It may surprise many people to learn that Mary is one of the most esteemed and respected and that the Quran gives her great importance.  Maryam is the name of chapter 19 of the Quran, and Chapter 3 is ‘Al Imran’, named after her family. Islam holds the entire family of Imran in very high regard.  The Quran tells us that “Allah did choose Adam and Noah, the family of Abraham, and the family of ‘Imran above all people,” (Quran 3:33)

God choose Adam and Noah individually, but He chose the family of Abraham and the family of Imran.

“Offspring, one of the other: And Allah heareth and knoweth all things” (Quran 3:34)

The family of Imran are from the descendents of Abraham, the family of Abraham are from the descendants of Noah and Noah is from the descendents of Adam.  The family of Imran also includes many people known and respected in the Christian traditions – Prophets Zachary and John (known as the Baptist), Prophet and Messenger Jesus and his mother, Mary.

God chose Mary above all the women of the world “Behold! the angels said: ‘O Mary! Allah hath chosen thee and purified thee – chosen thee above the women of all nations.’” (Quran 3:42)

Ali ibn Abu Talib said: “I heard the Prophet of God saying Mary, the daughter of Imran was the best among women.”

In Arabic the name Maryam means the maidservant of God, and as we shall see, Mary, the mother of Jesus, was dedicated to God even before she was born.

The birth of Mary

The Bible is unable to give us any details of Mary’s birth; however, the Quran informs us that the wife of Imran dedicated her unborn child to the service of God. Mary’s mother, the wife of Imran, was Hannah. She was the sister of Prophet Zachary’s wife. Hannah and her husband Imran had believed they would never have children, but one day Hannah made a sincere and heartfelt supplication to God begging for a child, and vowing that her offspring would serve in God’s House in Jerusalem.  God heard Hannah’s supplication and she fell pregnant.  When Hannah realised the glorious news she turned to God and said “Behold! a woman of ‘Imran said: “O my Lord! I do dedicate unto Thee what is in my womb for Thy special service: So accept this of me: For Thou hearest and knowest all things.” (Quran 3:35)

There are lessons to be learned from Hannah’s vow to God, one of which is caring for the religious education of our children.  Hannah was not thinking in terms of this world at all, she was trying to ensure that her child was close to God and in His service.  These chosen friends of God, such as family of Imran, are the parents whom we should take as our role models.

God says many times in the Quran that He is the One who supplies provision for us, and He warns us to save ourselves and our families from the fires of Hell.

In her supplication, Hannah asked that her child be free from all worldly work.  By promising that her child would be the servant of God, Hannah was securing her child’s freedom.  Freedom is a quality of life that every human being strives to attain, but Hannah understood that true freedom comes from complete submission to God.

This is what she aspired to for her yet unborn child.  Hannah wanted her child to be a free person, a slave to no man and no desire, but a slave only to God.  In due time, Hannah gave birth to a girl, again she turned to God in prayer and said “O my Lord! Behold! I am delivered of a female child!”- and Allah knew best what she brought forth- “And no wise is the male Like the female. I have named her Mary, and I commend her and her offspring to Thy protection from the Evil One, the Rejected.” (Quran 3:36)

Hannah named her child Mary.  With reference to her vow to God, Hannah now found herself facing a dilemma.  Serving in the House of Prayer was not acceptable for women.  Mary’s father, Imran had died before she was born, so Hannah turned to her brother in law, Zachary.  He comforted Hannah and helped her to understand that God knew that she had delivered a girl.

This girl child, Mary, was from the best of creation.  Prophet Mohammad mentioned that whenever a child is born Satan pricks him or her and therefore the child cries loudly. This is a sign of the great enmity between mankind and Satan; however there were two exceptions to this rule.  Satan pricked neither Mary nor her son Jesus, due to the supplication of Mary’s mother.

When the time came for Mary to go into the House of Prayer, everybody wanted to take care of this pious daughter of Imran.  As was the custom of the time, the men drew lots for the privilege, and God ensured that her guardian was Prophet Zachary.

“Right graciously did her Lord accept her: He made her grow in purity and beauty: To the care of Zechariah was she assigned. Every time that he entered (Her) chamber to see her, He found her supplied with sustenance. He said: “O Mary! Whence (comes) this to you?” She said: “From Allah: for Allah Provides sustenance to whom He pleases without measure.” (Quran 3:37)

Prophet Zachary served in the House of God and was a wise and knowledgeable man devoted to teaching.  He had a private room built for Mary so that she was able to worship God and go about her daily duties in private.  As her guardian, Prophet Zachary visited Mary daily, and one day he was surprised to see fresh fruit in her room.

It is said that in winter she would have the fresh fruits of summer and in the summer she would have the fresh fruits of winter. Prophet Zachary inquired about how the fruit got there, to which Mary replied, it was indeed God Who provided her sustenance. She said “Right graciously did her Lord accept her: He made her grow in purity and beauty: To the care of Zechariah was she assigned. Every time that he entered (Her) chamber to see her, He found her supplied with sustenance. He said: “O Mary! Whence (comes) this to you?” She said: “From Allah: for Allah Provides sustenance to whom He pleases without measure.” (Quran 3:37)

Mary’s devotion to God was at that time unparalleled, but her faith was about to be tested.

Esteemed and loved by all Muslims and known as a pious and devout woman, Mary, the mother of Jesus was chosen above all other women.  Islam rejects the Christian notion that Jesus is part of a trinity that is God, and denies emphatically that either Jesus or his mother, Mary, are worthy of worship.  The Quran categorically states that there is no god but God.

“That is Allah, your Lord! there is no god but He, the Creator of all things: then worship ye Him: and He hath power to dispose of all affairs.” (Quran 6:102)

Muslims are required, however, to believe in and love all of the Prophets, including Prophet Jesus, who holds a special place in the Islamic creed.  His mother, Mary, holds a place of honour.  As a young woman, Mary went into the House of Prayer in Jerusalem, her entire life dedicated to the worship and service of God.

Mary hears the news of Jesus

While she was in seclusion from everybody, a man appeared before Mary  “She placed a screen (to screen herself) from them; then We sent her our angel, and he appeared before her as a man in all respects.” (Quran 19:17)

Mary was afraid and tried to flee.  She appealed to God saying “She said: “I seek refuge from thee to (Allah) Most Gracious: (come not near) if thou dost fear Allah. He said: “Nay, I am only a messenger from thy Lord, (to announce) to thee the gift of a holy son.” (Quran 19:18-19)

Mary was amazed and puzzled by these words.  She was not married, rather a virgin who kept chaste.  She asked incredulously “She said: “O my Lord! How shall I have a son when no man hath touched me?” He said: “Even so: Allah createth what He willeth: When He hath decreed a plan, He but saith to it, ‘Be,’ and it is!” (Quran 3:47)

God created Adam from the dust of the earth, without either mother or father.  He created Eve from Adam’s rib; and Jesus, He created without a father, but with a mother, the pious Virgin Mary.  God, who has only to say ‘Be’ to a thing in order to bring it into existence,, blew the spirit of Jesus into Mary via the Angel Gabriel “and We breathed into (her body) of Our spirit; and she testified to the truth of the words of her Lord and of His Revelations, and was one of the devout (servants).” (Quran 66:12)

Although the stories of Mary in the Quran and in the Bible have many aspects in common, the view that Mary was betrothed or married is totally rejected by Islam.  Time passed, and Mary became afraid of what the people around her would say.  She wondered how they could possibly believe that no man had touched her. The majority of scholars in Islam agree that the duration of Mary’s pregnancy was normal. Then, as the time came for her to give birth, Mary decided to leave Jerusalem, and travelled towards the city of Bethlehem.  Even though Mary must have recalled the words of God, for her faith was strong and unwavering, this young woman was anxious and uneasy.  But the angel Gabriel reassured her “O Mary! Allah giveth thee glad tidings of a Word from Him: his name will be Christ Jesus, the son of Mary, held in honour in this world and the Hereafter and of (the company of) those nearest to Allah (Quran 3:45)

Jesus is born

The pains of childbirth drove her to clutch at the trunk of a date-palm tree and she cried out in anguish: “Ah! would that I had died before this! would that I had been a thing forgotten and out of sight!” (Quran 19:23)

Mary delivered her child right there, at the foot of the date tree.  She was exhausted after the birth, and filled with distress and fear, but nevertheless she heard a voice calling out to her “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.” (Quran 19:24-25) 

God provided Mary with water, as a stream suddenly appeared beneath the place she was sitting.  He also provided her with food; all she had to do was shake the trunk of the date tree.  Mary was scared and frightened; she felt so weak, having just given birth, so how could she possibly shake the immense trunk of a date tree?  But God continued to provide Mary with sustenance.

The next event was indeed another miracle, and as human beings we learn a great lesson from this.  Mary didn’t need to shake the date tree, which would have been impossible; she only had to make an effort.  As she attempted to follow God’s command,  fresh ripe dates fell from the tree and God said to Mary “So eat and drink and cool (thine) eye. And if thou dost see any man, say, ‘I have vowed a fast to (Allah) Most Gracious, and this day will I enter into not talk with any human being’” (Quran 19:26)

Mary now had to take her new born child and go back to face her family.  Of course she was afraid, and God knew this well.  Thus He directed her not to speak.  It would not have been possible for Mary to explain how she had suddenly become the mother of a new born child.  Since she was unmarried, her people would not believe her explanations.  God said “And if thou dost see any man, say, ‘I have vowed a fast to (Allah) Most Gracious, and this day will I enter into not talk with any human being'”. (Quran 19:26)

Mary came to her people carrying the child, and they immediately began accusing her; they exclaimed “What have you done?  You are from a good family, and your parents were pious.”

As God had directed her, Mary did not speak, she merely pointed to the baby in her arms.  Then Jesus, son of Mary, spoke.  As a newborn baby, Jesus, the Prophet of God performed his first miracle.  By the permission of God “He said: “I am indeed a servant of Allah: He hath given me revelation and made me a prophet; “And He hath made me blessed wheresoever I be, and hath enjoined on me Prayer and Charity as long as I live; “(He) hath made me kind to my mother, and not overbearing or miserable; “So peace is on me the day I was born, the day that I die, and the day that I shall be raised up to life (again)” (Quran 19:30-33)

Mary is referred to in the Quran 5:75 as a truthful one but the Arabic word siddiqa implies more than just speaking the truth.  It means that one has achieved a very high level of righteousness.  It means that one is truthful, not only with themselves and those around them, but also with God.  Mary was a woman who fulfilled her covenant with God, Whom she worshiped with full submission.  She was pious, chaste, and devout; the woman chosen above all other women to be the mother of Jesus was Mary, the daughter of Imran.

“Such (was) Jesus the son of Mary: (it is) a statement of truth, about which they (vainly) dispute.” (Quran 19:35)