unblest in my invocation to You, O my Lord!
And Verily! I fear my relatives after me, since my wife is barren. So give
me from Yourself an heir, - who shall inherit me, and inherit also the
posterity of Jacob (inheritance of the religious knowledge and
Prophethood, not the wealth, etc.) And make him, my Lord, one with whom
You are Well-pleased!"
Allah said: "O Zakariyah! Verily, We give you the glad tidings of a
son. His name will be Yahya (John). We have given that name to none before
He said: "My Lord! How can I have a son, when my wife is barren, and I
have reached the extreme old age."
He said: "So (it will be). Your Lord says, It is easy for Me. Certainly
I have created you before, when you had been nothing."
Zakariyah said: "My Lord! Appoint for me a sign."
He said: "Your sign is that you shall not speak unto mankind for three
nights, though having no bodily defect."
Then he came out to his people from Al Mihrab (a praying place or a
private room, etc.), he told them by signs to glorify Allah's Praises in
the morning and in the afternoon.
It was said to his son: "O John! Hold fast to the Scripture (The
Torah)." And We gave him wisdom while yet a child, and made him
sympathetic to men as a mercy or a grant from Us, and pure from sins
(John) and he was righteous, and dutiful towards his parents, and he was
neither an arrogant nor disobedient (to Allah or to his parents). And
Salamun (peace) on him the day he was born, the day he dies, and the day
he will be raised up to life again! (Ch 19:1-15 Quran)
Almighty Allah also said: At that time Zakariyah invoked his Lord,
saying: "O my Lord! Grant me from You, a good offspring. You are indeed
the All-Hearer of invocation."
Then the angels called him, while he was standing in prayer in Al-
Mihrab ( a praying place or a private room), saying: "Allah gives you glad
tidings of John confirming (believing in) the Word from Allah ("Be!" - and
he was! (i.e. the creation of Isa (Jesus), son of Mariam (Mary), noble
keeping away from sexual relations with women, a Prophet, from among the
He said: "O my Lord! How can I have a son when I am very old, and my
wife is barren?"
Allah said: "Thus Allah does what He wills." He said: "O my Lord! Make
a sign for me." Allah said: "Your sign is that you shall not speak to
mankind for three days except with signals. And remember your Lord much
(by praising Him again and again), and glorify Him in the afternoon and in
the morning." (Ch 3:38-41 Quran).
John (pbuh) was born a stranger to the world of children who used to
amuse themselves, as he was serious all the time. Most children took
delight in torturing animals whereas, he was merciful to them. He fed the
animals from his food until there was nothing left for him, and he just
ate fruit or leaves of trees.
John loved reading since childhood. When he grew up, Allah the Exalted
called upon him: "O John! Hold fast to the Scripture (The Torah)." And We
gave him wisdom while yet a child. (Ch 19:12 Quran).
Allah guided him to read the Book of Jurisprudence closely; thus, he
became the wisest and most knowledgeable man of that time. Therefore,
Allah the Almighty endowed him with the faculties of passing judgments on
people's affairs, interpreting the secrets of religion, guiding people to
the right path, and warning them against the wrong one.
John reached maturity. His compassion for his parents, as well as for
all people and all creatures, increased greatly. He called people to
repent their sins.
There are quite a number of traditions told about John. Ibn Asaker
related that one time his parents were looking for him and found him at
the Jordan River. When they met him, they wept sorely, seeing his great
devotion to Allah, Great and Majestic.
Ibn Wahb said that, according to Malik, grass was the food of John Ibn
Zakariyah, and he wept sorely in fear of Allah. A chain of narrators
reported that Idris Al Khawlawi said: "Shall I not tell you he who had the
best food? It is John Ibn Zakariyah, who joined the beasts at dinner,
fearing to mix with men."
Ibn Mubarak stated that Wahb Ibn Al-Ward narrated that Zakariayah did
not see his son for three days. He found him weeping inside a grave which
he had dug and in which he resided. "My son, I have been searching for
you, and you are dwelling in this grave weeping!" "O father, did you not
tell me that between Paradise and Hell is only a span, and it will not be
crossed except by tears of weepers?" He said to him: "Weep then, my son."
Then they wept together.
Other narrations say that John (pbuh) said: "The dwellers of Paradise
are sleepless out of the sweetness of Allah's bounty; that is why the
faithful must be sleepless because of Allah's love in their hearts. How
far between the two luxuries, how far between them?"
They say John wept so much that tears marked his cheeks. He found
comfort in the open and never cared about food. He ate leaves, herbs, and
sometimes locusts. He slept anywhere in the mountains or in holes in the
ground. He sometimes would find a lion or a bear as he entered a cave, but
being deeply absorbed in praising Allah, he never heeded them. The beasts
easily recognized John as the prophet who cared for all the creatures, so
they would leave the cave, bowing their heads.
John sometimes fed those beasts, out of mercy, from his food and was
satisfied with prayers as food for his soul. He would spend the night
crying and praising Allah for His blessings.
When John called people to worship Allah, he made them cry out of love
and submission, arresting their hearts with the truthfulness of his
A conflict took place between John and the authorities at that time. A
tyrant king, Herod Antipas, the ruler of Palestine, was in love with
Salome, his brother's daughter. He was planning to marry his beautiful
niece. The marriage was encouraged by her mother and by some of the
learned men of Zion, either out of fear or to gain favor with the
On hearing the ruler's plan, John pronounced that such a marriage would
be incestuous. He would not approve it under any circumstance, as it was
against the Law of the Torah.
John's pronouncement spread like wildfire. Salome was angry, for it was
her ambition to rule the kingdom with her uncle. She plotted to achieve
her aim. Dressing attractively, she sang and danced before her uncle. Her
arousing Herod's lust. Embracing her, he offered to fulfill whatever she
desired. At once she told hi: "I would love to have the head of John,
because he has defiled your honor and mine throughout the land. If you
grant me this wish, I shall be very happy and will offer myself to you."
Bewitched by her charm, he submitted to her monstrous request. John was
executed and his head was brought to Salome. The cruel woman gloated with
delight. But the death of Allah's beloved prophet was avenged. Not only
she, but all the children of Israel were severely punished by invading
armies which destroyed their