By Sabeen Khan
The Virgin Mary. Mary, the Pure. Mariam, upon whom be peace. This blessed woman’s life is evident through many stories and teachings. She has a prominent, significant, and revered role in the Quran and Islam.
The story of the Blessed Mary is a truly beautiful one. She descended from the family of Amram, the father of Moses. Her parents were Anne and Joachim (Imran in Arabic). They were both very pious, religious people. Anne was also immensely caring and motherly. She loved children, and both Anne and Imran yearned for a child. They were both very old, but by the grace of God, Anne conceived. They were both utterly overjoyed. Anne dedicated her unborn child to be a muharrar – a person freed from all worldly affairs and specially committed to the service of God.
Tragically, Imran died during Anne’s pregnancy. Anne realized her baby would need a father to raise her child. She was expecting a boy, who she believed would grow into a prophet. However, God sent her a girl. She was pleased with this, despite the fact that she’d been expecting a boy, and was very grateful. She prayed to God for refuge for her child. Lots were drawn to decide who would care for the child between several men. Anne’s sister’s husband, Zachariah, was a prophet. Zachariah had no children of his own. Many men tried to cheat and draw the lots in their direction, as they wanted to raise Mary, but the wind repeatedly drew it towards Zachariah.
Zachariah was very good to Mary, who grew into an extremely righteous, gentle woman. She was so pious that she was given her own special section of the temple in which she was brought up to worship God and study her religion. She dedicated her days to God.
God would provide Mary with food. When Zachariah would come to feed her, he would find that she already had provisions. At first he assumed that someone else in the temple had given it to her, but soon after he realized that the food was unseasonable. He asked Mary where it had come from. She replied that it was from God.
Whilst Mary was in her temple, the Angel Gabriel came to her. He informed her that she would be giving birth to Jesus. Mary was a pious woman, and she was entirely chaste, so naturally she asked how this would happen. The Angel told her that God needs only to say, ‘Be,’ and it will be done.
Mary went to a remote place, usually described as an island, as the time of labor drew closer. She was alone – Joseph was not with her, as he is in other tellings of the story. According to the Quran, Mary is completely alone. This gives her more of an honor. She was not only alone while giving birth, she also later endured the stigma of being a single mother. In that place and in that time, this was an extremely difficult thing. She had no one except God, and according to the Quran, she put her full and complete trust in Him, despite the enormity of the task.
Mary, despite being Blessed, was as human as any of us, and she suffered the pangs of labor. She was comforted with food and water. She only had to shake the tree she lay under, and food would be provided to her. She eventually gave birth to Jesus, and returned to her home.
Homecoming was not easy for Mary. Her people immediately accused her of being unchaste. They said that she was born of good people who she had shamed. Mary did not reply to them, but instead she pointed to the baby Jesus. The people mocked her, asking her how she could expect an infant to reply.
Jesus, though he was only a baby, spoke to them. He began, “Surely I am a servant of God; He has given me the Book and made me a prophet” (Quran, 19:30). Immediately this shows that Jesus was a human as well, just as his mother was. Mary then brought up her son for the duration of her life.
Mary was a great woman, not only for her story but for who she was. She was chosen by God to give birth to one of the most important figures in mankind. She was always kind, gentle, sweet, and pious. In Islam, she is very highly regarded. She has a chapter in the Quran entirely dedicated to her, and is seen as one of the most important women. Furthermore, the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, said that the best women of humankind are four: Mary, the mother of Jesus, Asiya, the wife of the Pharoah, Khadija, the wife of Prophet Muhammad, and Fatima, his own daughter.
In summary, Mary is one of the most revered women in history and in Islam. She was one of the greatest people in the history of humankind.
The angels said to Mary: “Mary, God has chosen you and made you pure: He has truly chosen you above all women.” (Quran, 3:42)