(2) [This is] a mention of the mercy of your Lord to His servant Zakariyya (3) When he called to his Lord a private supplication. (4) He said, “My Lord, indeed my bones have weakened, and my head has filled with white, and never have I been in my supplication to You, my Lord, unhappy. (5) And indeed, I fear the successors after me, and my wife has been barren, so give me from Yourself an heir (6) Who will inherit me and inherit from the family of Jacob. And make him, my Lord, pleasing [to You].” (7) [He was told], “O Zakariyya, indeed We give you good tidings of a boy whose name will be John. We have not assigned to any before [this] name.” (8) He said, “My Lord, how will I have a boy when my wife has been barren and I have reached extreme old age?” (9) [An angel] said, “Thus [it will be]; your Lord says, ‘It is easy for Me, for I created you before, while you were nothing.’ ” (Surah Maryam)
Zakariyya (as) was an abd (slave) of Allah. He was also a Prophet and he had no children for a very long time. When he realized that he was growing old and weak, he feared that there would be no one to take over from him in continuing his Dawah mission. At this point, he turned to Allah and made such a sincere and private heartfelt dua for a child, that Allah preserved it in the Qur’an, so that we too can learn how to make effective and powerful du’as.
إِذْ نَادَى رَبَّهُ نِدَاءً خَفِيًّا
When he called to his Lord a private supplication.
He called out to Allah in private, passionately and with a lot of longing. When our du’as come from the heart with a lot of yearning, then Allah hears us even if our words are barely audible. It is the heart that needs to cry out, more than the tongue uttering mere words. So, let your du’a come from deep within your heart.
It is also preferred that we make our du’as in private, softly and humbly. Remember you are calling upon The One who can hear even the tiniest whisper, so there is no need to shout and be loud when making du’a. A private and secret du’a is also more intimate, because sometimes the things that we are asking for may seem impossible to those who are around us. But remember to Allah nothing is impossible.
So not only did Zakariyya (as) call out to Allah secretly with so much yearning, but he also described his current state of weakness and displayed his neediness before his Lord.
قَالَ رَبِّ إِنِّي وَهَنَ الْعَظْمُ مِنِّي وَاشْتَعَلَ الرَّأْسُ شَيْبًا
He said, “My Lord, indeed my bones have weakened, and my head has filled with white,
Zakariyya (as) understood his physical condition, but he desperately wanted a child. Time was running out for him; he was weak and old and his hair had turned white. He was laying it out all in front of his Lord.
Even though Allah is fully aware of every person’s situation, it is highly recommended to show and express your weakness before Allah when making du’a. Because when you do this, you are declaring your smallness and you are relying on the utmost strength and power of Allah. This is called humility.
But despite his condition, Zakariyya (as) knew that Allah won’t let him down.
وَلَمْ أَكُنْ بِدُعَائِكَ رَبِّ شَقِيًّا
and never have I been in my supplication to You, my Lord, unhappy
In a way, it was as though he was saying ‘O Allah I have never been deprived or left un-helped by You. O Allah, You have never turned me away empty handed. Your kindness constantly reaches me and I am still hopeful that you will respond to me.’
Zakariyya had so much hope in him while making this du’a. Given the circumstances, it may have seemed impossible for them to have a child, but he wasn’t paying any attention to his limitations. Instead his eyes were fixed on the Might and Power of Allah. Outwardly he may have had the body of an old man, but inwardly, his hope and conviction remained young, strong and alive.
And this is the level of conviction we need to have too when we make du’a. Allah with all His treasures and His unlimited resources, can give and provide us with solutions from ways we could have never imagined. So never despair and never give up. In your weakest point and at the time of your greatest need, you will find Allah’s greatest generosity.
Zakariyya (as) was afraid that the people who come after him would not adhere to the pure and pristine teachings of the Deen, so he desperately wanted a son who would inherit his prophet-hood and invite people to the worship of Allah alone.
وَإِنِّي خِفْتُ الْمَوَالِيَ مِنْ وَرَائِي وَكَانَتِ امْرَأَتِي عَاقِرًا فَهَبْ لِي مِنْ لَدُنْكَ وَلِيًّا
And indeed, I fear the successors after me, and my wife has been barren, so give me from Yourself an heir
يَرِثُنِي وَيَرِثُ مِنْ آلِ يَعْقُوبَ وَاجْعَلْهُ رَبِّ رَضِيًّا
Who will inherit me and inherit from the family of Jacob. And make him, my Lord, pleasing [to You].”
But he didn’t want any child. He wanted a child who was Radiyya. Someone whom Allah is pleased with, and who is pleased with Allah. And this is the best any child could be.
As parents, in addition to our children’s physical and material well being, we need to pay immense attention to their spiritual well-being as well. We need to establish a good foundation and provide them with the proper tarbiyah so that they too are those with whom Allah is pleased with.
The du’a that Zakariyya (as) made was unlike any other. He was not asking for a child who would look after him or make money to provide for them. But through his du’a we learn that the Deen was very important to him and so he wanted a son who would continue his mission in calling people to the truth. He wanted to leave behind a legacy.
Whatever we deem important in our lives, we will see that reflected in our children as well. If the Deen is important to us, then our biggest concern will be our children’s Iman.
Another lesson we learn from this part of the ayah, is that when we make du’a we need to mention what it is that we want, and why we want it. So if you want Allah to increase your wealth, why do you want that to begin with? If you want a child, why do you want a child? The reasons behind your request should be pure and good as well.
Allah heard Zakariyya (as) and accepted his du’a.
يَا زَكَرِيَّا إِنَّا نُبَشِّرُكَ بِغُلَامٍ اسْمُهُ يَحْيَى لَمْ نَجْعَلْ لَهُ مِنْ قَبْلُ سَمِيًّا
[He was told], “O Zechariah, indeed We give you good tidings of a boy whose name will be John. We have not assigned to any before [this] name.”
His reaction however was pure astonishment!
قَالَ رَبِّ أَنَّى يَكُونُ لِي غُلَامٌ وَكَانَتِ امْرَأَتِي عَاقِرًا وَقَدْ بَلَغْتُ مِنَ الْكِبَرِ عِتِيًّا
He said, “My Lord, how will I have a boy when my wife has been barren and I have reached extreme old age?”
It was almost as though when he was making his du’a these impediments (of old age and the fact that his was was barren) didn’t occur to him, because he was so focused on the du’a. So when his du’a was accepted, he was amazed.
But nothing is difficult for Allah. Granting a child to someone who is barren is easy for Him.
قَالَ كَذَلِكَ قَالَ رَبُّكَ هُوَ عَلَيَّ هَيِّنٌ وَقَدْ خَلَقْتُكَ مِنْ قَبْلُ وَلَمْ تَكُ شَيْئًا
[An angel] said, “Thus [it will be ]; your Lord says, ‘It is easy for Me, for I created you before, while you were nothing.’
The impossible becomes possible and miracles do happen. We just need to believe in this. When you make du’a to Allah, believe that He will respond, no matter how seemingly impossible it may seem to you or other people. Remember you are not making du’a to yourself, rather you are calling upon the Lord of the Worlds. Make such du’as that when they are answered, you are surprised. Just like Zakariyya (as).
Abu Hurayrah said that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, “When one of you makes a supplication, he should not say, ‘If you wish.’ He should be ﬁrm in asking and he should have great hope. Allah does not think that anything that He gives is too great.” [al-Adab al-mufrad]
In the opening verses of Surah Maryam, Zakariyya (as) indirectly teaches us the art of making du’a. It wasn’t monotonous rambling on his part where his tongue was moving, but his heart was void of emotion. Rather, he had a conversation with his Lord. He started by humbling himself and mentioned his weakness. He asked for a child and then he mentioned the reason for his request. He had full conviction that Allah will respond to him, and so his longing and yearning emerged from the depths of his heart. We need to ask ourselves: Are our du’as like this this?