Prophet Yahya / “John the Baptist” [R.A.]

Posted on December 10, 2011

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TTime for this weeks prophet. This is about the one whom Christians call John the Baptist. Who is assumed in Islamic sources to be Prophet Yahya (RA). The only certainty we have about this Prophet of Allah is what we read in the noble Qur’an, and from the commentaries on these Qur’anic verses by Islamic scholars, and there is no mention of any baptizing.

Like that of all Prophets, his is a beautiful story and he is a very attractive character, worth knowing about and learning from. In fact, the Qur’an tells us more about Prophet Yahya than is to be found in the Gospels.

The story of Yahya’s birth as reported in the Qur’an is as follows:

Zakariyah was working as a priest in the Temple. He was a very old man and his wife was barren. They had no children. Zakariyah went to visit Maryam, who had been assigned to his care and who had secluded herself in prayer in the Temple. When he visited her room, he found that she had food, even though none had been brought to her. With great faith, Maryam explained that Allah Himself had provided the food.

Zakariyah was touched by such faith and prayed to Allah. The response of Allah was most beautiful. Even though Zakariyah was old and his wife was beyond the age of bearing children, nothing is impossible to Him who made the heavens and the earth.

And he was told that Yahya would be noble, chaste, and a prophet. Zakariyah was overcome at such a promise, and he asked for a sign that this was indeed true. In this he was just like us, who often look for proofs from Allah, when His proofs are all around us. The sign he was given was that he would be struck dumb for three days. When he came out of the Temple, he gestured to everyone what had happened. Yahya was born to the old couple and brought them great joy.

From his birth he was kind to his parents. Even as a youth, he was given wisdom (Maryam 19:12). His role as a Prophet was to call people to Allah and to call them away from the legalism that had corrupted the faith of the Jewish people.

These are the facts we learn about Yahya in the glorious Qur’an. All else that we know about Yahya comes to us in the form of other references narrated by different scholars. They tell us that Yahya used to weep so much out of love for Allah that the tears marked his cheeks.

They tell us that he lived in the desert and that he loved nature and ate grass with the wild beasts. They also tell us that he spoke out against the lustful desire of King Herod to marry Salome, and as a result of this he was thrown into prison and beheaded. These references do coincide with stories about John the Baptist found in the Christian Scriptures. Let us be clear, though, that they are references from pious scholars and are not found in the Qur’an.

Lessons From Yahya’s Story
Perhaps the most important thing we can do in studying the life of Prophet Yahya is to ask ourselves what lessons are to be learned from his life that help us to live our lives today as Muslims. First of all, we learn from Yahya’s father, Zakariyah, that all we need to do is to call upon Almighty Allah with great faith and He will listen to us, perhaps even granting what we ask if it is to our good.

We learn, too, that Yahya loved his parents. What a beautiful thing to learn. In a world where parents are often forgotten, Muslims have a special reverence for their parents and are infinitely attentive to them. In many societies today, parents are put into homes for the elderly when they become a burden on their children. Islam tells us that there is another way.

Prophet Yahya is an example of the reverence we must show to parents. Finally, it tells us in the Qur’an the great blessing that was said for Yahya:

{So Peace on him the day he was born, the day that he dies, and the day that he will be raised up to life.} (Maryam 19:15)

It is a blessing we all hope for ourselves. Islam is a religion of peace. Muslims are men and women of peace. They greet one another, not with “hello,” but with As-salamu `alaykum (peace be upon you.) The greatest blessing, then, that can be bestowed on any Muslim is to wish him or her peace.

In asking about the life of Prophet Yahya, the important thing is to ask what his life tells us. It tells us to serve Allah and that in serving Him we will find happiness and peace. Yahya tells us that da`wah (calling others to Islam) is the duty of all Muslims, even if that duty leads us to places we would rather not be.

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Posted in: Prophets