Monday, January 31, 2011

Maryam (Mary) and the Birth of Jesus

Quran has a full Chapter dedicated to Maryam, the mother of Jesus (Isa-alaisalaam)- Chapter 19 of Quran, namely, Surah Maryam. This Chapter deals with all the difficulties faced by various Prophets and also tells the problems faced by Bibi Maryam.

Before her story in Surah Maryam, we have a description of her own birth, life and of her giving birth to Jesus, in Chapter 3 of Quran - Surah Ale Imran (Family of Imran). I'd skipped portions of life of Mary while analysing the Surah earlier. That's because I wanted to have a separate article on what the Quran states about Mary. The Quran has specifically mentioned about Maryam and has even dedicated an entire Chapter to her. This is the greatest honour that can be given to any woman. No other woman shares this honour. Apart from a detailed mention in two Chapters, some of the other Surahs also keep referencing her alongwith with her son, Jesus (Isa PUBH).

Let us see what Surah Ale Imran says about dear Maryam (Mary) and her subsequent birth to Jesus:


[3:35] (Remember) When the wife of Imran said, “My Lord! I pledge to you what is in my womb - that it shall be dedicated purely in Your service, so accept it from me; indeed You only are the All Hearing, the All Knowing.”Background : Prophet Imran (pbuh) was a religious leader of the Israelites and his wife Hannah was barren and prayed for a child and promised to offer the child to the service of Allah (God). She was the sister of the wife of Prophet Zakaria(pbuh).

Sadly, before the birth of the child, her husband passed away. This I came across in places, though couldn't find the source of the reference.

[3:36] So when she gave birth to it, she said, “My Lord! I have indeed given birth to a girl!” And Allah well knows what she gave birth to; and the boy she had prayed for is not like this girl; “And I have named her Maryam and I give her and her offspring in Your protection, against Satan the outcast.”

Hannah had vowed to offer the child to the services of Allah, but when she gave birth to a girl, it posed a dilemma for her as in those times women were not allowed in the temple, especially to be devoted to the services of The Supreme One. But, Allah is the All-Knower and knew what was in her womb and had already chosen the path for Maryam (Mary).
[3:37] So her Lord accepted her with good acceptance and caused her to grow in a good manner and put her in the care of Zechariah. Every time Zechariah entered upon her in the prayer chamber, he found with her provision. He said, "O Mary, from where is this [coming] to you?" She said, "It is from Allah . Indeed, Allah provides for whom He wills without account.”

As Mary didn't have a father to be her guardian and also since she was devoted to the services of Allah, someone had to be appointed as a guardian for her. Prophet Zakaria (Zechariya, pbuh) himself was a pious man and held a important position as the priest and trustee of Hekal. He used to pray devotionally and preach zealously. His wife and he were the symbols of piety and righteousness. Prophet Imran (pbuh) was also a pious man. Being in closest in relation to Mary, Zakaria (pbuh) volunteered to be her guardian. He was chosen finally from among the others as they threw lots to decide the guardianship of Mary.

Mary stayed in a special room in temple, where no men were allowed. Zakaria (pbuh) used to visit her to inquire about her well-being. Whenever he went to the prayer chamber to see Maryam, he found food with her. He asked Maryam (Mary) about the source of food. She replied that they were sent by Allah. And Allah gives to whom He wills.

[3:38] It is here that Zakaria prayed to his Lord; he said, “My Lord! Give me from Yourself a righteous child; indeed You only are the Listener Of Prayer.”Zakaria (pbuh), who himself was very old then and didn't have children of his own, longed for a child of his own to carry the priesthood ahead. There itself, he prayed to Allah to grant him a righteous child.

[3:39] And the angels called out to him while he was standing, offering prayer at his place of worship, “Indeed Allah gives you glad tidings of Yahya (John), who will confirm a Word (or sign) from Allah, - a leader, always refraining from women, a Prophet from one of Our devoted ones.”

Then the angels called out to Zakaria (pbuh) and confirmed to him that a righteous son will be born to him. He was to be Yahya (pbuh), who is known by the name of John in the Bible.

[3:40] He said, “My Lord! How can I have a son when old age has reached me and my wife is barren?” He said, “This is how Allah brings about, whatever He wills.”
[3:41] He said, “My Lord! Determine a sign for me”; He said, “The sign is that you shall not be able to speak to mankind for three days except by signs; and remember your Lord profusely, and proclaim His Purity before sunset and at dawn.”Zakaria (pbuh) could not believe how he could have a child at his advanced age, while his wife was also barren. He asked for a sign from Allah, to prove that the news that was conveyed to him was true. Zakaria was conveyed through the Angel that he will not be able to speak to anyone for 3 days except by gesture. And was asked to keep praying to the Lord.

The account from St Luke's Bible is similar to the events stated here, with a difference that the Bible states that when Zakaria (pbuh) showed doubt about the news, the Lord was angry and he was told that his will not be able to speak till the child was born.

The account in Surah Ale-Imran then moves back to Maryam...

[3:42] And when the angels said, “O Maryam! Indeed Allah has chosen you and purified you, and has this day, chosen you among all the women of the world.”
[3:43] “O Maryam! Stand in reverence before your Lord, prostrate yourself and bow along with those who bow.”
[3:44] These are tidings of the hidden, which We secretly reveal to you (O dear Prophet Mohammed - peace and blessings be upon him); and you were not present with them when they threw their pens to draw lots, to know who should be the guardian of Maryam; nor were you present with them when they were quarrelling.

For those who do not know and wonder why Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) is being addressed here, let me clarify. The Quran was revealed to Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) in various stages of his life, part by part by Gabriel Angel (who is known as Jibreel Alaisalaam in Islam). The prophet himself was an uneducated man, who could not read or write. Allah send His revelations - of the people and prophets before him - through His Angel Jibreel as also the laws to be followed from thereon. Our prophet used to remember the words of the blessed Angel and share it with his companions (known as 'Sahabis'), and the learned among them used to write down everything verbatim. And then compare notes. That is how the Quran has been passed down through the ages. After that, nothing has been changed to date. Why was an illiterate man chosen to be the Messenger of Allah and pass on great knowledge to the world ? This itself is planned by Allah for a reason - so no one can say that Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) read or studied it from somewhere and wrote the Quran himself. Allah is indeed the best Planner.

Referring to the lines 'drawing of lots', it refers to the practice of those times to draw lots to come to a conclusion /decision. To decide the guardianship of Maryam, lots were drawn and Allah chose Zakaria (pbuh) from among the others. This verse is addressed to Mohammed PBUH, that though he was not there when all these things happened, the past events of prophets prior to him are being revealed to him.

[3:45] And remember when the angels said, “O Maryam! Allah gives you glad tidings of a Word from Him, whose name is the Messiah, Eisa (Jesus) the son of Maryam - he will be honourable in this world and in the Hereafter, and among the close ones (to Allah).
Here is the account where Maryam was told by the angels that she will bear the a son by the name of Isa (Jesus), who will be a honourable man and amongst the people close to Allah.

[3:46] “He will speak to people while he is in the cradle and in his adulthood, and will be of the devoted ones.”This verse states one of the miraculous attributes of Jesus PBUH. His being able to speak in infanthood.

[3:47] She said, “My Lord! How can I bear a child when no man has ever touched me?” He said, “This is how Allah creates whatever He wills; when He wills a thing, He only says to it, ‘Be’ - and it happens immediately.”Maryam asked the Angel/s how she would bear a child when she is untouched by any man. Here it is stated that Allah can create whatever He wants, in whichever way He wants. This is reiterated in Ayat (verse) 59 of this Chapter, where Allah states that the birth of Jesus is similar to the birth of Prophet Adam (pbuh). Both were born with the will of Allah in unique ways.

The qualities that will be bestowed to Jesus (PBUH) are told to Maryam through the following verses....
[3:48] “And Allah will teach him the Book and wisdom, and the Taurat (Torah) and the Injeel (Bible).”
[3:49] “And he will be a Noble Messenger towards the Descendants of Israel saying, ‘I have come to you with a sign from your Lord, for I mould a birdlike sculpture from clay for you, and I blow into it and it instantly becomes a (living) bird, by Allah’s command; and I heal him who was born blind, and the leper, and I revive the dead, by Allah’s command; and I tell you what you eat and what you store in your houses; undoubtedly in these (miracles) is a great sign for you, if you are believers.’ (Several miracles bestowed to Prophet Eisa are mentioned here.)
Narration moves to the life and purpose of Jesus, in a brief narrative...
[3:50] ‘And I come confirming the Taurat (Torah) - the Book before me - and to make lawful for you some of the things which were forbidden to you, and I have come to you with a sign from your Lord - therefore fear Allah and obey me.’
[3:51] ‘Undoubtedly Allah is the Lord of all - mine and yours - so worship Him only; this is the Straight Path.’ ”
[3:52] So when Eisa sensed their disbelief he said, “Who will be my aides towards (in the cause of) Allah?” The disciples said, “We are the aides of Allah’s religion; we believe in Allah, and you bear witness that we are Muslims.”
[3:53] Our Lord, we have believed in what You revealed and have followed the messenger Jesus, so register us among the witnesses [to truth]."
[3:54] And the disbelievers conspired (to kill Eisa ), and Allah covertly planned to destroy them; and Allah is the best of secret planners.
[3:55] Remember when Allah said, "O Jesus, indeed I will take you and raise you to Myself and purify you from those who disbelieve and make those who follow you [in submission to Allah alone] superior to those who disbelieve until the Day of Resurrection. Then to Me is your return, and I will judge between you concerning that in which you used to differ".Here again, like elsewhere in Quran, it is reiterated that Jesus was raised to Allah and he was neither killed nor died. His followers includes all who believe in Jesus (pbuh), this of course is not restricted to Christians, as Muslims believe him to be a Prophet of Allah as well.
Here again, if you read carefully the verse begins with 'Raise to myself' and then ends with 'You will return to me'. This is an indication of the second coming of Jesus, the Messiah. Jesus (PBUH) was raised to Allah, when his enemies planned to kill him. Again his being returned to Allah for judgement, is an indication that he will come to live with us and then return to the Lord as we all return back after living our full term on the earth (that is - till our death).
[3:56] “So I shall mete a severe punishment to those who disbelieve, in this world and in the Hereafter; and they will not have any supporters.”
[3:57] “And for those who believed and did good deeds, Allah will give them their full reward; and Allah does not like the unjust.”
[3:58] These are some verses that We recite to you, and advice full of wisdom.

[3:59] The example of Eisa with Allah is like that of Adam; He created him (Adam) from clay and then said to him, “Be” - and it thereupon happens!Relate this Ayat back to Ayat 47 above.
[3:60] This is the Truth from your Lord, so never be of those who doubt.
[3:61] Therefore say to those who dispute with you (O dear Prophet Mohammed - peace and blessings be upon him) concerning Eisa (Jesus) after this knowledge has come to you, “Come! Let us summon our sons and your sons, and our women and your women, and ourselves and yourselves - then pray humbly, thereby casting the curse of Allah upon the liars!” (This is for those who differ in belief on the birth and life of Jesus.)

[3:62] This undoubtedly is the true narrative; there is none worthy of worship except Allah; and Allah is the Almighty, the Wise.
[3:63] So if they turn away, then indeed Allah knows those who cause turmoil.

[3:64] Say (O dear Prophet Mohammed - peace and blessings be upon him), “O People given the Book(s)! Come towards a word which is common between us and you, that we shall worship no one except Allah, and that we shall not ascribe any partner to Him, and that none of us shall take one another as lords besides Allah”; then if they do not accept say, “Be witness that (only) we are Muslims.”
Here is a commandment from the Lord to people who follow were revealed the 3 Scriptures (namely Torah, Gospel and the Quran) to understand the common things between the three religions and believe in one God- Allah. And not to ascribe any partners to Him. He is above having a son or any other relations.

The narrative about Maryam and Jesus (PBUH) ends with this verse in Surah Ale-Imran (though the Chapter continues).

The Story of Maryam and of her giving birth to Jesus (PBUH) is again mentioned in Surah Maryam. Excerpts about Mary in Surah Maryam :


[19:16] And remember Maryam in the Book; when she went away from her family to a place towards east.This verse reveals about the moving of Maryam to a place towards the east, away from her family.

[19:17] And she took, in seclusion from them, a screen. Then We sent to her Our Angel, and he represented himself to her as a well-proportioned man.
There she met a man on the way. This was actually Gabriel Angel disguised as a man.

[19:18] She said, "I seek the refuge of the Most Gracious from you - if you fear Allah."
[19:19] He said, "I am indeed one sent by your Lord; so that I may give you a chaste son."
[19:20] She said, "How can I bear a son? No man has ever touched me, nor am I of poor conduct!"
[19:21] He said, "So it is; your Lord has said, ‘This is easy for Me’; and in order that We make him a sign for mankind and a Mercy from Us; and this matter has been decreed."
[19:22] So she conceived him, and she went away with him to a far place.
[19:23] Then the pangs of childbirth brought her to the base of the palm-tree; she said, "Oh, if only had I died before this and had become forgotten, unremembered."
[19:24] (The angel) Therefore he called her from below her, “Do not grieve - your Lord has made a river flow below you.”
[19:25] "And shake the trunk of the palm-tree towards you - ripe fresh dates will fall upon you''

[19:26] "Therefore eat and drink and appease your eyes; so if you meet any person then say, ‘I have pledged a fast (of silence) to the Most Gracious - I will therefore not speak to any person today.’ "
[19:27] So carrying him in her arms, she brought him to her people; they said, "O Maryam, you have indeed committed a great evil!"This is after Maryam gave birth to Jesus (PBUH) and brought him to her people. The people started accusing her of sin.

[19:28] "O sister of Haroon, neither was your father an evil man nor was your mother of poor conduct!"

[19:29] Thereupon she pointed towards the child; they said, "How can we speak to an infant who is in the cradle?"When people started accusing Maryam of misconduct, she pointed to her baby to seek explanation. The people exclaimed how could a infant talk!

[19:30] The child proclaimed, "I am Allah’s bondman; He has given me the Book and made me a Herald of the Hidden (a Prophet)."
[19:31] "And He has made me blessed wherever I be; and ordained upon me prayer and charity, as long as I live."
[19:32] "And has made me good to my mother and not made me forceful, ill-fated."
[19:33] "And peace is upon me the day I was born, and on the day I shall taste death, and on the day I will be raised alive."
Here again 'death' and 'being raised alive' are separately mentioned as two separate events. An indication of Second Coming of Jesus and his subsequent death later.
[19:34] This is Eisa (Jesus), the son of Maryam; a true statement, in which they doubt.
[19:35] It does not befit Allah to appoint someone as His son - Purity is to Him! When He ordains a matter, He just commands it, "Be" - and it thereupon happens.

[19:36] And said Eisa (Jesus), "Indeed Allah is my Lord and your Lord - therefore worship Him; this is the Straight Path."
[19:37] Then the factions differed [concerning Jesus] from among them, so woe to those who disbelieved - from the scene of a tremendous Day.
[19:38] Much will they listen and much will they see, on the Day when they come to Us, but today the unjust are in open error.
[19:39] And warn them, [O Muhammad], of the Day of Regret, when the matter will be concluded; and [yet], they are in [a state of] heedlessness, and they do not believe.

[19:40] Indeed We shall inherit the earth and all that is on it, and only towards Us will they return.Though Surah Maryam (Chapter 19) continues about hardships of some other prophets, the story of Maryam and Jesus ends with Ayat 40

There is a brief mention of Maryam in CHAPTER 66 - SURAH TEHREEM (The Prohibition) also :
[66:12] And the example of Maryam the daughter of Imran, who guarded her chastity - We therefore breathed into her a Spirit from Ourselves – and she testified for the Words of her Lord and His Books, and was among the obedient.

The Importance of Maryam alongwith other important women in Islam (through the Hadeeths) :

Hazrat Ali bin Abi Talib (RA) narrated that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: "The best of the women in the world is Maryam (in her lifetime), and the best of the women in the world is Khadijah (in her lifetime)."
Abu Musa Ashari (RA) also narrated that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: "Many among men attained perfection, but among women none attained perfection except Maryam the daughter of Imran, and Asiya the wife of Pharaoh; and the superiority of Aisha to other women is like the superiority of Tharid (an Arabic dish) to other meals."

Translation credit : and in some parts from

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