Prophet Zachariah was the father of Prophet John (Yahya) and the uncle-in-law (husband of the maternal aunt) of Mary or Jesus.
Prophet Zechariah and his son John are the key to the sound knowledge of Jesus in the light of both the Bible and the Qur’an.
While Prophet Zechariah’s character is the same everywhere in the Qur’an, there are numerous historical characters named “Zechariah” in the Bible.
Let’s know more about Prophet Zechariah’s character in Christianity and Islam.
Prophet Zechariah in Christianity
There are so many persons named “Zechariah” in the Bible, especially the Old Testament. It seems that the name “Zechariah” was very common among the children of Israel so much so that there were a lot of people carrying this name, including Zechariah, the father of John, the Baptist.
In the Bible, we come across many people named “Zechariah”, including but not limited to: Zechariah, the son of Jeroboam (2 Kings 14:29); Zechariah, the son of Meshelemiah (1 Chronicles 9:21); Zachariah, the son of Benaiah (2 Chronicles 20:14); Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada (2 Chronicles 24:20); Zechariah, the son of Iddo (Ezra 5:1); Zechariah, the son of Bebai (Ezra 8:11); Zechariah, the son of Amariah (Nehemiah 11:4); Zechariah, the son of Shelah (Nehemiah 11:5); Zechariah, the son of Pashhur (Nehemiah 11:12); Zechariah, the son of Jonathan (Nehemiah 12:35); and Zechariah, the son of Jeberekiah (Isaiah 8:2).
It is curious that Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, was not a prophet according to the Bible. Rather, he was just a priest of Abijah’s division.
Anyway, the Bible honors and praises Zechariah and his wife, Elizabeth who are described as “righteous”. In the Bible, we read:
“In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest of Abijah’s division named Zechariah. His wife was from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. Both were righteous in God’s sight, living without blame according to all the commands and requirements of the Lord.” (Luke 1:5-6)
Prophet Zechariah in Islam
The Qur’an honors and praises Zechariah. It tells us that he was one of the righteous. We read:
And Zachariah and John and Jesus and Elias. Each one (of them) was of the righteous. (Al-An`am 6:85)
The Qur’an also praises and describes Zechariah and his wife as “hastening to good deeds” and “supplicating and submitting to God”. We read:
And [mention] Zechariah, when he called to his Lord, “My Lord, do not leave me alone [with no heir], while you are the best of inheritors.” So We responded to him, and We gave to him John, and amended for him his wife. Indeed, they used to hasten to good deeds and supplicate Us in hope and fear, and they were to Us humbly submissive. (Al-Anbiyaa’ 21:89-90)
Relationship between Zechariah, Mary and Jesus
In Christianity, the relationship between Zechariah on the one hand and Mary and Jesus on the other hand lies in the kinship relationship between Prophet Zechariah’s wife and Mary, not to mention the similarity in the way both conceived and the fact that Mary stayed in Zechariah’s house throughout the first three months of her pregnancy.
About the kinship relationship between Mary and Elizabeth and the same way in which they conceived, we read in the Bible:
The angel replied to her: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. “And consider your relative Elizabeth—even she has conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called childless. For nothing will be impossible with God.” (Luke 1:35-37)
About Mary’s stay at Zechariah’s house, we read in the Bible: In those days Mary set out and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judah where she entered Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped inside her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Then she exclaimed with a loud cry: “Blessed are you among women, and your child will be blessed! How could this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For you see, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped for joy inside me. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill what he has spoken to her!” And Mary said: My soul praises the greatness of the Lord … And Mary stayed with her about three months; then she returned to her home. (Luke 1:39-56)
In Islam, the relationship between Zechariah on the one hand and Mary and Jesus on the other hand lies in the kinship relationship between Prophet Zechariah’s wife and Mary, not to mention the similarity in the way both conceived and the silence ordered for conception and delivery.
As for the kinship relationship, in the hadith on Israa’ and Miraj, John the Baptist and Jesus were referred to as cousins (children of maternal aunts) no matter if they were first or second cousins. Malik ibn Sa`sa`h quoted Prophet Muhammad as saying:
“When I went over the second heaven, there I saw Yahya (i.e. John) and `Esa (i.e. Jesus) who were cousins of each other. Gabriel said (to me), ‘These are John and Jesus; pay them your greetings.’ So I greeted them and both of them returned my greetings to me and said, ‘You are welcomed, O pious brother and pious Prophet.’…” (Al-Bukhari)
As for the same way the two women conceived and the silence ordered in both cases, about Zechariah, we read in the Qur’an:
At that, Zechariah called upon his Lord, saying, “My Lord, grant me from Yourself a good offspring. Indeed, You are the Hearer of supplication.” So the angels called him while he was standing in prayer in the chamber, “Indeed, Allah gives you good tidings of John, confirming a word from Allah and [who will be] honorable, abstaining [from women], and a prophet from among the righteous.” He said, “My Lord, how will I have a boy when I have reached old age and my wife is barren?” The angel said, “Such is Allah ; He does what He wills.” He said, “My Lord, make for me a sign.” He Said, “Your sign is that you will not [be able to] speak to the people for three days except by gesture. And remember your Lord much and exalt [Him with praise] in the evening and the morning.” (Aal `Imran 3:38-41)
About Mary, we read:
And shake toward you the trunk of the palm tree; it will drop upon you ripe, fresh dates. So eat and drink and be contented. And if you see from among humanity anyone, say, ‘Indeed, I have vowed to the Most Merciful abstention, so I will not speak today to [any] man.’ ” Then she brought him to her people, carrying him. They said, “O Mary, you have certainly done a thing unprecedented. O sister of Aaron, your father was not a man of evil, nor was your mother unchaste.” So she pointed to him. They said, “How can we speak to one who is in the cradle a child?” [Jesus] said, “Indeed, I am the servant of Allah . He has given me the Scripture and made me a prophet. (Mary 19:25-30)
There are dissimilarities in the relationship between Zechariah on the one hand and Mary as well as her son Jesus on the other hand in the Bible and the Qur’an.
The most important dissimilarity is that while Mary and Elizabeth, Zechariah’s wife, conceived in the same way in terms of the appearance of an angel and extraordinary conception, the Bible considers Jesus a physical son of God but John the Baptist a son of Zechariah.
Since the angel appeared to Zechariah and Mary in the same way and Mary and Elizabeth conceived in the same way, why is Mary’s son deemed a son of God, while Elizabeth’s son is deemed Zechariah’s son?
As a matter of fact, John the Baptist was the son of Zechariah and Elizabeth, whereas Jesus was the son of Mary only through God’s exceptional might. Both were holy prophets without discrimination in this regard.
About the prophethood of John the Baptist, in the Bible, Prophet Zechariah is quoted as saying: “And you, child, will be called a prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways.” (Luke 1:76)
About the Prophethood of Jesus, in the Bible, Jesus is quoted as saying: “The one who welcomes you welcomes me, and the one who welcomes me welcomes him who sent me. Anyone who welcomes a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward. And anyone who welcomes a righteous person because he’s righteous will receive a righteous person’s reward.” (Matthew 10:40-41)
- The Glorious Qur’an
- The Holy Bible