Mary in Islam
||This article improperly uses one or more religious texts as primary sources without referring to secondary sources that critically analyze them. (December 2012)|
|Saint Mary the Holy Virgin|
|Virgin, The Purified, The Exalted, Mother of Isa, Keeper of Chastity, Mystic, Female Exemplar, Maternal Heroine, Queen of the Saints
Sai'ma, Mustafia, Rāki’ah, Sājidah, Qānitah, Siddiqah, Tāhirah
|Born||c. 20 B.C.E.
|Died||c. 100–120 C.E.
|Honored in||All Islam
|Major shrine||Mary's Tomb, Kidron Valley|
|Influenced||All Muslim and Christian women.|
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Mary (مريم Marīam in Arabic), the mother of Jesus (Isa), is considered one of the most righteous women in the Islamic tradition. She is mentioned more in the Quran1 than in the entire New Testament and is also the only woman mentioned by name in the Quran.2 According to the Quran, Isa was born miraculously by the will of God without a father. His mother is regarded as a chaste and virtuous woman and is said to have been a virgin. The Quran states clearly that Isa was the result of a virgin birth, but that neither Mary nor her son were divine. In the Quran, no other woman is given more attention than Mary and the Quran states that Mary was chosen above all women:
Behold! the angels said: "O Mary! Allah hath chosen thee and purified thee – chosen thee above the women of all nations.
The nineteenth chapter of the Quran is named after her and is, to some extent, about her life. Of the Quran's 114 suras, she is among only eight people who have a chapter named after them. Mary is specifically mentioned in the Quran, alongside Asiya, as an exemplar for all righteous women.4 Mary plays an important role in Islamic culture and religious tradition, and verses from the Quran relating to Mary are frequently inscribed on the mihrab of various mosques, including in the Hagia Sophia.5
The Quran refers to Mary as being from the "house of Amram", which is a reference to Amram, the father of Moses (Musa), Aaron (Harun) and Miriam, through whom Mary descended. Mary is further called the "daughter of Amram", which has again been interpreted to refer to her ancestor rather than her actual father, who is unnamed in the Quran, but to whom Christian tradition applies the name Joachim. Muslim scholars and commentators have seen the Quran's statement of Mary being a "daughter of Amram" as similar to the description of Elizabeth in the Gospel of Luke as being one of the "daughters of Aaron"; they interpret both of these phrases as referring to ancestral fathers, rather than literal fathers. Take note, however, that the Gospel of Luke only says Mary and Elizabeth are relatives. There is no phrase "the daughter of Aaron." (Only Luke 1 mentions Elizabeth.)
The birth of Mary is narrated in the Quran with references to her father as well as her mother (Saint Anne). Mary's father is called Amran (Imran in Arabic) and Anne (Hannah in Arabic) in tradition and is the equivalent of Joachim in Christian tradition. Muslim literature narrates that Amram 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 desire6 and vowed, if her prayer was accepted, that her child would be dedicated to the service of God. She prayed for her child to remain protected from Satan (Shayṭān) and Muslim tradition records a hadith, which states that the only children born without the "touch of Satan," were Mary and Jesus.7
The Quran narrates that Mary grew up in the temple of the prayer, and had a special place in the temple of her own. She was placed under the care of the prophet Zechariah. The Muslim narrative makes it clear that lots were cast8 as to who should be the guardian of Mary and the outcome was that she should be placed under Zechariah's care. As often as Zechariah entered Mary's prayer chamber, he found her provided with food9 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.
The virgin birth of Jesus is supremely important in Islam, as one of the most important miracles of God. The first explicit mention of an annunciation foreshadowing the birth of Jesus is in sura 19 (Maryam), ayah 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.10 The birth is later referred in sura 66 (At-Tahrim), ayah 12,11 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 sura 3 (Al-Imran), ayat 37–38, where Mary is also given the glad tidings that she has been chosen above all the women of creation.12
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.13 Although Islam honors numerous women, including Khadija and Fatimah, many commentators14 followed this verse in the absolute sense, and agreed that Mary was the greatest woman of all time.13 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 and Khadija were equally great.1513 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.13 The details of the conception are not discussed during these angelic visits, but elsewhere the Quran states (sura 21, (Al-Anbiya), ayah 9116 and 66:1211) that God breathed "His Spirit" into Mary while she was chaste.1718
The Quran narrates the virgin birth of Jesus numerous times. In sura 19 (Maryam), ayat 17–21,19 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.20 Sura 3, ayat 47 also supports the virginity of Mary, revealing that "no man has touched [her]".21 Sura:66:1211 states that Jesus was born when the spirit of God breathed upon Mary, whose body was chaste.22
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 " "Grieve not! for thy Lord hath provided a rivulet beneath thee; "And shake towards thyself the trunk of the palm-tree: It will let fall fresh ripe dates upon thee."23 The Quran goes on to describe that Mary vowed not to speak to any man on that day,24 as God was to make Jesus, who Muslims believe spoke in the cradle, perform his first miracle. The Quran goes on to narrate that Mary then brought Jesus to the temple, where immediately she began to be taunted by all the men, excluding Zechariah, who believed in the virgin birth. 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 prophecy for the first time.25
Mosques are named after Mary
- Mary Mother of Jesus Mosque in Hoppers Crossing, Victoria, Australia. 26
- Mosque Maryam, the Nation of Islam National Center, Chicago, IL
Mary is one of the most honored figures in Muslim history, with the majority of Muslims viewing her as one of the most righteous women to have lived, and a minority viewing her as an actual female prophet.27 Muslim women look upon her as an example and are known to visit both Muslim and Christian shrines. 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.28 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 the assumption is one of the Christian events 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.29 One of the lesser-known events which is 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.30
|Lineage of six prominent prophets according to Islamic tradition|
|Dotted lines indicate multiple generations|
- Qānitah: Mary is so called in sura 66:12.11 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 (sura 5 (Al-Ma'ida), ayat 73–75 and 66:12).1131 The term has also been translated, She who believes sincerely completely.
- Sājidah: She who prostrates to God in worship. The Quran states: "O Mary! Worship your Lord devoutly: prostrate yourself".32 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’ah: 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.3
- Mustafia: She who was chosen. The Quran states: "O Mary! God has chosen you and purified you and again he has chosen you above all women of all nations of the worlds".3
- 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).33
Mary is believed to have been buried at the Tomb of the Virgin Mary in the Kidron Valley, at the foot of the Mount of Olives, in Jerusalem. The Christian church on the site has been destroyed several times but the crypt has remained intact. The site is run by the Greek Orthodox Church of Jerusalem who share it with the Armenian Apostolic Church. A mihrab is located at the site to aid Muslims.
- Saint Mary – Iranian film depicting the life of Mary
- Roman Catholic Mariology
- Blessed Virgin Mary (Roman Catholic) – Roman Catholic views of Mary
- Theotokos – Eastern Orthodox Church views of Mary
- Esposito, John. What Everyone Needs to Know About Islam. New York: University Press, 2002. P31.
- "Mary" in Glasse, Cyril, Concise Encyclopedia of Islam. Stacey International, 3rd edition, 2008.
- Quran 3:42
- Quran 66:11–12
- Dimensions of Islam, F. Schuon, Wisdom of the Virgin
- Quran 3:31
- Bukhari, Anbiya, 44; Muslim, Fada'il, trad. 146, 147
- Quran 3:39
- Quran 3:32
- Quran 19:20–22 Sura 19:20 She said: "How shall I have a son, seeing that no man has touched me, and I am not unchaste?"
19:21 He said: "So (it will be): Thy Lord saith, 'that is easy for Me: and (We wish) to appoint him as a Sign unto men and a Mercy from Us':It is a matter (so) decreed."
19:22 So she conceived him, and she retired with him to a remote place.
- Quran 66:12
- Quran 3:37–38
- Bosworth, C.E. et al., The Encyclopaedia of Islam, Volume VI: Mahk-Mid, Brill: 1991, p. 629
- Two such commentators were al-Razi and al-Qurtubi.
- R. Arnaldez, Jesus fils de Marie prophete de l'Islam, Paris 1980, p. 77.
- Quran 21:91
- Islam: A Guide for Jews and Christians by F. E. Peters 2005 Princeton University Press ISBN 0-691-12233-4, p. 23.
- Holy people of the world: a cross-cultural encyclopedia, Volume 1 by Phyllis G. Jestice 2004 ISBN 1-57607-355-6 pages 558–559
- Quran 19:17–21
- Christianity, Islam, and the West by Robert A. Burns, 2011, ISBN page 32
- Quran 3:47
- Understand My Muslim People by Abraham Sarker 2004 ISBN 1-59498-002-0 page 127
- Quran 19:24–25
- Quran 19:26
- Quran 19:27–33
- "Masjid Maryam (Virgin Mary) – Hoppers Crossing, Victoria". Foursquare.com. Retrieved 2013-11-03.
- Beyond The Exotic: Women's Histories In Islamic Societies, pg. 402. Ed. Amira El-Azhary Sonbol. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2005. ISBN 9780815630555
- T. Canaan, Muhammaden Saints and Sanctuaries in Palestine, in Journal of the Palestine Oriental Sac., iv/1–2, 1924, 1–84
- Muhammad, M. Lings, pg. 101
- Bosworth, C.E. et al., The Encyclopaedia of Islam, Volume VI: Mahk-Mid, Brill: 1991, p. 631
- Quran 5:73–75
- Quran 3:43
- Khattan, Rahib; The Blessed names of Sayyidatina Maryam, pg 111
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Virgin Mary.|
- Tafsir of Surah Maryam
- Jesus and The Virgin Mary in Islam By Juan Galvan
- Mary from Sufi Islam perspective