John the Baptist
I introduce Allah’s account of John the Baptist (in the Koran he is simply referred to as John) before the story of Mary because Zachariah, John’s father in the Koran, has a role to play in the story of Mary.
Allah will not only require Zachariah to look after Mary, but something that Mary says will embolden the old man to ask Allah for a son.
Allah will do for Zachariah’s barren old wife, what He did for Abraham’s equally compromised no-name spouse, she will give birth to a son, and that son will grow up to be John the Baptist.
In the Name of Allah,
the Compassionate, the Merciful
19:1 Kaf – Ha –Ya - 'Ain – Sâd.
19:2 This is the story of your Lord’s Mercy unto His servant Zacharia;
19:3 When he called upon his Lord secretly.
19:4 He said: “Lord, my bones have weakened and my head is aflame with grey hair, and I have not, Lord, in vain called upon You.
19:5 “In truth I fear my kinsmen*, after I am gone, as my wife is barren. Grant me, then, from Your Bounty, a successor.
* That is, "I see none among my kinsmen, the family of Abiah, who is religiously and morally sound and capable of carrying on the work of the mission that has been entrusted to me." Moududi
19:6 “To inherit me and inherit the house of Jacob, and make him, Lord, well pleasing to you.”
19:7 [It was said to him]: “O Zacharia, We announce to you the good news of a boy whose name is John; We have not hitherto given the same name to anyone else.”
19:8 He said: “Lord, how shall I have a boy, seeing that my wife is barren and I have reached an advanced old age?”
19:9 He said: “That is what your Lord says. It is easy for Me. Indeed I created you formerly, when you were nothing.”
19:10 He said: “Lord, give me as sign.” He said: “Your sign is that you will not talk to anybody for three nights, although you are sound of body.”
19:11 He came out to his people from the sanctuary and told them by signs: “Pray and glorify morning and evening.”
It must have been a sight to behold, an old man, possibly suffering from arthritis considering the state of his bones, standing up and mimicking instructions to his kin as a sign that Allah had granted him a favour.
Acting out words and phrases (what we know as “charades”) for three nights had the desired effect and the man Christians know as John the Baptist was born. As soon as he became self-aware, or perhaps sooner, he was told about “the Book”, probably the Torah, as the Gospels had yet to be written.
19:12 It was then said to John: “O John, hold fast to the Book.” And We granted him wisdom when he was still a child;
19:13 And tenderness from Us and purity; he was devout;
19:14 And devoted to his parents; and he was not arrogant and disobedient.
19:15 Peace be upon him the day he was born, the day he dies and the day he is raised from the dead.
And this is where Allah picks up the story of Mary and the birth of Jesus in surah 19, Maryam.