Zakariya (Zachariah) was an illustrious Prophet of the Israelites. He was one of the descendants of Prophet Sulaiman/Solomon (peace be upon him). The name of his wife was al-Yashbi' who belonged to the family of Prophet Harun (peace be upon him). The Prophet Zakariya (peace be upon him) was the patron of Mary, the mother of Prophet Isa (peace be upon him). He was the trustee of Hekal. He worked as a carpenter and earned his livelihood.
The Prophet Zakariya (peace be upon him) kept the torch of Mosaic law burning. He used to pray devotionally and preach zealously. His wife and he were the symbols of piety and righteousness. Most of his kinsmen lacked in spirit of true faith. As they were seduced, they were inclined to doing evil deeds. They were going out of the right path. The Prophet Zakariya (peace be upon him) was much anxious about this state of affairs. He had no offspring and there was no suitable person to hold the office of priesthood of Hekal after his death. He was desirous of having a son to become his good successor. He did not long for a son to satisfy a mere human desire for one's progeny. He wanted to have a son to maintain the warmth of religious activities. One night he stood in prayer in his sanctuary and prayed to Allah to bless him with a good son. He was conscious that he was in an advanced age and his wife was barren and unable to raise any issue. He had full faith in Allah Who possesses power to do whatever He wills. He came to know through his prophetic insight that Allah would grant his request. He would be blessed with a good son to act as his heir who could guide the people aright.
God in His infinite mercy removed the defect of his wife's barrenness so that she might become mother. She gave birth to Prophet Yahya. (peace be upon him) who was destined to be honourable, chaste, and a prophet from among the righteous. The Prophet Zakariya (peace be upon him) felt satisfied as his son grew up and became a symbol of piety. He was graced with wisdom, obedience and asceticism.
The Prophet Zakariya (peace be upon him) continued preaching the religion of Allah even in old age. The Israelites were indulged in mischief making and wickedness. They had not only ignored the teachings of his Prophet but tortured him also. The Holy Qur'an makes mention of the cruel acts of the Israelites in the following Verses:
"As to those who deny the Signs of Allah and in defiance of right, slay the prophets, and slay those who teach just dealing with mankind, announce to them a grievous penalty." (3:21)
The Prophet Zakariya (peace be upon him) did not die a natural death. One day the Israelites decided to put him to death. He hid himself in the covern of the tree. The Jews began to saw that part of the tree. The Prophet Zakariya (peace be upon him) did not even utter a faint cry. His body was cut into two pieces.
This is the story of a feeble old man who loved and feared God; an elderly man, named Zachary (also called Zachariah), who had spent his life gaining knowledge and teaching others, purely for God's pleasure. The Quran tells his story in Chapters 3 and 19, and it is similar to the story told in the Christian Gospel of Luke. However, we will concentrate on what the Quran has to say about this blessed man because Muslim's believe the Quran has remained unchanged since its revelation, whereas the previous messages have been lost, changed or distorted.
"This is a mention of the mercy of your Lord to His slave Zachary; Remember when he called out to his Lord (God) a call in secret, saying: 'My Lord! Indeed my bones have grown feeble, and grey hair has spread on my head, And I have never been unblest in my invocation to You, O my Lord!'" (Quran 19:4)
Prophet Zachary was a member of the family of Imran, a blessed family whose members also included Jesus and his mother Mary. When the young Mary went into the House of Prayer in Jerusalem, God, by His wisdom and grace appointed Zachary her guardian. Each day he would visit Mary to be certain that all her needs were met. Mary's devotion to God impressed Zachary and he was amazed by the provisions he would find in her room. It is said that she would have the fruits of winter in the summer and the fruits of summer in the winter. When Zachary inquired about how Mary obtained the fruits she replied that God, the Sustainer, was indeed the One who had provided her sustenance. Mary said:
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