Mary, or Maryam in the Quran, holds a very important place in Islam. Allah named a Surah after her in the Quran. Muslims also recognize her as one of the greatest women in history, and she is a great role model for Muslim women all over the world. Allah referred to her by name in the Quran on approximately 70 occasions, more often than the Bible!
Mary is best known for being the mother of Jesus, i.e., Isa (AS). However, she was a pious woman in her own right, obeying Allah’s commands and always doing good and staying away from evil. Hence, her story in the Quran is a very compelling one that we can all take many lessons away from.
In Surah at-Tahrim, Allah speaks about women and gives examples for the believers. He mentions the wife of Pharaoh, who asked Allah to save her from the tyrant and the wrongdoers, and she desired a home in Paradise. Then, he mentions Mary, Imran’s daughter, who guarded her chastity, and then Allah blew a spirit into her, causing her to give birth to Jesus miraculously. Allah praises her, saying that she believed in Allah’s words and scriptures and was among His devout slaves.
Allah provides a detailed account of Maryam’s birth in Surah aal-Imran, the third chapter of the Quran. Mary was from the family of Imran, who were among the people Allah blessed on this Earth.
Allah says in Surah aal-Imran that He chose Adam, Nuh, Ibrahim, and the family of Imran over the worlds. Imran and his wife were both in their old age, and they were childless. They had almost given up hope of having a child. Once, when Imran’s wife saw a bird in a tree with its offspring, she asked Allah to bless her with a child.
She said to Allah that her offspring would be dedicated to His service if He were to bless her with a child. When Mary was born, her mother was surprised, perhaps even dismayed, that she had delivered a female. A female would not be able to become a prophet of Allah and serve Him as she had hoped.
However, Allah mentions that He already knew that it would be a female, and He knew her destiny. Little did she know that Mary would become the most well-known and respected woman in history, and she would miraculously give birth to a child without any man having touched her. Indeed, Allah is the All-Knowing, and He has already penned down whatever has ever happened or will happen in the Preserved Tablet.
The mother said that she would name the child Mary, then she sought refuge in Allah. She sought His protection for Mary and her children from the accursed Satan, which Allah would surely provide, eventually blessing the family with a special status in the history of Islam.
Mary’s early years and Zakariyyah (AS)
Allah mentions in Surah aal-Imran that He put Mary under the care of a prophet, Zakariyyah (AS). Every time he entered her mihrab (i.e., prayer room or chamber), he would find that she already had food.
Zakariyyah (AS) was surprised and asked her where she got it from. She replied that it was from Allah, saying that He provides without any limitations for whomever He wishes to do so. This story also shows that Mary was extremely modest as her status in Islam suggests. She stayed in her own place of living.
Zakariyyah (AS), in the meantime, was getting old. He prayed hard for a son, just like Imran’s wife had. Eventually, Allah answered his prayer and gave him the good news. He would bless him with a blessed son named Yahya. Zakariyyah (AS) was surprised, questioning how he would have a son in his old age with a barren wife. Allah stated that it is easy for him, to which the Prophet (AS) requested a sign. His Lord said that the sign is that he won’t speak to anyone for three nights.
Allah eventually blessed Zakariyyah (AS) with Yahya (AS), who went on to become another blessed prophet of Allah, close to the time of Jesus (AS). Allah mentions in the Quran that Yahya (AS) was devout and kind to his parents. When Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) journeyed to the heavens during Isra and Miraj, he saw Yahya and Isa (AS) together.
Mary gets the news about a new-born child
Allah speaks about how the angels told Mary that Allah had chosen and purified her and made her above the women of the world. They asked her to be obedient towards Him and pray to him alone.
Then, Allah narrates when Mary learned about how she would be blessed with a child. The angels told her the good news, saying he would be the Messiah Jesus, held in honor both in this world and the Hereafter. They said that he will speak to people upon his birth and will be among the righteous people.
Mary was perplexed, and she asked Allah how she can have a child when no man has even touched her. Allah said that He creates whatever He wants, and He only has to give the command for something to happen. Allah said He would make Jesus a messenger to the Children of Israel and perform miracles as signs for the people. Then, Allah would reveal the Injeel (Gospel) to him, confirmed the Torah that Musa (AS) brought.
Allah also narrates the story in Surah Maryam, where He states that Mary withdrew from her family to a place in the east. She secluded herself with a screen. Then, Allah sent Jibril (AS) in the form of a man to her. She sought refuge in Allah from him and asked him to fear his Lord.
Jibril (AS) said that he was just a messenger of Allah, who had come to tell her that Allah would bless her with a child. She asked how could she have a child when no man had touched her and nor was she a prostitute. He said that anything is easy for Allah, and He had already decided the matter.
The birth of Isa (Jesus) (AS)
In Surah al-Anbiya, Allah says that He guarded Mary’s chastity, and then breathed a spirit into her through His angel. In this way, she conceived Jesus (AS) – miraculously.
The story of Isa (AS)’s birth is covered in Surah Maryam. Allah says that Mar conceived Jesus (AS) and withdrew to a remote place. Then, she began to experience pains associated with childbirth. This drove her to a palm tree’s trunk. She wished that she had died instead and had been forgotten since she was concerned about what people would think of her having a child without being married.
However, the baby Isa spoke to her, telling her not to grieve. He said that Allah had provided a stream beneath her. Then, he told her to shake the palm tree, which would cause fresh dates to fall out. He also told her to eat and drink, and to refuse to speak to anyone if she came across people.
After this, Mary took Baby Jesus with her to her people. They were surprised and said that she had surely done something unprecedented because her father wasn’t evil, and neither was her mother unchaste. In response, Mary pointed to Baby Jesus.
The people asked how they could speak to a baby in a cradle. Then, with the will of Allah, Isa (AS) spoke up, saying that he was a servant of Allah. He said that Allah gave him scripture and made him a prophet. Additionally, he said that Allah blessed him and enjoined Salah and Zakat upon him as long as he lived. He also said that Allah made him a dutiful son, not a tyrant. Thus, the people found out about the miraculous birth of Jesus (AS).
Jesus (AS) is not the son of God
After the story of Mary in the Quran, Allah continues Surah Maryam by narrating that it is not befitting for Him to have a son. He is the sole Creator, and He has no partners.
Isa (AS) also said that Allah is his Lord and the Lord of all people. He asked his people to come onto the straight path and worship Him. Thus, the Muslims are on the right path with regard to worshiping Allah alone while believing Jesus (AS) was a prophet, whereas Christians have gone astray by raising Jesus (AS) to the level of being God or part of God.
Allah has focused immensely on Mary in the Quran. He has praised her qualities and for being the mother of Jesus. Additionally, she was a righteous and virtuous human being, believing in her Lord, His prophets, and His revelations.
Mary is a revered and important figure in both Islam and Christianity. She has immense status in both faiths. However, while Christians go overboard due to their veneration of Jesus (AS) as God, Muslims are on the right path, recognizing her as one of the greatest women who ever lived. She is a fantastic role model for any Muslim woman to have.