John the Baptist in Islam

Islamic view of John the Baptist

Prophet Yahya Name.svg
Yahya's name in Islamic calligraphy followed by Peace be upon him
Parent(s)Zakariya (Zechariah)
RelativesIsa (cousin)

Yaḥyā ibn Zakarīyā (Arabic: يحيى ابن زكريا, literally Yahya/John, son of Zechariah), identified in English as John the Baptist, is considered in Islam a prophet and messenger of God (Allah) who was sent to guide the Children of Israel. He is believed by Muslims to have been a witness to the word of God who would herald the coming of Isa Al-Masih (Jesus Christ).[1][2]

Yahya is mentioned five times in the Quran. [3]

Yahya is also honored highly in Sufism as well as Islamic mysticism, primarily because of the Quran's description of John's chastity and kindness.[4] Sufis have frequently applied commentaries on the passages on John in the Quran, primarily concerning the God-given gift of wisdom which he acquired in youth as well as his parallels with Jesus. Although several phrases used to describe John and Jesus are virtually identical in the Quran, the manner in which they are expressed is different.[5]


In the Quran, God frequently mentions Zakariya's continuous praying for the birth of a son. Zakariya's wife, was barren and therefore the birth of a child seemed impossible.[6] As a gift from God, Zechariah was given a son by the name of Yaḥya, a name specially chosen for this child alone. In accordance with Zakariya's prayer, God made Yahya and Isa, who according to exegesis was born six months later,[7] renew the message of God, which had been corrupted and distorted by the Israelites.

The Quran claims that John the Baptist was the first to receive this name ( Quran 19:7-10) but since the name Yoḥanan occurs many times before John the Baptist,[8] this verse is referring either to Islamic scholar consensus that "Yaḥyā" is not the same name as "Yoḥanan"[9] or to the Biblical account of the miraculous naming of John, which accounted that he was almost named "Zacharias" (Greek: Ζαχαρίας)[10] after his father's name, as no one in the lineage of his father Zacharias (also known as Zechariah) had been named "John" ("Yohanan"/"Yoannes") before him.[11] As the Quran says:

˹The angels announced,˺ "O Zachariah! Indeed, We give you the good news of ˹the birth of˺ a son, whose name will be John—a name We have not given to anyone before."

He wondered, "My Lord! How can I have a son when my wife is barren, and I have become extremely old?"

An angel replied, "So will it be! Your Lord says, 'It is easy for Me, just as I created you before, when you were nothing!'"

Zachariah said, "My Lord! Grant me a sign." He responded, "Your sign is that you will not ˹be able to˺ speak to people for three nights, despite being healthy."

So he came out to his people from the sanctuary, signalling to them to glorify ˹Allah˺ morning and evening.

˹It was later said,˺ "O John! Hold firmly to the Scriptures." And We granted him wisdom while ˹he was still˺ a child,

as well as purity and compassion from Us. And he was God-fearing,

and kind to his parents. He was neither arrogant nor disobedient.

— Surah Maryam 19:7-14


Yahya was exhorted to hold fast to the scripture and was given wisdom by God while still a child.[12] He was pure and devout, and walked well in the presence of God. He was dutiful towards his parents and he was not arrogant or rebellious. John's reading and understanding of the scriptures, when only a child, surpassed even that of the greatest scholars of the time.[6] Muslim exegesis narrates that Isa sent Yahya out with twelve disciples,[13] who preached the message before Jesus called his own disciples.[7] The Quran says:

˹It was later said,˺ "O John! Hold firmly to the Scriptures [Torah]." And We granted him wisdom while ˹he was still˺ a child,

— Surah Maryam 19:12

John was a classical prophet,[14] who was exalted high by God for his bold denouncing of all things sinful. Furthermore, the Quran speaks of John's gentle piety and love and his humble attitude towards life, for which he was granted the purity of Life.

According to Islamic tradition, Yahya used to go to the Haram esh-Sharif (Temple Mount) to deliver his sermons.[3]


During the prophethood of Yahya, a conflict occurred between him and Herod Antipas, who wanted to divorce his first wife and take as wife his former sister-in-law.[3] Yahya informed that the marriage might be incestuous, and did not approve of the marriage. After this, Herod Antipas had Yahya imprisoned.[3] Yahya was then decapitated.[15][3] Yahya's head is believed to be inside the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus.[16][17][18]


In Islam, Yahya greeted Muhammad on the night of the Al-Isra al-Mi'raj, along with Isa (Jesus), on the second heaven.[19] Yahya's story was also told to the Abyssinian king during the Muslim migration to Abyssinia.[20] According to the Quran, Yahya was one on whom God sent peace on the day that he was born and the day that he died.[21] According to Al-Suyuti, Ibrahim stated that since the creation of the world the Heavens and the Earth wept only for two people, Yahya and Husayn.[22][23] According to a Hadith, Muhammad said: "Every son of Adam will come on the day of Resurrection and he will have sin against him except Yahya ibn Zakaryya".[24] Many Muslims compare Yahya with Husayn.[25]


  1. ^ "Yahya", Encyclopedia of Islam
  2. ^ "Prophet John".
  3. ^ a b c d e "Shrine of Yahya (عليه السلام)". 2014-12-28. Retrieved 2021-08-06.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  4. ^ Encyclopedia of Islam, Yahya ibn Zakkariya, Online web.
  5. ^ Whereas the Quran itself gives blessings of peace to John (Quran 19:15), Jesus, in contrast, gives himself the blessings of peace. (Quran 19: 16–33)
  6. ^ a b Lives of the Prophets, Leila Azzam, John and Zechariah
  7. ^ a b A–Z of Prophets in Islam and Judaism, B. M. Wheeler, John the Baptist
  8. ^ A. Geiger, Judaism And Islam (English translation of Was hat Mohammed aus dem Judenthume aufgenommen?), 1970, Ktav Publishing House Inc.: New York, p. 19.
  9. ^ "And No One Had The Name Yahya (= John?) Before: A Linguistic & Exegetical Enquiry Into Qur'an 19:7". Retrieved 20 October 2012.
  10. ^ Ἡ Καινὴ Διαθήκη (1894 Scrivener NT). Luke 1:59, 1:5, et al.
  11. ^ Bible Luke 1:59–1:63
  12. ^ Quran 19:12
  13. ^ Tabari, i, 712
  14. ^ Abdullah Yusuf Ali, The Holy Qur'an: Text, Translation and Commentary, Note. 905: "The third group consists not of men of action, but Preachers of Truth, who led solitary lives. Their epithet is: "the Righteous." They form a connected group round Jesus. Zachariah was the father of John the Baptist, who is referenced as "Elias, which was for to come" (Matt 11:14); and Elias is said to have been present and talked to Jesus at the Transfiguration on the Mount (Matt. 17:3)."
  15. ^ "St. John the Baptist | Facts, Feast Day, & Death". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2021-09-24.
  16. ^ Burns, 2005, p .88.
  17. ^ Talmon-Heller, Daniella; Kedar, Benjamin; Reiter, Yitzhak (Jan 2016). "Vicissitudes of a Holy Place: Construction, Destruction and Commemoration of Mashhad Ḥusayn in Ascalon" (PDF). Der Islam. 93: 11–13, 28–34. doi:10.1515/islam-2016-0008. Archived from the original on 12 May 2020.
  18. ^ "Shrine of Nabi Yahya - Madain Project (en)". Retrieved 2021-08-06.
  19. ^ Ibn Ishaq, Sirat Rasul Allah, Mi'raj
  20. ^ Muhammad, Martin Lings, Abysinnia. etc.
  21. ^ Quran 19:13-15
  22. ^ Tafseer Ibn Katheer, vol.9, p. 163, published in Egypt. Tafseer Durre Manthur Vol.6, p. 30-31.
  23. ^ Tafseer Durre Manthur Vol.6, p.  30-31.
  24. ^ "Prophet Yahya (AS)". Hadith of the Day. 2015-10-06. Retrieved 2021-08-06.
  25. ^ "Imam Hussain and Prophet Yahya Part 1". issuu. Retrieved 2021-08-06.
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