Christians and Muslims both revere Mary as a marvellous figure, a woman of immaculate character. But who follows her example? Who acts and looks more like Mary?
The majority of her people, the Children of Israel, rejected and slandered Mary and rejected the Prophethood of Jesus, peace be upon him. Rather than the recipient of a miraculous word by God, they considered Mary sinful. Those who later came to believe in Jesus, peace be upon him, were called Christians by some of their adversaries. Over time, as the Christians acquired political power and were established as a Church in the land of Roman pagans, they accepted foreign pagan ideas into their religion and the Church ended up inventing and supporting the concept of Trinity, while some of them even called Mary the devoted servant of Allah and the most pious of all women ‘the Mother of God.’ Mary, peace be upon her, would have been horrified by such a suggestion.
Unfortunately, as the Qur’an tells us, the Christians no longer have the pure and original teachings of their religion. Christianity is no longer the defining feature of the way of life of most Christians the way Islam is for the Muslims.
Most Christians themselves admit to this fact and pride themselves in it. Religion has become merely a commodity among other commodities of life. Very few Christians sincerely submit to God alone, in spirit and in law, unconditionally and completely, like the Muslims. No wonder, we find the Muslims today are closer to the well-known teachings of Jesus Christ and the example of his honourable mother Mary, than even most Christians. And no wonder, it is Muslim, not Christian women, who resemble Mary in their modest dress as well as in their inner devotion to Allah.
Muslims honour Mary, peace be upon her, while retaining her full humanity and chastity, believing, therefore that in a way, she was an ordinary human being but extraordinarily a pious and a chaste woman who was given a miracle by Allah. Allah says: “And (the example of) Mary, the daughter of ‘Imran, who guarded her chastity, so We blew into (her garment) through Our angel (i.e. Gabriel), and she believed in the words of her Lord and His scriptures and was one of the devoutly obedient.”- Surah at-Tahreem, 66: 12.
It is therefore possible for any woman with true faith to aspire to that level of chastity.
The repeated mention and profuse praise of Mary in the Qur’an has also made many readers of the Qur’an, particularly the non-Muslims, wonder at the amazing impartiality and universality of the Qur’an, and believe in its Divine origin. It was not Muhammad’s (pbuh) pious, supporting and believing wife Khadijah, or his daughter Fatimah, or another woman the Arabs could identify with that was praised in the Qur’an so frequently and so highly. It was Mary, the mother of Jesus, the prophet (or God) of Christianity, a rival religion to the Arab paganism and apparently a rival to Islam, that was chosen by the Qur’an. If the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) himself wrote the Qur’an (na’uzubillah, we seek Allah’s protection from such falsehood), why on earth would he praise his rival’s mother?
It could not be but from Allah, the Lord of Mary, Jesus, Moses and Muhammad, peace be upon all of them.
Nor did Muhammad (pbuh), have any conceivable benefit by praising Mary or Jesus. In fact, the praise of Jesus and his mother was politically incorrect at the time, for the immediate audience of the Qur’an, the Arabs, were outraged that the Qur’an was praising the ‘god’ of the Christians (by calling him an honourable Prophet of Allah) while affording no such reverence to their pagan gods of wood and stone: “And when the son of Mary was presented as an example, immediately your people laughed aloud. And they said, “Are our gods better, or is he?” They did not present it (i.e. the comparison) except for (mere) argument. But, (in fact) they are a people prone to dispute.” – Surah az-Zukhruf, 43: 57-58.
Besides, many other beliefs of the Judeo-Christian community in the Arabian Peninsula were criticised and corrected in the Qur’an, but the Qur’an was surgically careful and precise in censuring the incorrect teaching of Christianity while at the same time praising Jesus and his mother: “O People of the Scripture, do not commit excess in your religion or say about Allah except the truth.
The Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, was but a messenger of Allah and His word which He directed to Mary and a soul (created at a command) from Him. So, believe in Allah and His messengers. And do not say, “Three”, desist – it is better for you. Indeed, Allah is but one God. Exalted is He above having a son. To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth. And sufficient is Allah as Disposer of affairs.” – Surah an-Nisa’ 4: 171.
It is no wonder that even today, many Christians find the objective and reverent treatment by the Qur’an of Jesus and his mother Mary moving and truthful. No one but Allah can be the author of such universal, objective and truthful speech. Allah makes the point explicit in the Qur’an: “That is from the news of the unseen which We reveal to you (O Muhammad). And you were not with them when they cast their pens as to which of them should be responsible for Mary. Nor were you with them when they disputed.” – Surah Ali ‘Imran 3: 44. That is, it is only by God’s revelation that you know of these things with such accurate details.
What Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, chastises people for, and condemns in strongest words, is the suggestion that any one could be God’s son or God’s mother. The Qur’an has avoided the language of father and son even figuratively, for it has always led to anthropomorphism (thinking of God as a human) and thus instead of worshipping God in His full, irreducible Majesty, people become attached to another human figure or image. Pious humans can be messengers of God and good examples, they can love God and be loved by Him, but they cannot be God in any way. The messenger of Allah, Muhammad (pbuh) was so extremely careful about any possible association with Allah that he disliked his name being mentioned with the name of Allah when the subject is a commandment that is exclusive to God.
When one of his companions said: “What Allah and His Messenger will” in an affair that apparently had to do with temporal matters that the Prophet (pbuh) commanded, the Prophet (pbuh) corrected him: “No, instead say ‘What Allah wills and then what His Messenger wills’”. – An-Nasa’i