Maryam (Peace be Upon Her): An Example to All Humankind

بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ

Professor Tariq Ramadan stated that, someday we are all bound to come back to the beginning, to a place where there is no longer anyone but our self and God [1].

Most of us will experience the “3Ws” (that is the age old questions of; Who am I? Why am I here, and Where am I going?). These questions tirelessly prod our consciousness  into reawakening over time, intentionally trying to bring us back to ourselves – more often, most of us seem to get caught up with life or from whichever perspective one is looking, the lack of, that we forget to even begin to try to take that path of knowing ourselves and purpose.

In Sheikh Hamza Yusuf ‘s lecture on, ‘Islam and Woman’, Sheikh Hamza Yusuf teaches, from the Islamic perspective, that the only purpose for men and women on earth is to know their Lord. For our Lord is Al-Aziz (The Victorious), Al-Qadir (The All-Powerful), Malik al Mulk (The Owner of all), all success comes from our Lord and to Him we shall return.

The Virgin Maryam peace be upon her (PBUH) had this intimate solitude that Professor Ramadan discusses, a place where there is nobody but one self and Allah.  It is worth noting here that Islam does not advocate for the exclusion from one’s society akin to the traditions in Christianity for example by becoming a monk or nun.  On the contrary, Islamic teachings in fact encourages the opposite through the obligatory five pillars, and it is our intention and action we take  to better ourselves, our loved ones,  and the environment which we live in, that we hope will constitute acts of worship.

Maryam was a most devout Muslim who genuinely dedicated herself to our Lord, praised His name, and turned towards Him in prayer constantly throughout her life. Allah chose Maryam and ensured that she would be educated in the best manner, purified from all wickedness, and preferred above all other women. Allah relates her superiority [2]:

And when the angels said: “Mary, Allah has chosen you and purified you. He has chosen you over all other women. Mary, obey your Lord and prostrate and bow with those who bow” (Surat Al-Imran: 42-43).

The Virgin Maryam is a very important story in Islam. She is a sign and example for all peoples.

Allah introduces Maryam as having the ideal Muslim woman’s character.

This character is in today’s world becoming less sought after or valued. We tend to forget that most of our values stems from societal norms or traditions, which constantly changes to conform to a new set of ideals, worldviews or lifestyles [3]. With extreme forms of feminism, for example the advent of ‘Femen’ and their protests for the right to be without upper garments, a symbolic gesture to where their honor lies, we as Muslim women know that our source of honor can only be sought through pleasing and obeying Allah first and foremost, not to men or whoever society dictates we should please.

The source of honor for all Muslims lies in fulfilling His Divine Rights, seeking to know Him and come close to Him alone. We therefore hope that through trying to fulfill His Divine Rights upon ourselves, we become of the honored ones to Him, InshAllah.

According to the Qur’an, men and women have the same responsibilities and characters, for Allah refers to an ideal Muslim character.

He defines the Islamic character in the following verse:

Men and women who are Muslims, men and women who are believers, men and women who are obedient, men and women who are truthful, men and women who are steadfast, men and women who are humble, men and women who give charity, men and women who fast, men and women who guard their chastity, men and women who remember Allah much: Allah has prepared forgiveness for them and an immense reward (Surat al-Ahzab: 35).

As this verse shows, each person’s character is not determined by his or her society’s values or continuing traditions, but by the ideal Muslim character. Any woman who adopts this character will have the strongest and the most solid personality possible. And by implementing it in her life, she will win Allah’s good pleasure and love, instead of striving to attain status or superiority in her society [4].

In the Quran, Maryam (PBUH) received the most attention of any women mentioned in the Quran.  Chapter 19 of the Quran is named after her, and it should be noted that many of the Prophets (PBUT), did not have a chapter named after them, for example our Prophet Moses (PBUH), and our beloved Prophet Mohammed (PBUH). To many Muslims, this signifies her great importance for all of humankind, as a sign from our Lord, to learn from and reflect from her example.

Maryam’s (PBUH) Birth

In the holy Quran, it is revealed that when Maryam’s mother (PBUH) found out that she was pregnant with Maryam (PBUH), she immediately prayed to Allah. 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 ‘abida‘ in Arabic, in other words Allah’s worshiper [5].

Allah 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 Mary and placed her and her children in Your safekeeping from Satan, the accursed” (Surah Al-Imran: 35-36).

The Arabic word ‘muharreren‘, translated here as devoted [to Your service], means “preoccupied only with the Hereafter and having no interest in this world” [6].

We learn from this prayer that the mother of Maryam (PBUH), sought true liberation for her daughter. For it is only when we truly turn to our Lord and surrender to Him, worshiping Him in accordance to what He has revealed to humankind through His Prophets  and Messengers, and finally through our beloved Prophet and Messenger Mohammed (PBUH), can we find true liberation from ourselves and all that is in this world [7].

In the Quran, Allah reveals that:

Yes [on the contrary], whoever submits his face in Islam to Allah while being a doer of good will have his reward with his Lord. And no fear will there be concerning them, nor will they grieve. (Surat Al-Baqarah: 112).

Maryam’s Encounter with the Angel Gabriel

Maryam was known amongst her family and people for being devout to Allah, her sincerity in worship of Allah and her chastity. When she encountered Gabriel alone, who appeared to her in the form of a man, she responded to him:

“I seek refuge in the Most Merciful from you if you are God-fearing.”  (Surat Maryam: 18)

From this verse we are given an example of her great chastity. Maryam (PBUH) did not think to engage with him despite the fact that she was alone with him. The Angel Gabriel came to her in the form of an extremely handsome man as is the way when angels take the human form, yet her instant reaction was to seek refuge in Allah from him [8].

There is a great lesson to learn from Maryam for both single and married ladies, Muslim and non-Muslim ladies, in how she conducts herself. She was acutely aware that her private space was being encroached upon, and that she need not speak to a stranger.  What good would come out of it? Does the potential good outweigh the potential harm to oneself? These are the sorts of questions we all should be asking ourselves, especially in public spaces. She sought safety, both in a physical, social and spiritual sense. We see that she had no unresolved self-esteem issues who sought validation from others; she was a woman who was sure in herself.  We learn that self-esteem does not come from the validation of others, but dependent upon ones relationship to their Lord.

Maryam’s Modesty in Speech

Whenever Maryam (PBUH)’s speech is mentioned in the Quran, her language is very beautiful. There is an especially beautiful statement that deserves our deeper reflection here.  Once the Angel Gabriel presents who he is and that she will be given a son, she responds:

“How can I have a son when no man has touched me nor have I been unchaste?”’ (Surat Maryam: 20)

What is beautiful about her choice of words is the reference to the physical act of intimacy in the form of a euphemism—this is also an evidence of her modesty. Her speech was pure subhan’Allah. She used a lot of words to say something that could easily have been said in less [9].

The general rule for our speech is as the Prophet (PBUH) taught us, which is “to speak well or keep silent” (Tirmidhi). Humility and modesty in speech is expressed in more than just the issue of gender relations, but also in avoiding language and tones that reflect arrogance, pretension, and undue anger. It is also reflected in content that is prohibited, such as lying, gossiping, etc.

Modesty of the Heart

Mariam (PBUH) was someone who had humility and modesty in her heart, as expressed in her relationship with Allah (SWT). Allah (SWT) repeatedly affirms her modesty and chastity in the Quran, but He also says about her:

“…she was of the Qaniteen (obedient)” (Surat At-Tahrim: 12).

Only one who feels humility and shame in the presence of Allah (SWT) is someone who can fully practice obedience to Him. This is evidenced in the Prophet’s (PBUH) statement: “If you feel no shame, then do whatever you want” (Bukhari).

Humility is the source of ethics, and it is this state which allows the human to enter into its humanity [10].

A Teacher of True Liberation and Self Worth

Maryam (PBUH) has taught us that true liberation and self worth comes only through being obedient to Allah (SWT).  Her modesty in dress, speech and of the heart is as Sheikh Timothy Winter has once said on the issue of modesty, a cautious celebration of the Transcendent.

As mentioned at the beginning of this article, coming back to our selves is to come back to the beginning.  A natural longing for Him in our hearts, that original breath, subhanAllah. It is coming back to that original covenant which we all made to our Lord, in the primordial world.

As Professor Tariq Ramadan states in his book (Western Muslim and the Future of Islam) it is a difficult task. Yet we all have to make that choice between liberating one’s self or losing one’s self and drowning in the vicissitudes of life.

Revelation tells us,

By the soul in the body (alnafs) and what has balanced it ( given it form) and inspired [both] its licentiousness and its intimate sense of God ( its piety). He who purifies it will certainly be happy and he who corrupts it will certainly be lost (crushed)” (Surat Ash-Shams 91: 7-10) [11].

We are thankful to our Lord for teaching us this beautiful religion and we pray to our Lord for His continued Guidance and to Forgive us our sins. Ameen.

Any benefit one might receive from reading this is from Allah, and any mistake I and others have made from this article is from our own selves and the Shaytan.

May Allah’s Peace be upon our cherished Maryam (PBUH). May Allah’s Peace and Blessings be upon our beloved Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).

Ameen.


[1] Western Muslims and The Future of Islam, by Dr Tariq Ramadan, preface, Oxford University Press 2004. The eBook can be downloaded here.

[2]  Mary: An Exemplary Muslim Woman, by Harun Yahyah (Adnan Oktar), page 23

[3] Ibid, page 12.

[4] Mary: An Exemplary Muslim Woman, by Harun Yahyah (Adnan Oktar) Page 12 and 14.

[5] Ibid, Page 19.

[6] Ibid, page 21.

[7] Mary: An Exemplary Muslim Woman, by Harun Yahyah (Adnan Oktar), page 21.

[10] Western Muslims and The Future of Islam, by Dr Tariq Ramadan, pages 18, Oxford University Press 2004. The eBook can be downloaded here.

[11] Western Muslims and The Future of Islam, by Dr Tariq Ramadan, pages 119- 120, Oxford University Press 2004. The eBook can be downloaded here.

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