The Virgin Mary (Peace be upon Her)
Compiled By: Syed Ali Shahbaz
Mary or Maryam, as she is called in the holy Qur’an, grew up into such an exceptionally virtuous lady that the Almighty Creator raised her status as the noblest woman of her age, and sent angels to convey His message to her, as we read in ayahs 42 and 43 of Surah Aal-e Imran: "And when the angels said, ‘O Mary, Allah has chosen you and purified you, and He has chosen you above the world’s women."
"O Mary, be obedient to your Lord, and prostrate and bow down with those who bow [in worship]."
Maryam was indeed the picture of innocence, piety and dedication. One day while she was engrossed in worshipping God, the Archangel Gabriel appeared to her in human form. She was frightened, and at the same time wondered how could a man intrude on her privacy in the cloistered women’s quarters of the sanctuary? In ayah 18 of Surah Maryam, God quotes her as saying: "I seek the protection of the All-Beneficent from you, should you be Godwary!"
Archangel Gabriel, in order to remove the fear that she felt within herself, said, as is related in the next ayah of the same Surah: "I am only a messenger of your Lord that I may give you (tidings of) a pure son."
Mary who was an exceptionally chaste and virtuous woman, said in a tone of surprise, as ayah 20 Surah Maryam informs us: "How shall I have a child, when no human being has ever touched me, nor have I been unchaste?"
Then the Angel said, as we learn from the next ayah of the same Surah: "So shall it be. Your Lord says, “It is simple for Me.” And so that We may make him (that is, the Virgin-born Jesus) a sign for mankind and a mercy from Us, and it is a matter [already] decided."
The angel vanished as suddenly as he had appeared, but Mary could not fully comprehend the meaning of these tidings from heaven. However, soon to her surprise she found her abdomen growing and felt movement inside it, indicating that she pregnant. This further astonished her because she had never been touched by any man. This obviously upset her greatly and to avoid any embarrassment she withdrew from her family and the public’s eye and went to a far place.
It is said that she travelled, or was miraculously transported, to what is now the Baratha Mosque near Baghdad in Iraq, where under a palm tree, after experiencing the pangs of childbirth, she delivered a radiant boy at a place where no one was present. She was further shocked and became apprehensive of the accusations people would heap against her, especially the Israelites, since she had no husband. At the same time, she felt helpless, while thirst and hunger overcame her, as we read in ayah 23 of Surah Maryam: "I wish I had died before this and become a forgotten thing, beyond recall."
Suddenly she heard a voice saying, although no one was in sight, as God informs us in ayahs 24 to 26 of the same Surah: "Do not grieve! Your Lord has made a spring to flow at your feet."
"Shake the trunk of the palm tree, freshly picked dates will drop upon you."
"Eat, drink, and be comforted. Then if you see any human, say, “Indeed I have vowed a fast to the All-beneficent, so I will not speak to any human today."
Mary, along with the infant Jesus, soon returned to her hometown, Bayt al-Moqaddas in Palestine, where the Israelites, aware of the piety and purity of character, felt shock at the sight of a baby in her lap. They asked her about the father of the child, but she said nothing and pointed to the infant. This further confused the people because there was no point in asking an infant about his birth. So they said, as we read in ayah 29 of Surah Maryam: "How can we speak to one who is yet a baby in the cradle?"
While the people taunted and reproached her, a miracle happened. To the surprise of the people, the infant spoke from the cradle, as God informs us ayahs 30 to 33 of Surah Maryam: "He said, ‘Indeed I am a servant of Allah! He has given me the Book and made me a prophet."
"He has made me blessed, wherever I may be, and He has enjoined me to [maintain] the prayer and to [pay] the zakāt as long as I live"
"and to be good to my mother, and He has not made me self-willed and wretched."
"Peace is to me the day I was born, and the day I die, and the day I am raised alive."
This was the message of Jesus, the Messiah, who declared his mission as a prophet of God, saying that just as God had created the father of the human race, Adam, without parents, He the Almighty had decreed his birth without the association of any male with his mother Mary. Thus, the naming of a whole surah in the holy Qur’an in her honour is proof of the fact that Mary was a chaste, pure and pious lady. According to Islamic narrations, Maryam is one of the 4 chosen women of all time. Prophet Mohammad (SAWA) says: "The best women of the Paradise are Mary, (my wife) Khadijah, (my daughter) Fatema, and Asiyya (the virtuous wife of the tyrant Pharaoh).
According to some narrations, Mary passed away at the age of 63, after the end of the mission of her son, Prophet Jesus (PBUH).