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Answering Common Misconceptions
 

05. Virgin Mary in Islam

Question:

Dear Sirs,

Thank you for your very informative site. As a high school history teacher, it serves an invaluable source of accurate information about Islam and the Islamic world.

My question regards the person of the Virgin Mary in Islamic teaching. I have read that in many Islamic nations - Iraq and Syria mostly - Mary has a prominent place within the hearts of Muslims. Is this the case?

If so, how and what are the Islamic theological foundations for this role vis a vis Christianity?

Thank you in advance for your response.

Answer:

No faith or holy book has honored Virgin Mary and held her in high esteem as did Islam and the Holy Qur’an, not even the Bible. A full-chapter of the Qur’an was titled Maryam (Arabic of Mary), and many Muslims love to call their daughters ‘Maryam’ out of love and respect. Qur’an portraits the character and merits of Virgin Mary since its birth till her miraculous pregnancy and birth of Jesus Christ (peace be upon him). In doing so, Qur’an (a divinely inspired book) does not give much emphasis on detailing the events (typical of human authors) as on outlining the significance, wisdom and lessons learnt. Thus the virtues, high status and moral excellence of Virgin Mary are exposed: a chaste and pious human woman who was chosen, purified, and preferred over all of the women of creation to be the one to give birth to the Messenger Jesus through the command of God without any father whatsoever. The following are quotations from the English interpretations of  Qur’anic verses. These citations, if read in their original Arabic text - with its inimitable divine eloquence and superb rhetoric - are so moving that they bring tears into the eyes of Arab listeners, Muslims and Christians alike.

“And Allah has struck a similitude for the one who have believed: the wife of Pharaoh, as she said, “Lord! Build me a house in your Providence in the Garden, and safely deliver me from Pharaoh and his deed(s), and safely deliver me from the unjust people!” And Mary, daughter of `Imran, who attended to her private parts (guarded her chastity, so We breathed in it of Our Spirit (Gabriel)], and she sincerely believed in the Wordsof her Lord, and His Books; and she was one of the devout. [Prohibition, 66: 11-12]

“And (remember) when the angels said: O Mary! Verily, Allah has chosen you, purified you , and chosen you above the women of the worlds (of her lifetime). O Mary! Submit yourself with obedience to your Lord (Allah) and prostrate yourself, and bow down along with those who bow down (for Him). [The Household of `Imran, 3: 42-43]..

“And mention in the Book Mary, when she withdrew in seclusion from her family to a place facieast. She placed a screen from them; then We sent to her Our Spirit (Gabriel)], and he appeared before her in the form of a man in all respects. She said: Verily, I seek refuge with the Most Gracious (Allah) from you, if you do fear Allah. He said: I am only a messenger from your Lord, (to announce) to you the gift of a righteous son. She said: How can I have a son, when no man has touched me, nor am I unchaste? He said: So (it will be), your Lord said: 'That is easy for Me (Allah). And (We wish) to appoint him as a sign to mankind and a mercy from Us (Allah), and it is a matter (already) decreed (by Allah). So she conceived him,[1] and she withdrew with him to a remote place.  And the pains of childbirth drove her to the trunk of a date palm. She said: Would that I had died before this, and had been forgotten and out of sight!  Then (one) cried from beneath her, saying: Grieve not: your Lord has provided a water stream under you. And shake the trunk of date palm towards you, it will let fall fresh ripe dates upon you. So eat and drink and be glad. And if you see any human being, say: 'Verily, I have vowed a fast unto the Most Gracious (Allah) so I shall not speak to any human being this day.' Then she brought him (the baby) to her people, carrying him. They said: O Mary! Indeed you have brought a fabricated thing. O sister (i.e. the like) of Aaron! Your father was not a man who used to commit adultery, nor your mother was an unchaste woman.  Then she pointed to him. They said: How can we talk to one who is a child in the cradle? He (Jesus) said: Verily, I am a slave of Allah, He has given me the Scripture and made me a Prophet; And He has made me blessed wheresoever I be, and has enjoined on me prayer, and Zakat (alms), as long as I live. [Mary, 19: 16-31]

Read also: [Household of `Imran, 3: 33-38, 44-47], [Women, 4: 155-162] and [ The Prophets, 21: 91-91].

Also Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) has pointed out to the status of  Virgin Mary in Islam when he said:

“The best of the world's women is Mary”

He also said:

 “Among women none attained perfection except Mary the daughter of Imran, and Asiya the wife of Pharaoh”.

In the Bible, Virgin Mary was mentioned mainly in Matthews 1: 15-25 and Luke 1: 26-57, in the context of narrating the story of birth of Jesus Christ (peace be upon him). This can give you a comparative appreciation (bearing in mind my previous remark om the original Arabic Qur`an) of the status of Virgin mary in Islam and Christianity.