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Mary (مريم "Maryam" in Arabic), the mother of Jesus, is considered the most righteous woman in Islam. She is the only woman mentioned by name in the Qur'an - her name is mentioned more than it is in the New Testament.[1]

According to the Qur'an, Jesus (called 'Isa in Arabic) was born miraculously by the will of God without a father. His mother is regarded as a chaste and virtuous woman and is a highly respected figure in Islam. The Qur'an states that Jesus was the result of a virgin birth, but that neither Mary nor her son were divine.

In the Qur'an, no other woman is given more attention than Mary. The nineteenth sura of the Qur'an is named after her and is, to some extent, about her life. Of the Qur'an's 114 suras, she is among only eight people who have a sura named after them. In Islam, she is generally referred to as Maryam, Umm Isa (Mary, the mother of Jesus). For Muslims she is a symbol of submission to God and piety.

Mary is one of the most highly-regarded women in Islam; there are several verses in the Qur'an praising her and confirming that she was an extremely chaste and pious woman. Other righteous women in Islam, although not mentioned by name in the Qur'an, include: Asiyah, foster mother of Prophet Musa (Moses); Khadijah wife of Prophet Muhammad; and Fatimah, daughter of Muhammad.


The birth of Mary

According to the Qur'an, Mary's father was 'Imran. The name which in Arabic means prosperity, not only links Mary to her direct father but also to her ancestor, Amram the father of Moses and of Aaron, whence the description "sister of Aaron" which the Quran likewise uses, is to show that Mary is of the same race as the two brother prophets, as commentators such as Al-Ghazzali have stated.

Mary's mother, although unnamed, is identified as Hannah in Arabic or Saint Anne in Judeo-Christian tradition.

Mary's story in the Qur'an, begins while she is still in her mother's womb. The mother of Mary said, "O my Lord! I do dedicate into Thee what is in my womb for Thy special service: So accept this of me: For Thou hearest and knowest all things." (Qur'an 3:35). When Mary was delivered, she said, "O my Lord! Behold! I am delivered of a female child!" (Qur'an 3:36). She had expected her baby to be a boy who would grow up to be a scholar or religious leader. Qur'an 3:36 continues "...and God knew best what she brought forth — 'And no wise is the male like the female. I have named her Maryam, and I commend her and her offspring to Thy protection from Satan, the Rejected.'"

In Qur'an 3:37, God states that He accepted Mary as her mother had asked. She was assigned into the care of a priest named Zacharias (Zakariya). "Every time that he entered (her) Mihrab to see her, he found her supplied with sustenance. He said, 'O Mary! Whence (comes) this to you?' She said, 'From God. For God provides sustenance to whom He pleases without measure.'" (Qur'an 3:37).

The word Mihrab which first appears in Mary's story is the reference to a place in the Temple of Jerusalem, which according to the Muslim tradition, was reserved for Mary. The association of ideas between Mary and Mihrab (prayer niche) in mosques in commonly found among Muslims: in many mosques the verse of Zachariah and Mary is inscribed above the Mihrab, notably in Hagia Sophia and Sultan Ahmet Mosque in Istanbul, which remained dedicated to Saint Mary even after the Byzantine era and under the Ottoman Empire.

Zacharias in Islam is not only regarded as a priest but as a prophet as well. Although his wife was barren and he was very old, God blesses Zacharias and his wife Elizabeth with John. John is known as "John the Baptist" in the Bible and as Yahya in the Quran.

The annunciation

From chapter 3

[45] (Remember) when the angels said: "O Maryam (Mary)! Verily, Allâh gives you the glad tidings of a Word ("Be!" - and he was! i.e. 'Isâ (Jesus) the son of Maryam (Mary)) from Him, his name will be the Messiah 'Isâ (Jesus), the son of Maryam (Mary), held in honor in this world and in the Hereafter, and will be one of those who are near to Allâh."[46] "He will speak to the people in the cradle and in manhood, and he will be one of the righteous."[47] She said: "O my Lord! How shall I have a son when no man has touched me." He said: "So (it will be) for Allâh creates what He wills. When He has decreed something, He says to it only: "Be!" - and it is.[48] And He (Allâh) will teach him ('Isâ (Jesus)) the Book and Al-Hikmah (i.e. the Sunnah, the faultless speech of the Prophets, wisdom), (and) the Taurât (Torah) and the Injeel (Gospel).[49] And will make him ('Isâ (Jesus)) a Messenger to the Children of Israel (saying): "I have come to you with a sign from your Lord, that I design for you out of clay, a figure like that of a bird, and breathe into it, and it becomes a bird by Allâh's Leave; and I heal him who was born blind, and the leper, and I bring the dead to life by Allâh's Leave. And I inform you of what you eat, and what you store in your houses. Surely, therein is a sign for you, if you believe.[50] And I have come confirming that which was before me of the Taurât (Torah), and to make lawful to you part of what was forbidden to you, and I have come to you with a proof from your Lord. So fear Allâh and obey me.[51] Truly! Allâh is my Lord and your Lord, so worship Him (Alone). This is the Straight Path.

From chapter 19

[16] And mention in the Book (the Qur'ân, O Muhammad the story of) Maryam (Mary), when she withdrew in seclusion from her family to a place facing east.[17] She placed a screen (to screen herself) from them; then We sent to her Our Ruh (angel Jibrîl (Gabriel)) and he appeared before her in the form of a man in all respects.[18] She said: "Verily! I seek refuge with the Most Gracious (Allâh) from you, if you do fear Allâh."[19] (The angel) said: "I am only a Messenger from your Lord, (to announce) to you the gift of a righteous son."[20] She said: "How can I have a son, when no man has touched me, nor am I unchaste?"[21] He said: "So (it will be), your Lord said: 'That is easy for Me (Allâh): And (We wish) to appoint him as a sign to mankind and a mercy from Us (Allâh), and it is a matter (already) decreed, (by Allâh).' "[22] So she conceived him, and she withdrew with him to a far place (i.e. Bethlehem valley about 4–6 miles from Jerusalem).[23] 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!"[24] Then (the babe 'Iesa (Jesus) or Jibrîl (Gabriel)) cried unto her from below her, saying: "Grieve not: your Lord has provided a water stream under you.[25] "And shake the trunk of date-palm towards you, it will let fall fresh ripe-dates upon you."[26] "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 (Allâh) so I shall not speak to any human being this day.'"

Old Persian miniature depicting Maryam and Isa.

The virgin birth of Jesus

The Qur'an states that Jesus was the result of a virgin birth, but describes Mary and her son not as divine but as "honoured servants" (21.26). To deny Jesus divinity, he is compared in Q 3:59[2] with Adam who was created with neither father nor mother. Both Mary and Jesus are stated to ""[3] - a proof of their humanity as tafsirs indicate. The most detailed account of the annunciation and birth of Jesus is provided in Sura 3 and 19[4] of The Qur'an wherein it is written that God sent an angel to announce that she could shortly expect to bear a son, despite being a virgin.

The Qur'an discusses Mary's miraculous pregnancy as well. "Relate in the Book (the story of) Mary, when she withdrew from her family to a place in the East. She placed a screen (to screen herself) from them; then We sent her Our angel, and he appeared before her as a man in all respects." (Qur'an 19:16-17). After seeing the angel, she said: "I seek refuge from thee to (God) Most Gracious: (come not near) if thou dost fear God." (Qur'an 19:18). The angel Gabriel responded: "Nay, I am only a messenger from thy Lord, (to announce) to thee the gift of a pure son." (Qur'an 19:19). She asked: "How shall I have a son, seeing that no man has touched me, and I am not unchaste?" (Qur'an 19:20). The Angel Gabriel said: "So (it will be): thy Lord saith, 'That is easy for Me: and (We wish) to appoint him as a Sign unto men and a Mercy from Us.' It is a matter (so) decreed." (Qur'an 19:21). Mary then becomes pregnant.

A series of articles on

mother of Jesus

Presentation of Mary
Annunciation · Visitation · Virgin Birth · Nativity · Presentation of Jesus · Flight into Egypt · Finding in the Temple · Cana · Crucifixion · Resurrection · Pentecost

Marian Perspectives
Anglican • Eastern Orthodox • Muslim • Protestant • Roman Catholic

Catholic Mariology
MariologyHistory of MariologyPapal teachingsMariology of the saints

Dogmas and Doctrines
Mother of GodPerpetual virginityImmaculate ConceptionAssumption

Mary in Culture

After conceiving Jesus, Mary went away with the baby to a distant place (Qur'an 19:22). "And the pains of childbirth drove her to the trunk of a palm-tree. She cried (in her anguish): 'Ah! would that I had died before this! would that I had been a thing forgotten!'" (Qur'an 19:23).

The miracle of the palm-tree

The miracle of the palm-tree which is mentioned in the Quran but not in the Bible is an important miracle for Muslims. In this narration, Mary finds herself behind a withered palm-tree in the wilderness and she wishes if she had died before this. The voice of God cries out to her "shake the trunk of the palm-tree toward thee, thou wilt cause ripe dates to fall upon thee" (Quran 19:25) The miracle is counterpart to the miracle of the Mihrab. In both instances, Mary is nourished by Allah, however, in the first case, the fruits come without her having to do anything other than remember God in the prayer-niche. Whereas, in the second case, she must have participated in the miracle by shaking the tree. Ruzbihan Baqli, a commentator of the Quran has stated the two miracles are miracles of pure grace and active faith. In his commentary, he has also stated that Mary's substance is the substance of original sanctity. According to some Muslims, Mary personifies clemency and Mercy, therefore, she is the human manifestation of the Basmalah.

Joseph, the magi, and manger are not mentioned in the Qur'anic narration. In Quran and Hadith, Allah was Mary's only Provider. Muslims do not accept the virgin birth of Jesus as evidence of Jesus being God.

The Quran states: "The similitude of Jesus before God is as that of Adam; He created him from dust, then said to him: 'Be.' And he was." (Qur'an 3:59).

(Remember) When the angels said O Mary! God Gives thee Good News of a son through a Word from Him! His name shall be the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, honoured in this world and in the next, and of those who Are Granted Nearness to God! (3.45)

And he shall speak to the people in the cradle, and when of middle age, and he shall be of The Righteous (3.46)

She said My Lord! How shall I have a son when no man has touched me ? He Said, That is as it shall be. God Creates what He Pleases. When He decrees a thing He says to it "Be" and it is! (3.47)

The Qur'an also declares that one of the reasons (amongst many listed) for the punishments of The-God upon the People of the Book – "God has sealed their hearts" (4.155) – is for their "uttering a monstrous lie against Mary" (4.156).

This is understood by some to refer to the accusations of wanton unchastity which was directed by some against Mary in her lifetime and which (Jewish sources consider to be anti-Semitic) interpretations recorded in the Talmud. In fact the Qur'an includes Christians, Jews (including Karaites and Samaritans), and "Sabians" (a Qur'anic term interpreted to refer to the Mandaeans) among the People of the Book.

Sura 5 (Al-Ma'ida) 116-119 includes the Prophecy of the Judgment Day where "Jesus son of Mary" will be questioned by God as regards those who worship him and Mary, and that Jesus will deny them:

And when God will say O Jesus, son of Mary, didst thou say to men: Take me and my mother for two gods beside God? He will answer Holy art Thou! I could never say that which I had no right. If I had said it, Thou wouldst have surely known it. Thou knowest what is in my mind, and I know not what is in Thy mind. It is Thou alone Who Art the Knower of all hidden things

I said nothing to them except that which Thou didst command me - Worship God (Arabic: Allah), my Lord and your Lord. And I was a witness over them as long as I remained among them, but since Thou didst take me up, Thou hast been the Watcher over them, and Thou art Witness over all things

If Thou punish them, they are Thy servants; and if Thou forgive them, Thou surely art the Mighty, the Wise.

God Will Say This is a Day when only The Truthful shall profit by their truthfulness. For them are Gardens beneath which streams flow; therein shall they abide forever. God Is well Pleased with them, and they are well pleased with Him! That indeed is the Supreme Triumph!

Mary's names and titles in Islam

  • Qānitah: In Surah of the Banning (Quran 66:12), Mary is called of the Qanitin. The Arabic term implies the meaning, not only of constant submission to Allah, but also absorption in prayer and invocation, meanings that coincides with the image of Mary spending her childhood in the Mihrab. In this way, Mary personifies prayer and contemplation in Islam.
  • Siddiqah: Mary is called Siddiqah twice in the Quran. (5:73-75 62:12). The Arabic term means “She who accepts as true” or “She who has faith”. The term has also been translated “She who believes sincerely totally”.
  • Sājidah: means “She who prostrates to Allah in worship”. The Quran states: “O Mary! Worship your Lord devoutly: prostrate yourself”(Quran 3:43). While in Sujud, a Muslim is to praise Allah and glorify him. In this motion, which Muslims believe to be derived from Marian nature, hands, knees and the forehead touch the ground together.
  • Rāki’ah: means “She who bows down to Allah in worship”. The Quran states: “O Mary!.. bow down in prayer with those men who bow down” The command was repeated by angels only to Mary, according to the Muslim view. Ruku' in Muslim prayer Salat has been derived from Mary’s practice.
  • Tāhirah: means “She who was purified”. (Quran 3:42) According to a Hadith, the devil did not touch Mary when she was born, therefore she did not cry.(Nisai 4:331)
  • Mustafia: means “She who was chosen”. The Quran states: “O Mary! Allah has chosen you and purified you and again he has chosen you above all women of all nations of the worlds”(Quran 3:42) According to the interpretations, the first election is intrinsic. Allah has chosen the virgin in herself and for herself, and the second time he has chosen her in regard to the world and for a divine plan.
  • Nur: One of the most important passages, both from the generally Islamic as well as from the specifically Maryami point of view, is the Verse of Light along with the tree verses that follow it. Mary has been called Nur (Light) and Umm Nur (the mother of one who was Light). The Verse of Light, also contains the virginal symbols of the crystal, the star, the blessed olive tree, and oil, which according to Muslims, refer to the purity of Mary.
  • Waliyah: There is among Muslims a divergence of opinion concerning whether Mary was a Prophetess(Nabiyah) or a Saint(Waliah). Most Muslims believe that prophecy is reserved for men only and that Mary was simply a saint. Even those who believe Mary was a prophetess, agree that she had no law-giving function.
  • Sa’imah: means “She who fasts”. Mary is reported to fast one half of a year in Muslim tradition. The Quran says God told Mary “And if any man sees you, say, I have vowed a fast to the Most Gracious, and this day I will enter into no talk with any human being”.
  • Ma’suma: means “She who never sinned”. According to the Quran, Allah protected Mary from Satan.(Quran 3:35-36)

Many other names of Mary can be found in various other books and religious collections. In Hadith, she has been referred to by names such as Batul and Adhraa (Ascetic Virgin), Masturah (meaning veiled) and Marhumah (enveloped in Allah's Mercy).[5]

See also


  1. ^ Mary and Angels
  2. ^ The likeness of Jesus with Allah is as the likeness of Adam. He created him of dust, then He said unto him: Be! and he is. (Pickthal)
  3. ^ Q 5:75: The Messiah, son of Mary, was no other than a messenger, messengers (the like of whom) had passed away before him. And his mother was a saintly woman. And they both used to eat (earthly) food. See how We make the revelations clear for them, and see how they are turned away! (Pickthal)
  4. ^ The Holy Qur'an: Maryam (Mary), Sura 19 (Translation by A. Yusuf Ali)
  5. ^ The Blessed names of Sayyidatina Maryam, Rahib Khattan, pg 111

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