The Lament of Prophet Yahya
Source: Ain-al-Hayat, By: Allama Muhammad Baqir Majlisi
It is narrated from The Prophet of Islam (S) that Prophet Yahya (as) had propensity for piety from his very childhood. He used to go to the Bayt al Muqdis and look at the hermits in prayer, wearing dress made of hair and wool tying their locks to the pillars of the building. He asked his mother to make for him similar dress that he could join the other people in prayer.
The mother asked Yahya (as) to be patient till his father, the prophet Zakaria (as) arrived, that they consult him before arranging the ceremonial dress for him.
When Prophet Zakaria (as) arrived, he was consulted. He told to Yahya (as), “You are still a child! Why do you have the intention of joining the ranks of hermits?” He replied, “O father! You are observing, death doesn’t spare even children younger than me. How could I wait for what I wish to do?”
Prophet Zakaria (as) told to his wife, “Give the child what he wishes to have!”
Therefore Yahya (as)’s mother got a dress and topee of hair made for him. Wearing these he went to Bayt al Muqdis and busied himself in prayer with the other hermits.
One day Yahya (as) noticed that his body was bruised with the rubbing of the dress made of the hard hair. He cried.
The voice of a herald came, “O Yahya (as)! Are you crying because your body is bruised and has become emaciated? By My Glory! If you set eyes on the Hell you might condescend to wear the dress of steel!”
Hearing this, Prophet Yahya (as) cried so much that his cheeks became gory, the flesh fell and the teeth were exposed. When his mother heard about his condition, she came running to him and asked, “My son! What condition you have rendered yourself to?”
Then his father said, “Why are you doing like this? I had offered special prayers to Allah to get a son! But I find that you are trying to depart from me.”
Prophet Yahya (as) said, “O father! Once, while delivering a sermon you had said that between the Heaven and the Hell there is a ravine. Only those who cry in remembrance of Allah will be able to successfully negotiate safely through that ravine.”
Prophet Zakaria (as) said, “No doubt, it is true! But you are still a tender child! One certainly has to put in lot of effort in praying to Allah. You too are under obligation in this matter as the others are!”
His mother said, “If you wish I can make two cushions for your cheeks that the pain to the wounds is subdued and your teeth remain covered. The tears too will be absorbed by these cushions.”
Yahya (as) replied, “O mother! You are at liberty to do what you wish to do!”
Therefore his mother prepared two soft cushions and tied them on the cheeks of Yahya (as). Then she noticed both the sleeves of the dress were drenched in tears. When she squeezed the sleeves, water fell through her clenched fingers.
Noticing this, Prophet Zakaria (as) raised his arms towards the Heaven and said, “O Allah! This son I had prayed to you for giving me! You are the Most Beneficent Lord! Be kind on him!” Afterwards, whenever Prophet Zakaria (as) gave a sermon, he used to ensure that Yahya (as) was not around. In his presence he refrained from talking about the Heaven and the Hell!
One day Prophet Zakaria (as) was busy delivering a sermon when Yahya (as), wearing a shawl came and sat with the congregation. Prophet Zakaria (as) was not aware of his presence. He said that Jibrael had informed him that there is a mountain in the Hell that is called Sukran. There is a valley at the foot of this mount called Ghazban. In this valley there is a well the depth of which is equivalent to travelling for a full hundred years. In the well there are sarcophagi of fire. In these sarcophagi there are chests of fire. In these chests there are dresses of fire, collars and chains of fire that would be put round the necks and bodies of the sinners on the Day of Judgement!
Hearing this, Prophet Yahya (as) shouted, “Wa agfalnaaho” and took a deep sigh! Then he rose and quietly walked away to the forest. Prophet Zakaria (as) returned home after the sermon was finished. He told to Yahya (as)’s mother: Go and search for Yahya (as). After hearing me talk about the Hell he has gone into the forest.’ The mother came out crying and asked people if they had seen her son. After traversing a long distance she met a shepherd. He said a youth of the description given by her was seen by him sitting in a cave and crying. He had cried so much that his feet were covered in tears. The shepherd said that the youth was crying, “O Allah! I shall not drink cool water until You show me my place of rest in the Hereafter!”
Yahya (as)’s mother reached that cave and embraced Yahya (as). She told him, “O son! Remove this dress of hard hair that there are bruises on your body. Wear soft dress of Pashmina wool.”
Prophet Yahya (as) agreed to change his dress. The mother cooked lentils for him. He ate his fill and slept. He slept so long that the time for the obligatory prayer was past. A voice then called, “O Yahya (as)! You like this abode more than ours! You want a better neighbor than Us?”
Yahya (as) rose from his sleep suddenly and looked towards the sky. He said, O Creator! I don’t consider any place more than the Bayt al Muqdis!” Then he asked his mother to give to him the dress of hair, wore it and prepared to go to Bayt al Muqdis. He didn’t stop, however much his mother persuaded him not to go.
Prophet Zakaria (as) told to the mother of Yahya (as), “He will not stop with your persuasion! Let him go. The curtain has been removed from his heart! The comforts of this world are nothing for him!”
Prophet Yahya (as) reached the Bayt al Muqdis and got busy in his prayers!