Mary is one of the outstanding personalities and a distinguished woman in the Abrahamic religions. In Islam, Mary is considered as one of the four celestial women of Paradise, an exemplary role model and a leader of the women of the universe
In the Quran, no woman has been mentioned by her proper name except Mary, and interestingly, her name occurs 34 times in the Quran [i]. Also, a chapter of the Quran was named after her.
A Miraculous Birth
Mary was a daughter of Imran and Hannah. Imran, a progeny of Solomon son of David, was one of the leading religious scholars of his time. According to the reports, following a prayer request of Hannah for a child, they were blessed at old age with a baby girl named Mary. However, Imran died before the birth of Mary.
Meanwhile, according to a narration , it was said that Imran had informed his wife of a son who by Allah’s permission could heal the blind and raise the dead to life. Thus, Hannah has vowed to devote the child to the service of the Lord in the Sanctuary.
The Quran says:
“When the wife of Imran said, ‘My Lord, I dedicate to You in consecration what is in my belly. Accept it from me; indeed You are the All-hearing, the All-knowing” (3: 35)
Meanwhile, since the conceived child was a girl, who could not be allowed to serve in the sanctuary due to her weakness and menses, Hannah was amazed, and she exclaimed bashfully:
“When she bore her, she said, ‘My Lord, I have borne a female [child]’—and Allah knew better what she had borne, and the male [child she expected] was no match for the female [child she had borne] —‘and I have named her Mary…” (3: 36)
However, contrary to her expectation, Allah graciously accepted her vow by permitting her daughter; Mary to serve the Lord in the Sanctuary:
“Thereupon her Lord accepted her with a gracious acceptance, and made her grow up in a worthy fashion…” (3: 37)
After that, Hannah took her baby to the Sanctuary, and she handed her over to the custodians of the House of God while she returned home.
Guardianship of Mary
There were disputes among the custodians of the Sanctuary about taking charge of the guardianship of Mary. Every one of them wished to take the responsibility, but Zakariyya told them he was more worthy of her since her aunt was his wife.
They later agreed on casting a lot by throwing their pens with which they wrote the Torah in water to decide the guardianship of Mary. In line with a divine will, only the Zakariyya’s pen surfaced over the water while the remaining ones submerged. Thus, Zakariyyah finally took charge of the guardianship of Mary.
“…and He charged Zechariah with her care…” (3: 37)
When Mary attained puberty, a separate room was built for her in the temple so that she may have a maximum concentration on her devotions. Thus, none was allowed to see her or talk with her except Zakariyya, who made provisions for her needs. According to the Quranic report, every time Zakariyya entered her sanctuary to see her, he found some food in her room.
“…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.” (3: 37)
A Divine Prophecy
One day, the Gabriel in the guise of a handsome man [ii] appeared to Mary but she was frightened, and she sought refuge from Allah against him. But he responded that he was a messenger of her Lord to give her a glad tiding of a pure boy.
“…We sent to her Our Spirit, and he became incarnate for her as a well-proportioned human. She said, ‘I seek the protection of the All-beneficent from you, should you be Godwary! He said, ‘I am only a messenger of your Lord that I may give you a pure son.” (19: 17-19)
However, Mary enquired on the possibility of having a child while not being touched by any man. The Gabriel told her that creating a child out of a virgin and without a father is not difficult for God [iii]. After that, Mary by the decree of Allah became pregnant of Jesus, who shall be a sign for the humankind and a mercy to the world. In order to avoid people’s accusations, Mary retreated to a remote place where no one could see her.
However, at the time of childbirth, apart from loneliness, she went through severe pains to such an extent that she aspired for death [iv]. Then, a voice called unto her to console her not to grieve, and she was commanded by Allah to eat from the fresh dates, drink from the spring water and to refresh her eyes by the newly born baby [v].
In addition, Mary was henceforth commanded by Allah to refrain from talking to people for a particular time, but her child would be allowed to speak on her behalf and defend her chastity. Finally, Mary brought her miraculous baby to her people while carrying him in her arms. Some of them accused her of adultery [vi], but in line with divine command, she remained silent while pointing to her new baby.
Thus, Jesus while in his cradle testified to the divinity of Allah, his servitude to Him and finally attested to the chastity of her mother [vii].
In Islam, Mary is held in high esteem, and she acquired an elevated status among the women of the world. She was considered a perfect personality for emulation by the women of the world.
However, Islam in a very strong term repudiates the belief in the divinity of Mary or her being considered a mother of God. She is indeed a chosen and purified servant of God, and she was chosen above the women of the world.
[ii] (19: 17)
[iii] (19: 20-21)
[iv] (19: 23)
[v] (19: 24-26)
[vi] (19: 27-28)
[vii] (19: 30-33)
 Majlisi, Muhammad-Baqir, “Bihar-ul-'Anwar” (Beirut Edition), Vol. 14, P. 203, Hadith 15.