Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Mary in the Islamic Perspective, Part II

” Additional Proof for Jesus’ Superiority over Muhammad”

Continues from Part I

This leads us to another observation. The Qur’an says that the mother of Jesus Christ is the most exalted and the greatest of all women:

Lo! Allah preferred Adam and Noah and the Family of Abraham and the Family of 'Imran above (all His) creatures. They were descendants one of another. Allah is Hearer, Knower. (Remember) when the wife of 'Imran said: My Lord! I have vowed unto Thee that which is in my belly as a consecrated (offering). Accept it from me. Lo! Thou, only Thou, art the Hearer, the Knower! And when she was delivered she said: My Lord! Lo! I am delivered of a female - Allah knew best of what she was delivered - the male is not as the female; and lo! I have named her Mary, and lo! I crave Thy protection for her and for her offspring from Satan the outcast. S. 3:33-36 Pickthall

Behold! the angels said: "O Mary! God hath chosen thee and purified thee - chosen thee above the women of all nations. S. 3:42 Y. Ali

The family of Imran whom Allah chose above all creatures is supposed to be the family of Jesus, specifically his mother’s parents. The Qur’an even identifies Mary as Imran’s daughter:

And Mary the daughter of 'Imran, who guarded her chastity; and We breathed into (her body) of Our spirit; and she testified to the truth of the words of her Lord and of His Revelations, and was one of the devout (servants). S. 66:12 Y. Ali

Hence, the Qur’an admits that Mary is the greatest woman of all time and that Allah exalted her family above all of his creation! In fact, one narration expressly states that Mary was the best woman of her time:

Narrated 'Ali: The Prophet said, "The best of the world's women is Mary (at her lifetime), and the best of the world's women is Khadija (at her lifetime)." (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 5, Book 58, Number 163)

The main problem with the above narrative is that the Qur’an doesn’t simply say that Mary was the best of her time but that she was preferred and chosen above all women, period.

As if this weren’t amazing enough Mary will even be the most prominent woman in paradise:

Narrated Umm Salamah: In the year of the Conquest Allah's messenger (peace be upon him) called Fatimah and spoke privately to her and she wept; he then spoke to her and she laughed. When Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him) died she asked her about her weeping and her laughing and she replied, "Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him) informed me that he was going to die, so I wept; he then informed me that, with the exception of Mary, daughter of Imran, I should be the chief lady among the inhabitants of Paradise, so I laughed." Tirmidhi transmitted it. (Tirmidhi Hadith, Number 1646; taken from the ALIM CD-Rom version)

Can there be any doubt that Islam teaches that not only is Mary the greatest woman of this world but that she is also the greatest in the world to come? As one Muslimah (female Muslim) put it:

the clarification of the second part of the verse which states that God ‘hath preferred thee above the women of all nations’, aroused considerable discussion amongst the commentators. Qushayri holds that Mary is preferred over all the women of her time. But, while Qurtubi includes a mention of this opinion in his exegesis, attributing it to al-Hasan and Ibn Jurayj, he declares his own view to be that Mary is preferred over all women until the Day of the Sounding of the Last Trumpet, saying that this is the obvious understanding of the passage, and that it is the view of Zajjaj and others. Ibn Kathir cites the statement of Ibn Abi Hatim that in a similar context in 21:91, the phrase al-‘alamin includes both the world of the jinn and that of the people.

The reasons for this seem to be based on specific hadiths, the first of which is the following:
Ali narrated that he heard the Prophet say: ‘The best of the women of her time was Mary the daughter of ‘Imran, and the best of the women of her time is Khadija.’ (Bukhari; Muslim; Dhahabi)

Tabari’s personal assessment of this matter is found in his gloss on 3:43: ‘Be obedient, worship and thank God for blessing, purifying and cleansing you and for preferring you to all the other women of your time.’ However, he includes two identical versions of the following hadith with different chains of authority:
Ammar ibn Sa‘d said: ‘The Messenger of God said: "Khadija was preferred over the women of my community [umma] as Mary was preferred over the women of all nations".’ (Tabarani)

Perhaps there is a reluctance on the part of some of the commentators to relinquish the supreme position to one of another community, but the above hadith and further hadiths indicate that the correct understanding of this verse is that Mary is preferred above all the women of all times:
‘A’isha asked Fatima: ‘Did I see [you truly] when you leaned over the Messenger of God and cried; then you leaned over him and you laughed?’ She said: ‘He informed me that he would die from his illness, so I cried; then he informed me that I would precede the other members of his family in being reunited with him, and he said, "You are the chief lady [sayyida] of Paradise, with the exception of Mary the daughter of Imran."’ (Bukhari; Hakim; Dhahabi)

Dhahabi and Ibn Kathir include another version of this hadith which further affirms the priority of Mary:

Al-Darawardi with his chain of authorities [isnad] said, on the authority of Ibn ‘Abbas, ‘The Messenger of God said: "The chief lady of the women of Paradise after Mary is Fatima, and Khadija, and the wife of Pharaoh, Asiya".’ (Dhahabi; Ibn ‘Asakir)

In the version of Ibn ‘Asakir, instead of the copula waw (‘and’), Ibn ‘Abbas is quoted as having said thumma (implying sequence: then Khadija, then Asiya), upon which Ibn Kathir concludes that Mary’s status as the most preferred of Paradise is sahih al-‘ayn (the soundest choice). He thus ranks the four as follows: firstly, Mary the daughter of ‘Imran, secondly Fatima, thirdly, Khadija and fourthly Asiya. Ibn Kathir then concedes that ‘Indeed, God purified and preferred Mary above the women of her time, and it is possible that her preference was above all women.’ … the Qur’anic text and numerous sound hadiths indicate that the four most outstanding women are Mary, then Khadija, Fatima and Asiya, although not necessarily in that order. Moreover, Mary is the most outstanding woman of all nations of all times and places, as certified by the Qur’an itself–and she and Asiya are the only two women named in the Qur’an–while Khadija and Fatima showed excellence above all women of their time and will be rewarded as such in Paradise. (Aliah Schleifer, Mary The Blessed Virgin of Islam [Fons Vitae January 1, 1997], Chapter Four: The Pure, the Best of Women, pp. 62-65)


… Ibn al-Qayyim concludes his argument with the following statement:

And in the citing of Mary as an example for the believers, there is also another point, which is that from God’s perspective there is no blemish on her. God’s enemies accused her of fornication, attributing to her that which God had liberated her from, by His creating her to be the supreme example of the most righteous [al-siddiqa al-kubra], the most preferred [al-mustafa] of the women of all nations

Mary’s preference over other outstanding women appears in a number of hadiths, some of which have already been cited. It also appears in the context of a conversation with the Prophet’s companion Ibn Safwan, in which ‘A’isha extols Mary and cites verses which were revealed about her, alluding to the episode of the false accusation… Finally, the following hadith sheds further light on Mary’s supreme position. It warns believers not to neglect the importance of four women. Mary, being the first mentioned, is by implication given the highest status:

Anas bin Malik said: The Prophet said, ‘Reckon with the outstanding women of all nations: Mary, and Khadija, and Asiya the daughter of Muzahim, and Fatima the daughter of Muhammad
.’ (Tirmidhi and Dhahabi)

In response to this hadith and Qur’an 3:42, Razi deduces:

that these four women are preferred above other women, while the verse indicates that Mary is preferred above all women. And statements of those who limit this preference for her to the world of her time only have missed the obvious meaning [of the passage].

Qurtubi summarises his assessment of this aspect of Mary’s characteristics in similar terms: ‘The obvious sense of the Qur’an and hadith DEMANDS the conclusion that Mary is the most preferred woman of all the world, from Eve to the last woman on earth at the Final Hour.’ … Thus, the evidence of the Qur’an and hadith indicates that while Khadija or Fatima may be considered the best of women of her time, Mary, peace be upon her, is the best woman of all times. She is physically and spiritually pure, and conclusively singled out as a sign for all peoples (21:91)… (Ibid., pp. 70-72)

To further support that Mary is vastly superior to Muhammad’s wife and daughter it is important to note that Mary is the only woman mentioned by name in the Muslim scripture and even has an entire chapter named in her honour (Surat al-Maryam [Q. 19], "Chapter of Mary"), whereas neither Khadija nor Fatima is ever explicitly mentioned in the entire Qur’an!

Moreover, Islamic traditions state that Allah answered the prayer of Jesus’ grandmother, as recorded in Q. 3:36, by making him and his mother the only individuals whom Satan was unable to touch upon their births:

Narrated Said bin Al-Musaiyab: Abu Huraira said, "I heard Allah's Apostle saying, ‘There is none born among the off-spring of Adam, but Satan touches it. A child therefore, cries loudly at the time of birth because of the touch of Satan, EXCEPT MARY AND HER CHILD.’" Then Abu Huraira recited: "And I seek refuge with You for her and for her offspring from the outcast Satan" (3.36) (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 55, Number 641)

Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet said, "When any human being is born. Satan touches him at both sides of the body with his two fingers, except Jesus, the son of Mary, whom Satan tried to touch but failed, for he touched the placenta-cover instead." (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 54, Number 506)

And when she gave birth to her, a girl, and she had been hoping for a boy, since only males were consecrated to the service of God, she said, apologetically, 'O, Lord, I have given birth to a female' - and God knew very well what she had given birth to: a parenthetical statement constituting God's speech (a variant reading [for wada'at, 'she gave birth', has wada'tu, 'I gave birth' [making these Hanna's words, sc. 'and God knows very well what I have given birth to']); the male, that she had asked for, is not as the female, that was bestowed upon her, because he is designed for the service [of God], while she would not be suitable on account of her lesser physical ability, her private parts, the effects of menstruation on her, and so on. 'And I have named her Mary, and commend her to you with her seed, her children, to protect them from the accursed, the outcast, Satan'. In a hadith [it is stated]: 'Every new-born is touched by Satan and begins [life] by crying, except for Mary and her son', as reported by the two Shaykhs [Bukhari and Muslim]. (Tafsir al-Jalalayn; source)

The above comments presuppose that Muhammad, his wives, as well as his daughters were all pricked by Satan at their births. Thus, Allah didn’t protect Muhammad or his family from the harm of Satan whereas he did so for Mary and her glorious Son!

The foregoing reports also presuppose that Mary and Jesus are the only sinless persons in Islam, a point supported by Muslim scholar Qatadah (as quoted by Muslim historian and commentator al-Tabari):

Jesus and his mother did not commit any of the sins which the rest of the children of Adam commit. (Mahmoud M. Ayoub, The Qur’an and Its Interpreters: The House of Imran [State University of New York Press (SUNY), Albany 1992], Volume II, p. 94)

And in the Memoriam that is found to Aliah Schleifer in her work, Mary The Blessed Virgin of Islam, her colleague Gray Henry says that:

Very few Christians have any idea of the importance of the Virgin Mary in Islam, and that Islamic doctrine maintains that Jesus and Mary are the only two in all eternity to have been born without sin and that Mary is considered the purest woman in all creation. She is considered to be an example for both men and women. (Ibid., p. 5)

Finally, Muhammad is said to have believed that Mary was one of the very few women that attained perfection:

Narrated Abu Musa Al Ashari:

The Prophet said, "Many men reached perfection but none among the women reached perfection except Mary, the daughter of ‘Imran, and Asia, Pharaoh’s wife. And the superiority of 'Aisha to other women is like the superiority of Tharid to other kinds of food." (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 7, Book 65, Number 329)

With the foregoing in perspective, one is left wondering what it is about Mary that makes her the most exalted of all women. Why is she the greatest woman who ever lived and will ever live? Why is she the only woman mentioned by name in the Muslim scripture and the only one with an entire chapter named after her? Why isn’t Muhammad’s mother given that honour seeing that Muslims claim that their prophet is the greatest creature of Allah?

Since the Qur’an fails to provide the answer we must therefore turn to the Bible for this important information:

"In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, ‘Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.’ Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.’ ‘How will this be,’ Mary asked the angel, ‘since I am a virgin?’ The angel answered, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.’ ‘I am the Lord's servant,’ Mary answered. ‘May it be to me as you have said.’ Then the angel left her. At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah's home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!’ And Mary said: ‘My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me— holy is his name.’" Luke 1:26-49

The answer to the question of why Mary is so highly exalted is because she was favored by God to give birth to his holy and pure Son, the Lord Jesus. To put it another way, it is her Son who makes her the greatest woman of all time since he happens to be the Lord from heaven who is superior to every created thing.

Moreover, the Holy Bible presents Mary as a woman of faith (cf. Luke 1:38, 45), which means that Jesus (in his human existence) was blessed by having such a god-fearing and pious mother (and adoptive father Joseph whom the Bible calls a righteous man [cf. Matthew 1:19]), over against Muhammad whose pagan father died before his birth, who had a pagan mother, who gave him away to a wet-nurse for a long time, and who later grew up as an orphan among other pagan family members.

So Jesus was able to benefit/bless his parents, while Muhammad very clearly and explicitly was of no benefit to his parents who are now in hell according to the Islamic sources.

And contrary to the assertions made by G.F. Haddad and others regarding Muhammad’s status, the Holy Bible says that Jesus is the beloved of God, the Son whom the Father has loved even before creation:

"After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus. Peter said to Jesus, ‘Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!’" Matthew 17:1-5

"Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world." John 17:24

Jesus, not Muhammad, is the believers’ Intercessor and Mediator:

"What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us." Romans 8:31-34

"For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men—the testimony given in its proper time." 1 Timothy 2:5-6

"My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world." 1 John 2:1-2

"Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. Such a high priest meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself. For the law appoints as high priests men who are weak; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever." Hebrews 7:23-28

Jesus is also the reason why creation exists since the Father created everything through the Son and for the glory of the Son. In other words, God appointed Christ to be the Agent and Redeemer of creation so that he could hold complete supremacy and sovereignty over all created things, resulting in the Son being honoured and worshiped by every creature:

"He had one left to send, a son, whom he loved. He sent him last of all, saying, ‘They will respect my son.' But the tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let's kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’" Mark 12:6-7

"Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honour the Son just as they honour the Father. He who does not honour the Son does not honour the Father, who sent him." John 5:22-23

"For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and FOR him. He is before all things, and IN HIM all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy." Colossians 1:13-18

"In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs. For to which of the angels did God ever say, ‘You are my Son; today I have become your Father’? Or again, ‘I will be his Father, and he will be my Son’? And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says, ‘Let all God's angels worship him.’" Hebrews 1:1-6

Amazingly, as was noted in the beginning, even the Qur’an agrees with the Holy Bible regarding Jesus holding supremacy over all creation, including Muhammad:’an/Contra/jesus_unlike_adam.html

Thus, Jesus isn’t the "Best of Creation," but infinitely greater than all of creation since he is the eternal Creator and sovereign Lord of all beings! Is it any wonder, then, that Mary is the greatest woman God created in light of her being the mother of God’s eternally beloved Son, the One who is infinitely superior to all created things? And doesn’t this again show that either Muhammad or the author of the Qur’an "borrowed" Christian theology without realizing the serious implications that this would have on refuting the Islamic claim that Jesus was only a human being?

Unless noted otherwise all Qur’anic verses taken from the Arthur J. Arberry version.

(1) Some Muslims may claim that the parents of Muhammad are not in hell on the grounds that the Qur’an says that Allah will never punish a people to whom no messenger has been sent:

Whosoever is guided, is only guided to his own gain, and whosoever goes astray, it is only to his own loss; no soul laden bears the load of another. We never chastise, until We send forth a Messenger. S. 17:15

Since Muhammad’s parents died before a messenger was sent to them Allah will therefore pardon them.

There are two main problems with this argument. First, this position contradicts the narrations which we cited, reports that are deemed authentic by Muslim scholars, which unabashedly teach that the parents of Muhammad are in hell. Muslims, therefore, are faced with a contradiction between the Qur’an and the so-called sound narratives.

Secondly, Muslims believe that Muhammad was a descendant of Ishmael and that the latter supposedly settled in Mecca where he and his father built the Ka’ba (cf. Q. 2:125-129).

The Qur’an itself asserts that Ishmael was one of the inspired prophets who received a book and who exhorted his people to observe prayers and alms-giving:

We have revealed to thee as We revealed to Noah, and the Prophets after him, and We revealed to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, Jesus and Job, Jonah and Aaron and Solomon, and We gave to David Psalms, S. 4:163

And We gave to him Isaac and Jacob -- each one We guided, And Noah We guided before; and of his seed David and Solomon, Job and Joseph, Moses and Aaron -- even so We recompense the good-doers -- Zachariah and John, Jesus and Elias; each was of the righteous; Ishmael and Elisha, Jonah and Lot-each one We preferred above all beings; and of their fathers, and of their seed, and of their brethren; and We elected them, and We guided them to a straight path. That is God's guidance; He guides by it whom He will of His servants; had they been idolaters, it would have failed them, the things they did. Those are they to whom We gave the Book, the Judgment, the Prophethood; so if these disbelieve in it, We have already entrusted it to a people who do not disbelieve in it. S. 6:84-89

And mention in the Book Ishmael; he was true to his promise, and he was a Messenger, a Prophet. He bade his people to pray and to give the alms, and he was pleasing to his Lord… These are they whom God has blessed among the Prophets of the seed of Adam, and of those We bore with Noah, and of the seed of Abraham and Israel, and of those We guided and chose. When the signs of the All-merciful were recited to them, they fell down prostrate, weeping. S. 19:54-55, 58

Since the Muslims believe that the Qur’an is historically accurate they must therefore accept that Muhammad’s parents were not ignorant of the religion of Allah and must have known that their ancestor Ishmael was a prophet who enjoined upon his progeny Tauhid (Islamic unity) and specific religious practices such as the rites of the pilgrimage (Hajj). After all, the Qur’an plainly says that Muhammad’s pagan contemporaries knew that Allah was the creator of the heavens and the earth:

And if thou wert to ask them: Who created the heavens and the earth, and constrained the sun and the moon (to their appointed work)? they would say: Allah. How then are they turned away? Allah maketh the provision wide for whom He will of His bondmen, and straiteneth it for whom (He will). Lo! Allah is Aware of all things. And if thou wert to ask them: Who causeth water to come down from the sky, and therewith reviveth the earth after its death? they verily would say: Allah. Say: Praise be to Allah! But most of them have no sense. S. 29:61-64 Pickthall

Hence, the foregoing plainly demonstrates that Muhammad’s parents weren’t ignorant of the "truth" but knew full well that Allah had sent them a prophet who taught the people the religion and had personally built the Ka’ba and instituted the Hajj practices. They, therefore, died without having any excuses before Allah

Ironically, Muhammad’s father had the name Abdallah (servant of Allah). However, in the tribe and clan of Muhammad’s grandfather (Abd al-Muttalib), Allah was worshiped not alone but alongside many other gods. Whatever the case, it is clear from the Qur’an and Muslim reference works that Muhammad’s parents knew about the existence of Allah.



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