Over the Christmas season there were lots of discussions about how the beliefs about Jesus (peace be upon him) differ between Christianity and Islam. That is indeed a very important discussion and one that needs to happen. However, through that sometimes we miss out on what lessons the life of Jesus (peace be upon him) can teach us.
This series will look at Jesus (peace be upon him) and the various people in his life. More importantly, Jesus (peace be upon him) was sent to a believing society that was losing its way. Does that sound anything like the society you’re living in today?
The mother of Jesus, Mary (peace be upon them both) is a very central character in the Quran. She is the only woman whose name is explicitly mentioned in the Quran. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said that she was among the four greatest women to have ever walked the face of this earth.
The Quran actually says (as we will see later in this article) that she was chosen over all the women of this world. She is also, importantly, a single mother and raised one of the five greatest prophets on earth. Therefore the lessons we can take from her are timeless and countless. For today, however, we will try to stick to only ten.
The angels said to Mary: ‘Mary, God has chosen you and made you pure: He has truly chosen you above all women. Mary, be devout to your Lord, prostrate yourself in worship, bow down with those who bow.’ [Quran 3:42-43]
Allah has chosen, and the chosen should devote themselves to Him.
A minority of people on earth are Muslim (about a fifth). Among them an even smaller minority are trying to practice their faith and trying to come close to Allah. If you are reading this article you are part of that very small fraction, the fraction of the world population who has been directed by Allah to this website.
Allah has chosen you. Just like Maryam (peace be upon her) was chosen, Allah has chosen you. And because of the immense favour of Allah upon you, it is very important that you devote yourself to the worship of Allah. Very few people on earth are given the gift of being able to have a relationship with Allah. You and I have been blessed with it. How will we use this gift?
Greatness is based on our relationship with Allah. Our relationship with Allah is based on salah.
It is due to her great devotion in worship that Mary (peace be upon her) was chosen and granted such a special place in the Quran. However, the most important devotion that Allah mentions in the Quran is an order from Him: Prostrate yourself in worship, bow down with those who bow.
Our prayers are the most important worship in our lives. It is the first thing that we will be questioned about on the Day of Judgement. It was the last thing that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) ordered before he passed away. It has been mentioned nearly 700 times in the Quran. If we look at the lives of the prophets, all of them are distinguished for their prayers. Greatness lies in the greatness of our prayers.
Allah breaks stereotypes.
The greatest woman on earth was a single mother. Allah breaks lots of the stereotypes we have in our societies in the Quran. The Queen of Sheba was a lady who was in authority and yet praised in the Quran. Most of the prophets were shepherds, a profession we often look down upon.
Worship during ease, helps us during hardship.
This ayah talks about Allah’s orders to Mary (peace be upon her) when she was still young. Allah knows of the difficulties that will come in her life and orders her to establish a relationship with Allah.
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, ‘Remember Allah in times of ease, and He will remember you in times of difficulty.’ [Narrated by Tirmidhi].
Our acts of worship often ease up during times of ease. However, it is our relationship with Allah during times of ease that ensure that we are in good stead when hardships may come along.
We sent Our Spirit to appear before her in the form of a perfected man. She said, ‘I seek the Lord of Mercy’s protection against you: if you have any fear of Him [do not approach]!’ but he said, ‘I am but a Messenger from your Lord, [come] to announce to you the gift of a pure son.’ Quran [19:18-19]
Remember Allah in adversity.
When the angel appeared to Mary, she did not know it was an angel. She thought it was an evil person who had come to hurt her. And yet in that time she remembered Allah.
Among the characteristics of the righteous is that they remember Allah immediately in times of difficulty and in ease. In Surah Baqarah, Allah mentions that immediately in the aftermath of difficulty they say, inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raajioon (most certainly we belong to Allah and most certainly to Him is our return).
Remind people of Allah’s mercy, even if they are sinning.
Among the great disasters in our dawah is that we have become an ummah that seems to jump on the bandwagon of sending people to hell. Yet the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, Give good news and do not repulse. Make things easy and do not make things difficult . . . [Narrated by Abu Dawud]
In the eyes of Mary (peace be upon her) the angel in the form of a man was at first someone who had come to harass her. And yet, even in such a delicate situation, she reminded him of Allah’s Mercy. She mentioned the mercy of Allah and not His punishment.
She withdrew to a distant place and, when the pains of childbirth drove her to [cling to] the trunk of a palm tree, she exclaimed, ‘I wish I had been dead and forgotten long before all this!’ but a voice cried to her from below, ‘Do not worry: your Lord has provided a stream at your feet and, if you shake the trunk of the palm tree towards you, it will deliver fresh ripe dates for you, so eat, drink, be glad, and say to anyone you may see: “I have vowed to the Lord of Mercy to abstain from conversation, and I will not talk to anyone today.”’ [Quran 19:22-26]
Whatever Allah gives, we accept even if it is difficult.
Mary (peace be upon her) was made pregnant by Allah’s will. It was something that was difficult for her. She had never slept with a man, and she was not married. This would bring unnecessary scrutiny and slander. Moreover, she was alone during the really difficult time of childbirth. And yet, even though she even felt suicidal, she did not for once question the decree of Allah. She knew that Allah has decided and no matter how difficult it looks now, there has to be some goodness in it
Extreme pain can drive one to feel suicidal— that doesn’t take away from their piety.
Mary (peace be upon her) had extreme pain and that made her feel as if it would have been better for her to have never existed. However, she did not question Allah’s decree, nor did she blame Allah. All she said was that it would have been easier if she had died before that. But she still persevered. Muslims are forgiven for their thoughts. It is their actions for whcih they’ll be questioned.
With hardship comes relief.
Despite the immense pain, Allah made things easy. She had a child, and Allah also provided her a flowing stream in the middle of the desert and dates from a date palm tree. There will be times of hardship, but Allah will bring ease.
Make the effort, give your trust, and see Allah’s miracles.
Allah asked Mary (peace be upon her) to shake a date palm tree. A healthy sportsman will struggle to move a date tree. Imagine how difficult it must have been for a woman in labour! And yet Allah asks her to do it.
Then miraculously Allah brings for her dates and provides for her a stream. Our actions are not really of much use. It is Allah who brings the results. Our job is to do what He orders even if we do not understand His wisdom. And if we obey in times of darkness, He will shine His light from places we never imagined.
Make your effort and trust in Allah. Let Him do the job and show you the miracles.
by Raiiq Ridwan