THE STATUS OF VIRGIN MARY IN ISLAM
Lately, I had the opportunity to watch an Iranien movie about the Virgin Mary (may God bless her). Well, I am already acquainted with the story of this great woman, but wacthing the film made me pay attention to the great role that the Virgin Mary played in changing the values and beliefs of the ancient Jewish tradition which considered that women should not contribute to the religious rituals of the church, as the priests used to preach that women should not be allowed to, even, enter the church or participate in the religious ceremonies along with men.
The Virgin Mary has been born in a society which considers women as a big burden on their families, and as second class citizens. The following Qur'anic verse about the birth of Mary inveils the plight of women within the ancient Jewish tradition. God says in the chapter Al Iram (the family of Mary and Prophet Jesus (blessings be upon them all):
"...when the wife of Imran said: 'O my Lord, I have vowed to You what is in my womb, to be dedicated to You. So, accept this from me. Indeed, You hear and know all things. Then when she delivered her, she said: 'O my Lord, I have delivered a female, and God knew best what she delivered, and the male is not like the female, and I have named her Mary, and I seek refuge with you for her and for her children from the expelled Satan."
This verse, clearly, inveils the concerns of the wife of Imran over the birth of Mary. She expected her to be a male, because only a man at that time was allowed to grow up as a scholar or a religious leader. Her fears were well founded, as she wanted to insure for her baby a good position within the Jewish society which used to exclude women from scolarship and religious leadership. God fufilled the prayers of the wife of Imran, when He says in the Holy Qur'an:
So her Lord accepted her with good acceptance and caused her to grow in a good manner and put her under the care of Zechariah. Every time Zechariah entered upon her in the prayer chamber, he found with her provision. He said, "O Mary, from where is this [coming] to you?" She said, "It is from Allah. Indeed, Allah provides for whom He wills without account."
At the age of 16 years old, Mary was a very distinguished girl. Every body loved her for her piety, her constant prayers and fasting, and her goodness to the poor people, as she used to give her usual breakfast to the poors and used to support them both on spiritual and material terms.The convent where Mary was raised (under the care of Prophet Zaccharia) managed by Jewish priests. They hated her so much for her purity and the divine compassion and miracles with which she was endowed: she used to heal the sick people through constant prayers to God. The Jewish priests knew that and their hatred was stemmed from their latent jalousy. I recall an interesting scene in which Mary wasconfronted with one of the Jewish priests. He told her, plainly, that he hated her for the pure, and the divinely-cared-for woman she was. He could not grasp how God has chosen a 16 years old child to have a great status among her people, while he who has spent most of his life in the church did not get the same favour. He did not understand that God chooses whom He willls among his faithful people, because his apparent 'faith' on God was false, while all the church at that time cared for was power and dominion over people. In regard to them, Mary was a true religious woman along with Prophet Zaccharia, who defended her and gave her moral support.
Another wonderful scene and a turning point in the life of the Virgin Mary (may God bless her) was the moment she received a revelation from God, ordering her to enter the church! God says in the Holy Qur'an:
And when the angels said, "O Mary, indeed Allah has chosen you and purified you and chosen you above the women of the worlds. O Mary, be devoutly obedient to your Lord and prostrate and bow with those who bow [in prayer]."
This revelation was a clear sign from God to Mary to enter the church and 'bow with those who bow', which did at the amasement and the anger of the Jewish priest. Mary was the first woman to defy traditions and enter the church, where she bowed and prayed to God along with men, as God has inspired her to do. There she got the vilest treatement at the hands of the Jewish priests, who have fiercely beaten her. When Prophet Zaccharia asked her why she trangressed the laws of the church, she told him about the revelation, which he understood and was the first man to believe in her. He stood firm against the Jewish priests to tell that their beating to Mary was a trangression to the laws ofGod. The power scence in the movie along with the Qur'anic verses about Mary and Iram family raised my understanding of her life story from the mere concept of purified woman to the revolutionary figure who had the courage to face the Jewish false traditions and enter the church which was prohibited for women at that time.
It was a feminist movement led by the Virgin Mary and the Prophet Zacchria (by the revelation and support of God) to trangress the false laws of Jewish priesthood, which consider woman as slaves born to serve men. These priests preached false patriarcal beliefs to maintain themselves in power and dominion over the Jewish society which met the despotic laws of the Roman empire. The story of Mary as it was revealed in Qur'an was a unique one, where a 16 years old girl was given the spiritual power to threaten the despotic laws that considered that religious leadership and scolarship is a divine favor which should not encompass women.
Tags: virgin mary; revolutionary woman
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