History of the Prophets

by Maulana Muhammad Ali

Zacharias and John the Baptist

John the Baptist and his father, Zacharias, are mentioned twice at great length (The Holy Quran, 19:1–15; 3:37–41), and both these accounts are followed by an account of the birth of Jesus Christ. When Zacharias receives the news of the birth of a son he wonders and is assured in words similar to those in which Mary wonders and is assured. But Zacharias is not struck dumb as in Luke 1:22, and there is no mention of unbelief on his part. On the other hand, as if to contradict Luke, it is related that he was ordered only not to speak to people for three days, being otherwise in the sound health (The Holy Quran, 19:10), and the object of this silence is also made clear:

“And remember thy Lord much and glorify (Him) in the evening and the morning” (The Holy Quran, 3:41).

It may be added that Zacharias in the Holy Quran is expressly spoken of as a prophet in 6:85, and that John was a prophet is mentioned more than once (The Holy Quran, 6:85; 3:39; 19:12). In the Bible, however, the Old Testament is brought to an end with Malachi, while the “New Dispensation” cannot admit of a prophet other than Jesus. Strangely enough, however, John is pronounced to be a prophet — nay, “more than a prophet”— by Jesus Christ himself (Matthew 11:9), and thus the position is quite anomalous. Again, the angel Gabriel who brought revelation to prophets is spoken of as bringing revelation to Zacharias (Luke 1:19). In fact, the anomaly is due to the supposition of a break in prophethood previous to the bringing in of Jesus where actually there is none, as Jesus was only part of the chain of prophethood that extends from Moses to Jesus, the last link no doubt, as Moses was the first.

John the Baptist is, however, declared by the Evangelists to be greater than even Jesus Christ. He was “filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb” (Luke 1:15), while the Holy Ghost did not descend upon Jesus until he was baptised by John (Matthew 3:16). And Jesus says that among them that are born of woman there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist (Matthew 11:11), and Jesus himself was undoubtedly born of a woman. Even the Holy Quran speaks of him in terms of great praise:

“We granted him wisdom when a child, and kind-heartedness from Us and purity. And he was dutiful… and he was not insolent, disobedient” (The Holy Quran, 19:12–14).

This shows clearly that according to the Holy Quran, John was pure and sinless and he never disobeyed God. It is not, of course, meant that other prophets were not as pure; in fact, what is said of one prophet is equally true of others.


References mentioned above:

“Sufficient, Guide, Blessed, Knowing, Truthful God.

A mention of the mercy of thy Lord to His servant Zacharias —

When he called upon his Lord, crying in secret.

He said: My Lord, my bones are weakened, and my head flares with hoariness, and I have never been unsuccessful in my prayer to Thee, my Lord.

And I fear my kinsfolk after me, and my wife is barren, so grant me from Thyself an heir

Who should inherit me and inherit of the Children of Jacob, and make him, my Lord, acceptable (to Thee).

O Zacharias, We give thee good news of a boy, whose name is John: We have not made before anyone his equal.

He said: My Lord, how shall I have a son, and my wife is barren, and I have reached extreme old age?

He said: So (it will be). Thy Lord says: It is easy for Me, and indeed I created thee before, when thou wast nothing.

He said: My Lord, give me a sign. He said: Thy sign is that thou speak not to people three nights, being in sound health.

So he went forth to his people from the sanctuary and proclaimed to them: Glorify (Allah) morning and evening.

O John, take hold of the Book with strength. And We granted him wisdom when a child,

And kind-heartedness from Us and purity. And he was dutiful,

And kindly to his parents, and he was not insolent, disobedient.

And peace on him the day he was born and the day he died, and the day he is raised to life!” (The Holy Quran, 19:1–15)

“So her Lord accepted her with a goodly acceptance and made her grow up a goodly growing, and gave her into the charge of Zacharias. Whenever Zacharias entered the sanctuary to (see) her, he found food with her. He said: O Mary, whence comes this to thee? She said: It is from Allah. Surely Allah gives to whom He pleases without measure.

There did Zacharias pray to his Lord. He said: My Lord, grant me from Thee goodly offspring; surely Thou art the Hearer of prayer.

So the angels called to him as he stood praying in the sanctuary: Allah gives thee the good news of John, verifying a word from Allah, and honourable and chaste and a prophet from among the good ones.

He said: My Lord, how can I have a son when old age has already come upon me, and my wife is barren? He said: Even thus does Allah do what He pleases.

He said: My Lord, appoint a sign for me. Said He: Thy sign is that thou speak not to men for three days except by signs. And remember thy Lord much and glorify (Him) in the evenings and early morning.” (The Holy Quran, 3:37–41)

“And when he came out, he could not speak unto them: and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple: for he beckoned unto them, and remained speechless.” (Luke 1:22)

“He said: My Lord, give me a sign. He said: Thy sign is that thou speak not to people three nights, being in sound health.” (The Holy Quran, 19:10)

“And Zacharias and John and Jesus and Elias; each one (of them) was of the righteous,” (The Holy Quran, 6:85)

“So the angels called to him as he stood praying in the sanctuary: Allah gives thee the good news of John, verifying a word from Allah, and honourable and chaste and a prophet from among the good ones.” (The Holy Quran, 3:39)

“O John, take hold of the Book with strength. And We granted him wisdom when a child, ” (The Holy Quran, 19:12)

“But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet.” (Matthew 11:9)

“And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings.” (Luke 1:19)

“For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb.” (Luke 1:15)

“And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him.” (Matthew 3:16)

“Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” (Matthew 11:11)

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