Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim,
The nineteenth surah of the Quran is called Surat al-Maryam alaihassalam. Surprisingly though, it starts with the story of Zakariyya alaihi salam. Why?
The birth of Jesus alaihi salam was indeed miraculous, so miraculous that the Christians came to the conclusion that he must be the son of God– if not, how do you account for Maryam giving birth to him without a father?
Surah Maryam, addressing primarily the Christians, begins by dismissing this concept. Imagine a very old man, weakened by age, with flaming white hair. He has a wife who has been unable to give birth for a long time. He is a very prominent and respectable man, in fact a prophet. It is his duty to take care of the religious affairs of his people, and to take care of the Masjid al Aqsa– not a small matter.
No wonder he is scared that, since he doesn’t have any progeny, this very heavy responsibility may pass into the wrong hands. He is very worried indeed, and in this state he asks Allah Azza wa Jalla for help.
He asks in a way which is so beautiful and exemplary that Allah Azza wa Jall described it in detail in more than one place in the Quran. Here are some of the tips that can be extracted from this special dua, and that we can benefit greatly from while making our own duas in sha Allah.
Kaf, Ha, Ya, ‘Ayn, Sad. [This is] a mention of the mercy of your Lord to His servant Zechariah When he called to his Lord a private supplication [nidaa`an khafiyya]. [19:1-3]
- Nidaa` — This means calling out with desperation and neediness. This is the way we call our loved ones in intensely emotional situations. For instance, when a mother is saying goodbye to her only child who is going abroad, she requests him or her to be safe, and keep her up to date with his health and wellbeing. Another example is when, after a heated fight, your beloved spouse is about to leave you, and you cry out in desperation, “Please don’t go!” That sort of feeling is captured in the word Nidaa’, and that’s what we need to bring in our prayers.
- Khafiyya – Zakariyya alaihi salam has absolute certainty in the fact that Allah is All-Hearing. His calling him privately is in fact an acknowledgment of this fact. This certainty of Zakariyya that his Lord can hear him wherever he may be is again proved when the angels later come to him with the good news that Allah had answered his supplication. Instead of replying to the angels who are right in front of him, he replies directly to Allah.
Also, calling on Allah in seclusion ensures we don’t fall into showing-off or riya.
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. And indeed, I fear the successors after me, and my wife has been barren… [19:4-5]
- Look at the way he starts his dua. He is not asking for what he wants straight out. Rather he is expressing his problems in detail, confiding in Allah Azza wa Jalla, telling Him about his fears and worries.
- Rabbi – My Lord, a loving and intimate way of addressing Allah Azza wa Jalla, highlighting the bond between Rabb and abd.
… 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]. [19:5-6]
- Explaining the reason behind the dua: he wants to make sure Allah’s deen is protected after he passes away.
- ‘from the family of Jacob alaihi salam. ‘ – Notice how careful he is with his words – not all the children of Jacob are worth inheriting from. Some of them were pretty corrupt.
Result of the Dua
This is where the Christian theory gets defeated. Allah Azza wa Jall gives a child to an extremely old man and a barren woman. If Isa’s alaihi salam birth is a miracle because he didn’t have a father, Yahya, the son of Zakariyya, is a double-miracle– both his mother and his father were incapable of producing a child. And yet Allah answered this seemingly impossible dua. In fact, what He said was:
It is easy for Me, for I created you before, while you were nothing. [19:9]
So why not stop worrying about our own relatively petty problems, and ask Allah for help just like Zakariyya alaihi salam?