Before Christmas, during Christmas and after Christmas we hear a lot about Maryam called Mary by Christians. We observe many displays of Mary in churches and commercial places and hear impressive religious songs. It confuses Muslims and their children. We would like to know who is the real Mary? It is very interesting to review her childhood, her bringing up, her youth and her adulthood in the light of Quranic guidance. The way Mary became pregnant and the way she gave birth to a unique child, Jesus (AS), has many signs of Allah (SWT) for the mankind. The scene of the birth of Mary is described in Al-Imran # 35,36
When the mother of Mary became expectant she said to Allah (SWT), “I offer this child in my belly exclusively for Your service. Please accept it from me since You know how sincerely I am saying and You hear all what we say.”

Then when she delivered her (child, Mary), she said: “O my Lord! I have delivered a female child” – And Allah knew better what she delivered – “And the male is not like the female, and I have named it Maryam, and I seek refuge with You (Allah) for her and for her offspring from Satan, the outcast.”
When the mother of Mary gave birth to a child she was amazed that it happened to be a girl. It was a common notion that only a boy can serve Allah (SWT) in a sanctuary. Anyhow she named this child Maryam and prayed to Allah (SWT), “I put her and her children under the protection of Allah (SWT) against the Satan the outcast.” This scene of the birth of the baby girl Maryam is further described in this Surah also. Allah (SWT) said, “Indeed this girl is not like a boy”. In other words this baby girl is going to be an extraordinary girl and very much different from a baby boy. It is also obvious from this verse that in Islam a mother has the same right to name her child as the father has. In other words it is not a exclusive right for males to name the children. In fact, the rights of men and women are exactly the same in Islam. Only their roles differ. The roles are assigned by Allah (SWT) since He knows the best as their Creator.

Allah (SWT) further describes the bringing up of this unique baby girl as follows Al-Imran # 37
Allah accepted this baby girl in the best possible way and also brought her up in the best possible way and put her in the guardianship of Zachariah. Whenever Zachariah went to a sanctuary where she was, he found that she had food (in abundance of all kinds and all seasons). He said, “O Mary! From where does this food come to you?” She answered, “It is from Allah, He gives in abundance to whom He wills.”
This was a very inspiring experience for Zachariah (AS). He considered it most appropriate to pray to Allah (SWT) to grant him a child since he had no offspring till this old age. He realized that if Allah (SWT) can provide this (baby) girl this food of all the seasons in abundance He can grant him a child even in this old age. His Dua is described in surat Al Imran as follows Al-Imran # 38
Then Zachariah prayed to Allah and said, “My Lord! Please grant me a child who is pious. You, indeed, hear Dua.”

It is interesting to add here that it is recommended for a muslim to marry and try not only to have children but also to try to bring them up as pious individuals through Islamic education and training. This is why the prophets like Zachariah (AS) and Ibrahim (AS) asked for children even in their old age so that these good children could carry out the work of Allah (SWT) after their death.
Allah (SWT) granted this Dua of Zachariah (AS) as described in this surah Al-Imran # 39
The angels called to Zachariah while he was praying in the sanctuary. Allah has given you a glad tiding of (a son whose name is) Yahya who comes to confirm a word from Allah (SWT). Yahya will be lordly, chaste and a prophet of righteous.

We noticed that the Dua of a person is most likely granted by Allah (SWT) when he is making salat in a Masjid. Allah (SWT) is also demonstrating to the people of all generations that just as He can grant a child to Zachariah in his extreme old age, similarly He can give a child to Mary even though no mortal has touched her.

Zachariah (AS) said to Allah (SWT) Al-Imran # 40-41
He said, “O Allah! How can I have a son when old age has overtaken me and my wife is already barren?” (The angel) Answered, “So (it will be) Allah does what He wills.” Zachariah said, “O Allah! Please appoint a token for me.” (The angel) said, “The tokens for you are that you will not speak to mankind for three days except with signals. During this time remember Allah a lot and glorify Him in the afternoon and in the morning.”
Let us describe how Muslims view Mary as an adult person. Allah (SWT) says in Quran Al-Imran # 42-43
And when angels said to Mary, “Allah has chosen you and made you purified, (from disbelief) and has chosen you above the women of the mankind and jinn. O Mary! Be obedient to your Lord, prostrate yourself and bow down along with those who bow down in worship.”

We note that when Allah’s bounties are increased for a person, he is supposed to submit himself more and more to Allah (SWT) by additional prayers. The instruction to bow down with those who bow down indicates that salat should preferably be done in congregation. The Angles further said to Mary: Surah Al-Imran # 45 , 46
(Remember) when the angles said: “O Maryam! Verily Allah has given you a glad tiding of a Word from Him whose name is the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, illustrious in the world and the hereafter, and one of those brought near to Allah (SWT). This child will speak to mankind in his cradle and in his manhood and he will be one of the righteous.”

Mary was amazed, She said Al-Imran # 47
She said, “O Allah! How can I have a child when no mortal has touched me?” He said, “So (it will be) for Allah creates what He wills.” If He has decreed something, He says to it only: “Be” – and it is.
Hence the birth of Jesus was simply by the word of Allah (SWT) which was confirmed by Yahya (AS). Furthermore, it was very clear that the birth of Jesus (AS) took place when no human being ever touched Mary.
The Quran describes in detail how Mary conceived miraculously and how she handled herself during the pregnancy. Maryam # 16-26

And mention in the Book (the Quran) Maryam, when she withdrew from her people to a chamber looking East. She has chosen seclusion from them. We sent to her “Our Spirit (Angel)” and it assumed for her the likeness of a perfect man. She said, “Look! I seek refuge in the Beneficent One from you, if you are God fearing.” The angel said, “I am only a messenger of Allah, that it may bestow on you pious son”. Mary said, “How can I have a son when no mortal has touched me, neither have I been unchaste?” The angel said, “Allah said it is easy for Him and it will be since it is a thing ordained. Allah will make him a sign for mankind and a mercy from Him. “Mary conceived him, and she withdrew with him to a far place. When the pangs of child birth drove her to a trunk of a palm tree, she said, “Oh, would that I have died before this and had become a thing of naught forgotten!” Then (one) cried to her below her saying, “Grieve not! Your Lord has placed a rivulet beneath you. Shake the trunk of the palm tree toward you it will cause ripe dates to fall on you. So eat and drink and be consoled. If you meet any mortal, say: Look!, I have wooed a fast for Allah, and may not speak this day to any mortal.”

We note that Mary was told to try to shake the palm tree to obtain ripe dates. It teaches us a lesson that we must make our best effort to earn our livelihood. This effort is not against one’s trust in Allah (SWT).
After about forty days Mary went back to her people with her child in her lap. The dialogue between Mary and her people is also described as follows. Surah Maryam # 27-32
Then she brought him to her own folk, carrying him, They said, “Oh Mary! You have come with an amazing thing. O sister of Harun (Aaron), “Your father was not a wicked man nor was your mother a harlot.” She pointed to him. They said, “How can we talk to one who is in a cradle, a young boy?” Jesus spoke out, “Look! I am the slave of Allah. He has given me the Scripture and has appointed me Prophet. He has made me blessed wheresoever I may be, and has enjoined upon me prayer and alms giving so long as I remain alive. Allah has made me dutiful towards her who bore me, and has not made me arrogant, unblessed.”

In this quote we note that the first word which Jesus spoke was that he was an obedient servant of Allah (SWT) and hence should not be made a partner of Allah (SWT) at anytime. Secondly, Salat and Zakat are must for every ummah and people must fulfill these obligations as long as they live.

We have seen Mary as a baby girl, her bringing up, her adulthood and as a unique mother. There are many signs of Allah (SWT) and guidance for those who would like to please Allah (SWT). It is clear that real Mary is totally different from Mary which Christians profess, or portray.

May Allah save us from all forms of shirk and make us His obedient servants. Ameen.