‘Tis the season when Christians around the world are ready to celebrate the season of Jesus (as) and the story of his blessed birth, the strength and sacrifice of his mother, Mary. The Prophet Isa (as) and his mother, Maryam (Mary), hold a uniquely exalted position as a symbol of purity, resilience and faithfulness, deeply revered in Islamic tradition and across multiple faiths.
Bottom line – Muslims love Maryam (as). Maryam (as) is the only woman named in the Quran, and her story is recounted with great reverence and detail. Her significance extends beyond her role as the mother of a prophet to embody qualities of piety, faith and devotion. Her significance is underscored by numerous references in the Quran and Hadith, and her life serves as a beacon of inspiration, especially for Muslim women.
Maryam's story in the Quran begins even before her birth. Her mother dedicated her unborn child to the service of Allah (S), hoping for a son:
(Remember) when the wife of 'Imran said: "O my Lord! I have vowed to You what (the child that) is in my womb to be dedicated for Your services (free from all worldly work; to serve Your Place of worship), so accept this from me. Verily, You are the All-Hearer, the All-Knowing.
Surah Al Imran, 3:35
However, when Maryam was born, Allah (S) accepted her with a great reception. This early narrative establishes Maryam's sanctified life, marked by divine acceptance and a deep commitment to worship.
(Muslims love the Prophet Isa (as), or Jesus, too. But some of the things we believe about him are different from Christian beliefs. Read more here.)
The most extraordinary element of Maryam's (as) narrative in Islam is the miraculous conception and birth of Isa (as). In Surah Maryam (19:16-21), the Quran vividly recounts this pivotal event. It portrays Maryam as a devout worshiper who had pledged her chastity to Allah (S). In these verses, Allah (S) sends an angel to Maryam (as), announcing to her the news of a holy son.
He said: "I am only the messenger of your Lord to give you [news of] a pure boy [son]."
Surah Maryam 19:19
Her response, marked by astonishment and modesty, underlines her virtuous nature:
She said: How can I have a boy while no man has touched me and I have not been unchaste?
Surah Maryam 19:20
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This miraculous birth, conceived without any male intervention, is a cornerstone in Islamic belief, underscoring Allah (S) omnipotence and will. It's not just a narrative of a prophet's birth; it's a divine sign, a symbol of Allah’s (S) power to enact His (S) will beyond human understanding.
This event in Maryam's (as) life is a profound testament to the notion that Allah's (S) power is limitless, and His (S) plans transcend human norms and expectations. The birth of Isa (as) serves as a pivotal sign for humanity, illustrating the profound capabilities of divine intervention and the special status bestowed upon Maryam (as) in the faith.
Model of Piety and Righteousness
Maryam (as) is an emblem of piety and righteousness, a status vividly depicted in the Quran. Her steadfast faith, particularly during the challenging period following the birth of Isa (Jesus), is profoundly admired and serves as an inspiring example for believers.
Ayat (verses) 27-28, in Surah Maryam narrates the moment when Maryam (as), holding her newborn son, confronts her community. The reaction of her people, marked by surprise and judgment, is met with her dignified silence and trust in Allah's (S) plan:
She pointed to him. They said, "How can we talk to one who is in the cradle, a young child?"
Surah Maryam, 19:29
This moment emphasizes her virtues of patience and resilience against societal judgment, showcasing how her unyielding faith in God's wisdom and plan allowed her to withstand the skepticism and criticism of her people.
Maryam's (as) story in the Quran, especially these verses, is often cited to underscore the importance of trust in Allah (S), patience in adversity, and resilience against societal pressure. Her narrative teaches that true piety and righteousness involve unwavering faith. Maryam's (as) example remains a powerful source of inspiration, reminding believers of the virtue of steadfast faith in the face of societal scrutiny.
Empowerment and Inspiration
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Maryam serves as a profound source of empowerment and inspiration for women, illustrating the high esteem that Islam places on the spiritual and moral capabilities of women. The Quran praises Maryam in Surah Al-Tahrim (66:12):
And Mary, daughter of 'Imran, who guarded her chastity, so We blew into [her garment] through Our angel, and she believed in the words of her Lord and His scriptures and was of the devoutly obedient.
This verse highlights her exceptional piety and unwavering faith in God's words, positioning her as an exemplar of moral and spiritual excellence.
Furthermore, this hadith reinforces this perspective. Sahih Bukhari (3433) quotes Prophet Muhammad saying, “Many men reached the level of perfection, but no woman reached such a level except Mary, the daughter of 'Imran, and Asiya, the wife of Pharaoh.”
This hadith elevates Maryam (as) as a paragon of perfection, paralleling the highest spiritual achievements of men and thus challenging traditional gender roles.
Maryam's (as) story powerfully counters the notion that devotion and righteousness are gender-specific. Her life, as portrayed in the Quran and affirmed by hadith, is a testament to Islam's recognition of the potential for spiritual and moral excellence in women. Maryam's (as) narrative offers a powerful counter-narrative to traditional gender roles. It remains a source of inspiration for women in Islam, demonstrating the respect and honor Islam places on the spiritual capabilities of all believers, regardless of gender.
Maryam's (as) story is not just a narrative about the miraculous birth of a prophet. It is a story of unwavering faith, resilience in the face of adversity, and the triumph of devotion over societal norms. Her life transcends mere historical or religious significance; it offers timeless lessons of faith, virtue, and the power of Allah’s (S) will.
Maryam (as) stands as a beacon for believers, exemplifying the virtues cherished in Islam and demonstrating women's esteemed status in the faith. Her story continues to inspire and guide Muslims around the world, making her one of the most significant figures in Islamic tradition.