The Nativity- An Islamic Glance #3 (Glad tidings and the birth of Prophet Jesus, upon him be peace)

Greetings of Peace, Mercy and Blessings upon you all…

It has been a year since I last posted a blog, and thus felt now was a fitting time to return to complete some ‘unfinished business’. This time last year I had began the story of the Nativity from an Islamic perspective. This is the third and final instalment.

So in my last blog I had discussed the virtues of Maryam and her servitude to the Masjid in Jerusalem…

The Glad tidings of a Son

It is common throughout Islamic History that before a Prophet is born, the glad tidings of their arrival is always prophesied before hand. The coming of Prophet Jesus (Isa) was revealed by Prophet John (Yahya) when Allah said to Prophet Zacharia (Zakariyyaa), ‘Allah gives you the good news of Yahya who shall confirm the word from Allah’ (Surah Aal Imran; Verse 39).

The term ‘word from Allah’ has been understood by the scholars to refer to none other than Prophet Jesus. From this we learn that the people of the land were anticipating the coming of another apostle….

Mary (Maryam) grew up within the walls of the Mosque of Jerusalem and would only leave her abode for the call of nature.Thus, she never came into contact with men or males she was unfamiliar with. The Qur’an mentions that at such times she would head towards the east (Surah Maryam; verse 16). It was during her time  that Angel Gabriel (Jibra’eel) came to her in the form of a handsome and perfectly symmetrical man as mentioned in the Qur’an (Surah Maryam; Verse 17).

Now this point in the story bears testimony to Mary’s chastity and modesty. In her presence is this strange, yet handsome man. No one else is present. Yet Mary does not even ask who he is, but rather her chastity and Taqwa (God-consciousness) shines through. She says to this strange man, even before he could say anything to her, ‘Verily! I seek refuge with the Most Merciful (Allah) from you, if you do fear Allah’. From this sentence alone we learn so much about this noble lady Mary. We firstly learn that the her stance is a stance of piety and that if this man has come with an evil intention, then she is not interested whatsoever. We secondly learn that she is seeking refuge in the Allah, through his mercy. Not wrath. Not power or might. Mercy. This is an indirect way of showing this strange man that if his intention are evil, then he still has the opportunity to seek Allah’s mercy and forgiveness. It was at this point that Angel Gabriel realised this lady’s trust in Allah was so strong, that he transformed back into his original form, as he knew she would not be overwhelmed or taken aback.

Gabriel now spoke to her, saying that he is only a messenger from the Lord who has come to give news of a pure boy. Mary became worried and questioned how she could have a son when no man has touched her nor is she an unchaste lady. Gabriel said that such a thing is easy for Allah and he then began to reassure her by describing the special qualities her son shall possess. Allah mentions this dialogue in the Qur’an in Surah Aal Imran; Verses 45, 46, 47 and 49. Allah says ‘(And mention) when the angels said “O Mary, indeed Allah give 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). He will speak to people in the cradle and in maturity, and will be of the righteous. And He (Allah) will teach him writing and wisdom and the Torah and the Gospel. And (make him) a messenger to the Children of Israel (who will say to them) “Indeed I have come to you with a sign from your Lord in that I design for you birds from clay, then I breathe into it and it becomes a bird by the permission of Allah. And I cure the blind and leper, and I give life to the dead- by the permission of Allah. And I inform you of what you eat and what you store in your houses…”‘.

After conveying the glad tidings, Angel Gabriel blew into the collar of Mary and disappeared into thin air…

Birth of Jesus (peace be upon him)

It wasn’t long until Mary began to feel that she was pregnant. Worried about how her community would react to her giving birth to a child in such circumstances, she left her abode in the Mosque and withdrew herself into the wilderness. She had reached the mountains of Saraat (present-day Bethlehem), which is approximately 9 miles outside of the vicinity of Jerusalem. At this point she felt the pains of labour over come her. She could not continue and thus stopped and sat at the foot of a date palm. She began to weep for herself; saying that she wishes she had never existed and died before all of this. What will she say to her people? What will they say and do to her? ‘The daughter of the noble and pious Imran- giving birth to a child outside of wedlock!’ Mary could not bear to think of what is yet to come. It is at this point that Allah responded to Mary, through angel Gabriel. Gabriel called out to Mary saying ‘Do not grieve; your Lord provided beneath you a stream. And shake toward you the trunk of the palm tree; it will drop upon you ripe, fresh dates.’ (Surah Maryam; Verse 24-25. These provisions sent from Allah satiated her and gave her strength and happiness that Allah is indeed with her. She delivered her child and held her blessed son in her lap, marvelling at this miracle and thanking Allah abundantly. Note that not once did she complain about why Allah gave her such difficulties, but rather she remained steadfast and thanked Him for His assistance and blessing.

[Many Muslim scholars and historians use this incident to try and explain the Islamic view that Jesus was born in the summer months and not during the winter i.e. December the 25th. The rationale behind this is that Allah commanded Mary to shake the tree so that ripe dates will fall. It is well known that in the areas of the Levante, the date season is within the summer months and that the date harvest usually takes place towards the end of September/beginning of October. Having said that, ultimately only Allah knows exactly when and where Prophet Jesus and all the other prophets (peace be upon them all) were born.]

Allah knew Mary still had a few lingering anxieties, and thus spoke again through Gabriel. ‘So eat and drink and be contented. 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’. Allah instructed Mary to remain silent when her people question her about her son Jesus.

Mary knew Allah is with her, thus she returned to her people cradling her son, with no anxiety or fear. Upon observing the return of Mary with a new born in her grasp, the people naturally began to question and mock her. As they scolded her, they referred to her as ‘sister of Prophet Aaron’, because she was known of that noble and pious ilk. Yet now she has brought shame upon herself and her family. The people continued to ridicule her, stating how her parents never committed such acts and that she had betrayed her legacy. Yet Allah was creating and building for her a legacy.

Mary continued to hold her silence and began to point to her blessed son. The people erupted in a fit of laughter and frustration. ‘How can we speak to one who is still a baby in the cradle?’ This is when baby Jesus (peace be upon him) began to speak. Allah mentions the dialogue of baby Jesus in Surah Maryam; Verse 30-33. He says, ‘Jesus said, “Indeed, I am the servant of Allah. He has given me the Scripture and made me a prophet. And He has blessed me wherever I am and has enjoined upon me prayer and charity as long as I am alive. And made me dutiful to my mother, and He has not made me a wretched tyrant. And peace be upon me the day I was born and the day I will die and the day I am raised alive”‘. 

When the people saw and heard this miracle, they realised his birth was indeed miraculous and that Mary was blameless and pious and noble as she ever was. The news of this miracle child began to spread far and wide…

A new star in the sky

The nativity mentions a new star being seen in the sky during the birth of Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him). A similar narration has been heard from some of the companions of the companions of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). The narration states that the emperor of Persia noticed a new star in the sky. His courtiers mentioned to him that such a birth of a star denotes the birth of an important and eminent person. They identified the direction of the star and the king sent a delegation of gift and perfumes to present it to this new born person.

Conclusion

That (in a nutshell) is the extremely shortened and abridged Islamic perspective on the miraculous birth of Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him).

Peace be upon him the day he was born, the day he will die and peace be upon him the day he is raised alive…

 

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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.