Maryam bint Imran (Arabic: مَرْيَم بِنْت عِمْرَان, romanizedMaryam bint ʿImrān, lit.'Mary, daughter of Imran') is revered in Islam. The Qur'an refers to her seventy times and explicitly identifies her as the greatest woman to have ever lived.[1][2][3] In the Quran, her story is related in three Meccan surahs (19, 21, 23) and four Medinan surahs (3, 4, 5, 66). The nineteenth Surah, Maryam, is named after her. Moreover, she is the only woman named in the Quran.[4]

Titleal-Qānitah (the Woman who submits to God)
al-Sājidah (the Woman who prostrates to God)
al-Rāki’ah (the Woman who bows to God)
al-Ṣa’ima (the Woman who fasts)
al-Ṭāhirah (the Purified)
al-Ṣiddīqah (the Truthful)
al-Mustafia (the Chosen)
Bornc. 20 BCE
Diedc. 100–120 CE
Resting placeMary's Tomb, Kidron Valley (possibly)
ChildrenIsa (Jesus) (son)
Muslim leader
Mary's relation to John and Zechariah

According to the Quran, Mary's parents had been praying for a child. Their request was eventually accepted by God, and Mary's mother became pregnant. Her father Imran had died before the child was born. After her birth, she was taken care of by her maternal uncle Zechariah. According to the Quran, Mary received messages from God through the archangel Gabriel. God informed Mary that she had miraculously conceived a child through the intervention of the divine spirit, though she was still a virgin. The name of her child is chosen by God, being Isa (Jesus), who would be the "anointed one", the Promised Messiah. As such, orthodox Islamic belief has upheld the virgin birth of Jesus,[5] and although the classical Islamic thinkers never dwelt on the question of the perpetual virginity of Mary,[5] it was generally agreed in traditional Islam that Mary remained a virgin throughout her life, with the Quran's mention of Mary's purification “from the touch of men” implying perpetual virginity in the minds of many of the most prominent Islamic fathers.[6]

Mary is believed to have been chosen by God, above all "the women of the worlds" in Islam.[5] She is referred to by various titles in the Quran, with the most prominent being al-Qānitah.

Family edit

The Quran calls Mary "the daughter of Imran".[7] It also mentions that people called her a "sister of Aaron (Harun)"[8] Her mother, mentioned in the Quran only as the wife of Imran, prayed for a child and eventually conceived.[9] According to al-Tabari, Mary's mother was named Hannah (Arabic: هنا), and Imran (Arabic: عمران), her husband, died before the child was born.[10] Expecting the child to be male, Hannah vowed to dedicate him to isolation and service in the Temple.[9] However, Hannah bore a daughter instead, and named her Maryam.[11][12][13]

In the Quran edit

Mary is mentioned frequently in the Quran,[14] and her narrative occurs consistently from the earliest chapters, revealed in Mecca, to the latest verses, revealed in Medina.

Birth edit

The birth of Mary is narrated in the Quran with references to her father as well as her mother. Mary's father is called Imran. He is the equivalent of Joachim in Christian tradition. Her mother, according to al-Tabari, is called Hannah,[10] which is the same name as in Christian tradition (Saint Anne). Muslim literature narrates that Imran and his wife were old and childless and that, one day, the sight of a bird in a tree feeding her young aroused Anne's desire for a child. She prayed to God to fulfill her desire[15] and vowed, if her prayer was accepted, that her child would be dedicated to the service of God.

According to Iraqi Jewish scholar and translator, N.J. Dawood, the Quran confuses Mary mother of Jesus with Miriam the sister of Moses, when it refers to the father of Mary, the mother of Jesus, as Imran, which is the Arabic version of Amram, who is shown to be the father of Moses in Exodus 6:20.[16] Dawood, in a note to Quran 19:28, where Mary the Mother of Jesus is referred to as the "Sister of Aaron", and Aaron was the brother of Mary sister of Moses, states: "It Appears that Miriam, Aaron's sister, and Maryam (Mary), mother of Jesus, were according to the Koran, one and the same person."[17] Although Islamic studies of the beginning of the 20th century tended to see this as a mistake in genealogy, in more recent Islamic Studies of the 21st century the general consensus is, according to Angelika Neuwirth, Nicolai Sinai & Michael Marx, that the Quran does not make a genealogical error but instead makes use of typology.[18] This is, following Wensincks conclusion, supported by the figurative speech of the Quran and the Islamic tradition:

Maryam is called a sister of Hārūn and the use of these three names Imrān, Hārūn and Maryam, has led to the supposition that the Kur'ān does not clearly distinguish between the two Maryams of the Old and the New Testaments. It is not necessary to assume that these kinship links are to be interpreted in modern terms. The words "sister" and "daughter", like their male counterparts, in Arabic usage can indicate extended kinship, descendance or spiritual affinity. Muslim tradition is clear that there are eighteen centuries between the Biblical Amram and the father of Maryam.[19][20]

Similarly, Stowasser concludes that "to confuse Mary the mother of Jesus with Mary the sister of Moses and Aaron in Torah is completely wrong and in contradiction to the sound Hadith and the Qur'anic text as we have established".[21][22]

Mary and the infant Jesus in a 15th-century manuscript, Baghdad

The Quranic account of Mary's birth does not affirm an Immaculate Conception for Mary as Islam does not accept the doctrine of original sin, or an inherited fault in humans, as it is found in Christianity.[23][24]

Early years edit

The Quran does not, specifically, point to the fact that Mary lived and grew up in a temple as the word miḥ'rāb in Quran 3:36 in its literal meaning refers to a private chamber[25][26] or a public/private prayer chamber.[27] The definitive idea of Mary growing up in a temple derived via external literature (i.e. see the narration below by Ja'far al-Sadiq). She was placed under the care of the prophet Zakariya, the husband of Hannah's sister and Mary's maternal uncle and caretaker.[28]: 16  As often as Zechariah entered Mary's prayer chamber, he found her provided with food[29] and he would ask her where she received it from, to which she would reply that God provides to whom He wills. Scholars have debated as to whether this refers to miraculous food that Mary received from God or whether it was normal food. Those in favor of the former view state that it had to be miraculous food, as Zechariah being a prophet, would have known that God is the provider of all sustenance and thus would not have questioned Mary, if it was normal food.

Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq narrates that when Maryam was grown, she would go into the mihrab and put on a covering so no one saw her. Zechariah went into the mihrab and found that she had summer fruit in the winter and winter fruit in the summer. He asked "From whence is this?" She said, "It is from ALLAH . Indeed, Allah provides for whom He wills without account"[3:37].[28]: 16–17 

Annunciation edit

Annunciation in The Remaining Signs of Past Centuries, folio 162v. Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département des manuscrits, Arabe 1489.

The virgin birth of Jesus is supremely important in Islam. The first explicit mention of an annunciation foreshadowing the birth of Jesus is in Quran 19:20 where Mary asks Gabriel (Jibril) how she will be able to conceive, when no man has touched her. Gabriel's reply assures Mary that for God all things are easy and that Jesus's virgin birth will be a sign for mankind.[30] The birth is later referred in Quran 66:12, where the Quran states that Mary remained "pure", while God allowed a life to shape itself in Mary's womb. A third mention of the annunciation is in 3:42-43, where Mary is also given the glad tidings that she has been chosen above all the women of creation.[31]

Commentators on the Quran remark on the last verse that Mary was as close to a perfect woman as there could be, and she was devoid of almost all failings.[32] Although Islam honors numerous women, including Hawwa, Hagar, Sarah, Asiya, Khadijah, Fatimah, Ayesha, Hafsa many commentators[33] followed this verse in the absolute sense, and agreed that Mary was the greatest woman of all time.[32] Other commentators, however, while maintaining that Mary was the "queen of the saints", interpreted this verse to mean that Mary was the greatest woman of that time and that Fatimah, Khadijah and Asiya were equally great.[32][34] According to exegesis and literature, Gabriel appeared to Mary, who was still young in age, in the form of a well-made man with a "shining face" and announced to her the birth of Jesus. After her immediate astonishment, she was reassured by the angel's answer that God has the power to do anything.[32] The details of the conception are not discussed during these Angelic visits, but elsewhere the Quran states (21:91 and 66:12) that God blew through Our angel [i.e., Gabriel] into Mary while she was chaste.[35][36]

Virgin birth edit

Mary shaking the palm tree for dates during the pains of labor. Parallels to this legend are found in the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew, but linked to the flight to Egypt.[37]

According to the Quran, Mary was chosen twice by the Lord: "O Mary, indeed Allāh has chosen you and purified you and chosen you above the women of the worlds" (3:42); and the first choosing was her selection with glad tidings given to Imran. The second was that she became pregnant without a man, so in this regard, she was chosen over all other women in the world.[28]: 16 

The Quran narrates the virgin birth of Jesus numerous times. In Surah Maryam, verses (ayat) 17–21,[38] the annunciation is given, followed by the virgin birth in due course. In Islam, Jesus is called the "spirit of God" because he was through the action of the spirit, but that belief does not include the doctrine of his pre-existence, as it does in Christianity.[39] Quran 3:47 also supports the virginity of Mary, revealing that "no man has touched [her]". 66:12 states that Jesus was born when the spirit of God breathed upon Mary, whose body was chaste.[40]

According to the Quran, the following conversation transpired between the angel Gabriel and Mary when he appeared to her in the form of a man:

19:16 And mention in the Book ˹O Prophet, the story of˺ Mary when she withdrew from her family to a place in the east,
19:17 screening herself off from them. Then We sent to her Our angel, ˹Gabriel,˺ appearing before her as a man, perfectly formed.
19:18 She appealed, “I truly seek refuge in the Most Compassionate from you! ˹So leave me alone˺ if you are God-fearing.”
19:19 He responded, “I am only a messenger from your Lord, ˹sent˺ to bless you with a pure son.”
19:20 She wondered, “How can I have a son when no man has ever touched me, nor am I unchaste?”
19:21 He replied, “So will it be! Your Lord says, ‘It is easy for Me. And so will We make him a sign for humanity and a mercy from Us.’ It is a matter ˹already˺ decreed.”

The Quran's narrative of the virgin birth is somewhat different from that in the New Testament. The Quran states that when the pains of childbirth came upon Mary, she held onto a nearby palm tree, at which point a voice came from "beneath the (palm-tree)" or "beneath her", which said, "Do not grieve! Your Lord has provided a stream at your feet. And shake the trunk of this palm tree towards you, it will drop fresh, ripe dates upon you."[41] The Quran goes on to describe that Mary vowed not to speak to anyone on that day.[42] The Quran goes on to narrate that Mary then brought Jesus to her people, they were in shock, as they knew her to be from a righteous family. The Israelites questioned Mary how she came to be with child whilst unmarried, to which Mary pointed to the baby Jesus. It was then that, according to the Quran, the infant Jesus began to speak in the cradle, and spoke of his prophet-hood.[43]

According to Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq, Jesus the son of Mary used to cry intensely as a child, so that Mary was at wits end regarding his profuse crying. He said to her, "Get some of the bark of that tree, make a tonic from it and feed me with it." When he drank it, he cried intensely. Mary said, "What sort of prescription did you give me?" He said, "Oh my mother! Knowledge of prophet-hood and weakness of childhood."[28]: 23 

The Fatimid Ismaili jurist Al-Qadi al-Nu'man holds that the virgin birth of Jesus is meant to be interpreted symbolically. In his interpretation, Mary was the follower (lāḥiq), of the Imam Joachim (‘Imran). However, when Joachim realized that she was not suited for the Imamah, he passed it to Zechariah, who then passed it to John the Baptist. Meanwhile, Mary received spiritual inspiration (mādda) from God, revealing that he would invite a man [to the faith] who would become an exalted Speaker (nāṭiq) of a revealed religion (sharīʿa). According to al-Nu’man, the verses “She said: Lord! How can I have a child when no man has touched me?” (Quran 3:47) and “neither have I been unchaste” (Quran 19:20) are symbolic of Mary's saying, “How can I conduct the invitation (daʿwa) when the Imam of the Time has not given me permission to do so?” and “Nor shall I be unfaithful by acting against his command”, respectively. To this, a celestial hierarch replies “Such is God. He creates [i.e., causes to pass] what he wills” (Quran 3:47).[44]

Islamic tradition edit

Mary is one of the most honored figures in Islamic theology, with Muslims viewing her as one of the most righteous women to have lived as per the Quranic verse, with reference to the Angelical salutation during the annunciation, "O Mary, indeed Allāh has chosen you and purified you and chosen you above the women of the worlds.".[45] A minority of Muslims also view her as a prophet.[46] Muslim women look upon her as an example. Muslim tradition, like Christian, honors her memory at Matariyyah near Cairo, and in Jerusalem. Muslims also visit the Bath of Mary in Jerusalem, where Muslim tradition recounts Mary once bathed, and this location was visited at times by women who were seeking a cure for barrenness.[47] Some plants have also been named after Mary, such as Maryammiah, which, as tradition recounts, acquired its sweet scent when Mary wiped her forehead with its leaves. Another plant is Kaff Maryam (Anastatica), which was used by some Muslim women to help in pregnancy, and the water of this plant was given to women to drink while praying.

Islamic literature does not recount many instances from Mary's later life, and her assumption is not present in any Muslim records. Nevertheless, some contemporary Muslim scholars, an example being Martin Lings, accepted the assumption as being a historical event from Mary's life.[48] One of the lesser-known events which are recorded in Muslim literature is that of Mary visiting Rome with John and Thaddeus (Jude), the disciples (al-Hawāriyūn) of Jesus, during the reign of Nero.[49]

Qadi al-Nu'man, the twelfth century Ismaili Muslim jurist and luminary, in his book on the esoteric interpretation of faith, Asās al-Ta'wīl, talks about the spiritual birth (milad al-bātin) of Jesus, as an interpretation of his story of physical birth (milad al-zāhir). He says that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was a metaphor for someone who nurtured and instructed Jesus, rather than physically giving birth to him. He also pointed out that Zachariah (The Imam of the Time) appointed Mary as one of his proofs (sing. hujja).[44]

Titles edit

  • Qānitah: Mary is so-called in 66:12. The Arabic term implies the meaning, not only of constant submission to God but also absorption in prayer and invocation, meanings that coincides with the image of Mary spending her childhood in the temple of prayer. In this way, Mary personifies prayer and contemplation in Islam.
  • Siddiqah: She who confirms the truth or She who has faith. Mary is called Siddiqah twice in the Quran (5:73-75 and 66:12). The term has also been translated, She who believes sincerely completely.
  • Sājidahا: She who prostrates to God in worship. The Quran states: "O Mary! Worship your Lord devoutly: prostrate yourself".[50] While in Sujud, a Muslim is to praise God and glorify Him. In this motion, which Muslims believe to be derived from Marian nature, hands, knees, and the forehead touch the ground together.
  • Rāki’ahا: She who bows down to God in worship. The Quran states: "O Mary! Bow down in prayer with those men, who bow down." The command was repeated by angels only to Mary, according to the Muslim view. Ruku' in Muslim prayer during prayer has been derived from Mary's practice.
  • Tāhirah: She who was purified.[45]
  • Mustafiahا: She who was chosen. The Quran states: "O Mary, indeed Allāh has chosen you and purified you and chosen you above the women of the worlds.".[45]
  • Sa’imah: She who fasts. Mary is reported to fast one-half of a year in some Muslim traditions.

Many other names of Mary can be found in various other books and religious collections. In Hadith, she has been referred to by names such as Batul, Adhraa' (Ascetic Virgin), and Marhumah (Enveloped in God's Mercy).[51]

Legacy edit

Mosques named after Mary:

  1. Mary Mother of Jesus Mosque in Hoppers Crossing, Victoria, Australia.[52]
  2. Qal'bu Maryam Women's Mosque (Heart of Mary), Berkeley, CA
  3. Maryam Umm Eisa (Mary Mother of Jesus), Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates[53]
  4. Mariam Al-Batool Mosque (Virgin Mary) in Paola, Malta
  5. Mary (Ahmadiyyah) Mosque in Galway, Ireland.

See also edit

Notes edit

References edit

  1. ^ Qur'an 3:42; cited in Stowasser, Barbara Freyer, “Mary”, in: Encyclopaedia of the Qurʾān, General Editor: Jane Dammen McAuliffe, Georgetown University, Washington DC.
  2. ^ J.D. McAuliffe, Chosen of all women
  3. ^ J.-M. Abd-el-Jalil, Marie et l'Islam, Paris 1950
  4. ^ Ibrahim, Ayman S. A Concise Guide to the Quran: Answering Thirty Critical Questions. Baker Publishing Group. ISBN 1493429280.
  5. ^ a b c Stowasser, Barbara Freyer, “Mary”, in: Encyclopaedia of the Qurʾān, General Editor: Jane Dammen McAuliffe, Georgetown University, Washington DC.
  6. ^ e.g. Rāzī, Tafsīr, viii, 46
  7. ^ "What Islam really teaches about the Virgin Mary". America Magazine. December 18, 2015.
  8. ^ Quran 19:28
  9. ^ a b Quran 3:35
  10. ^ a b Ayoub, Mahmoud M. (2013-05-21). The Qur'an and Its Interpreters: Volume 2: Surah 3. Islamic Book Trust. p. 93. ISBN 978-967-5062-91-9.
  11. ^ Wheeler, Brannon M. (2002). Prophets in the Quran: an introduction to the Quran and Muslim exegesis. Continuum International Publishing Group. pp. 297–302. ISBN 0-8264-4957-3.
  12. ^ Da Costa, Yusuf (2002). The Honor of Women in Islam. LegitMaddie101. ISBN 1-930409-06-0.
  13. ^ Quran 3:36
  14. ^ Lejla Demiri, "Mary in the Qur’an" pp. 9-11 L’OSSERVATORE ROMANO, 51st year, No. 29 (2556) Friday, 20 July 2018. → Download pdf file here [1]
  15. ^ Quran 3:31
  16. ^ Dawood, N J (1956). The Koran. London: Penguin Books. p. 53. ISBN 9780141393841.
  17. ^ Dawood, N J (1956). The Koran. London: Penguin Books. p. 306. ISBN 9780141393841.
  18. ^ Michael Marx: Glimpses of a Mariology in the Qur'an; in: A. Neuwirth, Nicolai Sinai, Michael Marx (Hrsg.): The Qur'ān in Context. Historical and Literary Investigations into the Qur'ānic Milieu. Leiden 2011. pp. 533–563.
  19. ^ Arent Jan Wensinck: Maryam. In: A. J. Wensinck, J. H. Kramers (Hrsg.): Handwörterbuch des Islam. pp. 421–423.
  20. ^ A. J. Wensinck (Penelope Johnstone), "Maryam" in C. E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel, W. P. Heinrichs & Ch. Pellat (Eds.), The Encyclopaedia Of Islam (New Edition), 1991, Volume VI, p. 630.
  21. ^ B. F. Stowasser, Women In The Qur'an, Traditions, And Interpretation, 1994, Oxford University Press: New York, p. 393-394.
  22. ^ Aliah Schleifer, Mary The Blessed Virgin Of Islam, 1998, op. cit., p. 36.
  23. ^ Cleo McNelly Kearns. (2008), The Virgin Mary, Monotheism and Sacrifice, New York: Cambridge University Press, p. 254–5
  24. ^ Malik Ghulam Farid, et al. (1988) Āl ʻImrān, The Holy Quran with English Translation and Commentary Vol. II, p.386–8, Tilford: Islam International
  25. ^ "The Quranic Arabic Corpus - Word by Word Grammar, Syntax and Morphology of the Holy Quran".
  26. ^ Quran translation by Yusuf Ali. "Quran".
  27. ^ "The Quranic Arabic Corpus". Every time Zechariah entered upon her in the prayer chamber
  28. ^ a b c d Qa'im, Mahdi Muntazir (2007). Jesus Through the Qur'an and Shi'ite Narrations (bilingual ed.). Queens, New York: Tahrike Tarsile Qur'an. pp. 14–15. ISBN 978-1879402140.
  29. ^ Quran 3:37
  30. ^ Quran 19:20-22 19:20 She wondered, “How can I have a son when no man has ever touched me, nor am I unchaste?”
    19:21 He replied, “So will it be! Your Lord says, ‘It is easy for Me. And so will We make him a sign for humanity and a mercy from Us.’ It is a matter ˹already˺ decreed.”
    19:22 So she conceived him and withdrew with him to a remote place.
  31. ^ Quran 3:37-38
  32. ^ a b c d Bosworth, C.E. et al., The Encyclopaedia of Islam, Volume VI: Mahk-Mid, Brill: 1991, p. 629
  33. ^ Two such commentators were al-Razi and al-Qurtubi.
  34. ^ R. Arnaldez, Jesus fils de Marie prophete de l'Islam, Paris 1980, p. 77.
  35. ^ Islam: A Guide for Jews and Christians by F. E. Peters 2005 Princeton University Press ISBN 0-691-12233-4, p. 23.
  36. ^ Holy people of the world: a cross-cultural encyclopedia, Volume 1 by Phyllis G. Jestice 2004 ISBN 1-57607-355-6 pages 558–559
  37. ^ Leirvik, Oddbjørn (2010-05-27). Images of Jesus Christ in Islam: 2nd Edition. A&C Black. pp. 21, 33. ISBN 978-1-4411-8160-2.
  38. ^ Quran 19:17-21
  39. ^ Christianity, Islam, and the West by Robert A. Burns, 2011, ISBN page 32
  40. ^ Understand My Muslim People by Abraham Sarker 2004 ISBN 1-59498-002-0 page 127
  41. ^ Quran 19:24-25
  42. ^ Quran 19:26
  43. ^ Quran 19:27-33
  44. ^ a b Virani, Shafique (2019). "Hierohistory in Qāḍī l-Nuʿmān's Foundation of Symbolic Interpretation (Asās al-Taʾwīl): The Birth of Jesus". Studies in Islamic Historiography: 147–169. doi:10.1163/9789004415294_007. ISBN 9789004415294. S2CID 214047322.
  45. ^ a b c Quran 3:42 -Sahih International
  46. ^ Beyond The Exotic: Women's Histories In Islamic Societies, pg. 402. Ed. Amira El-Azhary Sonbol. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2005. ISBN 9780815630555
  47. ^ T. Canaan, Muhammaden Saints and Sanctuaries in Palestine, in Journal of the Palestine Oriental Sac., iv/1–2, 1924, 1–84
  48. ^ Muhammad, M. Lings, pg. 101
  49. ^ Bosworth, C.E. et al., The Encyclopaedia of Islam, Volume VI: Mahk-Mid, Brill: 1991, p. 631
  50. ^ Quran 3:43
  51. ^ Khattan, Rahib; The Blessed names of Sayyidatina Maryam, pg 111
  52. ^ "Masjid Maryam (Virgin Mary) – Hoppers Crossing, Victoria". Retrieved 2013-11-03.
  53. ^ "UAE names Abu Dhabi mosque after Mary, mother of Jesus". Newsweek. 15 June 2017.

External links edit