Narrated `Ali (may Allah be pleased with him):
I heard the Prophetﷺ saying, “Mary, the daughter of `Imran, was the best among the women (of the world of her time) and Khadija is the best amongst the women. (of this nation).
(Reported by Imam Bukhari)
As our Christian friends spend December celebrating Christmas, we often hear them speaking about the Virgin Mary. Mary (peace be upon her), or Maryam a.s., was a devout woman whom Muslims and Christians respect.
Maryam’s status has been elevated by Allah s.w.t, and the Quran dedicates an entire chapter to her- Surah Maryam, the 19th chapter of the noble book. What are some of her traits that made her “the best among the women of her time” and how can we embody them?
Al Aqsa Mosque in Palestine.
A Mother’s Promise.
When Maryam’s mother was pregnant with her, she vowed to dedicate the baby to the temple (the place of worship back then). Of course Umm Maryam (mother of Maryam) and her husband, Imran, had no idea that the baby was going to be a girl- and only boys were allowed to serve in the temple.
When she delivered, she said, “My Lord! I have given birth to a girl,”—and Allah fully knew what she had delivered—“and the male is not like the female. I have named her Mary, and I seek Your protection for her and her offspring from Satan, the accursed.”
(Surah Ali ‘Imran: verse 36)
Maryam was conceived at a time when her mother was already elderly. Her commitment to offer the child in the service of God was out of her deep sense of gratitude.
By consecrating her only offspring to the temple, Umm Maryam was giving up her right to be cared for by her child. She held to her vow and did not waiver even though the baby was a girl. Her courage to go against the status quo at that time was motivated by her piety in God.
Remember the time when we said, “Oh, I will donate to a charitable cause if I get the job I applied for,” or “I’ll just donate next month because I need the money this month for something else”.
Take a step back, reflect upon Umm Maryam’s vow and go forth to fulfil our unmet promises not just to God, but those around us.
فَتَقَبَّلَهَا رَبُّهَا بِقَبُولٍ حَسَنٍ وَأَنۢبَتَهَا نَبَاتًا حَسَنًا وَكَفَّلَهَا زَكَرِيَّا ۖ كُلَّمَا دَخَلَ عَلَيْهَا زَكَرِيَّا ٱلْمِحْرَابَ وَجَدَ عِندَهَا رِزْقًا ۖ قَالَ يَـٰمَرْيَمُ أَنَّىٰ لَكِ هَـٰذَا ۖ قَالَتْ هُوَ مِنْ عِندِ ٱللهِ ۖ إِنَّ ٱللهَ يَرْزُقُ مَن يَشَآءُ بِغَيْرِ حِسَابٍ ٣٧
So her Lord accepted her graciously and blessed her with a pleasant upbringing—entrusting her to the care of Zachariah. Whenever Zachariah visited her in the sanctuary, he found her supplied with provisions. He exclaimed, “O Mary! Where did this come from?” She replied, “It is from Allah. Surely Allah provides for whoever He wills without limit.”
(Surah Al-Imran: verse 37)
Some sources believe that this room in Masjid Al Aqsa could have been the chamber assigned to Maryam a.s.
(Source: Islamic Landmarks.com)
After Maryam’s birth, Prophet Zakariya a.s. (her uncle) was assigned as her guardian in the temple. He would visit her in her mihrab (sanctuary) and find fruits there – these weren’t food that he brought. Furthermore, the fruits were those that were not in season.
When he asked her, she confidently replied that they were from Allah s.w.t. Clearly, Maryam a.s. was a woman who knew that Allah is The Provider.
How many of us worry that we won’t have enough for ourselves if we give “too much” to others? Or perhaps grumble when we did not get enough of a pay raise to beat the inflation, overlooking the fact that our sustenance or rizq is from Ar Razzaq (The Sustainer).
Maryam a.s. spent her time devoutly worshipping Allah s.w.t. Seeing the provisions that Allah s.w.t sent her, even Prophet Zakariya knew that she was indeed a special woman who was close to her Lord.
Indeed, the Quran mentions her elevated status because of her devotion and steadfastness.
وَمَرْيَمَ ٱبْنَتَ عِمْرَٰنَ ٱلَّتِىٓ أَحْصَنَتْ فَرْجَهَا فَنَفَخْنَا فِيهِ مِن رُّوحِنَا وَصَدَّقَتْ بِكَلِمَـٰتِ رَبِّهَا وَكُتُبِهِۦ وَكَانَتْ مِنَ ٱلْقَـٰنِتِينَ ١٢
˹There is˺ also ˹the example of˺ Mary, the daughter of ’Imran, who guarded her chastity, so We breathed into her ˹womb˺ through Our angel ˹Gabriel˺. She testified to the words of her Lord and His Scriptures, and was one of the ˹sincerely˺ devout.
(Surah At Tahrim, verse 12)
While we may not be able to reach her high status, how can we boost our acts of worship to strive to attain closeness to Allah s.w.t? We, too, can develop closeness to Allah s.w.t by spending time in remembrance of Allah, spreading mercy to others, and having an akhirah-focused mindset.
Trust in Allah.
Later, when angel Jibril (Gabriel) met her in her mihrab (the sanctuary within the temple where Maryam spent worshiping) to bring the news that she would be pregnant with a son, Maryam was surprised for she was not married and had guarded her modesty fiercely.
قَالَتْ أَنَّىٰ يَكُونُ لِى غُلَـٰمٌ وَلَمْ يَمْسَسْنِى بَشَرٌ وَلَمْ أَكُ بَغِيًّا ٢٠
She wondered, “How can I have a son when no man has ever touched me, nor am I unchaste?”
قَالَ كَذَٰلِكِ قَالَ رَبُّكِ هُوَ عَلَىَّ هَيِّنٌ ۖ وَلِنَجْعَلَهُۥٓ ءَايَةً لِّلنَّاسِ وَرَحْمَةً مِّنَّا ۚ وَكَانَ أَمْرًا مَّقْضِيًّا ٢١
He replied, “So will it be! Your Lord says, ‘It is easy for Me. And so will We make him a sign for humanity and a mercy from Us.’ It is a matter ˹already˺ decreed.”
(Surah Maryam, verses 20 & 21)
Indeed, nothing is impossible or difficult for Allah s.w.t.
With that resounding trust in Allah, Maryam withdrew herself from the temple- away from the prying eyes of the people.
It wasn’t easy for her as she faced labor- alone. In fact, her words are recorded in the Quran:
فَأَجَآءَهَا ٱلْمَخَاضُ إِلَىٰ جِذْعِ ٱلنَّخْلَةِ قَالَتْ يَـٰلَيْتَنِى مِتُّ قَبْلَ هَـٰذَا وَكُنتُ نَسْيًا مَّنسِيًّا ٢٣
فَنَادَىٰهَا مِن تَحْتِهَآ أَلَّا تَحْزَنِى قَدْ جَعَلَ رَبُّكِ تَحْتَكِ سَرِيًّا ٢٤
وَهُزِّىٓ إِلَيْكِ بِجِذْعِ ٱلنَّخْلَةِ تُسَـٰقِطْ عَلَيْكِ رُطَبًا جَنِيًّا ٢٥
Then the pains of labour drove her to the trunk of a palm tree. She cried, “Alas! I wish I had died before this, and was a thing long forgotten!” So a voice reassured her from below her, “Do not grieve! Your Lord has provided a stream at your feet. And shake the trunk of this palm tree towards you, it will drop fresh, ripe dates upon you.
(Surah Maryam: verses 23- 26)
There are scholars that explained that the tree was dead, yet fresh dates fell from it. And in Allah s.w.t telling her to shake that tree, He was reminding her (and us) that He is the One who Gives. When she was told to shake the palm tree, she didn’t protest. Rather, she heeded the command, with unwavering certainty that Allah s.w.t will assist her.
What is the palm tree that we need to shake in our lives in order to receive “the fruits” from Allah s.w.t?
The challenges that we are presented with in life can be viewed as opportunities to get closer to Allah. Supplication and taking action are part of our efforts- similar to Maryam a.s. shaking the palm tree. However, we leave it to Allah to determine the outcome and the timing of it.
In Sha Allah, we too can cement our trust in Allah, and step into our days with confidence that Allah s.w.t is always by our side.
This article was written by Suryani Omar, the founder of Deen Hubb, a boutique Islamic bookstore in United States.