Abbas - Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs
(Then We heard his prayer, and bestowed upon him John) a righteous son, (and adjusted his wife for him) by bearing a son for him. (Lo! They) i.e. the prophets; and it is also said that they refer to Zachariah and John (used to vie one with the other in good deeds) they used to hasten to acts of obedience (and they cried unto Us in longing and in fear) they used to pray to us out of longing and fear; it is also said that this means: they used to worship Us out of longing for Paradise and fear from hell, (and were submissive unto Us) and they were humble and obedient.
They were vying in good works and they were supplicating Us in eagerness and dread, and they were reverent toward Us.
“My servants are striving to obey Me and they call upon Me with eagerness and dread. They know only Me and they circle only around My door. They are the burned ones of My Presence, the ones lifted up by My gentleness.”
“He guided them so that they would recognize them, He gave them success so that they would worship Him, He instructed them so that they would ask of Him, He illuminated their hearts so that they would love Him. He loves without bribery, He bestows without obligation, and He honors without a means of approach.” He scatters a hundred blessings on your head and counts it as a dust mote. He considers a straw of yours to be a mountain. Do you not see that He will give you a paradise with all that tremendousness and vastness, but He calls it an “upper chamber”? “It is they who will be recompensed with the upper chamber” [25:75]. Abraham the Bosom Friend placed a calf before his guests. The Exalted Lord approved of him, honored him, and displayed him to the world's folk: “He brought a roasted calf” [11:69].
He is a Lord who makes wealthy anyone who presents a need to Him, who exalts anyone who delights in Him. Supposing that the servant disobeys for a hundred years and then says, “I repent,” He will say, “I accept.” He it is who accepts repentance from His servants [42:25].
A bedouin was supplicating, and it was a marvelous supplication. He said, “O God, you will find someone other than me to chastise, but I will find no one other than You to have mercy on me.”
So We responded to him, in his call, and gave him John, as a son, and We restored [fertility to] his wife for him, and so she bore a child, having been barren. Truly they, those prophets that have been mentioned, would hasten to, [they would] hurry [to perform], good works, [namely] acts of obedience, and supplicate Us out of desire, for Our mercy, and in awe, of Our chastisement, and they were submissive before Us, humble in their worship.
Allah tells us of His servant Zakariyya, who asked Allah to grant him a son who would be a Prophet after him. The story has already been given in detail at the beginning of Surah Maryam and also in Surah `Imran. Here an abbreviated version is given.
إِذْ نَادَى رَبَّهُ
(when he cried to his Lord) means, in secret, hiding it from his people.
رَبِّ لاَ تَذَرْنِى فَرْداً
(O My Lord! Leave me not single,) means, with no child and no heir to stand among the people after me.
وَأَنتَ خَيْرُ الْوَرِثِينَ
(though You are the Best of the inheritors.) This is a supplication and form of praise befitting the topic. Allah says:
(So We answered his call, and We bestowed upon him Yahya, and cured his wife for him.) Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid and Sa`id bin Jubayr said: "She was barren and never had a child, then she gave birth.''
إِنَّهُمْ كَانُواْ يُسَارِعُونَ فِى الْخَيْرَتِ
(Verily, they used to hasten on to do good deeds,) means, acts of worship and acts of obedience towards Allah.
وَيَدْعُونَنَا رَغَباً وَرَهَباً
(and they used to call on Us with hope and fear,) Ath-Thawri said, "Hoping for that (reward) which is with Us and fearing that (punishment) which is with Us.''
وَكَانُواْ لَنَا خـشِعِينَ
(and they were Khashi`in before Us.) `Ali bin Abi Talhah reported from Ibn `Abbas that this means, sincerely believing in that which was revealed by Allah. Mujahid said: "Truly believing.'' Abu Al-`Aliyah said: "Fearing.'' Abu Sinan said: "Khushu` means the fear which should never leave our hearts.'' It was also reported from Mujahid that the Khashi`in are those who are humble.'' Al-Hasan, Qatadah and Ad-Dahhak said, "The Khashi`in are those who humble themselves before Allah.'' All of these suggestions are close in meaning.
Maududi - Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi - Tafhim al-Qur'an
"Made his wife fit": "We cured his wife of sterility." As "Thou alone art the best Inheritor", I shall have no grief even if Thou dost not give the any child. (For further details, please see III:37-41 and XIX: 2-14 and the E.N.'s thereof).
It will be worth while to reiterate the reasons why the stories of the Prophets have been cited in this surah.
(1) The story of Prophet Zacharias has been cited to impress on the minds that all the Prophets were human beings and servants of Allah and had no tinge of Godhead in them. They had no power to bestow children upon others because they themselves had to pray to Allah for children for themselves.
(2) The story of Prophet Jonah has been cited to show that even a great Prophet like him did not go unnoticed when he committed an error in regard to Allah's Message. But when he repented, Allah, by His grace, delivered him alive from the belly of the fish.
(3) The mention of Prophet Job has been made to show that even Prophets were put to hard trials and afflictions and even they had to beg Allah to restore them to health, not to speak of curing others of diseases.
Along with these, the other important thing which is meant to be impressed is that all the Prophets believed in the doctrine of Tauhid. That is why they begged and prayed to One Allah alone to fulfill their needs and requirements. Though they met with trials, Allah helped them and granted their prayers in supernatural and miraculous ways.