The Story of Maryam
By Lobna Elhaw
This is the story of Maryam (Mary) daughter of Imran and mother of Isa (Jesus) [Alaihis salaam]. She was respected by both Muslims and Christians, but there are some aspects on which the two religionists differ. Let us see the facts that the learned writer has compiled about her.
Allah declares He has no son:
In many verses of the Glorious Qur’aan, Allah the Exalted denied the claim of the Christians that He has a son. A delegation from Najran came to Prophet Muhammad (Sall Allaho alaihe wasallam). They began to talk about their claim about the Trinity, which is that Allah is three in one, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, with some disagreement among their sects. That is why Allah affirmed in many verses of the Holy Qur’aan that Jesus is a slave of Allah, whom He moulded in the womb of his mother like any other of His creatures, and that He created him without a father, as He created Adam without a father or mother. It means Maryam is not the wife of God.
Maryam–member of the chosen family:
Allah the Almighty said, “Allah chose Adam, Noah, the family of Abraham and the family of Imran above the Alamin (mankind and jinns) (of their times). Offspring, one of the other, and Allah is the All-Hearer, All-Knower.
“(Remember) when the wife of Imran said: “0 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.
“Then when she delivered her (child Mary), she said: “0 my Lord! I have delivered a female child,” — and Allah knew better what she delivered, — “and the male is not like the female, and I have named her Maryam, and I seek refuge with You (Allah) for her and for her offspring from Satan, the outcast.” (3:33-36)
“So her Lord (Allah) accepted her with goodly acceptance. He made her grow in a good manner and put her under the care of Zakaria. Every time he entered the Mihrab (a praying place or a private room), he found her supplied with sustenance.
“He said, ‘0 Maryam! From where have you got this?’ She said, ‘From Allah. Verily, Allah provides sustenance to whom He wills, without limit.” (3:37)
Maryam’s family history:
Allah declared that He had elected Adam and the elite of his offspring who obey Allah. Then He specified the family of Ibrahim, which includes the sons of Ismail, and the family of Imran, the father of Maryam. Muhammad Ibn Ishaaq stated that he was Imran Ibn Bashim, Ibn Amun, Ibn Misha, Thn Hosqia, Ibn Ahriq, Ibn Mutham, Ibn Azazia, Ibn Amisa, Thn Yamish, Ibn Ahrihu, Ibn Yazem, Thn Yahfashat, Thn Eisha, Thn Iyam, Thn Rahbaam, Ibn David (Dawood).
A mother’s longing:
Prophet Zakaria’s sister-in-law had a daughter named Hannah. She was married to Imran, a leader of the Israelites. For many years the couple remained childless. Whenever Hannah saw another woman with a child, her longing for a baby increased. Although years had passed, she never lost hope. She believed that one day Allah would bless her with a child, on whom she would shower all her motherly love. She turned to the Lord of the heavens and the earth and pleaded with Him for a child. She would offer the child in the service of Allah’s house, in the temple of Jerusalem. Allah granted her request. When she learned she was pregnant, she was the happiest woman alive, and thanked Allah for His gift. Her overjoyed husband Imran also thanked Allah for His mercy.
However, while she was pregnant, her husband passed away. Hannah wept bitterly. Alas, Imran did not live to see their child for whom they had so longed. She gave birth to a girl, and again turned to Allah in prayer: “0 my Lord, I have delivered a female child, … and the male is not like the female, and I have named her Maryam, and I seek refuge with You (Allah) for her and her offspring from Satan, the outcast. (3:36)
Zakaria as Maryam’s guardian:
Hannah had a big problem in reference to her promise to Allah, for females were not accepted into the temple, and she was very worried. Her brother-in-law, Zakaria, comforted her, saying that Allah knew best what she had delivered and appreciated fully what she had offered in His service. She wrapped the baby in a shawl and handed it over to the temple elders. As the baby was a girl, the question of her guardianship posed a problem for the elders. This was a child of their late and beloved leader, and everyone was eager to take care of her. Zakaria said to the elders: “I am the husband of her maternal aunt and her nearest relation in the temple, therefore, I will be more mindful of her than all of you.”
As it was their custom to draw lots to solve disagreements, they followed this course. Each one was given a reed to throw into the river. They agreed that whoever’s reed remained afloat would be granted guardianship of the girl. All the reeds sank to the bottom except that of Zakaria. With this sign, they all surrendered to the will of Allah and made him the guardian of Maryam.
Maryam’s high status:
To ensure that no one had access to Maryam, Zakaria built a separate room for her in the temple. As she grew up, she spent her time in devotion to Allah. Zakaria visited her daily to see to her needs, and so it continued for many years. One day, he was surprised to find fresh fruits, which was out of season, in her room. As he was the only person who could enter her room, he asked her how the fruit got there. She replied that these provisions were from Allah, as He gives to whom He wills. Zakaria understood by this that Allah had raised Maryam’s status above that of other women. Thereafter, Zakaria spent more time with her, teaching and guiding her. Maryam grew to be a devotee of Allah, glorifying Him day and night.
Hazrat Ali bin Abi Talib (Radhi Allaho anho) narrated that Prophet Muhammad (Sall Allaho alaihe wasallam) said: “The best of the women in the world is Maryam (in her lifetime), and the best of the women in the world is Khadijah (in her lifetime).” Abu Musa Ashari (Radhi Allaho anho) also narrated that Prophet Muhammad (Sall Allaho alaihe wasallam) said: “Many among men attained perfection, but among women none attained perfection except Maryam the daughter of Imran, and Asiya the wife of Pharaoh; and the superiority of Aisha to other women is like the superiority of Tharid (an Arabic dish) to other meals.”