Hayat Al-Qulub, Vol. 1, Stories of the Prophets
An account of Zakariyya and Yahya
In Surah the family of ‘Imran Allah says, “There did Zakariyya pray
to his Lord; he said My Lord! Grant me from Thee good offspring; surely
Thou art the Hearer of prayer.”
“Then the angels called to him as he stood praying in the sanctuary?” (3:38-39)
Imam Ja‘far as-Sadiq says that reciting prayer (Salat ) is a service towards Allah and it is the best duty. For this reason the angels told Zakariyya
that Allah gives him the news of Yahya verifying a Word from Allah, and honorable and chaste and a Prophet from among the good ones.” (3:39)
He (Zakariyya said, My Lord when shall there be a son (born) to me, and old age has already come upon me, and my wife is barren? At that time Zakariyya was 120 years old and his wife 98. According to ‘Ali ibn Ibrahim the wife was old and did not used to get menstrual course. It was not a question to be against Allah’s will but he was surprised to beget a son in old age.) Zakariyya said, Even thus does Allah what He pleases.
He said, My Lord: appoint a sign for me Said He: Your sign is that you should not speak to men for three days except by signs; and remember your Lord much and glorify Him in the evening and the morning. (3:41)
In Surah Maryam Ayat no 2 to 6 Allah says,
“A mention of the mercy of your Lord to His servant Zakariyya. When
he called upon his Lord in a low voice. He said, My Lord surely my bones
are weakened and my head fares with hoariness and my Lord! I have never
been unsuccessful in my prayer to Thee.
And surely I fear my cousins after me, and my wife is barren, therefore grant me from Thyself an heir. Who should inherit me and inherit from the children of Ya‘qub, and make him, my Lord, one in Whom Thou art well pleased.(19:2-6)
According to tradition of ‘Ali Ibn Ibrahim up to that time he didn’t have any son to continue his generation. And was the chief Scholars of Palestine. He used to get gifts and all facilities from them. His wife was the daughter of ‘Imran’s son Masaan and descendants of Ya‘qub were the chiefs of people. They belonged to Prophet Sulayman ’s family.
Allah, the exalted says:
O Zakariyya! Surely we give you good news of a boy whose name shall
be Yahya; we have not made before anyone his equal.
He said, O my Lord! when shall I have a son, and my wife is barren, and I myself have reached extreme old age?
He said, So shall it be; your Lord says; It is easy to Me, and indeed I created you before when you were nothing. (19:7-9)
Imam Muhammad al-Baqir is reported to have said, “Yahya born five years
after Allah’s revelation.”
My Lord! Give me a sign. He said, Your sign is that you will not be able to speak to the people three nights while in sound health. (19:10)
Imam Ja‘far as-Sadiq is quoted in many religious books that Zakariyya had doubt whether it is Allah’s revelation or Satan’s information. For that he asked about the sign from Allah. Allah cleared his doubt by saying, he will not able to speak for three days with anyone while in sound health. When this sign approached upon him, he understood that Allah’s promise was true. Whenever he wanted to say anything to the people, he could not speak but giving the sign by nodding the head.
So he went forth to his people from his place of worship, then he made known to them that they should glorify (Allah) morning and evening. (19:11)
Zakariyya says that He was coming out from his place of worship at the
time of prayer every morning and evening, and calling people for prayer
by reciting the holy verses and when time came of his wife’s delivery,
he could not speak with anyone nor could recited any Dua or prayer.
O Yahya! Take hold of the Book with strength, and We granted him wisdom while yet a child. (19:12)
According to tradition when Allah commanded him, Yahya was three years old. When the other children tried to play with him, Yahya said that he was not born to play and waste time. According to the report of ‘Ali Ibn Asbaat, once he came to Imam Muhammad al-Taqi. Imam Taqi’s height was about 5 feet. ‘Ali Ibn Asbaat thought something about his height. Imam looked at him and said that Allah, the Creator, sends the messengers not to merely promulgate the divine law but act upon them practically. Sometimes the Almighty bestowed Prophethood at the age of forty and sometimes in childhood as in the case of Yahya and Allah, the Exalted says in Qur’an,
“And tenderness from Us and purity, and he was one who guarded (against evil).” (19:14)
Imam Muhammad al-Baqir said that when the Prophet addressed Him ‘Ya Rabbah’ at once Allah replied, “Labbaik” means “I am here, I am always with you, say what do you want”? In Qur’an, Allah says:
“And dutiful to his parents, and he was not insolent, disobedient. And peace on him on the day he was born, and on the day he dies, and on the day he is raised to life.” (19:14)
Allah, the Beneficent declares in Qur’an,
“And Zakariyya, when he cried to his Lord O my Lord! Leave me not alone; and Thou art the best of inheritors.” (21:89)
Allah, the Merciful replies in connection of these verses:
“So We responded to him and gave him Yahya and made his wife fit for him, surely they used to hasten, one with another in deeds of goodness and to call upon Us hoping and fearing; and they were humble before Us.” (21:90)
According to Sa’id bin ‘Abdullah once he asked some questions to Imam al-Mahdi when he was very young and was sitting on a lap of his father Imam Al-Hasan ‘Askari Sa’id bin ‘Abdullah asked Imam to explain the meaning of “Kaf-Ha-ya-Ain-Suad.” Imam at once said that there is a great secret behind of these letters. Allah has given the knowledge of these letters to Zakariyya and the last Prophet, Muhammad al-Mustafa.
It is said that Zakariyya requested the Almighty to make him know the names of the people of the cloak. By the order of Allah Archangel Gabriel approached him and taught him the names of the people of the cloak. When Zakariyya was reciting the names of Muhammad, ‘Ali, Fatimah, hasan his tension and sadness dissipated at once but when he recited the name of husayn, his throat was choked and he started crying. Then one day after reciting Dua and prayer he asked Allah the reason of his crying by reciting the name husayn.
Allah, the beneficent told him about the incident of Karbala by revelation: ‘Kaf’ means Karbala, ‘Ha’ means the martyrdom of the son of Rasul Ya’ means Yazid, ‘Ain’ means thirst and hunger of the family of husayn. ‘Suad’ means Patience of Imam al-Husayn.
When Zakariyya heard this, he felt, too much sorrow. He could not come out from his place of worship and forbade people to come and see him. He was saddened deeply, prayed to Allah by crying at Imam’s martyrdom. He said, “O, Allah! You will test your Prophet Muhammad al-Mustafa’s heart by grievances and troubles for the people of world to spread the principles and laws of Islam! Imam ‘Ali and Fatimah will also mourn and wear black dress for Imam al-Husayn’s martyrdom!”
He prayed, “My Lord! Grant me a son, I will prove myself as a truthful servant. O Allah make me cry and sad for my son’s troubles and sorrow as you will make your Prophet sorrowful for his son Imam al-Husayn’s grief.”
Allah the Merciful granted him a son named Yahya. His mother’s pregnancy
was only of six months and Imam al-Husayn’s was also the same.
According to the traditions of Imam al-Baqir and Imam Ja‘far as-Sadiq the names Yahya and husayn were fixed by Allah and no one knew these names before.
The murderer of Prophet Salih’s camel, Yahya’s, Imam ‘Ali’s, and Imam al-Husayn’s murders were all adulterers.
It is said that the earth and the heavens did not weep for anyone except Yahya and Imam al-Husayn. The sun lamented on their martyrdom. It became red like blood while rising and setting. According to another tradition, it rained blood. If a white colored cloth was spread on the ground it might have become red, and blood started oozing from below the stones.
According to the tradition of Imam Zayn al-‘abidin after the incident of
Karbala, they were returning to Karbala again. On the way wherever they
halted, he heard his beloved father Imam al-Husayn and Yahya saying that
the people of Palestine killed Yahya and sent his head to a
Ibn Babawayh has quoted from Wahab ibn Munabbah that one day Iblis was roaming among the people in Palestine and taking about Maryam and Zakariyya and defaming them. So the people turned against him (Zakariyya) and were ready to kill him. Zakariyya ran towards a tree to escape the enemies. The trunk of the tree cracked and Zakariyya entered in it and the crevices joined as before.
Iblis brought the people to the tree where Zakariyya was hiding. He searched for him by putting his hand below the tree and asked people to split the tree into pieces. The people obeyed him and cut the tree with a saw into two lying in the open and went away. Iblis also disappeared from there. Zakariyya felt no pain when people cut the tree with him.
Allah sent some angels who bathed his dead body and said prayer for
three days continuously. The dead body of Allah’s messenger never
decomposes nor is it dispersed in the soil.
Imam Al-Hasan ‘Askari says that Allah declares in Holy Qur’an: “O Zakariyya, we give good news of a boy whose name shall be Yahya. We have not made anyone equal and we granted him wisdom while yet a child.”
Children asked Yahya to come and play. He replied, “Allah has created me
to guide you from evil and not for playing.”
Allah mentions in Holy Qur’an, “And tenderness from us and purity, and he was one who guarded (against evil) And dutiful to his parents and he was not insolent, disobedient.”
Imam Al-Hasan al-’Askari says that when Zakariyya went to see Maryam he saw the winter fruits in summer and summer fruits in winter with her. He inquired about it. Maryam answered that it was all from Allah. If Allah, the Great desires to give anything at any time He gives. Zakariyya was sure that whatever she said was true. None came to her except he. Zakariyya was old he thought that Allah, the Almighty is Great. He provides everything to her, He takes care of her, sends her fruits of all seasons. Allah is great. Zakariyya thought for himself, he raised his hands for prayer. He prayed, “I have become old and my wife is also old and barren. Allah, grant me a son from Thyself as my heir.” Angels who were standing for prayer in the place of worship, congratulated him and said, Allah gives good news of a boy, whose name will be Yahya and he will be first to verify ‘Isa who will be good and obedient to Allah and His commands. He will be aloof from women. He would be a good Prophet.
The first verification of Yahya about ‘Isa was when Maryam the mother of ‘Isa drew aside from her family. She was staying in the place of worship to pray to Allah. There was a separate room without stairs. A ladder was installed for climbing up and down, none cared for her, except the Zakariyya. When he was going out, he locked the door. There was a ventilator on the doors.
When he came to know that Maryam was pregnant, he became very sad and thought that people of Israel would blame him as none visited her except Zakariyya. He informed his wife about Maryam . She said, “Don’t worry. Allah is Great and He will help you in this situation.” And she asked him to bring Maryam to her so she can ask her. Zakariyya brought Maryam to his wife, who was her elder sister. She could not stand to give respect to Maryam as she was pregnant with Yahya. By the grace of Allah, Yahya took out his hand and helped his mother to stand for Maryam in respect and said, “Maryam the mother of ‘Isa who is in her womb is coming to you and you can’t stand for the respectable lady?” She heard the voice of her son from her womb and she stood up. Yahya also bowed down in his mother’s womb. This was the first testimony of Yahya![^1]
Imam Ja‘far as-Sadiq is quoted in a book that on the Resurrection Day a proclaimer will announce, “Where is Fatimah the daughter of Prophet, where is Khadijah bint Khuwaylid? Where is Maryam the daughter of ‘Imran? Where is Aasiya the daughter of Mazahim? And where is Umm Kulthum the mother of Yahya? They all will come forward on the day of judgment.”
The Holy Prophet has stated that the status of Yahya was very high. One
day he came to the Dome of rocks. There he saw the learned scholars,
whose dresses and caps were made of hair and chained to the pillars of
mosque they were praying. Seeing them, Yahya told his mother to make a
dress of hair for him so can join with them for prayer there. His mother
asked him to wait until his father the Prophet of Allah came (At that
time Yahya was very young). When Zakariyya came his mother asked him for
Yahya said to his father, “O Father, have you not seen the children die in infancy?” Prophet said he had.
Then Prophet asked Yahya’s mother to prepare a dress for him as he likes. Yahya put on the dress and went to Jerusalem to pray with the other worshipper’s. His body became thin and weak, due to heavy hairy dress. When Yahya felt weakness, he prayed to Allah. Allah said, “O Yahya are you crying for weakness? I swear, if you see the fire of hell once, you will ask for the dress of iron.” Hearing the revelation, he wept so much, his face became pale and jaws became dry and his teeth jutted out. When his mother learnt of this she came with his father. The worshipper gathered and said his face became pale and wounded. Yahya said he knew nothing. Zakariyya asked, “O son, why are you suffering so much? I prayed to Allah to grant me a son and you were born. Allah refreshed my eyes and heart.” Yahya asked his father that he himself has said that there is a valley between Heaven and Hell, and only the righteous believers of Allah and Allah’s apostles will pass from it. Prophet replied, “Yes, I have told you. Allah, the Creator has created you for His worship.”
Then his mother asked if she could make two pieces of soft carpet-like cloth to keep upon his face, hide his teeth and wipe his tears. Yahya said, “Yes mother, do as you wish.” His mother made two pieces of cloth and kept on his cheeks. After sometime both the pieces were wet with tears. When he squeezed it, the tears fell from his finger tips. When Zakariyya saw this he became very sad and prayed, “O Allah! He is my son and these are his tears. You are Great and Merciful.”
When Zakariyya wanted to preach and make the people them about heaven and hell, he looked left and right as he did not want to say about the hell in presence of his son. Then one day Yahya was not present in the gathering. Prophet started addressing the people. Yahya also came and sat among the people to hear the sermon of his father. Zakariyya said, “Today, my friend Archangel Gabriel came with Allah’s revelation that there is a mountain in hell. Its name is ‘Sakaraan’. Beneath it is a valley ‘Gazabaan’. It is very dangerous and one of the gravest. There is a very deep and wide well in the valley. It is about hundred years of travel. There are numerous trunks of fire. These trunks have small trunks of fire including iron bars, chains and neck braces.”
When Yahya heard about the chastisement of Allah, he raised his head and
cried, “O Allah! We were ignorant of this!” He left the place and moved
to the forest.
Zakariyya came to his wife and asked her to search for him and said, “I am afraid that you will see him after his death.” His mother went out to search for him and reached where some people of Israel had gathered. They asked her where she was going. She said she was in search of her son, Yahya who had heard about hell from his father. “I fear he must have gone to the forest.” Then she went towards the forest. On the way she met a shepherd. She asked him if he had seen him. He said he had seen him and that his whole body was wet with tears. He was praying to Allah, raising his head up and saying, “O, Allah! By Your Glory and Greatness I will not drink cool water until I die and return to You.”
His mother came to him. When he saw his mother, he went to her. She covered his head with her dress and requested him to return home. He was an obedient son. They both returned home and she asked him to change the hairy clothes and put on woolen ones as they were soft. Yahya did as his mother said. Then his mother cooked masoor (lentil) for dinner. He ate and slept. At the time of the morning prayer Yahya heard Allah’s revelation, “O Yahya! Do you want any place better than My place? Or anyone like Me?” Yahya arose and asked Allah to forgive him for his deeds. He said he wanted the shelter of His Jerusalem only.
He asked his mother to return his coarse dress. His mother gave him and
embraced him, requested him not to go out. But Zakariyya said, “Let him
go. He has renounced the world.” Yahya changed his dress, and occupied
himself in prayer with the worshippers in Jerusalem until his last.
According to a tradition of Imam al-Ridha, from the beginning, Iblis was visiting the Prophets from Adam to ‘Isa. He was sitting and discussing with them but he was much attached to Yahya. One day Yahya asked him, “O Abu Marrah! I want to ask you something.” The Satan said, “Say what you like as your respect is very high in my sight. I cannot deny you.”
Yahya said, “Then tell me about all your tricks by which you make the people act against Allah’s commands.” He agreed and promised him that he would come to him the next day. Next day in the morning, Yahya was waiting for him, when suddenly an ugly figure approached him. His face was like a monkey and the body was like a pig. His eyes were as big as his mouth, his chin and beard were missing. He had four hands. Two of them on his breast and two on the shoulders. His toes were backward. He wore a gown and had a turban. Tied to his waist were multi-colored threads it. He had a bell in his hand and the hooks hung from the bell. Yahya asked him about his turban which was tied on his waist. He said it is a cage made by him. It is painted of different colors to attract the male and the coloring threads are the oaths of women which attract males by evil tricks. Prophet asked about the bell. He said, it possessed all kinds of tastes. It has all sorts of sounds like a flute, guitar and drum etc. When a person drinks wine and do not enjoy it I ring the bell. Hearing the sound of bell, they start singing and dancing and clapping.” Prophet asked, “What makes you happy?” He said, “Women.”
Then he said, “When the virtuous people curse me, I go to the women and
make them happy.” The Prophet asked, “What is it on your head?” He said,
“These are the curses of good people.” The Prophet asked, “And what
about the hooks which are hanging on it?” He said, “By these hooks, I
attract the mind and heart of the good believers towards me.” Then Yahya
asked whether he could succeed over him?” Satan said, “No. Not at all.
But I have seen your attitude, when you eat more than my hunger, until I
am alive.” The Satan also vowed that he will not give advice any Muslim
until the day of judgment and disappeared from there and did not come
again to any Prophet.
In another book it is written that the dress of Yahya was made of date palm.
According to traditions of Imam Musa al-Ka¨im and Imam al-Ridha, Yahya
was always weeping in fear of Allah and never laughed and ‘Isa was
sometimes crying and sometimes laughing and whatever he was doing, was
better than Yahya.
Imam Ja‘far as-Sadiq is quoted in a book that the rulership of The Israelites was transferred from Prophet Denial to Uzair. The followers used to gather and ask the religious matters and problems and solved their problems through Uzair
Then Prophet Uzair disappeared from among them for a hundred years and
by order of Allah he again reappeared and the people who were preaching
to the people in his absence became dumb. The rules and regulations were
very strict at that time. In the same period Yahya born. When he was
seven years old, he started preaching Allah’s command and recited the
holy verses in loud voice before the people. “Allah is one! He is alone
and has no partner. He punishes the offenders, so fear His chastisement.
Sometimes the apostles disappear from the people to their offence. You
will be happy when ‘Isa son of Maryam will come within twenty years
among you and preach you.”
‘Ali has stated that Yahya died in the last week of the month on Wednesday. (Month is not mentioned)
Imam as-Sadiq has stated in a book that ‘Isa prayed to Allah to make Yahya return to the world again and went near the Yahya’s tomb and called out. Yahya came out of his tomb and asked, “O ‘Isa why have you called me? And what do you want from me?” ‘Isa said, “I want you to return to the world again and be my helper and companion as you were before.” Yahya replied, “O ‘Isa! Still I am restless after my death and you want me to come back again and die again. I don’t want to come again,” and went into his tomb and ‘Isa turned back.
Imam as-Sadiq has stated that a man came to ‘Isa and confessed that he is a great sinner. He has committed a great sin (adultery). “So please make me pure and ask Allah to forgive me.” ‘Isa called the people to gather and award punishment. People gathered and made him stand in a pit for stoning. ‘Isa said, “Only those who have not committed any sin can punish.” The people realized their mistake and left except ‘Isa and Yahya.
Yahya came to him and said, “O sinner, give me some good advice.” He
said, “Restrain from evil, otherwise your wish will kill you.” Yahya
said, “Say something more.” He said, “Secondly do not rebuke the person
in front of others and do not be angry in excess.” Prophet said, “It is
The Holy Prophet says, “When the time came, Allah raised ‘Isa nominated Prophet Shamoun ibn Hamoon as his successor. He preached to the people of The Israelites until he was alive. When people tried Yahya and put him to death, he appointed the son of Shamoun as his successor.[^2]
Imam Muhammad al-Baqir said that when Yahya was born Angels took him to the heaven and gave him milky juice but forbade him to drink milk. Then they brought him to his father Zakariyya. The house was illuminated as if by moonlight.
Imam al-Ridha says that there are three stages in a human life. First when he is born in the world and sees the world. Second when he dies and third when he would be raised from the grave. Allah sent peace upon Yahya and removed his fear. Yahya said that Allah, the Merciful has released him from the terror of these three occasions.
Imam al-Ridha says, “When Zakariyya prayed to Allah to grant him a son whom he can nominate as his successor it was the first of Muharram and Allah heard his prayer. It is said that Allah bestow whatever he asks to the one who fasts and prays on that day.”
According to hasan Balkia Imam Ja‘far as-Sadiq said, “When Zakariyya fled in fear of The Israelites and asked a tree for refuge, the trunk of the tree split and invited Zakariyya to enter. When he entered, the tree joined as before. The Israelites searched for him everywhere but could not find him. Then Satan came to them and showed them where he was hidden and asked them to saw the tree trunk. At that time people were worshipping that tree and they refused to cut the tree. But Satan changed their mind and made them cut it happily.” At last, Zakariyya was cut in two.[^3]
Imam Ja‘far as-Sadiq was asked, who was the most cruel disbeliever. He said, “He was an adulterer and kept a lot of mistresses. One of them belonged to The Israelites. When she became old, she asked her daughter to “go to the king as a mistress and when the king asks what reward you want, tell him that you want the head of the son of Zakariyya.” The girl did as her mother bid her. The king asked her three times but she gave the same reply. At last the king ordered for a golden tray, called Yahya to his court and cut his head. When Prophet’s blood fell on the ground it began to boil. The people started putting dust and mud on it but it did not stop boiling. The dust and mud piled upon it became a hillock.
Many years passed. After that king, the new king named Nebuchadnezzar became the ruler of The Israelites. He asked one of the elderly people the reason of blood boiling. He said he has heard from his father and grandfather that it was the blood of Yahya who had been killed by the previous king and his blood is still boiling.
Nebuchadnezzar vowed that he would kill the people of The Israelites to
stop the boiling of blood. To this end he killed about seventy thousand
people and the blood stopped boiling.
According to another tradition, the woman who asked the king for Yahya’s head, was the wife of another king. The king of the Israelites kept her as his mistress. When she became old, she offered the king to accept her daughter from her first husband. The king said he will ask Yahya if he would allow me to marry her. When he asked Yahya he refused. Then one day the old woman dressed up her daughter and sent her to the king when he was drunk. He accepted her. Then she persuaded the king to kill Yahya. Due to this Yahya was slaughtered by the king.
According to another tradition ‘Isa sent Yahya with twelve followers to
preach to the people the religious laws and warn people that it was
against Islamic law, to marry the sister’s daughter. According to a
tradition the king loved his sister’s daughter very much and he wanted
to marry her. When her mother came to know about the Yahya’s order. She
became very angry with him. She adorned her daughter and sent her to the
king. The king asked her what she desired as a gift. She asked for
Yahya’s head. The king told her to ask for anything except Yahya’s head,
but she refused. Finally the king relented and summoned Yahya to the
court and beheaded him.
The drops of blood fell on the ground and started boiling. When Nebuchadnezzar came on the throne and he came to know about it from an old woman of The Israelites, he vowed that he would kill the people of the Israelites to stop the boiling of blood.
Imam Ja‘far as-Sadiq said, “When Allah desires to take revenge of his apostles or believers, He takes revenge through evil people of this world and sometimes He takes revenge from His own friends. Nothing is difficult to Allah. Allah took revenge of Yahya by Nebuchadnezzar, the king of The Israelites.”[^4]
[^1]: It is said that the mother of Yahya was from Asia. Some says that she was the sister of Maryam or her aunt.
[^2]: That there are different opinions about Yahya being the successor of ‘Isa
[^3]: Allah’s blessings on those who believe in Him and curse on those who have slaughtered His apostles.
[^4]: Many incidents and conditions of Yahya, Prophet Daniel will be narrated in the chapter of Nebuchadnezzar.