Mary’s example is pivotal today in bridging the gap between the two great civilisations and religions of our world: Islam and Christianity. Truly sincere Christians should see in Islam, particularly in the modest and covering dress and headscarves of Muslim women, an image of Mary’s chastity. No other religion today is as insistent upon chastity and sexual constraint – as a virtue of the kind taught in original Christianity – as Islam.
When the angel appeared before Mary in seclusion, Allah tells us in the Qur’an, she immediately called out the name of God. Thinking that he was a man approaching her, she reminded him of Allah: “She said, ‘Indeed, I seek refuge in the Most Merciful from you, (so leave me), if you should be fearing Allah.’” – Surah Maryam, 19:18.
This is a model of chastity that every pious Muslim woman aspires to emulate. In fact, the Islamic hijab is a way for Muslim women to state the same idea perpetually: Be mindful of God and His limits when approaching me. In other words, Hijab is a statement of chastity and purity and it reminds (any decent-minded) onlooker immediately of Allah. There are of course enemies of God and satanic advocates of lust and lewdness who find this beautiful divine symbol an offence to their way of life.
Tawheed: Not Any Monotheism
Often the three Abrahamic faiths, Islam, Christianity and Judaism are labelled Monotheistic. Some scholars have pointed out that the term monotheistic, however is insufficient to describe the Islamic term Tawheed, for Tawheed is a much more comprehensive and all-encompassing concept than monotheism. In Islam, Tawheed means not just that there is one Creator God, as Monotheism implies, but also that it is the sole right of Allah to be worshipped (uluhiyyah) and that all of His attributes as Perfect and Unique cannot be interpreted in a human-like way. Tawheed is not merely a doctrine, a belief with which only out-of-fashion theologians are concerned. Rather, Tawheed is lived at every single moment of a Muslim’s life.
Five times a day, all practicing Muslims assert their Tawheed, which in this case means constant disciplined and collective obedience to One God. In these five daily prayers, we strive to think only of God, loving Him alone, asking from Him alone: thus striving for Tawheed of mind and heart so that all of our being submits to God alone. Tawheed is lived when we give required charity to the poor and the needy, because even at this time we are remembering Allah alone, trying to purify our intentions only for His sake, and hoping to find Allah watching over our deeds. We live Tawheed in every act of our life, and in fact, strive to submit even our reflections and stray thoughts to God.
It is this Tawheed in its fullness, in belief and in actions, that Jesus and his mother, peace be upon both of them, taught us. It is this same Tawheed that Muhammad, the Final Messenger and the Seal of the Prophets, peace be upon him, taught us in every way.
“And (beware the Day) when Allah will say, “O Jesus, Son of Mary, did you say to the people, ‘Take me and my mother as deities beside Allah?’” He will say, “Exalted are You! It was not for me to say that to which I have no right. If I had said it, You would have known it. You know what is within myself, and I do not know what is within Yourself. Indeed, it is You who is Knower of the unseen.” – Surah Al-Ma’idah, 5:116.
Saying that God has a son violates Tawheed. Similarly, the Judaic attitude towards God as being a tribal God, personally bound to favour a particular race, and one who has a contract with a particular group of people rather than being above any limitations and weaknesses also violates the Islamic principle of Tawheed. This is beautifully captured fully in the oft-recited chapter of the Noble Qur’an, Surah of Al-Ikhlas.
Say, “He is Allah, (who is) One, Allah, the Eternal Refuge. He neither begets nor is born, nor is there to Him any equivalent.” – Surah Al-Ikhlas, 112:1-4.