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Virgin Mary in Islamic Teachings .

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Thank you for your very informative site. As a high school history teacher, it serves an invaluable source of accurate information about Islam and the Islamic world. My question regards the person of the Virgin Mary in Islamic teaching. I have read that in many Islamic nations – Iraq and Syria mostly – Mary has a prominent place within the hearts of Muslims. Is this the case? If so, how and what are the Islamic theological foundations for this role vis a vis Christianity? Thank you in advance for your response.

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Thank you for your question.

No faith or holy book has honored Virgin Mary and held her in high esteem as did Islam and the Holy Qur’an, not even the Bible. A full-chapter of the Qur’an was titled Maryam (Arabic of Mary). You would also find that simply many Muslims love to call their daughters Maryam out of love and respect.

The Holy Qur’an portrays the character and merits of Virgin Mary since her birth till her miraculous pregnancy and birth of Jesus Christ (peace be upon him). In doing so, Qur’an, which is a divinely revealed book, does not give much emphasis on detailing the events. This is typical of human authors, as it is outlining the significance, wisdom and lessons learnt.

Thus the virtues, high status and moral excellence of Virgin Mary are exposed: a chaste and pious human woman who was chosen, purified, and preferred over all of the women of creation to be the one to give birth to the Messenger Jesus through the command of God. This is without any father whatsoever.

The following are quotations from the English interpretations of some Qur’anic verses, which narrate the story of Virgin Mary. These citations, if read in their original Arabic text – with its inimitable divine eloquence and superb rhetoric – are so moving that they bring tears into the eyes of Arab listeners, Muslims and Christians alike.

Surah 66, verses 12:

*{…and Mary, daughter of `Imran, who attended to her private parts [guarded her chastity, so We breathed in it of Our Spirit (Gabriel)], and she sincerely believed in the Words of her Lord, and His Books; and she was one of the devout.}*

Surah 3, verses 42 – 43:

*{And [remember] when the angels said: O Mary! Verily, Allah has chosen you, purified you, and chosen you above the women of the worlds. O Mary! Submit yourself with obedience to your Lord [Allah] and prostrate yourself, and bow down along with those who bow down [for Him].}*

Surah 19 – named after her name: Maryam, verses 16 – 31:

*{And mention in the Book Mary, when she withdrew in seclusion from her family to a place facing east. She placed a screen from them; then We sent to her Our Spirit [Gabriel], and he appeared before her in the form of a man in all respects. She said: Verily, I seek refuge with the Most Gracious [Allah] from you, if you do fear Allah. He said: I am only a messenger from your Lord, [to announce] to you the gift of a righteous son.

She said: How can I have a son, when no man has touched me, nor am I unchaste? He said: So [it will be], your Lord said: ‘That is easy for Me [Allah]’. And [We wish] to appoint him as a sign to mankind and a mercy from Us [Allah], and it is a matter [already] decreed [by Allah].

So she conceived him, and she withdrew with him to a remote place. And the pains of childbirth drove her to the trunk of a date palm. She said: “Would that I had died before this, and had been forgotten and out of sight!” Then (one) cried from beneath her, saying: “Grieve not: your Lord has provided a water stream under you. And shake the trunk of date palm towards you, it will let fall fresh ripe dates upon you. So eat and drink and be glad. And if you see any human being, say: ‘Verily, I have vowed a fast unto the Most Gracious [Allah] so I shall not speak to any human being this day.’”

Then she brought him [the baby] to her people, carrying him. They said: “O Mary! Indeed you have brought a fabricated thing. O sister [i.e. the like] of Aaron! Your father was not a man who used to commit adultery, nor your mother was an unchaste woman.” Then she pointed to him. They said: “How can we talk to one who is a child in the cradle?” He (Jesus) said: “Verily, I am a slave of Allah, He has given me the Scripture and made me a Prophet; And He has made me blessed wheresoever I be, and has enjoined on me prayer, and zakat (alms), as long as I live.}*

For more, read also in Surah 3 – named after the Household of `Imran, verses 33 – 38, 44 – 47, in Surah 4, verses 155 – 162 and Surah 21, verses 91-91.

Also Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) has pointed out to the status of Virgin Mary in Islam when he said:

“The best of the world’s women is Mary.”

He also said:

“Among women none attained perfection except Mary the daughter of `Imran, and Asiya the wife of Pharaoh.”

As for the Bible, Virgin Mary was mentioned mainly in Matthews 1: 15 – 25 and Luke 1: 26 – 57. This was in the context of narrating the story of the birth of Jesus Christ (peace be upon him). This can give you a comparative appreciation – bearing in mind my previous remark on the original Arabic Qur`an – of the status of Virgin Mary in Islam and Christianity.

Thank you again for your question and please keep in touch.

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