First to the clarification of my question about Zacharias’ surprise!
To begin with it is a very simple question. The question is that first Zacharias prays for upright descendants and then asks God that how can I have a child when I am old and my wife is barren (facts I presume known to him earlier). I think may be I am being too critical here but nonetheless what do you have to say, if anything. Your explanation about the giving of sign has taken some confusion out of this point as well.
NJD1 translates 3:41 as, ‘Lord,’ said he, ‘vouchsafe me a sign.’ ‘For three days and three nights,’ He replied, ‘you shall not speak to any man except by signs……….’
When one prays to God it is even for such things, which may apparently seem quite impossible. For even where the road seems closed and nothing but darkness surrounds, God can, indeed, create light and can still guide us to an open passage. Nothing is impossible for him. For instance, Zacharias prayed for a son, at an age where, and with a wife through whom, it was apparently impossible to get what he was asking for. However, when such a prayer is answered, we are surprised – sometimes we are astonished – not because of our disbelief in the omnipotence of God, but simply because what we had asked for, apparently seemed highly unlikely, if not impossible to happen.
This, in my opinion, is what happened in the referred incident2, with a small difference: The thing that was being prayed for did not yet happen, but, on the other hand, the person was only informed that what he had asked for, shall be granted. Zacharias (pbuh) was obviously very happy at the immediate fulfillment of his prayer, but in his happiness he did not forget that this message may be from his own enthusiastic self or even from satan. Thus, the question: “how can I have a child when I am old and my wife is barren?” is asked, not in disbelief, but as a confirmation that the information was, indeed, from the Omnipotent and the Merciful.
7th November 1997