Prophet Zakariya is a Prophet in the Qur’an who is also known as Zechariah from the Biblical Traditions. He hailed from the lineage of Prophet Suleiman (King Solomon) and was a Prophet of the Israelites. His wife “Al-Yashbi” was a descendent of Prophet Harun (Aaron) and was as pious and righteous as her husband. According to the Qur’anic traditions Zakiriya was the Guardian of Mariam (Mary), Mother of Prophet Isa (Jesus) and was also given the task of being the trustee for Hekal. His livelihood came about from working as a carpenter.
Despite being poor and of old age, Zakariya was a staunch and zealous worshipper who did not let his feebleness obstruct his daily sermons. He was not rich however he was always willing to help others and guide them to the true path. His kinsmen, unfortunately, were always seduced by their material pursuits into mischief and evil deeds which worried Zakiriya a lot. He knew that his people were weak in their faith and were always ready to change the Holy Laws to their liking and therefore needed a strong leader to keep them on the path of Allah. Adding to his troubles was the disappointment that he did not have any children to continue the teachings of Hekal after him. His state of affairs made him anxious and long for a son to maintain the teachings of the Mosaic Law after his death.
During one of his visits to Mariam he was surprised to find fresh and out of season fruit in her secluded room. Since no one except him visited her, he inquired about the source of fresh fruit and was told that it was from Allah that she got every morning. Mariam questioned Zakariya’s surprise as he was supposed to know that Allah gives without any limitations to whom He wills. The incident marked a great impression on Zakariya and he stood out in prayer in his sanctuary all night requesting Allah to bless him with a good son. He knew that he was himself ninety years old and his wife had been long past the childbearing age, however he had full faith in Allah’s power and mercy as nothing was impossible for the Almighty.
Zakariya’s call in secret to Allah for a son was fulfilled and he was given the glad tidings of Yahya (John), pure from sins, righteous and dutiful towards his parents and neither arrogant nor disobedient. As a sign of this miracle, Zakariya was told by Allah not to speak to mankind for three days except with signals, and was commanded to worship his Lord as much as possible and glorify Him in the afternoon and evening. According to some historians grass became the food of Zakariyah during these three days as he joined the animals for dinner from the fear of mixing with mankind. Zakariya did not see his son for three days and on the fourth day found him weeping in a grave. Yahya complained to his father of not being told that the span between Heaven and Hell can only be crossed by the tears of weepers. Thus they both wept asking forgiveness and mercy from Allah.
According to Islamic Tradiitons Zakariya died a martyr’s death by escaping from the Israelites and hiding inside a tree which had opened to admit him. Zakariya was believed to have been betrayed by Iblis, the devil, who pointed out the hem of the Prophet’s cloak protruding from the trunk. The Israelites began to saw the tree apart and with it Zakariya, who did not even utter a faint cry when his body was being cut into two.