The Nativity- An Islamic Glance (#1 The Lineage and Birth of Mary)

Maryam 2

Greeting of Peace, Mercy and Blessings to you all,

I apologise for the lack of blogging over the last few months; I’ve been extremely busy and caught up in my own world I suppose.

Anyway… it’s that time of the year again. ‘Tis the season to be jolly’ as they say. Yes, it’s Christmas. A time of good cheer and good will towards our kith and kin. I for one do not celebrate Christmas, since I’m a Muslim. However, being born and bred in the UK I would be lying if I said I wasn’t familiar with the seasonal festivities, TV Christmas specials and Boxing Day Sales which happen around about this time of year. Growing up as a child, we would have our ‘Christmas Dinner’ at school (and yes, it was Halaal) as well as having the annual Nativity Play.

Now I’d like to put all of that to one side and focus on the supposed ‘nucleus’ or ‘epicentre’ of Christmas. The Nativity, or in other words, the birth of Jesus Christ (Peace be upon him).

In Modern Christian theology the nativity revolves around the 25th of December, Mary, Joseph and the birth of Jesus Christ. (Please note my usage of the word ‘Christ’. This term isn’t alien to Islam. But rather, it is used by God in the Qur’an. The Arabic equivalent being Maseeh, which means ‘Christ/The Anointed’.) It also includes the 3 wise men, bringing precious gifts for Jesus. We are all too familiar with the image of a stable in the midst of snow; with baby Jesus laying in a manger, surrounded by all these people.

Before I continue, I’d firstly like to apologise if I’ve made any mistakes or errors above in giving a brief overview of the nativity. That was not my intention, nor do I intend to offend anybody. These series of blog entries are not to poke holes or ridicule the Christian Faith, but rather to give an account of the Nativity from an Islamic perspective. I hope that these entries will help develop understanding between people of different faiths and beliefs, as well as develop a deeper and more comprehensive appreciation of this amazing and multi-faceted personality; Jesus, The Prophet, The Anointed (Peace be upon him).

Mary; Her lineage and birth

Before commenting on the birth of Prophet Jesus, also known as Isa in Arabic (Peace be upon him), let’s look at the birth of his noble mother, Virgin Mary (known as Maryam in Arabic). She was the daughter of Joachim and Anne (known as Imran and Hannah in Islam). Their Family tree can be traced back to Prophet David (known as Dawud in Islam) Peace be upon all the aforementioned].

This lineage is such a blessed and noble lineage that God mentions it in the Qur’an. It states: Allah chose Adam, Nuh (Noah), the family of Ibrahim (Abraham) and the family of Imran (Joachim) above the ‘Alameen (All the worlds) of their times. Descendants, some of them from others, and Allah hears all and knows all.” Chapter 3, Verses 33-34.

Allah attests to the virtue of the lineage of Imran, by naming a whole chapter of the Qur’an after it, titled ‘The Family of Imran’.

Hannah was barren and thus childless. Yet, she and Imran longed for a child and would regularly pray to Allah to bless them with offspring. Imran was the leader of the people, and they too longed that their leader have an offspring to continue their parents’ legacy. One day, Hannah saw a bird feeding and tending to her young. Overwhelmed by her emotion, she invoked Allah to bless her with a child, even then in her ripe age. Allah accept her prayer, and thus Imran and Hannah conceived a child.  When she felt the movement of the child in her womb, Hannah and Imran praised Allah for this bounty and blessing bestowed upon them. The people of Imran were overjoyed at this great occasion and praised Allah for his infinite blessing and kindness. Out of gratitude and thanks to Allah, Hannah swore an oath that this child will be given in His service; to praise him and glorify him during its lifetime.

Her implicit want was a male child who will look after the Mosque Bayt Al-Maqdis, also known as Masjid Al-Aqsa (in Jerusalem), per tradition at the time. The child would maintain and take care of the Mosque and praise Allah throughout their residence there. Such a task would have been complicated for a female, since the main delegations and associates of the Mosque were male thus the atmosphere would be attuned to a male, and also a female would have to leave the vicinity of the Mosque during her monthly cycle, which would make it difficult for her to attend to the daily maintenance needs. With all this in mind, Hannah and Imran desperately wanted a son, as did their people, since they hoped that the birth of a son could potentially be the birth of a prophet and a source of blessing and guidance for them, akin to the father of the child and their leader Prophet Imran.

However, tragedy strikes. Imran dies a sudden death. Hannah and the people of Imran are deeply upset and distraught that he won’t have the opportunity to witness the birth of his child he has been praying for all of these years. Thus he left behind a widow and unborn child.

Now any solace that Hannah could draw upon, would be the birth of a son who could fulfil her oath. However, she finds that she has given birth to a girl. In her disappointment, who can she turn to other than Allah? In the Qur’an it mentions Hannah invoking Allah, saying ‘My Lord, I have delivered a female.” And Allah was most knowing of what she delivered, “And the male is not like the female. And I have named her Mary, and I seek refuge for her in You and [for] her descendants from Satan, the expelled [from the mercy of Allah.’ (Chapter 3, verse 36).

Hannah complained to Allah in such a way, since she was expecting her child to be a boy, yet she named her Maryam and prayed such a prayer for her that Allah readily accepted it, and blessed her through this prayer. Thus Maryam and her son Prophet Isa were protected from the whispers and enticement of Satan. Allah knew that Hannah yearned for a son. He also knew that she will give birth to a girl. This was Allah’s ultimate plan all along and his plan is perfect and complete.

The Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) spoke about the purity of Mary and Jesus, and how Allah accepted the prayer of Mary’s mother Hannah. He said that No son of Adam shall be born unless that he should be afflicted (touched) by the Satan at the hour of birth, when he initiates his life crying out of the Satan’s touch, except Maryam and her son.’ (Recorded in Bukhari). There are a number of such narrations from Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him), which attest to the virtue and status of Maryam and Isa in Islam.

My next entry will discuss the life and miracles of Virgin Mary and how she was bestowed with the news of a miraculous son.

Thank you and JazakumAllahu Khairan for reading.