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The Virtue of Maryam Over the Women of Her Time

Allah states that the angels spoke to Maryam by His command and told her that He chose her because of her service to Him, because of her modesty, honor, innocence, and conviction. Allah also chose her because of her virtue over the women of the world. At-Tirmidhi recorded that `Ali bin Abi Talib said, "I heard the Messenger of Allah say,

« خَيْرُ نِسَائِهَا مَرْيَمُ بِنْتُ عِمْرَانَ، وَخَيْرُ نِسَائِهَا خَدِيجَةُ بِنْتُ خُوَيْلِد »

(The best woman (in her time) was Maryam, daughter of `Imran, and the best woman (of the Prophet's time) is Khadijah (his wife), daughter of Khuwaylid.)''

The Two Sahihs recorded this Hadith. Ibn Jarir recorded that Abu Musa Al-Ash`ari said that the Messenger of Allah said,

« كَمُلَ مِنَ الرِّجَالِ كَثِيرٌ، وَلَمْ يَكْمُلْ مِنَ النِّسَاءِ إِلَّا مَرْيَمُ بِنْتُ عِمْرَانَ وَآسِيَةُ امْرَأَةُ فِرْعَوْن »

(Many men achieved perfection, but among women, only Maryam the daughter of `Imran and Asiah, the wife of Fir`awn, achieved perfection.)

The Six (with the exception of Abu Dawud) recorded it. Al-Bukhari's wording for it reads,

« كَمُلَ مِنَ الرِّجَالِ كَثِيرٌ، وَلَمْ يَكْمُلْ مِنَ النِّسَاءِ إِلَّا آسِيَةُ امْرَأَةُ فِرْعَوْنَ، وَمَرْيَمُ بِنْتُ عِمْرَانَ، وَإِنَّ فَضْلَ عَائِشَةَ عَلَى النِّسَاءِ كَفَضْلِ الثَّرِيدِ عَلى سَائِرِ الطَّعَام »

(Many men reached the level of perfection, but no woman reached such a level except Asiah, the wife of Fir`awn, and Maryam, the daughter of `Imran. The superiority of `A'ishah (his wife) to other women, is like the superiority of Tharid (meat and bread dish) to other meals.)

We mentioned the various chains of narration and wordings for this Hadith in the story of `Isa, son of Maryam, in our book, Al-Bidayah wan-Nihayah, all the thanks are due to Allah.

Allah states that the angels commanded Maryam to increase acts of worship, humbleness, submission, prostration, bowing, and so forth, so that she would acquire what Allah had decreed for her, as a test for her. Yet, this test also earned her a higher grade in this life and the Hereafter, for Allah demonstrated His might by creating a son inside her without male intervention. Allah said,

﴿ يَـٰمَرۡيَمُ ٱقۡنُتِى لِرَبِّكِ وَٱسۡجُدِى وَٱرۡكَعِى مَعَ ٱلرَّٲكِعِينَ

("O Maryam! Submit yourself with obedience (Aqnuti) and prostrate yourself, and bow down along with Ar-Raki`in.'')

As for Qunut (Aqnuti in the Ayah), it means to submit with humbleness. In another Ayah, Allah said,

﴿ بَل لَّهُ ۥ مَا فِى ٱلسَّمَـٰوَٲتِ وَٱلۡأَرۡضِ‌ۖ كُلٌّ۬ لَّهُ ۥ قَـٰنِتُونَ

(Nay, to Him belongs all that is in the heavens and on earth, and all surrender with obedience (Qanitun) to Him.) (2:116)

Allah next said to His Messenger after He mentioned Maryam's story,

﴿ ذَٲلِكَ مِنۡ أَنۢبَآءِ ٱلۡغَيۡبِ نُوحِيهِ إِلَيۡكَ‌ۚ

(This is a part of the news of the Ghayb which We reveal.) "and narrate to you (O Muhammad ), ''

﴿ وَمَا كُنتَ لَدَيۡهِمۡ إِذۡ يُلۡقُونَ أَقۡلَـٰمَهُمۡ أَيُّهُمۡ يَكۡفُلُ مَرۡيَمَ وَمَا ڪُنتَ لَدَيۡهِمۡ إِذۡ يَخۡتَصِمُونَ

(You were not with them, when they cast lots with their pens as to which of them should be charged with the care of Maryam; nor were you with them when they disputed.) meaning, "You were not present, O Muhammad, when this occurred, so you cannot narrate what happened to the people as an eye witness. Rather, Allah disclosed these facts to you as if you were a witness, when they conducted a lottery to choose the custodian of Maryam, seeking the reward of this good deed.''

Ibn Jarir recorded that `Ikrimah said, "Maryam's mother left with Maryam, carrying her in her infant cloth, and took her to the rabbis from the offspring of Aaron, the brother of Musa. They were responsible for taking care of Bayt Al-Maqdis (the Masjid) at that time, just as there were those who took care of the Ka`bah. Maryam's mother said to them, `Take this child whom I vowed (to serve the Masjid), I have set her free, since she is my daughter, for no menstruating woman should enter the Masjid, and I shall not take her back home.' They said, `She is the daughter of our Imam,' as `Imran used to lead them in prayer, `who took care of our sacrificial rituals.' Zakariyya said, `Give her to me, for her maternal aunt is my wife.' They said, `Our hearts cannot bear that you take her, for she is the daughter of our Imam.' So they conducted a lottery with the pens with which they wrote the Tawrah, and Zakariyya won the lottery and took Maryam into his care.'''. `Ikrimah, As-Suddi, Qatadah, Ar-Rabi` bin Anas, and several others said that the rabbis went into the Jordan river and conducted a lottery there, deciding to throw their pens into the river. The pen that remained afloat and idle would indicate that its owner would take care of Maryam. When they threw their pens into the river, the water took all the pens under, except Zakariyya's pen, which remained afloat in its place. Zakariyya was also their master, chief, scholar, Imam and Prophet, may Allah's peace and blessings be on him and the rest of the Prophets.

﴿ إِذۡ قَالَتِ ٱلۡمَلَـٰٓٮِٕكَةُ يَـٰمَرۡيَمُ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ يُبَشِّرُكِ بِكَلِمَةٍ۬ مِّنۡهُ ٱسۡمُهُ ٱلۡمَسِيحُ عِيسَى ٱبۡنُ مَرۡيَمَ وَجِيهً۬ا فِى ٱلدُّنۡيَا وَٱلۡأَخِرَةِ وَمِنَ ٱلۡمُقَرَّبِينَ وَيُڪَلِّمُ ٱلنَّاسَ فِى ٱلۡمَهۡدِ وَڪَهۡلاً۬ وَمِنَ ٱلصَّـٰلِحِينَ قَالَتۡ رَبِّ أَنَّىٰ يَكُونُ لِى وَلَدٌ۬ وَلَمۡ يَمۡسَسۡنِى بَشَرٌ۬‌ۖ قَالَ ڪَذَٲلِكِ ٱللَّهُ يَخۡلُقُ مَا يَشَآءُ‌ۚ إِذَا قَضَىٰٓ أَمۡرً۬ا فَإِنَّمَا يَقُولُ لَهُ ۥ كُن فَيَكُونُ

(45. (Remember) when the angels said: "O Maryam! Verily, Allah gives you the glad tidings of a Word from Him, his name will be Al-Masih, `Isa, the son of Maryam, held in honor in this world and in the Hereafter, and he will be one of those who are near to Allah.'') (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 Allah creates what He wills. When He has decreed something, He says to it only: `Be! ـ and it is.'')

Delivering the Good News to Maryam of `Isa's Birth

This Ayah contains the glad tidings the angels brought to Maryam that she would give birth to a mighty son who will have a great future. Allah said,

﴿ إِذۡ قَالَتِ ٱلۡمَلَـٰٓٮِٕكَةُ يَـٰمَرۡيَمُ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ يُبَشِّرُكِ بِكَلِمَةٍ۬ مِّنۡهُ

((Remember) when the angels said: "O Maryam! Verily, Allah gives you the glad tidings of a Word from Him,) a son who will come into existence with a word from Allah, `Be', and he was. This is the meaning of Allah's statement (about Yahya)

﴿ مُصَدِّقَۢا بِكَلِمَةٍ۬ مِّنَ ٱللَّهِ

(Believing in the Word from Allah.) (3:39), according to the majority of the scholars.

﴿ ٱسۡمُهُ ٱلۡمَسِيحُ عِيسَى ٱبۡنُ مَرۡيَمَ

(His name will be Al-Masih, `Isa, the son of Maryam) and he will be known by this name in this life, especially by the believers. `Isa was called "Al-Masih'' (the Messiah) because when he touched (Mash) those afflicted with an illness, they would be healed by Allah's leave. Allah's statement,

﴿ عِيسَى ٱبۡنُ مَرۡيَمَ

(`Isa, the son of Maryam) relates `Isa to his mother, because he did not have a father.

﴿ وَجِيهً۬ا فِى ٱلدُّنۡيَا وَٱلۡأَخِرَةِ وَمِنَ ٱلۡمُقَرَّبِينَ

(Held in honor in this world and in the Hereafter, and will be one of those who are near to Allah.) meaning, he will be a leader and honored by Allah in this life, because of the Law that Allah will reveal to him, sending down the Scripture to him, along with the other bounties that Allah will grant him with. `Isa will be honored in the Hereafter and will intercede with Allah, by His leave, on behalf of some people, just as is the case with his brethren the mighty Messengers of Allah, peace be upon them all.

`Isa Spoke When He was Still in the Cradle

Allah said,

﴿ وَيُڪَلِّمُ ٱلنَّاسَ فِى ٱلۡمَهۡدِ وَڪَهۡلاً۬

(He will speak to the people, in the cradle and in manhood,) calling to the worship of Allah Alone without partners, while still in the cradle, as a miracle from Allah, and when he is a man, by Allah's revelation to him.

Muhammad bin Ishaq recorded that Abu Hurayrah said that the Messenger of Allah said,

« مَا تَكَلَّمَ مَوْلُودٌ فِي صِغَرِهِ إِلَّا عِيسَى وَصَاحِبُ جُرَيْج »

(No infant spoke in the cradle except `Isa and the companion of Jurayj.)

Ibn Abi Hatim recorded that Abu Hurayrah said that the Prophet said,

« لَمْ يَتَكَلَّمْ فِي الْمَهْدِ إِلَّا ثَلَاثَةٌ: عِيسَى، وَصَبِيٌّ كَانَ فِي زَمَنِ جُرَيْجٍ، وَصَبِيٌّ آخَر »

(No infant spoke in the cradle except three, `Isa, the boy during the time of Jurayj, and another boy.)

﴿ وَمِنَ ٱلصَّـٰلِحِينَ

(And he will be one of the righteous.) in his statements and actions, for he will possess, pure knowledge and righteous works.

`Isa was Created Without a Father

When Maryam heard the good news that the angels conveyed from Allah, she said;

﴿ رَبِّ أَنَّىٰ يَكُونُ لِى وَلَدٌ۬ وَلَمۡ يَمۡسَسۡنِى بَشَرٌ۬‌ۖ

("O my Lord! How shall I have a son when no man has touched me.'')

Mary said, "How can I have a son while I did not marry, nor intend to marry, nor am I an indecent woman, may Allah forbid'' The angel conveyed to Maryam, Allah's answer,

﴿ ڪَذَٲلِكِ ٱللَّهُ يَخۡلُقُ مَا يَشَآءُ‌ۚ

(So (it will be) for Allah creates what He wills.)

He is Mighty in power and nothing escapes His ability. Allah used the word `create' here instead of the word `does' as in the tale about Zakariyya (3:40), to eradicate any evil thought concerning `Isa. Allah next emphasized this fact when He said,

﴿ إِذَا قَضَىٰٓ أَمۡرً۬ا فَإِنَّمَا يَقُولُ لَهُ ۥ كُن فَيَكُونُ

(When He has decreed something, He says to it only: "Be! ـ and it is.) meaning, what Allah wills, comes into existence instantly and without delay. In another Ayah, Allah said,

﴿ وَمَآ أَمۡرُنَآ إِلَّا وَٲحِدَةٌ۬ كَلَمۡحِۭ بِٱلۡبَصَرِ

(And Our commandment is but one as the twinkling of an eye.) (54:50), meaning, "We only issue the command once, and it comes into existence instantly, as fast as, and faster than, a blink of the eye. ''

﴿ وَيُعَلِّمُهُ ٱلۡكِتَـٰبَ وَٱلۡحِڪۡمَةَ وَٱلتَّوۡرَٮٰةَ وَٱلۡإِنجِيلَ وَرَسُولاً إِلَىٰ بَنِىٓ إِسۡرَٲٓءِيلَ أَنِّى قَدۡ جِئۡتُكُم بِـَٔايَةٍ۬ مِّن رَّبِّڪُمۡ‌ۖ أَنِّىٓ أَخۡلُقُ لَڪُم مِّنَ ٱلطِّينِ كَهَيۡـَٔةِ ٱلطَّيۡرِ فَأَنفُخُ فِيهِ فَيَكُونُ طَيۡرَۢا بِإِذۡنِ ٱللَّهِ‌ۖ وَأُبۡرِئُ ٱلۡأَڪۡمَهَ وَٱلۡأَبۡرَصَ وَأُحۡىِ ٱلۡمَوۡتَىٰ بِإِذۡنِ ٱللَّهِ‌ۖ وَأُنَبِّئُكُم بِمَا تَأۡكُلُونَ وَمَا تَدَّخِرُونَ فِى بُيُوتِڪُمۡ‌ۚ إِنَّ فِى ذَٲلِكَ لَأَيَةً۬ لَّكُمۡ إِن كُنتُم مُّؤۡمِنِينَ وَمُصَدِّقً۬ا لِّمَا بَيۡنَ يَدَىَّ مِنَ ٱلتَّوۡرَٮٰةِ وَلِأُحِلَّ لَڪُم بَعۡضَ ٱلَّذِى حُرِّمَ عَلَيۡڪُمۡ‌ۚ وَجِئۡتُكُم بِـَٔايَةٍ۬ مِّن رَّبِّڪُمۡ فَٱتَّقُواْ ٱللَّهَ وَأَطِيعُونِ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ رَبِّى وَرَبُّڪُمۡ فَٱعۡبُدُوهُ‌ۗ هَـٰذَا صِرَٲطٌ۬ مُّسۡتَقِيمٌ۬

(48. And He will teach him the Book and Al-Hikmah, and the Tawrah and the Injil.) (49. And will make him 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 Allah's leave; and I heal the blind, and the leper, and I bring the dead to life by Allah'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 Tawrah, 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 have Taqwa of Allah and obey me.'') (51. "Truly, Allah is my Lord and your Lord, so worship Him (Alone). This is the straight path.'')

The Description of `Isa and the Miracles He Performed

Allah states that the good news brought to Maryam about `Isa was even better because Allah would teach him,

﴿ ٱلۡكِتَـٰبَ وَٱلۡحِكۡمَةَ

(the Book and Al-Hikmah). It appears that the `Book' the Ayah mentioned here refers to writing. We explained the meaning of Al-Hikmah in the Tafsir of Surat Al-Baqarah.

﴿ وَٱلتَّوۡرَٮٰةَ وَٱلۡإِنجِيلَ

(the Tawrah and the Injil). The Tawrah is the Book that Allah sent down to Musa, son of `Imran, while the Injil is what Allah sent down to `Isa, son of Maryam, peace be upon them, and `Isa memorized both Books. Allah's statement,

﴿ وَرَسُولاً إِلَىٰ بَنِىٓ إِسۡرَٲٓءِيلَ

(And will make him a Messenger to the Children of Israel) means, that Allah will send `Isa as a Messenger to the Children of Israel, proclaiming to them,

﴿ أَنِّى قَدۡ جِئۡتُكُم بِـَٔايَةٍ۬ مِّن رَّبِّڪُمۡ‌ۖ أَنِّىٓ أَخۡلُقُ لَڪُم مِّنَ ٱلطِّينِ كَهَيۡـَٔةِ ٱلطَّيۡرِ فَأَنفُخُ فِيهِ فَيَكُونُ طَيۡرَۢا بِإِذۡنِ ٱللَّهِ‌ۖ

(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 Allah's leave). These are the miracles that `Isa performed; he used to make the shape of a bird from clay and blow into it, and it became a bird by Allah's leave. Allah made this a miracle for `Isa to testify that He had sent him.

﴿ وَأُبۡرِئُ ٱلۡأَڪۡمَهَ

(And I heal him who is Akmah) meaning, `a person who was born blind,' which perfects this miracle and makes the challenge more daring.

﴿ وَٱلۡأَبۡرَصَ

(And the leper) which is a known disease,

﴿ وَأُحۡىِ ٱلۡمَوۡتَىٰ بِإِذۡنِ ٱللَّهِ‌ۖ

(And I bring the dead to life by Allah's leave).

Many scholars stated that Allah sent every Prophet with a miracle suitable to his time. For instance, in the time of Musa, magic was the trade of the time, and magicians held a high position. So Allah sent Musa with a miracle that captured the eyes and bewildered every magician. When the magicians realized that Musa's miracle came from the Almighty, Most Great, they embraced Islam and became pious believers. As for `Isa, he was sent during a time when medicine and knowledge in physics were advancing. `Isa brought them the types of miracles that could not be performed, except by one sent by Allah. How can any physician bring life to clay, cure blindness and leprosy and bring back to life those entrapped in the grave Muhammad was sent during the time of eloquent people and proficient poets. He brought them a Book from Allah; if mankind and the Jinn tried to imitate ten chapters, or even one chapter of it, they will utterly fail in this task, even if they tried to do it by collective cooperation. This is because the Qur'an is the Word of Allah and is nothing like that of the creatures.

`Isa's statement,

﴿ وَأُنَبِّئُكُم بِمَا تَأۡكُلُونَ وَمَا تَدَّخِرُونَ فِى بُيُوتِڪُمۡ‌ۚ

(And I inform you of what you eat, and what you store in your houses) means, I tell you about what one of you has just eaten and what he is keeping in his house for tomorrow.

﴿ إِنَّ فِى ذَٲلِكَ

(Surely, therein), all these miracles,

﴿ لَأَيَةً۬ لَّكُمۡ

(is a sign for you) testifying to the truth of what I was sent to you with,

﴿ إِن كُنتُم مُّؤۡمِنِينَ وَمُصَدِّقً۬ا لِّمَا بَيۡنَ يَدَىَّ مِنَ ٱلتَّوۡرَٮٰةِ

(If you believe. And I have come confirming that which was before me of the Tawrah,) affirming the Tawrah and upholding it,

﴿ وَلِأُحِلَّ لَڪُم بَعۡضَ ٱلَّذِى حُرِّمَ عَلَيۡڪُمۡ‌ۚ

(and to make lawful to you part of what was forbidden to you.)

This part of the Ayah indicates that `Isa abrogated some of the Laws of the Tawrah and informed the Jews of the truth regarding some issues that they used to dispute about. In another Ayah;

﴿ وَلِأُبَيِّنَ لَكُم بَعۡضَ ٱلَّذِى تَخۡتَلِفُونَ فِيهِ‌ۖ

(And in order to make clear to you some of the (points) in which you differ) (43:63).

`Isa said next,

﴿ وَجِئۡتُكُم بِـَٔايَةٍ۬ مِّن رَّبِّڪُمۡ

(And I have come to you with a proof from your Lord.) "Containing affirmation and evidence to the truth of what I am conveying to you.''

﴿ فَٱتَّقُواْ ٱللَّهَ وَأَطِيعُونِ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ رَبِّى وَرَبُّڪُمۡ فَٱعۡبُدُوهُ‌ۗ

(So have Taqwa of Allah and obey me. Truly, Allah is my Lord and your Lord, so worship Him (Alone).) for I and you are equal in our servitude, submission and humbleness to Him,

﴿ هَـٰذَا صِرَٲطٌ۬ مُّسۡتَقِيمٌ۬

(This is the straight path.)

﴿ فَلَمَّآ أَحَسَّ عِيسَىٰ مِنۡہُمُ ٱلۡكُفۡرَ قَالَ مَنۡ أَنصَارِىٓ إِلَى ٱللَّهِ‌ۖ قَالَ ٱلۡحَوَارِيُّونَ نَحۡنُ أَنصَارُ ٱللَّهِ ءَامَنَّا بِٱللَّهِ وَٱشۡهَدۡ بِأَنَّا مُسۡلِمُونَ رَبَّنَآ ءَامَنَّا بِمَآ أَنزَلۡتَ وَٱتَّبَعۡنَا ٱلرَّسُولَ فَٱڪۡتُبۡنَا مَعَ ٱلشَّـٰهِدِينَ وَمَڪَرُواْ وَمَڪَرَ ٱللَّهُ‌ۖ وَٱللَّهُ خَيۡرُ ٱلۡمَـٰكِرِينَ

(52. Then when `Isa came to know of their disbelief, he said: "Who will be my helpers in Allah's cause'' Al-Hawariyyun said: "We are the helpers of Allah; we believe in Allah, and bear witness that we are Muslims.'') (53. "Our Lord! We believe in what You have sent down, and we follow the Messenger (`Isa); so write us down among those who bear witness.'') (54. And they (disbelievers) plotted and Allah planned too. And Allah is the Best of those who plot)