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Author: Sumaiya Umm Imran
Maryam (AS) is one of the best women mentioned in the Quran. Allah (SWT) has chosen her to be the mother of prophet ‘Isa (AS). A whole chapter in the Qur’an is named Maryam. She was born in chaotic times, when the Jewish people were eagerly waiting for the Messiah (saviour). She is from the family of ‘Imran which is also one of the blessed families mentioned in the Qur’an. Like her own birth story, her one was quite a special one too.
When `Imran’s wife found out that she was pregnant, she immediately prayed to Allah (SWT). She praised Him and promised that she would dedicate her child to Him. When she gave birth to a girl, she named her Maryam, which means ‘to abide’, in other words ‘someone who incessantly worships Allah (SWT)’. He (SWT) reveals her prayer in the following verse:
“Remember when the wife of ‘Imran said: “My Lord, I have vowed to You whatever is in my womb, to be devoted [to Your service]. Please accept it from me. You are the All-Hearing, the All-Knowing.” When she gave birth, she said: “My Lord! I have given birth to a girl”-and Allah knew very well what she had given birth to, male and female are not the same-“and I have named her Maryam and placed her and her children in Your safekeeping from Satan, the accursed.” – (Quran 3:35-36)
The Arabic word ‘muharreren’ translated here as ‘devoted [to Your service]’, means “preoccupied only with the Hereafter and having no interest in the world, in the service of Allah’s house (mosque), worshipping in great devotion, one whose worship is not tainted by worldly aims.”
This is what ‘Imran’s wife prayed for when dedicating Maryam (AS) to Allah (SWT), for she wished her child to be someone who served only Allah (SWT). Just right after Maryam (AS)’s birth, her mother turned toward Allah (SWT), sought His good pleasure, and asked Him to protect Maryam (AS), as well as her children, from Satan’s evil. Allah (SWT) accepted her sincere prayer “and made her [Maryam] grow in health and beauty” – (Quran 3:37). Maryam’s (AS) mother was a devout Muslimah who was keen to please Allah (SWT) through raising her daughter as a true and sincere believer. She felt very grateful as Allah (SWT) blessed her with Maryam (AS).
The Qur’an reveals that Allah (SWT) made Prophet Zakariyya (AS) responsible for looking after and educating Maryam (AS). He (AS) fulfilled this trust, witnessed the many miracles in her life, and noticed that she was favoured over all other people. He (AS) saw how Allah (SWT) supported her and met all of her needs. It the Qur’an Allah (SWT) says:
“And Zakariyya became her guardian. Every time Zakariyya visited her in the sanctuary, he found food with her. He asked: “Maryam, how did you come by this?” She said: “It is from Allah. Allah provides for whoever He wills without any reckoning.” – (Quran 3:37)
Maryam (AS), like the rest of her family, was known among her people for her devotion to Allah (SWT) as well as her religiosity, chastity, and sincerity. Allah (SWT) says in the Qur’an:
“And Maryam, the daughter of ‘Imran, who guarded her chastity-We breathed Our Spirit into her. She confirmed the Words of her Lord and His Book, and was one of the obedient”. – (Quran 66:12)
“… and she who guarded her chastity. We breathed into her some of Our Spirit and made her and her son a Sign for all the worlds”. – (Quran 21:91)
One of the miracles she experienced, was her meeting with Jibril (AS). Once, when she left her family and society and went toward the east, she met Jibril (AS), who appeared to her in the form of a well-built man:
“Mention Maryam in the Book, how she withdrew from her people to an eastern place and concealed herself from them. Then We sent Our Spirit to her, and it took on for her the form of a handsome, well-built man”. – (Quran 19:16-17)
Not knowing who the man was, she sought refuge with Allah and told him that she held Allah in the utmost fear and respect:
“She said: ‘I seek refuge from you with the All-Merciful, [leave me] if you have fear [and respect] of Allah'” – (Quran 19:18).
Her words demonstrate her complete trust in Allah (SWT), as well as the importance she placed upon chastity and devotion to Allah (SWT).
“Your Lord gives you good news of a Word from Him. His name is the Messiah, ‘Isa, son of Maryam, of high esteem in this world and the Hereafter, and one of those brought near.” – (Quran 3:45)
Maryam replied: “How can I have a boy when no man has touched me and I am not an unchaste woman?” – (Quran 19:20).
He [Jibril] said: “It will be so.” Allah creates whatever He wills. When He decides on something, He just says to it, “Be!” and it is.” – (Quran 3:47)
He said: “It will be so.” Your Lord says: “That is easy for Me. It is so that We can make him a Sign for humanity and a mercy from Us. It is a matter already decreed.” So she conceived him and withdrew with him to a distant place.” – (Quran 19:21-22)
By Allah (SWT)’s will, Maryam (AS) became pregnant with Prophet ‘Isa (AS) and yet remained a virgin. Her pregnancy was independent of this world’s usual cause-and-effect relationship. The circumstances of his conception were among the features of Prophet ‘Isa’s (AS) miracles.
Allah reveals “So she conceived him and withdrew with him to a distant place” – (Quran 19:22). In this distant place to which she retreated, Allah (SWT) supported her with His grace and protection and met all of her material and psychological needs during her pregnancy. There are plenty of lessons to learn from her birth experience.
It is very difficult for a woman to give birth, which can be a potentially life-threatening experience, all alone, without medical equipment or a midwife’s assistance. Nevertheless, Maryam (AS) overcame all of these difficulties by placing her complete trust in her Lord. Allah (SWT) helped her with revelations while she was struggling toward a date tree in the full throes of labour pains. Allah (SWT) told her not to grieve. He (SWT) had placed a stream at her feet, and told her that she should shake the date tree in order to get freshly ripe dates to eat. He (SWT) also told her to drink and to delight her eyes. As a result, she gave birth in the best possible circumstances. Allah (SWT) reveals her situation:
“The pains of labour drove her to the trunk of a date-palm. She exclaimed: “Oh, if only I had died before this time and was something discarded and forgotten!” A voice called out to her from under her: “Do not grieve. Your Lord has placed a small stream at your feet. Shake the trunk of the palm toward you, and fresh, ripe dates will drop down to you. Eat and drink, and delight your eyes. If you should see anyone at all, just say: ‘I have made a vow of abstinence to the All-Merciful, and [so] today I will not speak to any human being.'” – (Quran 19:23-26)
Allah (SWT)’s grace and protection was clearly visible in this situation. In fact, His advice to her has been confirmed by modern science. As stated earlier, Maryam (AS) withdrew from her society so that she could be in a psychologically peaceful environment and away from the hurtful behaviours of people who could not comprehend her miraculous situation. Muslims must not surrender to sadness; rather, they are to have trust in Allah and feel the peace of mind that comes with knowing that Allah will always help them.
This attitude, which is required of all believers, has been confirmed by modern medicine, for doctors tell women, both during their pregnancy and while they are giving birth, to maintain a positive attitude and avoid any worries and stress. Allah (SWT) advised her to ‘delight her eyes’ which means, not to surrender to sadness and to appreciate Allah (SWT)’s gift.
Allah (SWT) advised Maryam (AS) to eat freshly ripened dates. Today, such dates are considered to be wholesome food and medicine. Scientists tell us that dates contain more than ten substances considered essential for the human body’s well-being and continuing health.
Allah (SWT) told Maryam (AS) that He had placed a stream by her feet to eat, drink, and delight her eyes. Water, like dates, eases labour pains and regulates muscle tension. Water, which is necessary for life and one’s physical well-being, plays an important role in regulating the body’s temperature, transporting nutritional elements and oxygen, and removing waste matter from the body’s cells.
Maryam (AS)’s story is full of inspiration for us. We can learn a lot from her experience. May Allah (SWT) make us devout Musimahs like her, ameen.
….Where Practice Makes Perfect
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