Allah states that He has accepted Maryam as a result of her mother's vow and that He,
(made her grow in a good manner) meaning, made her conduct becoming, her mannerism delightful and He made her well liked among people. He also made her accompany the righteous people, so that she learned righteousness, knowledge and religion.
(And put her under the care of Zakariyya) meaning, Allah made Zakariyya her sponsor. Allah made Zakariyya Maryam's guardian for her benefit, so that she would learn from his tremendous knowledge and righteous conduct. He was the husband of her maternal aunt, as Ibn Ishaq and Ibn Jarir stated, or her brother-in-law, as mentioned in the Sahih,
(I saw John and `Isa, who are maternal cousins.)
We should state that in general terms, what Ibn Ishaq said is plausible, and in this case, Maryam was under the care of her maternal aunt. The Two Sahihs recorded that the Messenger of Allah decided that `Amarah, the daughter of Hamzah, be raised by her maternal aunt, the wife of Ja`far bin Abi Talib, saying,
(The maternal aunt is just like the mother.)
Allah then emphasizes Maryam's honor and virtue at the place of worship she attended,
(Every time he entered the Mihrab to (visit) her, he found her supplied with sustenance.)
Mujahid, `Ikrimah, Sa`id bin Jubayr, Abu Ash-Sha`tha, Ibrahim An-Nakha`i, Ad-Dahhak, Qatadah, Ar-Rabi` bin Anas, `Atiyah Al-`Awfi and As-Suddi said, "He would find with her the fruits of the summer during winter, and the fruits of the winter during summer.'' When Zakariyya would see this;
(He said: "O Maryam! From where have you gotten this'') meaning, where did you get these fruits from
(She said, "This is from Allah.'' Verily, Allah provides sustenance to whom He wills, without limit.)
(38. At that time Zakariyya invoked his Lord, saying: "O my Lord! Grant me from You, a good offspring. You are indeed the All-Hearer of invocation.'') (39. Then the angels called him, while he was standing in prayer in the Mihrab, (saying): "Allah gives you glad tidings of Yahya, believing in the Word from Allah, and Sayyidan, and Hasuran, a Prophet, from among the righteous.'') (40. He said: "O my Lord! How can I have a son when I am very old, and my wife is barren'' (Allah) said: "Thus Allah does what He wills.'') (41. He said: "O my Lord! Make a sign for me.'' (Allah) said: "Your sign is that you shall not speak to the people for three days except by signals. And remember your Lord much, and glorify (Him) in the afternoon and in the morning.'')
When Zakariyya saw that Allah provided sustenance for Maryam by giving her the fruits of winter in summer and the fruits of summer in winter, he was eager to have a child of his own. By then, Zakariyya had become an old man, his bones feeble and his head full of gray hair. His wife was an old woman who was barren. Yet, he still supplicated to Allah and called Him in secret,
(O my Lord! Grant me from Ladunka,) from You,
(A good offspring) meaning, a righteous offspring,
(You are indeed the All-Hearer of invocation.) Allah said,
(Then the angels called him, while he was standing in prayer in the Mihrab,) meaning, the angels spoke to him directly while he was secluded, standing in prayer at his place of worship. Allah told us about the good news that the angels delivered to Zakariyya,
(Allah gives you glad tidings of Yahya,) of a child from your offspring, his name is Yahya. Qatadah and other scholars said that he was called Yahya (literally, `he lives') because Allah filled his life with faith.
Allah said next,
(believing in the Word from Allah) Al-`Awfi reported that Ibn `Abbas said, and also Al-Hasan, Qatadah, `Ikrimah, Mujahid, Abu Ash-Sha`tha, As-Suddi, Ar-Rabi` bin Anas, Ad-Dahhak, and several others said that the Ayah,
(believing in the Word from Allah) means, "Believing in `Isa, son of Maryam.''
Abu Al-`Aliyah, Ar-Rabi` bin Anas, Qatadah and Sa`id bin Jubayr said that Allah's statement,
(And Sayyidan) means, a wise man. Ibn `Abbas, Ath-Thawri and Ad-Dahhak said that Sayyidan means, "The noble, wise and pious man.'' Sa`id bin Al-Musayyib said that Sayyid is the scholar and Faqih. `Atiyah said that Sayyid is the man noble in behavior and piety. `Ikrimah said that it refers to a person who is not overcome by anger, while Ibn Zayd said that it refers to the noble man. Mujahid said that Sayyidan means, honored by Allah.
(And Hasuran) does not mean he refrains from sexual relations with women, but that he is immune from illegal sexual relations. This does not mean that he does not marry women and have legal sexual relations with them, for Zakariyya said in his supplication for the benefit of Yahya,
(Grant me from You, a good offspring), meaning, grant me a son who will have offspring, and Allah knows best.
(A Prophet, from among the righteous) delivers more good news of sending Yahya as Prophet after the good news that he will be born. This good news was even better than the news of Yahya's birth. In a similar statement, Allah said to the mother of Musa,
(Verily, We shall bring him back to you, and shall make him one of the Messengers.) (28:7)
When Zakariyya heard the good news, he started contemplating about having children at his age. He said,
("O my Lord! How can I have a son when I am very old, and my wife is barren'' (He) said...) meaning the angel said,
("Thus Allah does what He wills.'') meaning, this is Allah's matter, He is so Mighty that nothing escapes His power, nor is anything beyond His ability.
(He said: "O my Lord! Make a sign for me'') meaning make a sign that alerts me that the child will come,
((Allah) said: "Your sign is that you shall not speak to the people for three days except by signals.'') meaning, you will not be able to speak except with signals, although you are not mute. In another Ayah, Allah said,
(For three nights, though having no bodily defect.) (19:10)
Allah then commanded Zakariyya to supplicate, thank and praise Him often in that condition,
(And remember your Lord much and glorify (Him) in the afternoon and in the morning. )
We will elaborate more on this subject in the beginning of Surah Maryam (chapter 19), Allah willing.
(42. And (remember) when the angels said: "O Maryam! Verily, Allah has chosen you, purified you, and chosen you above the women of the nations.'') (43. "O Maryam! Submit yourself with obedience (Aqnuti) to your Lord and prostrate yourself, and bow down along with Ar-Raki`in.'') (44. This is a part of the news of the Ghayb (Unseen) which We reveal to you. You were not with them, when they cast lots with their pens as to which of them should be charged with the care of Maryam; nor were you with them when they disputed.)
Allah states that the angels spoke to Maryam by His command and told her that He chose her because of her service to Him, because of her modesty, honor, innocence, and conviction. Allah also chose her because of her virtue over the women of the world. At-Tirmidhi recorded that `Ali bin Abi Talib said, "I heard the Messenger of Allah say,
(The best woman (in her time) was Maryam, daughter of `Imran, and the best woman (of the Prophet's time) is Khadijah (his wife), daughter of Khuwaylid.)''
The Two Sahihs recorded this Hadith. Ibn Jarir recorded that Abu Musa Al-Ash`ari said that the Messenger of Allah said,
(Many men achieved perfection, but among women, only Maryam the daughter of `Imran and Asiah, the wife of Fir`awn, achieved perfection.)
The Six (with the exception of Abu Dawud) recorded it. Al-Bukhari's wording for it reads,
(Many men reached the level of perfection, but no woman reached such a level except Asiah, the wife of Fir`awn, and Maryam, the daughter of `Imran. The superiority of `A'ishah (his wife) to other women, is like the superiority of Tharid (meat and bread dish) to other meals.)
We mentioned the various chains of narration and wordings for this Hadith in the story of `Isa, son of Maryam, in our book, Al-Bidayah wan-Nihayah, all the thanks are due to Allah.
Allah states that the angels commanded Maryam to increase acts of worship, humbleness, submission, prostration, bowing, and so forth, so that she would acquire what Allah had decreed for her, as a test for her. Yet, this test also earned her a higher grade in this life and the Hereafter, for Allah demonstrated His might by creating a son inside her without male intervention. Allah said,
("O Maryam! Submit yourself with obedience (Aqnuti) and prostrate yourself, and bow down along with Ar-Raki`in.'')
As for Qunut (Aqnuti in the Ayah), it means to submit with humbleness. In another Ayah, Allah said,
(Nay, to Him belongs all that is in the heavens and on earth, and all surrender with obedience (Qanitun) to Him.) (2:116)
Allah next said to His Messenger after He mentioned Maryam's story,
(This is a part of the news of the Ghayb which We reveal.) "and narrate to you (O Muhammad ), ''
(You were not with them, when they cast lots with their pens as to which of them should be charged with the care of Maryam; nor were you with them when they disputed.) meaning, "You were not present, O Muhammad, when this occurred, so you cannot narrate what happened to the people as an eye witness. Rather, Allah disclosed these facts to you as if you were a witness, when they conducted a lottery to choose the custodian of Maryam, seeking the reward of this good deed.''
Ibn Jarir recorded that `Ikrimah said, "Maryam's mother left with Maryam, carrying her in her infant cloth, and took her to the rabbis from the offspring of Aaron, the brother of Musa. They were responsible for taking care of Bayt Al-Maqdis (the Masjid) at that time, just as there were those who took care of the Ka`bah. Maryam's mother said to them, `Take this child whom I vowed (to serve the Masjid), I have set her free, since she is my daughter, for no menstruating woman should enter the Masjid, and I shall not take her back home.' They said, `She is the daughter of our Imam,' as `Imran used to lead them in prayer, `who took care of our sacrificial rituals.' Zakariyya said, `Give her to me, for her maternal aunt is my wife.' They said, `Our hearts cannot bear that you take her, for she is the daughter of our Imam.' So they conducted a lottery with the pens with which they wrote the Tawrah, and Zakariyya won the lottery and took Maryam into his care.'''. `Ikrimah, As-Suddi, Qatadah, Ar-Rabi` bin Anas, and several others said that the rabbis went into the Jordan river and conducted a lottery there, deciding to throw their pens into the river. The pen that remained afloat and idle would indicate that its owner would take care of Maryam. When they threw their pens into the river, the water took all the pens under, except Zakariyya's pen, which remained afloat in its place. Zakariyya was also their master, chief, scholar, Imam and Prophet, may Allah's peace and blessings be on him and the rest of the Prophets.
(45. (Remember) when the angels said: "O Maryam! Verily, Allah gives you the glad tidings of a Word from Him, his name will be Al-Masih, `Isa, the son of Maryam, held in honor in this world and in the Hereafter, and he will be one of those who are near to Allah.'') (46. "He will speak to the people, in the cradle and in manhood, and he will be one of the righteous.'') (47. She said: "O my Lord! How shall I have a son when no man has touched me.'' He said: "So (it will be) for Allah creates what He wills. When He has decreed something, He says to it only: `Be! ـ and it is.'')