A Lesson From A Man Who Never Lost Hope
-Yasmin Mogahed IFN Columnist
I read a story recently that brought me to tears. It was about the life of Prophet Zakariya (Radhi-yallaahu ‘anhu). The Qur’an tells us that while Maryam, mother of Issa (Jesus), was entrusted to his care, Zakariya would enter her chamber and find that she had been given an abundance of food. Upon seeing the food, Zakariya was shocked, since he had been the only one who ever entered her chamber. When he asked her from where the food had come, she replied that it had come from Allah.
The Qur’an says: “Right graciously did her Lord accept her: He made her grow in purity and beauty: To the care of Zakariya was she assigned. Every time that he entered (her) chamber to see her, he found her supplied with sustenance. He said: “O Mary! Whence (comes) this to you?” She said: “From Allah. For Allah Provides sustenance to whom He pleases without measure.” (Qur’an, 3:37)
While this experience had surprised Zakariya, it also had a profound effect on him. See, Zakariya was unable to have a child, as he was a very old man and his wife was barren. And yet Zakariya yearned greatly for a child to carry on his mission. Seeing how Allah had provided for Maryam did something miraculous inside Zakariya. It gave him hope. So he turned to Allah and, with all hope and sincerity, prayed for the impossible. He prayed for a son.
The Qur’an says: “Behold! He cried to his Lord in secret, Praying: ‘O my Lord! Infirm indeed are my bones, and the hair of my head doth glisten with gray: but never am I unblessed, O my Lord, in my prayer to Thee! Now I fear (what) my relatives (and colleagues) (will do) after me: but my wife is barren: so give me an heir as from Thyself – (one that) will (truly) represent me, and represent the posterity of Jacob; and make him, O my Lord, one with whom Thou art well-pleased!’”
Notice that Zakariya knows the situation is impossible. He knows that his bones have become infirm, his hair has turned gray, and his wife is barren. But, despite all that, he still turns to Allah with hope. And it is the impossibility of his situation that makes his hope so inspiring.
His story is a lesson to us that no matter how difficult or how impossible a situation seems, one should never lose hope in Allah. For Allah, nothing is impossible. And when Allah gives, He gives without measure.
That means we should never reach a point where we give up asking Allah. We should never reach a point when we think we have asked for too much, or think something that we want could never happen. That’s what it means to be without measure. If Allah gave with measure, then there would be some things that are too much for us to expect. But, when Allah gives, there is no measure. This means there is no limit to His generosity and His mercy. That’s why the story of Zakariya is a story of hope, but also a story of mercy. And it is for that reason that Allah introduces the story by saying: “(This is) a recital of the Mercy of thy Lord to His servant Zakariya.” (Qur’an, 19:2)
And the result of Zakariya’s hope and Allah’s mercy was the fulfillment of his prayer. The Qur’an relates: “(His prayer was answered): ‘O Zakariya! We give thee good news of a son: His name shall be Yahya: on none by that name have We conferred distinction before.’ 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!’”(Qur’an, 19:7-9)
And even though Zakariya prayed for it, he could hardly believe it when his prayer was answered. His situation had been so difficult that it seemed almost impossible for there to be a way out. And yet, Allah made a way out for him. He blessed Zakariya in His infinite mercy.
Each story in the Qur’an is told to us for a reason. In the story of Prophet Zakariya, we are taught to never lose hope — no matter how impossible something looks. We are taught that Allah is the One who gives without measure or limit, and that nothing is impossible for Him. Most of all, we are reminded that when walking through a situation where we see no way out, it is Allah to whom we should turn to give us wings.