John the Baptist in Islam

John the Baptist in Islam called Yahya ibn Zakariya, (يحيى ابن زكريا‎) was a prophet and messenger of God (Allah) who was sent to guide the Children of Israel. He is believed by Muslims to have been a witness to the word of God who would herald the coming of Isa Masih.

Yahya is mentioned five times in the Quran. He is the only Islamic prophet whose name was chosen for him exclusively by God. According to Islamic tradition, Yahya used to go to Al-Aqsa Mosque, to deliver his sermons.

Yahya is also honored highly in Sufism as well as Islamic mysticism, primarily because of the Quran’s description of John’s chastity and kindness. Sufis have frequently applied commentaries on the passages on John in the Quran, primarily concerning the God-given gift of wisdom which he acquired in youth as well as his parallels with Jesus. Although several phrases used to describe John and Jesus are virtually identical in the Quran, the manner in which they are expressed is different.

Birth

In the Quran, God frequently mentions Zakariya’s continuous praying for the birth of a son. Zakariya’s wife, was barren and therefore the birth of a child seemed impossible. As a gift from God, Zechariah was given a son by the name of Yaḥya, a name specially chosen for this child alone. In accordance with Zakariya’s prayer, God made Yahya and Isa, who according to exegesis was born six months later, renew the message of God, which had been corrupted and distorted by the Israelites. The Quran claims that John the Baptist was the first to receive this name.

The Quran claims that John the Baptist was the first to receive this name (Quran 19:7–10) but since the name Yoḥanan occurs many times before John the Baptist, this verse is referring either to Islamic scholar consensus that “Yaḥyā” is not the same name as “Yoḥanan” or to the Biblical account of the miraculous naming of John, which accounted that he was almost named “Zacharias” (Greek: Ζαχαρίας) after his father’s name, as no one in the lineage of his father Zacharias (also known as Zechariah) had been named “John” (“Yohanan”/”Yoannes”) before him. As the Quran says:

“O Zakaryya, indeed We give you good tidings of a boy whose name will be Yahya. We have not assigned to any before [this] name”

He said: “O my Lord! How shall I have a son, when my wife is barren and I have grown quite decrepit from old age?”

He said: “So (it will be) thy Lord saith, ‘that is easy for Me: I did indeed create thee before, when thou hadst been nothing!'”

(Zakarya) said: “O my Lord! give me a Sign.” “Thy Sign,” was the answer, “Shall be that thou shalt speak to no man for three nights.”

— Maryam 19: 7–10
The Jordan River, where Yahya baptized Isa.

The Jordan River, where Yahya baptized Isa.

Prophethood

Yahya was exhorted to hold fast to the scripture and was given wisdom by God while still a child. He was pure and devout, and walked well in the presence of God. He was dutiful towards his parents and he was not arrogant or rebellious. John’s reading and understanding of the scriptures, when only a child, surpassed even that of the greatest scholars of the time. Muslim exegesis narrates that Isa sent Yahya out with twelve disciples, who preached the message before Jesus called his own disciples. The Quran says:

“O Yaḥya! take hold of the Book with might”: and We gave him Wisdom even as a youth,

— Maryam, 19:12

John was a classical prophet, who was exalted high by God for his bold denouncing of all things sinful. Furthermore, the Quran speaks of John’s gentle piety and love and his humble attitude towards life, for which he was granted the Purity of Life:

Assassination

During the prophethood of Yahya, a conflict occurred between him and Herod Antipas, who wanted to marry Salome. Yahya informed that the marriage might be incestuous, and did not approve of the marriage. After this, Salome became angry and ordered the assassination of Yahya. Yahya was then assassinated and his head was brought to Salome. Yahya’s head is contained at the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus.

Legacy

In Islam, Yahya greeted Muhammad on the night of the Al-Isra al-Mi’raj, along with Isa, on the second heaven. Yahya’s story was also told to the Abyssinian king during the Muslim migration to Abyssinia. According to the Quran, Yahya was one on whom God sent peace on the day that he was born and the day that he died. According to Al-Suyuti, Ibrahim stated that since the creation of the world the Heavens and the Earth wept only for two people, Yahya and Husayn. According to a Hadith, Muhammad said: “Every son of Adam will come on the day of Resurrection and he will have sin against him except Yahya ibn Zakaryya”. Many Muslims compare Yahya with Husayn. The heads of both Yahya and Husayn are believed to be in the Umayyad Mosque.

See also

Adapted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia