“Remember when angels said, ‘O Mary, truly God has chosen you and purified you and preferred you over all other women of the world. O Mary, remain faithful to your Lord. Prostrate in worship. Bow with those who bow’” – Qur’an 3: 42-43
Mary mother of Jesus (‘Isa’ in Arabic), is one of the most honored figures in religious history. Muslims view her as one of the most righteous women to have ever lived. Muslim women look to her as an example of modesty and dignity. Mary is granted such a high level of respect among Muslims because she is the only woman mentioned by name in the Qur’an. In fact, there is an entire section (Surah) of the Qur’an that is named for her.
Mary Mother of Jesus
The extracanonical texts of Mary and Protevangelion (among what is called the Lost Books of the Bible) offer some information we may consider. According to these, Mary’s parents were Joachim (‘Imran’ in Arabic) and Anna (‘Hannah’ in Arabic). Joachim of Nazareth was of the royal race and family of David. The Judaic prophecies show that the Messiah would be a descendant of David. The prophecies also claim that Jesus would be from the priesthood, the progeny of Aaron, son of Imran. Mary’s mother Anna was of the family of priests, so, in this way, both prophecies were fulfilled.
The Qur’an narrates us the vow Mary’s mother (wife of Imran) made to God.
“Recall that a woman of Imran prayed, ‘My Lord, I truly dedicate to You what is in my womb, as a devotion. Accept this from me. Truly, You are All-hearing, the Superior Intellect.’ When she had given birth, she said, ‘My Lord, I have given birth to a female.’ God knows best of what should be born. ‘The male is not like the female. I have named her Mary. I seek Your protection for her and her children against Satan the reject’” (Surah 3: 35-36).
Mary grew under the care of Prophet Zackariah in the temple. She spent her young age serving the needs of the temple while being devoted in worship of God Almighty and gaining spiritual education. God had already began showing favor to Mary as her piety of devotion increased at such a young age. The Qur’an recalls a moment in her youth where Zackariah was surprised to find that God had provided her with food.
So her Lord accepted her with good acceptance and caused her to grow in a good manner and put her in the care of Zechariah. Every time Zechariah entered upon her in the prayer chamber, he found with her provision. He said, “O Mary, from where is this [coming] to you?” She said, “It is from Allah. Indeed, Allah provides for whom He wills without account.” – Qur’an 3:37
Her reply moved and inspired Zackariah who immediately cried out to God in secret lamenting and seeking a child who can continue his progeny and the mission of calling people to God.
At that, Zechariah called upon his Lord, saying, “My Lord, grant me from Yourself a good offspring. Indeed, You are the Hearer of supplication.” – Qur’an 3:38
His prayer was instantly accepted and Zackariah was gifted with a son whom God named John (Yahya in Arabic) who would be known as “John the Baptist.”
So the angels called him while he was standing in prayer in the chamber, “Indeed, Allah gives you good tidings of John, confirming a word from Allah and [who will be] honorable, abstaining [from women], and a prophet from among the righteous.” – Qur’an 3:39
As Mary grew closer to maturity, she continued her services to the temple. Suddenly one day an angel appeared to her in the form of a man which shocked and frightened Mary. She immediately sought protection from God and ordered the “man” to stay away. The Angel Gabriel assured her of good intent and delivered the message from Almighty God that exalted her rank above the women of all nations. Then came the heavy news that God has sent Gabriel to tell her of a Son whose name is Jesus that God has ordained Mary to bear. Not only has God ordained this young woman to be a mother, but that her son will be one of the mighty prophets who will work miracles.
[And mention] when the angels said, “O Mary, indeed Allah gives you good tidings of a word from Him, whose name will be the Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary – distinguished in this world and the Hereafter and among those brought near [to Allah ]. He will speak to the people in the cradle and in maturity and will be of the righteous.” – Qur’an 3:45-46
Mary was a young woman at this time (most likely between 12 and 14) and was a pure, chaste virgin. News that she would have a child was confusing for her.
She said, “My Lord, how will I have a child when no man has touched me?” [The angel] said, “Such is Allah ; He creates what He wills. When He decrees a matter, He only says to it, ‘Be,’ and it is. – Qur’an 3:47
After Mary conceived and had carried the baby for a while, she became distraught as the pains of pregnancy struck her.
And the pains of childbirth drove her to the trunk of a palm tree. She said, “Oh, I wish I had died before this and was in oblivion, forgotten.” But he called her from below her, “Do not grieve; your Lord has provided beneath you a stream. And shake toward you the trunk of the palm tree; it will drop upon you ripe, fresh dates. So eat and drink and be contented. And if you see from among humanity anyone, say, ‘Indeed, I have vowed to the Most Merciful abstention, so I will not speak today to [any] man.’” – Surah 19: 23-26).
Eventually, Mary mother of Jesus returned to her people in Jerusalem, carrying the infant.
They said, ‘O Mary, truly you have brought an astonishing thing! O sister of Aaron, your father was not an evil man, and your mother was not unchaste!’ She pointed to (the baby) [as if to say, ‘Ask him’]. They said, ‘How can we talk with an infant from the cradle?’ (The baby Jesus) said, ‘I am indeed a servant of God. He has given me scriptures and made me a prophet. He has made me blessed wherever I am and has instilled in me prayer and charity as long as I live. He has made me kind to my mother and not arrogant or rebellious. Peace was upon me the day I was born, and will be upon me the day that I die and the day I shall be resurrected.’ – Qur’an 19:27-33
This scene of Jesus speaking from the cradle to defend his mother is also found in the extracanonical text of I Infancy.
After the birth of Jesus, most of scriptural narrative shifts the focus away from Mary and onto Jesus. Therefore, not much is known about the rest of Mary’s life. Mary’s grave is believed to be at the Tomb of the Virgin Mary in the Kidron Valley, at the foot of the Mount of Olives, in Jerusalem. A mihrab (denoting the direction of prayer) is located at the site for Muslims.
While teaching us about Mary mother of Jesus, the Qur’an makes two unequivocal statements that Muslims take as aspects of true faith.
1. Mary was a virgin; therefore the birth of Jesus Christ was due to a miraculous conception.
Mary’s conception was miraculous by our standards and our understanding of the laws of nature. However, God reminds us in the Qur’an that He is All-Powerful and capable of all things.
Indeed, the example of Jesus to Allah is like that of Adam. He created Him from dust; then He said to him, “Be,” and he was. The truth is from your Lord, so do not be among the doubters. – Qur’an 3:59-60
2. Jesus Christ is the Word of God, a Prophet, he was neither God made into flesh nor the Son of God.
[Jesus] said, “Indeed, I am the servant of Allah. He has given me the Scripture and made me a prophet.” – Qur’an 19:30
Since the Qur’an is the absolute word of God, these articles of faith are part and parcel of every Muslim. Every Muslim has an unconditional reverence to Prophet Jesus and his mother Mary. On hearing their name, a Muslim prays “peace be upon them.” Failure to respect and honor the positions of Jesus and Mary is considered an act of disbelief for a Muslim.