Zakariya (Zachariah) was an illustrious Prophet of the Israelites. He was one of the descendants of Prophet Sulaiman (peace be upon him). The name of his wife was al-Yashbi' who belonged to the family of Prophet Harun (peace be upon him). The Prophet Zakariya (peace be upon him) was the patron of Mary, the mother of Prophet Isa (peace be upon him). He was the trustee of Hekal. He worked as a carpenter and earned his livelihood.
The Prophet Zakariya (peace be upon him) kept the torch of Mosaic law burning. He used to pray devotionally and preach zealously. His wife and he were the symbols of piety and righteousness. Most of his kinsmen lacked in spirit of true faith. As they were seduced, they were inclined to doing evil deeds. They were going out of the right path.
The Prophet Zakariya (peace be upon him) was much anxious about this state of affairs. He had no offspring and there was no suitable person to hold the office of priesthood of Hekal after his death. He was desirous of having a son to become his good successor. He did not long for a son to satisfy a mere human desire for one's progeny. He wanted to have a son to maintain the warmth of religious activities.
One night he stood in prayer in his sanctuary and prayed to Allah to bless him with a good son. He was conscious that he was in an advanced age and his wife was barren and unable to raise any issue. He had full faith in Allah Who possesses power to do whatever He wills. He came to know through his prophetic insight that Allah would grant his request. He would be blessed with a good son to act as his heir who could guide the people aright.
God in His infinite mercy removed the defect of his wife's barrenness so that she might become mother. She gave birth to Prophet Yahya. (peace be upon him) who was destined to be honorable, chaste, and a prophet from among the righteous. The Prophet Zakariya (peace be upon him) felt satisfied as his son grew up and became a symbol of piety. He was graced with wisdom, obedience and asceticism.
The Prophet Zakariya (peace be upon him) continued preaching the religion of Allah even in old age. The Israelites were indulged in mischief making and wickedness. They had not only ignored the teachings of his Prophet but tortured him also. The Holy Quran makes mention of the cruel acts of the Israelites in the following Verses:
"Lo! those who disbelieve the revelations of Allah and slay the Prophets wrongfully and slay those of mankind who enjoin equity, promise him a painful doom." (Surah 3: Verse 21)
The Prophet Zakariya (peace be upon him) did not die a natural death. One day the Israelites decided to put him to death. He hid himself in the covern of the tree. The Jews began to saw that part of the tree. The Prophet Zakariya (peace be upon him) did not even utter a faint cry. His body was cut into two pieces.