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Friday, November 16, 2012

Argument No. 7: Zakariyyā’s use of Maryam’s place of worship as means

Allah says:
And her supervision was given to Zakariyyā. Whenever Zakariyyā entered her place of worship, he found with her (the latest and freshest) items of food. He asked, “O Maryam, where do these things come to you from?” She said, “This (food) comes from Allah.” Surely, Allah gives to whomsoever He wishes without measure.[13]
In the next verse Allah has mentioned Zakariyyā’s prayer at this very spot:
At that very place Zakariyyā prayed to his Lord. He requested, “My Master! Give me from Yourself pure offspring. Surely You are the Hearer of prayer.”[14]

Rectification of an error

It may be assumed here that whenever Zakariyyā (عليه السلام) visited Maryam’s room to ask about her health, he found all kinds of out-of-season fruit and one day he just thought of praying, presuming that the Lord, who could send out-of-season fruit to Maryam, had also the power to bless him with the offspring in his old age, and as he thought of this, he there and then offered prayer. One can say he had prayed to Allah and it had nothing to do whatsoever with the spot at which he prayed. But this view appears to be unreasonable as it gives rise to a number of questions:
  1. Had Zakariyyā (عليه السلام) never prayed in the past?
  2. Why had Zakariyyā’s prayer been granted only then?
  3. Why had Zakariyyā (عليه السلام) chosen that particular spot for his prayer? Did he consider it more sacred than some other spots?
  4. Why did the Qur’ān stress praying at that very place?
Qur’ān itself has rectified the error and eliminated uncertainty by using the word hunālika (there). When we reflect on the words of the Qur’ānic verse, we realize that it was Zakariyyā’s routine that he woke up in the later part of the night and prayed to his Lord. According to his routine, even on that day he woke up to offer his prayer, but instead of praying at his usual place of worship, he chose specifically the chamber in which Maryam lived. If he had offered his prayer only by accident and not by design, the insertion of the word hunālika would have been superfluous and insignificant. Such an interpretation is not only a misreading of the Qur’ānic message but also a violation of its spirit, which discourages and condemns all forms of superfluity. Thus the choice of that particular spot is an act of intermediation and at the same time it is a confirmation of the fact that a sacred spot can also serve as a source of intermediation.

Immediate acceptance of prayer through mediation

Allah has described the acceptance of prayer through mediation in the following Qur’ānic verse:
He still stood praying in the chamber (or he was simply imploring the Lord) that the angels called to him: surely, Allah gives you glad tidings of (son) Yahyā.[15]
When Zakariyyā (عليه السلام) chose that sacred spot for his prayer, and then offered his prayer, his prayer was instantly granted. This fact clearly proves that Allah likes intermediation through his favourite servants and the proof of His appreciation appears in the form of the paryer’s acceptance. The stress is laid not only on acceptance, but also on the immediacy of acceptance. It means that the prayer through mediation is not only granted, but it is also immediately granted. 

[13]. Qur’ān (Āl-i-‘Imrān) 3:37.
[14]. Qur’ān (Āl-i-‘Imrān) 3:38.
[15]. Qur’ān (Āl-i-‘Imrān) 3:39.