#IlmyNotes from Ustadha Najiba's seminar at Huddersfield University.
Ibn Razzin said of Maryam `alayhas-salam (peace be upon her), daughter of `Imran and mother of Prophet Jesus,
"Maryam has the qualities of the perfect woman. As one of the four greatest women mentioned in Qur'an, she has reached a degree of prophecy only entitled to mighty men." [paraphrased]
We study the life of Maryam from the same angle that we study the Anbiya (prophets) because as women, although we cannot always identify with male prophets, it is easier to relate to Maryam. She connects to our lives today in the 21st century much more than the male prophets.
The Great Maryam
Scholars have debated for aeons over who is The Greatest woman in history. Unlike the unshiftable status of Prophet Muhammad as the greatest man, there is contention between choosing Fatima az-Zahra bint Muhammad, Khatejah tul-Kubra, Asiya wife of Firawn and Maryam bint `Imran as the best of women-and rightfully so. These women are our mothers, they are paradigms for women and superior role models that would collapse the contemporary view of women.
It's a fact that Fatima, may Allah be pleased with her, is the leader of heavenly women. And Maryam was chosen by Allah to be a mother of Prophet Jesus!
Maryam `alayhas-salam is the only woman whom Allah refers to by name in the Qur'an. He The Almighty says,
And [mention] when the angels said, "O Mary, indeed Allah has chosen you and purified you and chosen you above the women of the worlds." (Qur'an, 3:42)
The mother of Mary and wife of `Imran is Hinnah, a beautifully pious, elderly woman. Under the tutelage of devout `Imran (whom scholars have also debated as to whether he was a prophet), Hinnah was completely content, at peace with Allah, her faith in Him and the world He made. It just so happens that one fine summery day, beautiful Hinnah was sat in the shade of the tree. The Tafseer books tell us that Hinnah saw a bird leave its nest, fly back to its new born chicks and feed them.
Seeing this parental love, Hinnah made an open du`a' (supplication) full of sincere intentions that should Allah will to grant her a child, she would dedicate her son to His path. At the time of the `Al-`Imran (Family of Imran), it was religious Jewish practice for parents to send their sons in the service of the temple. This particular temple was called Prophet Sulayman's mosque; modern-day Masjid Al-Aqsa. Here, pious men of the community sent their teenage sons to be educated in religion so that the temple always had scholars.
Hinnah's intention was to follow this practise; little did she know what Allah planned for her. She says,
"My Lord, indeed I have pledged to You what is in my womb, dedicated/ consecrated [for Your service], so accept this from me. Indeed, You are the Hearing, the Knowing." (Qur'an, 3:35)Hinnah says "Muharraran", which means to dedicate, to pledge-for Allah-and, my favourite meaning, to make free. One of the linguistic miracles of the Qur'an is in the verse before Hinnah's intention, Ayah 34 in which Allah says "Allahu sami`un `aleem", Allah is always All-Hearing, always All-Knowing. He hears and knows Hinnah's du`a' before she has even made it. Allahu-akbar, Allah is greater.
Allah subhanahu wa ta`la accepts Hinnah's du`a' and she becomes pregnant with her first child, thinking it to be a boy. Sadly, during pregnancy, `Imran passes away leaving Hinnah a single-mother and grieving. In Tafseer we learn however that Hinnah gives birth and immediately gains new strength. She is pleasantly surprised that her 'son' is actually a daughter but that doesn't deter her from keeping her pledge to Allah. She names her daughter Maryam, wraps her in a cloth and heads to the temple. Here, the men from within peer at this elderly person - a woman no less! - and what's that she's dropping off? A baby girl? Who heard of such things?!
In the Jewish religious community of Hinnah's people, women did not enter the temple, ever, let alone be beyond the boundaries of the temple. Yet here she was, full of conviction, defiantly sending her daughter to the service of Allah. She places baby Maryam on the temple steps and remained silent in the faces of questioning men. 'Ya`ni, it's all right!' Thus, the deeply devout life of Maryam begins.
Mary - Maryam - Maryaan
I truly believe Maryam `alayhas-salam is Allah's gift to women. Just as Maryam showed her love for Allah by always calling Him Ar-Rahman, The Entirely Compassionate, Allah signposted His love for her by naming chapter 19 after Maryam.
Maryam is a non-Arabic masculine name-it is Hebrew. Translated into an Arabic word, Maryam is spelled: مريم. In it is the Hebrew sign of duality, 'ya-meem' (ي م), which, if written with the Arabic symbol of duality, 'alif-noon', Maryam would appear as مريان , Maryaan. Thus Maryam means two men, and indeed the prowess and faith of two men!
As the servant of Allah, Maryam `alayhas-salam has titles of piety. Names such as:
- At-Tahirah, which means 'the pure',
- Al-Batul/Zahida, cut off from the world, and
- Al-Abida, a great worshipper of Allah.
Maryam's Family Wisdom
It is reported in Tafseer that Maryam was a teenager when she expected Prophet Isaa. Some reports say she had just become a young woman i.e. entered adolescence, or before she reached an adult age. This would make Maryam between the tender age of 13-18 when Allah blessed her with the challenge of pregnancy.
Now we know that Maryam, daughter to Hinnah and `Imran, is inherently dignified. She came a line of nobility which included Prophet Zakariah `alayhis-salam as a living maternal uncle, and Prophet Yahya `alayhis-salam, her first cousin (son of Zakariah).
Prophet Zakariah helps explains Hinnah's oath because he was present when she gave away Maryam. Priests in the temple originally refused Hinnah's child since she was orphaned (Yateem). Once they discovered Maryam was daughter of The `Imran, daughter of The Family of `Imran, they changed their tune. Now they want to raise her and educate her, because of `Imran! Prophet Zakariah, who was married to Hinnah's sister, intervened, "Bring her to me! I have more right! I will raise her!" His sincerity was clear to all when he and the scribes of the temple threw their pens into the river to ascertain whose pen, and right to teach, would remain. Floating against the tide, only Prophet Zakariah's pen returned and so he held his right to raise the young Maryam.
Prophet Zakariah was a proficient carpenter by trade. He built a room (al-mihraab) for Maryam at the Eastern part of the mosque (where she flees to give birth). This architectural masterpiece had a ladder and seven doors which only Maryam could enter and leave. Prophet Zakariah taught his niece about prophets, history, languages and more. He essentially raised Maryam with intellectual and profound wisdom.
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. (Qur'an, 3:37)Maryam was a kind girl. She gave up her food for the poor. Many times she did not have food to eat herself but when Prophet Zakariah visited her he saw trays of fruit that was not even in season. Maryam ate summer fruits in winter and winter fruits in summer. He asked how such food was supplied since her 7-door room was secure, and only Maryam had access. To this replied the famous statement of utter reliance,
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)A House of Prophets
One of the signs indicating Maryam's prophetic status is her period of seclusion before delivering baby Isaa. This seclusion, Khulwa in Arabic, is part and parcel of prophethood since nobody is watching you in solitude therefore worship and reflection is personal and sincere.
A "man" abruptly disturbs Maryam's seclusion. She is aghast. How did he pass the seven maze-like doors? So she demands an explanation for this intrusion to her modest lifestyle.
[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]. (Qur'an, 3:45)She asks how this could happen, without marriage, without a man; it's impossible. "How can I have a boy while no man has touched me and I have not been unchaste?" (Qur'an, 19:20) She questions this being who's talking about future greatness because at first it's not connecting with Allah - as soon as the angels (Jibreel) explains it is a command of Allah, she is calm. "And it is a matter [already] decreed" (Qur'an, 19:21), now it's connected to Allah and her balance is restored.
The angel "blew into [her garment]" the 'Spirit of Allah', and she believed in the words of her Lord. (Qur'an, 66:12)
Maryam begins to show the signs of pregnancy. Her aunt is also expecting. Remember the winter-summer fruit scene? Prophet Zakariah was so struck by this faith that he made to Allah with the same intention of Hinnah, to grant him a son for the service of Allah, to make du`a' for him and to be a progeny of prophethood. In turn, Allah also grants his du`a', therefore within a 6 month gap Mariam's elderly maternal aunt, becomes pregnant with future prophet Yahya `alayhis-salam.
In the Tafseer books we read about a visit of Maryam's aunt while they are both expecting. As her aunt moves closer her belly pulls towards Maryam and she asks "Are you carrying? Are you holding something?" Allah puts such magnetism between forces of piety and even before breathing baby Yahya recognises baby Isaa. Allahu-akbar.
Mary, Mother of Jesus
When Maryam delivers our Prophet Jesus she goes towards the east of the region where nothing grows. "So she conceived him, and she withdrew with him to a remote place." - (Qur'an, 19:22). A Shari` ruling is extracted from this moment because in difficulty Maryam asks for an end to her life. This type of du`a' is permissible only when something seriously affects your deen, your faith, otherwise to ask for death is Haram.
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." (Qur'an, 19:23)
In the land of nothingness Allah makes a stream appear and date palm trees. Maryam is close to wanting death but then Allah says to her "Huzzi", hold and shake the tree to drop dates which Maryam eat and gains energy. These two miracles of water and dates bring Maryam back to Allah. It's Allah saying to her, He is there for her, it will be Okay. "So eat and drink and be contented."
Allah commands Maryam to go back to the Masjid, 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.' (Qur'an, 19:26)
Ar-Rahman, Maryam's Merciful Lord
At the first step of hardship Maryam doesn't jump ship. She makes a pledge to silence and holds fast to Taqwa. She accepts this gift. Allah only gives to mature believers, which is something Muslim women forget. We want to have the close proximity with Allah but we're not putting the effort it. So what if you can give up a few things for the sake of Allah, Mariam gave it all for Him.
Prophet Zakariah stopped the people from attacking Mariam for her newborn. She, in silence, does not shed light on this otherwise inexplicable situation. Holding baby Jesus in her arms, he moves out from under the shawl! and speaks out in the cradle! ::
[Jesus] said, "Indeed, I am the servant of Allah . He has given me the Scripture and made me a prophet.
And He has made me blessed wherever I am and has enjoined upon me prayer and zakah as long as I remain alive. And [made me] dutiful to my mother, and He has not made me a wretched tyrant.
And peace is on me the day I was born and the day I will die and the day I am raised alive."
That is Jesus, the son of Mary - the word of truth about which they are in dispute. (Qur'an, 19:30-34)
And that is Maryam, Woman of God.
What happened to Maryam after Prophet Jesus rose to Allah?
a: Maryam `alayhas-salam spent the remainder of life worshipping Allah and passed away six years later.
Who/where is the Biblical Joseph?
A: There is no Joseph [Yusuf]. An apprentice studying at the temple called Yusuf happened to befriend Maryam as she was educated. He was present both times when people had doubts and he defended her. This young scholar Yusuf loved Prophet Zakariah and became his apprentice too.