The Stories of Prophet Zechariah and Prophet John

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What is the story of prophet zechariah? What is the story of prophet john?

The Prophet Martyred by Being Sawed in Half ZECHARIAH -peace be upon him-

The Prophet who Welcomed Martyrdom Like His Father JOHN -peace be upon him-

These three prophets are quite similar in their struggle for tawhid and the ordeals they underwent.

All three of them exerted great effort to correct the Israelites who, since the time of Moses (as), had become deviant and corrupted. Yet, with the exception of a handful of people who believed them, they were so tormented and persecuted that their lives on earth were marked throughout by ordeal. Such that both Zechariah (as) and John (as) were martyred, while Jesus (as) was raised to the heavens just as he, too, was about to meet the same fate.

On top of the similar ordeals these prophets underwent as part of their duty, they are also related to each other, in both blood and spirituality. John (as) is the son of Zechariah (as) and Elisa. Elisa’s sister Anne (Hunna) was married to Imran; and born from this marriage was Mary (as), the mother of Jesus (as).

Zechariah (as)

Zechariah (as) was an Israelite prophet and a descendant of Solomon (as). He was a Torah scribe at the Bayt Al-Maqdis in Jerusalem and also oversaw the rites of sacrifice. He sought to reinforce the religion of Moses (as). He was a carpenter by trade and earned a living through his own labor. He was martyred by his own people. He is buried in Aleppo.

During Zechariah’s (as) time, the Ptolemaic dynasty ruled Damascus and Jerusalem. They respected the Holy Temple and were tolerant towards the Israelites. The upper members of the dynasty would spend most of their time in houses of worship. They would pray inside the Bayt Al-Maqdis day and night. At the time, the Israelites had no prophet; so they prayed to Allah (as) to give them one.

Eventually, the Almighty chose Zechariah (as) for the task.

There were around 400 freed slaves at the Temple, devoted to worship. If one of them sought nearness to Allah (as) and his wife happened to fall pregnant, he would say:

Lord…If I have a son, I will dedicate him for You to the Bayt Al-Maqdis!

In this way, the male children were dedicated to the Temple. It was a tradition that stretched back to the time of Moses (as). The Almighty had revealed to him:

Moses…I love a servant who has spent his life, from his youth to old age, in worship; who has stayed away from sin in his youth, and who has earned My love by attaching his heart only to Me!

Zechariah (as) married another of Solomon’s (as) descendants, Elisa. She was the sister of Mary’s mother Anne, whose husband was Imran.

From Zechariah’s (as) marriage to Elisa, John (as) was born.

Zechariah (as) lead a righteous life, loyal to God’s will; and as will be discussed, he was brutally martyred by the Israelites.

John (as)

John (as) is Mary’s (as) maternal cousin. He learnt the Torah at a very early age and became a prophet at adolescence.

The Qur’an recounts how the Lord blessed John (as) to Zechariah (as):

“Thereupon Zechariah prayed his Lord. He said, ‘My Lord! Grant me a good offspring from You! Indeed, You hear all prayers.” (Al-i Imran, 3: 38)

“He said, ‘My Lord! My bones have become feeble, and my head has turned white with age; and never have I, my Lord, been disappointed in praying to You.” (Maryam, 19: 4)

“I truly fear my kinsmen, after me, and my wife is barren. So, grant me from Yourself an heir.” (Maryam, 19: 5)

“…who may inherit from me and inherit from the House of Jacob. And make him, my Lord, pleasing to You.” (Maryam, 19: 6)

Zechariah’s (as) sincere prayer was accepted.

“Then the angels called out to him, as he stood praying in the sanctuary: ‘Allah gives you the good news of John, as a confirmer of a Word of Allah, eminent and chaste, a prophet, among the righteous.” (Al-i Imran, 3: 39)

Scholars of the Qur’an say that the ‘Word of Allah’ mentioned in the above verse, is Jesus (as). This is also clear in the 45th verse of Al-i Imran. Another verse reads:

“O Zechariah! Indeed, We give you the good news of a son, whose name is ‘John.’ Never before have We made anyone his namesake.” (Maryam, 19: 7)

The expression ‘…never before have We made anyone his namesake’ is to honor John (as). He was the first person to be named Yahya (his real name as mentioned in the Qur’an); and moreover, this was a name given by the Lord. It also alludes to the other virtues he would be adorned with.

‘Yahya’ means alive. A child born from an elderly couple is like a living being created from the dead. The Qur’an says:

“He said, ‘My Lord, how shall I have a son while old age has overtaken me and my wife is barren?’ He said, ‘So, it is that Allah does whatever He wishes.” (Al-i Imran, 3: 40)

 “He said, ‘So shall it be. Your Lord has said, ‘It is simple for Me. Certainly I created you before when you were nothing.’” (Maryam, 19: 9)

The sign that Zechariah’s (as) prayer was accepted, was for him to dedicate three days to glorifying the Lord and not speak to anyone during that time except in signals:

“He said, ‘My Lord, grant me a sign.’ He said, ‘Your sign is that you will not speak to people for three days except in gestures. And remember Your Lord greatly, and glorify Him morning and evening.” (Al-i Imran, 3: 41)

For three days, Zechariah (as) did not speak to anyone. He conveyed his message by drawing signs on soil:

“So he emerged before his people from the Temple, and signaled to them that they should glorify Allah morning and evening.” (Maryam, 19: 11)

The Almighty states:

“So We answered his prayer, gave him John, and remedied his wife. They were indeed active in performing good works, and they would pray to Us with eagerness and awe, and were humble before Us.” (Al-Anbiya, 21: 90)

Once John (as) reached the age of discernment, the Almighty ordered him to seize onto the Torah:

“’O John! Hold on with power to the Book!’ And We gave him judgement while still a child.” (Maryam, 19: 12)

“…and a compassion and purity from Us. He was devout.” (Maryam, 19: 13)

“And he was good to his parents, and was not a bully or disobedient.” (Maryam, 19: 14)

John (as) thus became a prophet. However, until Jesus (as) was made a prophet and given the Gospel, he followed the law of Moses (as). This makes him the final prophet to practice Moses’ (as) law. Like his father, John (as) was also martyred.

According to Moses’ (as) law, it was impermissible for a man to marry his brother’s wife. If he did, he was punished with castration (Leviticus, 18/6-18; 20/19-21). While the Torah punished fornicators to death, it had a different penalty for those who married people they were not supposed to. (Deuteronomy, 22/22-27;  Leviticus, 20/11, 12, 14 ,17) 20/19-21) It was a related incident that led to John’s (as) martyrdom.

King Herod had slept with his brother’s wife. John (as) spoke up against it, saying it was against divine law; and a result, was thrown in prison. Later, Herod had a birthday celebration, and the woman he had slept with, attended with her daughter. The daughter put on a show that mesmerized the king, who told her he was ready to fulfil any wish she had. And under her mother’s influence, she asked for John’s (as) head. At first, Herod was saddened by the request. However, he remembered his promise and had John (as) beheaded. (Luke, 3/19-20; Matthew, 14/1-12)

According to one report, even after he was beheaded, John (as) repeatedly said to Herod:

That woman is not permissible to you!

How ignorant it was that Herod remonstrated against John (as) and killed him, even though he knew he was a prophet and had witnessed many of his miracles!

Parts of John’s (as) blessed corpse is now in many different cities. His head is buried at the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus.

As for the woman Herod married, she was later sunk into bottom of the ground.

It was around this time that Jesus (as) was also raised to the heavens. The Jews of the time had become so brazen that they had begun murdering their own prophets. For this and many other crimes, the Almighty had cursed them:

“Then for breaking their covenant, their defiance of Allah’s signs, their unjust killings of prophets and for saying, ‘Our hearts are enshrouded.’ Rather, Allah has set a seal on them for their unfaith, so they do not believe except a few.” (Al-Nisa, 4: 155)

At the time of his martyrdom, John (as) was just over the age of thirty. The Qur’an states he has gained the Lord’s mercy on three dangerous days:

“Peace be to him the day he was born, the day he dies and the day he is raised alive!” (Maryam, 19: 15)

Baydawi interprets this verse as:

The pestering devil shall not harm you in life! You shall be safe from the torment of the grave! And from the fear of account and the face of hell!

Source: The History of Prophets in Light of The Qur’an, THE CHAIN OF PROPHETS, Osman Nuri TOPBAŞ, Erkam Publications

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