ذِکۡرُ رَحۡمَتِ رَبِّکَ عَبۡدَہٗ زَکَرِیَّا ۖ﴿ۚ۳﴾
ذِكۡرُ رَحۡمَتِ رَبِّكَ عَبۡدَهُۥ زَكَرِيَّآ
1739. The account of Zachariah precedes that of Jesus, because Yahya, (John the Baptist), the son of Zachariah, was the harbinger of Jesus. He heralded Jesus’s advent to give to the Jews the glad tidings that their deliverer was about to make his appearance (Mal. 4:5). As according to Malachi’s prophecy Elias should have come before the coming of Jesus, it was in the fitness of things that while giving an account of Jesus, the Qur’an should have made a mention of Yahya (John) who came in the spirit and power of Elijah. (close)
The account of Zachariah precedes the account of Jesus. This is due to two very valid reasons. Yahya, the son of Zachariah, and John of the New Testament, was a harbinger of Jesus. He heralded Jesus’ advent and acted as his precursor to give to the Jews the glad tidings that their deliverer was about to make his appearance.
That Yahya or John was Jesus’ harbinger is apparent from the following prophecy of Prophet Malachi: "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord" (Mal. 4:5). The words "the great and dreadful day" here signify the advent of Jesus. This is why when Jesus was asked where Elias was who was to come before him, he replied: "And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come" (Matt. 11:14). As according to Malachi’s prophecy Elias must have appeared before the coming of Jesus, it was in the fitness of things that while giving an account of Jesus, the Quran should have made a mention of Yahya. Secondly, Mary, the mother of Jesus, had unknowingly become the cause of Yahya’s birth. We are told (3:38, 39) how Zachariah was deeply moved by a pious reply of Mary and prayed to God to be blessed with a good child like her. Thus whereas Yahya became a harbinger of Jesus, Mary, Jesus’ mother having indirectly become the cause of the birth of Yahya may as well be said to have become a precursor of Yahya (John) himself. See also 3:38-42.
The words, "Thy Lord" in the sentence, "This is an account of the mercy of thy Lord," appear to be misplaced because whereas the account given in the following verses is that of the mercy of God shown to Zachariah the words "Thy Lord" seem to indicate as if some account is about to be given of God’s mercy to the Holy Prophet. In fact these words signify that the account of Divine mercy to Zachariah does imply a mercy to the Holy Prophet also. Prophet Yahya, as stated above, was a harbinger of Jesus and Jesus was a harbinger of the Holy Prophet. A description of the birth of Yahyafollowed by a somewhat detailed description of Jesus’ birth pointed to the fact that by the introduction of the life accounts of these two Prophets who, in a way, acted as his precursors, the minds of men were being prepared for the acceptance of the Holy Prophet of Islam by an implied reference to the following Biblical prophecies:
And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee. Behold I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation (Gen. 17:20);
I will raise them up a prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee; and I will put my words in his mouth (Deut. 18:18).
The pronoun "thy" may also possess an oblique but beautiful reference to Mecca, the birth-place of the Holy Prophet. Mecca like Zachariah’s wife was barren. For thousands of years it had not heard the voice of God. Now God’s mercy was about to dawn upon it. The barren valley of Mecca was about to give birth to the greatest of Adam’s sons. To this barrenness of Mecca reference is found in Isaiah 54:1.
Sing, O barren, thou that didst not bear; break forth into singing, and cry aloud, thou that didst not travail with child: for more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife, saith the Lord. (close)
اِذۡ نَادٰی رَبَّہٗ نِدَآءً خَفِیًّا ﴿۴﴾
إِذۡ نَادَىٰ رَبَّهُۥ نِدَآءً خَفِيّٗا
a. 3:39; 21:90. (close)
1740. Zachariah had understood from biblical prophecies and heavenly warnings that were administered to the Jews because of their repeated rejection of God’s Prophets that Prophethood was soon to be transferred from the House of Isaac to that of Ishmael. So he gave vent to his feelings in the form of a prayer for the birth of a righteous son. (close)
a. 3:39; 21:90. (close)
2149. Important Words:
نادی (called upon): نادی الرجلmeans, he called the man aloud. نادی بسرہ means, he disclosed his secret. نادی فلاناً means, he consulted him (Aqrab).
The words, when he called upon his Lord, crying in secret, signify that Zachariah had kept concealed in the inmost recesses of his heart a long cherished desire. When he heard Mary’s innocent reply to his query (3:38), he was deeply touched and he laid bare his heart before his Lord and Creator and his long-suppressed desire assumed the form of prayer that a good and righteous son like Mary might be born unto him to continue prophethood in the Israelite line. Zachariah had understood from Biblical prophecies and heavenly warnings that were administered to the Jews for their repeated rejection of God’s Prophets that prophethood was soon to be transferred from the House of Isaac to that of Ishmael. So he gave vent to his feelings in the form of prayer for the birth of a righteous son. (close)
قَالَ رَبِّ اِنِّیۡ وَہَنَ الۡعَظۡمُ مِنِّیۡ وَ اشۡتَعَلَ الرَّاۡسُ شَیۡبًا وَّ لَمۡ اَکُنۡۢ بِدُعَآئِکَ رَبِّ شَقِیًّا ﴿۵﴾
قَالَ رَبِّ إِنِّي وَهَنَ ٱلۡعَظۡمُ مِنِّي وَٱشۡتَعَلَ ٱلرَّأۡسُ شَيۡبٗا وَلَمۡ أَكُنۢ بِدُعَآئِكَ رَبِّ شَقِيّٗا
b. 3:41. (close)
b. 3:41. (close)
Besides the rendering given in the text the words ولم اکن بدعائک رب شقیا may mean, "since Thou hast called me and hast made me a Prophet and Thy blessings and favours have covered me, I have never been unsuccessful in achieving my object." (close)
وَ اِنِّیۡ خِفۡتُ الۡمَوَالِیَ مِنۡ وَّرَآءِیۡ وَ کَانَتِ امۡرَاَتِیۡ عَاقِرًا فَہَبۡ لِیۡ مِنۡ لَّدُنۡکَ وَلِیًّا ۙ﴿۶﴾
وَإِنِّي خِفۡتُ ٱلۡمَوَٰلِيَ مِن وَرَآءِي وَكَانَتِ ٱمۡرَأَتِي عَاقِرٗا فَهَبۡ لِي مِن لَّدُنكَ وَلِيّٗا
c. 3:41; 21:91. (close)
d. 3:39; 21:90. (close)
1741. The prayer of Zachariah possesses all the ingredients of a complete and successful prayer. A successful prayer should be offered with fervour and in humility. The supplicant should confess his own weakness and helplessness. He should have firm faith in the power of God to accept his prayers. Zachariah’s prayer fulfils all these conditions. (close)
a. 3:41; 21:91. (close)
b. 3:39; 21:90. (close)
2150. Important Words:
عاقراً (barren) is derived from عقر. They say عقرہ i.e. he wounded him; he wounded him much. عقر الابل means, he cut the feet of the camel. عقر النخلة means, he cut the upper part of the palm-tree so that it dried up and ceased to yield fruit. عقرت المرأةmeans, the woman became barren. عاقر is used both for man and woman and applied to a woman means, barren; that does not conceive or has ceased to conceive; and applied to a man it means, barren; that has no offspring born to him. (Lane & Aqrab).
ولیا (successor) is derived from ولی. They say ولی الرجل i.e. he helped the man; he made friends with him; he loved him. ولی فلاناًmeans, he followed such a one immediately without anyone intervening between them ولی means, a friend; beloved one, helper, master; successor or inheritor etc. (Aqrab). See also 2:108.
In view of the different meanings of the word ولی (successor) given under "Important Words" above, Zachariah’s prayer was for such a son as should prove his true successor and should propagate his mission and inherit the spiritual blessings that God had bestowed on the House of Israel. (close)
یَّرِثُنِیۡ وَ یَرِثُ مِنۡ اٰلِ یَعۡقُوۡبَ ٭ۖ وَ اجۡعَلۡہُ رَبِّ رَضِیًّا ﴿۷﴾
يَرِثُنِي وَيَرِثُ مِنۡ ءَالِ يَعۡقُوبَۖ وَٱجۡعَلۡهُ رَبِّ رَضِيّٗا
e. 3:39. (close)
c. 3:39. (close)
The prayer of Zachariah is complete in every respect and possesses all the ingredients of a successful prayer. A successful prayer should be offered with fervour and in humility. The supplicant should confess his own weakness and helplessness. He should have firm faith in the power of God to accept his prayers. Zachariah’s prayer fulfils all these conditions. He prays to God in words full of extreme pathos. He invokes Divine mercy by referring to his extreme old age and to the barrenness of his wife. He prays fervently and in all humility. He asks for no worldly gains. He prays only for a righteous heir. He felt that righteousness had altogether disappeared from his family and his relations had consigned God to oblivion. He knew that the House of Israel was about to be deprived forever of the boon of prophethood but still he had not despaired of God’s mercy. He hoped that something yet might happen which should save his people and the House of Israel from utter spiritual ruin. He was extremely anxious that the Israelites might not reject the last Israelite Prophet and might still avert the impending wrath of God. This was Zachariah’s wish which he expressed in words full of pathos. He prayed that an heir be born to him who might warn the Israelites to take heed and not to deprive themselves of the light of prophethood by rejecting their own last Prophet. It appears from the Bible that the whole mission of Yahya for whose birth Zachariah had so fervently prayed consisted in preparing the way for Jesus. He says:
I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire (Matt. 3:11).
Yahya tried his utmost to make the task of Jesus easy and to prepare the Jews to accept him. But his efforts proved vain. He himself was imprisoned and murdered. His people rejected him as well as his great successor, Jesus. They even sought to kill the latter on the cross. Zachariah’s prayer was only partly fulfilled as Divine decree had also to be implemented. So Yahya was born to Zachariah in fulfilment of his prayer but he (Yahya) failed to soften the hearts of his people. They did not believe in Jesus and thus could not avert the wrath of God and became deprived forever of the light of prophethood which was the real object of Zachariah’s prayer. The Divine will prevailed and prophethood became transferred from the House of Israel to that of Ishmael. (close)
یٰزَکَرِیَّاۤ اِنَّا نُبَشِّرُکَ بِغُلٰمِ ۣاسۡمُہٗ یَحۡیٰی ۙ لَمۡ نَجۡعَلۡ لَّہٗ مِنۡ قَبۡلُ سَمِیًّا ﴿۸﴾
يَٰزَكَرِيَّآ إِنَّا نُبَشِّرُكَ بِغُلَٰمٍ ٱسۡمُهُۥ يَحۡيَىٰ لَمۡ نَجۡعَل لَّهُۥ مِن قَبۡلُ سَمِيّٗا
a. 3:40; 21:91. (close)
b. 19:66. (close)
1742. Samiyy means, competitor or contender for superiority in eminence or glory or excellence; a like or an equal; a namesake of another (Lane). The verse does not mean that there had lived before Yahya (John) no man who was his namesake. From the Bible itself it appears that there had been several persons before him who were called John (II Kings, 25:23; I Chronicles, 3:15; Ezra, 8:12). Nor does it mean that John was peerless and unequalled in every respect. He himself confesses that 'there cometh one mightier than I after me, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose' (Mark, 1:7). The verse only signifies that Yahya or John was peerless in this respect that he was the first Prophet to come as a precursor to another Prophet—Jesus. And he was peerless in this respect also that he was the first Prophet who came with the power and spirit of another Prophet—Elijah. (close)
a. 3:40; 21:91. (close)
b. 19:66. (close)
2152. Important Words:
سمیا (of that name) is derived from سمی. They say سما و سمی الرجل زیداً i.e. he named the man Zaid. سما means, it became high. سموت الیه ببصری means, I raised my eye towards him. سمی means, competitor or contender for superiority, in eminence or glory or excellence; a like or an equal; a namesake of another. ھو سمیک means, he is thy namesake or he is thy equal or like (Aqrab & Lane).
The two words غلام and یحیٰی used in this verse are very significant. The word غلام signifies three periods of one’s life i.e. childhood, youth and middle age. Applied to Yahya or John it embodied a prophecy that he shall not die in childhood but shall grow up to be a young man before the eyes of his father and shall live up to middle age and so it actually came to pass. Yahya lived up to middle age and then was killed by the order of Herod to satisfy the wish of a dancing girl. The word یحییٰ literally meaning, "he lives" or "he shall live," also implied a great prophecy, viz. that he will die the death of a martyr and thus will become immortalized. Of the martyrs the Quran says: Say not of those who are killed in the cause of Allah that they are dead; nay they are living; only you perceive not (2:155). Again it says: Think not of those who have been slain in the cause of Allah as dead. Nay, they are living in the presence of their Lord and are granted gifts from Him(3:170). Thus those who are killed in the way of God get everlasting life and so did Yahya or John. His ministry terminated in his imprisonment in the fortress of Machaerus, where he was executed by the order of Herod Antipas (Matt. 14:10 & 11). See also 3:40.
The words, We have not made anyone before him of that name, do not mean that there had lived before him no man whose name was John. From the Bible it appears that there had been several persons before him who were called John. (II Kings 25:23; I Chronicles 3:15; Ezra 8:12). Nor does the verse mean that John was peerless and was unequalled in every respect. He himself confesses that "there cometh one mightier than I after me, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose" (Mark 1:7). The verse only signifies that in some respects Yahya had no equal, i.e. he enjoyed a partial superiority in some respects over other Israelite Prophets. Abraham, Moses and Jesus were Prophets of much higher spiritual status than John, the Baptist, who had come only to prepare the way for Jesus (Mark 1:3). Yahya was peerless only in this respect that he was the first Prophet to come as a precursor and harbinger to another Prophet—Jesus. And he was peerless in this respect also that he was the first Prophet who came with the power and spirit of another Prophet—Elias. (close)
قَالَ رَبِّ اَنّٰی یَکُوۡنُ لِیۡ غُلٰمٌ وَّ کَانَتِ امۡرَاَتِیۡ عَاقِرًا وَّ قَدۡ بَلَغۡتُ مِنَ الۡکِبَرِ عِتِیًّا ﴿۹﴾
قَالَ رَبِّ أَنَّىٰ يَكُونُ لِي غُلَٰمٞ وَكَانَتِ ٱمۡرَأَتِي عَاقِرٗا وَقَدۡ بَلَغۡتُ مِنَ ٱلۡكِبَرِ عِتِيّٗا
c. 3:41; 21:91. (close)
1743. The verse expresses Zachariah’s innocent and spontaneous surprise at the greatness of the favour which God was about to bestow upon him. Every person, situated as Zachariah was, would be naturally surprised at the unusual glad tidings that he had received. (close)
2153. Important Words:
عتیا (extreme limit) is derived from عتا which means, he behaved proudly and was immoderate and inordinate; he was excessively proud or corrupt; he became advanced in age. عتت الریح means, the wind blew fiercely. The Quranic expression وقد بلغت من الکبر عتیا means, And I have reached the extreme degree of old age, or hardness and dryness in the joints and the bones like dry wood. The word also signifies that state of extreme old age which is incurable (Mufradat, Lane & Aqrab).
The word غلام as stated above (v.8) implied that Zachariah would see his son grow before his eyes and that he would also be able to train and educate him. The glad tidings was indeed a source of great comfort but at the same time it was a surprise for a man who had reached such an advanced old age as Zachariah.
The words, How shall I have a son, do not express despair. V.5 above shows that Zachariah had not despaired of God’s mercy. On the contrary he had perfect faith in the power of God to grant him a son. Moreover, a true believer never despairs of God’s mercy. "None despairs of Allah’s mercy save the unbelieving people", says the Quran (12:88). The verse only expresses Zachariah’s innocent and spontaneous surprise at the greatness of the favour which God was about to bestow upon him. Every person situated as Zachariah was would be naturally surprised at the unusual glad tidings that he had received. (close)
قَالَ کَذٰلِکَ ۚ قَالَ رَبُّکَ ہُوَ عَلَیَّ ہَیِّنٌ وَّ قَدۡ خَلَقۡتُکَ مِنۡ قَبۡلُ وَ لَمۡ تَکُ شَیۡئًا ﴿۱۰﴾
قَالَ كَذَٰلِكَ قَالَ رَبُّكَ هُوَ عَلَيَّ هَيِّنٞ وَقَدۡ خَلَقۡتُكَ مِن قَبۡلُ وَلَمۡ تَكُ شَيۡـٔٗا
d. 3:41, 48; 19:22; 51:31. (close)
a. 3:41, 48; 19:22; 51:31. (close)
The words, and indeed I created thee before, when thou wast nothing, primarily refer to the spiritual creation of Zachariah rather than to his physical creation. There seems to be no point in referring to an ordinary everyday physical phenomenon of the creation of one individual. If God had intended to refer to the phenomenon of physical creation, He would have referred to the creation of the whole universe and not to the creation of Zachariah alone. In fact, the present verse is an answer to the surprise of Zachariah expressed in the previous verses. Zachariah was promised the birth of a son in his extreme old age. The son was not to be an ordinary one but was to be possessed of great spiritual powers and to be peerless in respect of certain spiritual qualities. So the reference here is to the spiritual birth of Zachariah and to his great moral qualities.
The word "he" in the expression "he said", refers to the angel who brought the glad tidings to Zachariah. In verse 8 Zachariah is mentioned as having been addressed by God; in the present verse, however, he is described as having been addressed by one angel while in 3:40 it is stated that several angels called to him. These three statements seem to be mutually contradictory and the critics of Islam like Wherry have not failed to represent this fact as such. But in reality there is no such contradiction. According to the Quran when a Divine revelation of exceptional importance descends upon a Prophet of God, a number of angels, in accordance with the nature of its importance, are made to accompany it for its safeguarding (35:2) but only one angel representing all of them and on their behalf is entrusted with the duty to convey the Divine revelation to the Prophet. Thus the speaking of one angel means the speaking of all of them and therefore to say that one or many angels spoke to a Prophet makes no difference. Similarly, there is no contradiction in the words "God said" or "the angels said", because angels only speak to a Prophet as God’s representatives and as His servants convey to him the Divine Message. (close)
قَالَ رَبِّ اجۡعَلۡ لِّیۡۤ اٰیَۃً ؕ قَالَ اٰیَتُکَ اَلَّا تُکَلِّمَ النَّاسَ ثَلٰثَ لَیَالٍ سَوِیًّا ﴿۱۱﴾
قَالَ رَبِّ ٱجۡعَل لِّيٓ ءَايَةٗۖ قَالَ ءَايَتُكَ أَلَّا تُكَلِّمَ ٱلنَّاسَ ثَلَٰثَ لَيَالٖ سَوِيّٗا
a. 3:42. (close)
1744. The commandment enjoining upon Zachariah to abstain from talking and to devote himself fully to the remembrance and glorification of God was a spiritual measure calculated to recuperate his exhausted physical powers. He had not become deprived of his power of speech, as the Gospels seem to suggest, as a punishment for his not believing in the words of God (Luke 1:20-22). (close)
a. 3:42. (close)
2155. Important Words:
آیة (token). They say أیاآیة i.e. he put or set up a sign, token or mark by which a person or thing might be known. آیةmeans, a sign, token or mark by which a person or thing is known, a message or communication sent from one person to another; a person or individual; a whole company of people; a verse or a chapter of the Quran; a miracle, an evidence or a proof; an example or a warning; a Divine commandment (Lane, Aqrab & Mufradat), See also 2:130.
سویا is derived from سوی (sawwa) which again is derived from سوی (sawiya) which means, it became straight and even and rightly set. سواہ (sawwa) means, he made it equal, uniform, even. سوی (sawiyyun) means, equal, symmetrical, smooth and even; straight; whole; in good condition. غلام سوی means, a young man uniform in make or symmetrical, without disease and without fault or defect (Lane & Aqrab).
Zachariah beseeches God to appoint for him a token or to give him a commandment (the word آیة also meaning 'a commandment' as given under "Important Words" above) by acting upon which he might give palpable expression to his feeling of extreme gratefulness for the most unusual favour God has bestowed upon him.
The commandment enjoining upon Zachariah to abstain from talking and to devote himself fully to the remembrance and glorification of God was a spiritual measure calculated to recuperate his exhausted physical powers. He had not become deprived of his power of speech, as the Gospels seem to suggest, as a punishment for his not believing in the words of God (Luke 1:20-22). See also 3:42.
In view of the meaning of the word سویا given under "Important Words" above, the verse, besides the meaning given in the text, also signifies that Zachariah was commanded by God not to speak to his people for three days and nights while he was without any defect or disease and was in perfect state of health. The very word used in this verse about Zachariah contradicts the Biblical statement of his having been struck dumb. (close)
فَخَرَجَ عَلٰی قَوۡمِہٖ مِنَ الۡمِحۡرَابِ فَاَوۡحٰۤی اِلَیۡہِمۡ اَنۡ سَبِّحُوۡا بُکۡرَۃً وَّ عَشِیًّا ﴿۱۲﴾
فَخَرَجَ عَلَىٰ قَوۡمِهِۦ مِنَ ٱلۡمِحۡرَابِ فَأَوۡحَىٰٓ إِلَيۡهِمۡ أَن سَبِّحُواْ بُكۡرَةٗ وَعَشِيّٗا
1745. Auha ila fulanin means, he communicated to such a one or gave order or made a request by gesture or sign, or he talked to him in such a way that others could not hear him (Aqrab). In 3:42 the word Ramz, which means to communicate by means of movements of the lips and not by using one’s throat, has been used to express the same sense. (close)
b. 3:42; 33:43. (close)
a. 3:42; 33:43. (close)
2156. Important Words:
اوحی (asked in a low voice) is derived from وحی. They say وحی الی فلان or اوحی i.e. he communicated to him or gave order or made a request by gesture or sign; he talked to him in secret or he talked to him in such a way that others may not hear him; اوحی اللّٰه الیه means, God sent revelation to him. The real sense of وحی (wahy) which is inf. noun from وحی (waha) is to convey one’s intention or wish by means of quick signs which may be done by gesture, writing, etc. They say اوحی العمل i.e. he did the thing quickly. اوحی الدواء الموت means, medicine precipitated his death (Lane & Aqrab). See also 5:112.
For محراب (chamber) see 3:38.
When Zachariah was commanded by God not to speak to his people for three consecutive nights, he made up his mind to devote himself fully and completely to the remembrance of God. During this time when he had to speak to anyone he spoke so low as to be heard only by those very near him. In 3:42 the word رمزا has been used to express the same sense, for رمز means to communicate by means of movements of the lips and not to use one’s throat. So the Quran repudiates the Biblical suggestion that Zachariah was struck dumb. What actually happened was that he told his people in very low tones that he had been commanded by God to remember and glorify Him and that they should also do the same and not disturb him. (close)