The Biblical and Quranic narrative of John the Baptist have some similarities and variations. If you are a convert to Islam from Christianity, you will be familiar with the story. In Islam, we know John as Yahya, a unique name give to him by God Himself.
Relationship to Jesus
Conception and Birth
Zechariah was an ageing Israelite Prophet reaching his nineties without having fathered any children. He lived in a time when religious leaders diluted and altered the Law of Moses. The spirit of the religion was quickly disappearing, and he feared who would take his place after his death.
As the patron and caretaker of the orphaned Mary, he checked on her in her chamber of worship where she remained for days without seeing a soul. Each time he entered, he found with her fresh food. Surprised, he asked, “From where has this come to you?”
She replied, “It is from God. Indeed, God provides for whom He wills without account.”
This was the reminder Zechariah needed to call upon God, the Provider of all things, for righteous offspring.
“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. And indeed, I fear the successors after me, and my wife has been barren, so give me from Yourself an heir who will inherit me and inherit from the family of Jacob. And make him, my Lord, pleasing to You.”
And indeed, God did respond, sending angels with the good news of a son named Yahya (John).
Zechariah, despite his supplication, was surprised with the news. He said, “My Lord, how will I have a boy when I have reached old age and my wife is barren?” The angel replied, “Such is God; He does what He wills.”
Upon asking for a sign, he was informed, “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.”
The Given Name of “Yahya”
When God gave Zechariah the good news of a boy, God stated that his name will be Yahya, a name not given to anyone before. The meaning of Yahya is “to come alive”; whereas the meaning of John is “God is Gracious.”
Yahya is not a direct equivalence to John in meaning. Yahya was also known as Yuhannan (in Arabic), which is the exact translation of John (Johanan in English Old Testament and Yochanan in the original Hebrew).
There is no direct Biblical translation of Yahya, a unique name given by God Himself.
Parallels of John and Jesus
John was wise from a young age, kind to his parents and affectionate towards plants and animals. He was sent to renew the spirit of the religion and support Jesus in his teachings.
|Their surprise conception and their parents’ dialogue
|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 God ; He does what He wills.”
|She said, “My Lord, how will I have a child when no man has touched me?” [The angel] said, “Such is God ; He creates what He wills. When He decrees a matter, He only says to it, ‘Be,’ and it is.
|John came to confirm and support Jesus
|“Indeed, God gives you good tidings of John, confirming a Word from God and [who will be] honourable, chaste, and a prophet from among the righteous.”
|“O Mary, indeed God gives you good tidings of a Word from Him, whose name will be the Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary – distinguished in this world and the Hereafter and among those brought near [to God].
|Knowledge and application of the Scripture
|God said, “O John, take the Scripture with determination.” And We gave him judgement [while yet] a boy and affection from Us and purity, and he was fearing of God.
|[Jesus] said, “Indeed, I am the servant of God. He has given me the Scripture and made me a prophet. And He has made me blessed wherever I am and has enjoined upon me prayer and zakah as long as I remain alive.
|Dutiful to their parents
|And dutiful to his parents, and he was not a disobedient tyrant.
|And [made me] dutiful to my mother, and He has not made me a wretched tyrant.
|Peace surrounded them both
|And peace be upon him the day he was born and the day he dies and the day he is raised alive.
|And peace is on me the day I was born and the day I will die and the day I am raised alive.
John, Jesus and Zechariah (peace be upon them) faced intense resistance from their own people and the Judean Kingdom within the Roman Empire.