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Mary (a)

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Mary
Full Name Maryam bt. 'Imran
Epithet Al-Batul, al-'Adhra'
Well-known As Saint Mary
Well-known Relatives 'Imran (father), Hanna (mother), Jesus (a) (son)
Birth It is said that she was born 20 years before the birth of Jesus (a)
Place of Residence Jerusalem
Death/Martyrdom According to some Christian sources, Maryam (a) died in about 35 at the age of 51.
Burial Place Her burial place is not known

Maryam bt. 'Imrān (Arabic: مریم بنت عمران), or Mary (a) was the mother of Jesus (a), whose pregnancy occurred in a miraculous way. The story of her life, from her birth to the birth of her son, Jesus (a), is narrated in Sura Maryam of the Qur'an. In Shiite and Sunni hadiths, Maryam (a) is considered as one of the "four superior women" in the Heaven along with Fatima al-Zahra (a), Khadija bt. Khuwaylid (a), and Asiya (a).

Birth and Lineage

There is no mention of Maryam's (a) life in the Gospel, but other Christian sources as well as the Qur'an and Islamic hadiths have provided information about Maryam's (a) life.

In Christian sources, her father's name is said to be "Joachim", and in the Qur'an and Islamic hadiths, he is mentioned as "'Imran". According to a hadith from Imam al-Baqir (a), 'Imran was an Israelite prophet. According to Ibn Ishaq's report, his lineage goes back to David (a) the prophet. 'Imran died before the birth of Maryam (a). Her mother is said to be Anne, which is transformed in Arabic as "Hanna" (Arabic: حنة) the daughter of Faqud.

In Christian texts, Maryam (a) has been referred to by numerous titles, such as the New Eve, Virgin Mary, Mother of God, the Intercessor, Mother of Divine Providence, the Seat of Wisdom, the Spiritual Vessel, the Mystic Rose, the Ark of the Covenant, the Queen of Angels, and Our Lady of Sorrows. She is also referred to in Islamic texts as "al-'Adhra'" (Chaste) and "al-Batul" which means she was detached from men or because she did not have menstruation.

Maryam (a) is said to be born 20 years before the birth of Jesus (a). However, there is no information about where she was born.

Servant at Jerusalem

The statue of lady Maryam (a) on the high mountain in Harisa, 20 kilometers north of Beirut, next to four churches

According to sources, Hanna, the mother of Maryam (a), was sterile. She could not give birth to any children until the age of 30. She prayed to God and asked Him to give her a child. Her prayer was answered and she became pregnant with Maryam (a). Hanna vowed to God that her child will serve Bayt al-Maqdis. Verses 35 to 37 of Sura Al 'Imran refer to Hanna's vow and its acceptance by God.[1]

After Maryam's (a) birth, her mother took her to the temple and left her with the priests there. They disagreed about who should be in charge of her. They drew lots for selecting the person who could take care of Maryam (a), and Zechariah (a) (Zakariyya) the prophet won the lottery. He was, according to some sources, the husband of Maryam's maternal aunt. The Qur'an has pointed to the story of the lottery.[2] According to al-Maqdisi's report, Zechariah provided her with milk and training, and when she grew up, he selected a place for her in the temple where she worshiped God and served the temple when it was her turn. She worshiped so much that she came to be known among the Israelites as an exemplary worshiper.


Birth of Jesus

The story of the birth of Jesus (a) appears in Sura Al 'Imran of the Qur'an, verses 45-47 and 59, as well as Sura Maryam, verses 16-36. According to the Qur'an, a divine angel appears to Maryam (a) in a human form and gives her the good news of a child:

Similar sentences can be found in the Gospel of Luke:

"27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, "Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you." 29 But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30 The angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end." 34 Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I am a virgin?" 35 The angel said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God." (Luke:1 27-35)

There are different accounts of how long Maryam (a) was pregnant from a few hours to several months. According to Tafsir al-Qummi, Maryam (a) delivered the baby near a dead palm and then she shook the tree. The tree miraculously turned green and bore fruits. Maryam (a) ate a date which had just fallen from the tree. She was ordered by God to be silent when seeing people. When Maryam (a) took Jesus (a) to her people and they began reproaching her, Jesus (a) started to talk, informing them of his prophethood.

Married or Virgin?

There is a disagreement among Christian denominations over whether Maryam married Saint Joseph, the carpenter, who is referred to as Maryam's fiancé, or she remained a virgin forever. Moreover, there is a disagreement over whether she had children other than Jesus as well. In the Gospels of Luke [3] and Mathew [4], there are verses seemingly about Jesus's brothers and sisters. The Gospel of Mark has even mentioned the names of Jesus's brothers and pointed to his sisters.[5]. However, some Christians have rejected the claim that Jesus had any siblings. The Church has officially announced since the 5th century that Maryam (a) always remained a virgin and that she never married Joseph. For Catholic and Orthodox Churches, the Biblical reference to Jesus's (a) siblings is a metaphorical way of referring to his kin.

According to some scholars, Islamic sources also deny the story of Maryam's (a) marriage because she was a permanent servant of the temple, and never left the temple except for urgencies, including giving birth to Jesus (a).

Death or Ascending to the Heaven

The belief that Maryam (a) was physically ascended by God to the Heaven was always held by Christians. It turned into a public belief, and in the 20th century, it was considered as an essential belief of the Catholic Church. The doctrine was also accepted by the Orthodox Church, but it is rejected by the Protestant Church.

According to some Christian sources, Maryam (a) died in about 35 at the age of 51. Her burial place is not known.

A hadith in al-Kafi implies that Maryam (a) died when Jesus (a) was still alive and her corpse was washed by Jesus (a).

Significance

Maryam (a) is of particular significance in both Islam and Christianity.

In Islam

The Qur'an referred to Maryam (a) as a chaste and elite woman and introduced her as a role-model for believers. Quranic verses imply that Maryam (a) spoke with angels on numerous occasions. The Qur'an says that Maryam (a) was raised by God:[6]

According to exegetes of the Qur'an, God provided summers fruits for Maryam (a) during winters and winter fruits during summers.

In Shiite and Sunni hadiths, Maryam (a) is mentioned as one of the four superior women of the Heaven along with Fatima al-Zahra (a), Khadija bt. Khuwaylid (a), and Asiya (a).

In Christianity

Maryam (a) has a crucial role in the Christian Theology. In fact, there is a branch of theology under "Mariology" which is concerned with the character and role of Maryam (a). Her role began to be appreciated since the Middle Ages. She was considered to have a position lower than divinity and higher and more sacred than angels and saints. It was publicly believed at the time that angels and saints were servants of Maryam (a).

Moreover, in some communities, such as the Christians of the Arabian Peninsula, people believed in Trinity and worshiped Maryam (a) along with God and Jesus (a). It is said that the Virgin Mary was worshiped until the 16th century in some cities of Europe. The belief has been condemned in the Qur'an.[7]

What is more, the infallibility of Maryam (a) was discussed in the Middle Ages, and eventually, in 1854, the belief has been announced by the Catholic Church as an infallible doctrine. However, the Orthodox Church denied Maryam's infallibility.

Maryam in Persian Artistic Works

  • The Persian Movie, Maryam-i Muqaddas: the movie was directed by Shahriar Bahrani in 2000. The movie portrays the life of Maryam (a) from her own birth to the birth of Jesus the Christ. It also portrays Maryam's relationship with the prophet Zechariah (a). Over 90 actors and actresses played in this movie. Maryam (a) was played by the actress, Shabnam Gholikhani. Later, the movie was also presented as a TV series in 11 episodes. In the series, religious and social circumstances of the Jews were portrayed along with Maryam's life.
  • Maryam (a) in Persian poems: in many Persian poems, the story of Maryam's miraculous pregnancy as well as her chastity are narrated. The third part (daftar) of Rumi's Mathnawi, the story of the appearance of the Holy Spirit to Maryam (a) in the form of a human being is narrated. There are verses in Diwan-i Shams in which Maryam (a) is referred to.

Poets such as Nizami Ganjavi, 'Attar, Sana'i Ghaznavi, and other Persian poets have referred to Maryam (a) in their poems.

Notes

  1. When the wife of Imran said, 'My Lord, I dedicate to You what is in my belly, in consecration. Accept it from me; indeed You are the All-hearing, the All-knowing.' (35) And when she bore her, she said, 'My Lord, I have borne a female [child]' —and Allah knew better what she had borne— 'and the female is not like the male. I have named her Mary, and I commend her and her offspring to Your care against [the evil of] the outcast Satan.' (36) Thereupon her Lord accepted her with a gracious acceptance, and made her grow up in a worthy fashion, and He charged Zechariah with her care. Whenever Zechariah visited her in the sanctuary, he would find provisions with her. He said, 'O Mary, from where does this come for you?' She said, 'It comes from Allah. Allah provides whomever He wishes without any reckoning.' (37) (Quran 3:35-37)
  2. These accounts are from the Unseen, which We reveal to you, and you were not with them when they were casting lots [to see] which of them would take charge of Mary's care, nor were you with them when they were contending. (Quran 3:44)
  3. 19 Then his mother and his brothers came to him, but they could not reach him because of the crowd. 20 And he was told, "Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you."(Luke:8 19-20)
  4. 46 While he was still speaking to the crowds, his mother and his brothers were standing outside, wanting to speak to him. 47 Someone told him, "Look, your mother and your brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you."(Mathew:12 46-47)
  5. 3 Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?" And they took offense at him (Mark:6 3)
  6. Thereupon her Lord accepted her with a gracious acceptance, and made her grow up in a worthy fashion, and He charged Zechariah with her care. Whenever Zechariah visited her in the sanctuary, he would find provisions with her. He said, ‘O Mary, from where does this come for you?’ She said, ‘It comes from Allah. Allah provides whomever He wishes without any reckoning.’(Qur'an 3:37)
  7. And when Allah will say, 'O Jesus son of Mary! Was it you who said to the people, "Take me and my mother for gods besides Allah"?' He will say, 'Immaculate are You! It does not behoove me to say what I have no right to [say]. Had I said it, You would certainly have known it: You know whatever is in my self, and I do not know what is in Your Self. Indeed You are knower of all that is Unseen. (116) I did not say to them [anything] except what You had commanded me [to say]: "Worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord." And I was a witness to them so long as I was among them. But when You had taken me away, You Yourself were watchful over them, and You are witness to all things. (117) If You punish them, they are indeed Your creatures; but if You forgive them, You are indeed the All-mighty, the All-wise.' (118) (Quran 5:116-118)

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