Welcome Friends: Ahlan wa sahlan!
We’ve been following the Qur’anic account leading up to the story of Prophet Jesus, peace upon him:
﴾Behold! a woman of 'Imran said: “My Lord, I have dedicated unto You what is in my belly, committed to Your Service, so accept of me: For You Alone Are The All-hearing, The All-Knowing.” (35)
Then, when she delivered her, she said: “My Lord! I have delivered her, female,” - and God knows best what she delivered- and no wise is the male like the female- “and I have named her Mary, and I do commend her and her offspring to Your protection, from the Rejected Deviant.” (36)
So her Lord accepted her right graciously, and He well-nurtured her as she grew up, and assigned her to the care of Zachariah. Whenever Zachariah entered the sanctuary upon her, He found that she had provision. He said: “O Mary! Whence do you get this?” She said: “It is from God: Indeed God Provides whom He wills without measure.” (37)
Right then, Zachariah prayed to his Lord, saying: “My Lord! Bestow upon me -from Your Grace- a goodly offspring: You are indeed The Listener to all prayer!” (38)
Thereupon the angels called unto him while he stood praying in the sanctuary: “God sends you glad tidings of (the birth of) John, confirming the truth of a Word from God, and outstanding among men, and utterly chaste, and a prophet from among the righteous.”(39)﴿
No matter who translates these verses… they are absolutely beautiful!
1. Verses 38-41 tell us Prophet Zachariah’s story, peace upon him. He wanted someone to carry on his mission after him, but his wife had borne him no children. The fact that he was in charge of providing for young Mary -yet would enter the sanctuary and find her provided for - may have amazed him, but what truly opened his eyes was her simple, eloquent response:
“It is from God: Indeed God Provides whom He wills without measure.”
Mary could have just said that it was from God, without elaborating, but that would not have shown how generous she knew He was, or how secure she felt in that He would always provide for her.
(Ali and Muhammad Asad have different views on the subject, the former reads the verses literally, while the latter does not, but concludes that all provision is indeed, from God.)
Readers will notice that her faith is directly related to her future as the Virgin Mother of Jesus, with all the trial and tribulation her role entails. But little did she know about that, at this point. Also, little did Prophet Zachariah know about what he and his son, John, peace upon them, would have to endure!
We also notice, that when Zachariah asked, ‘How shall I have a son..’ the Answer was: “Thus does God DO what He wills.” We will be comparing this to the answer Mary gets to a similar question after a few verses.
When Zachariah says, ‘Make me a sign..’ most commentators take that to mean a sign from God to verify conception, and that he is told the sign would be his sudden inability to speak (seeing that there would be no immediate physical sign in a non-menstruating woman). M. Asad does not agree with that interpretation which he feels matches what is reported in Luke 1:20-22 (see his note 29). M. Asad thinks the Sign is spiritual in that Zachariah should dedicate himself to prayer.
2. Verses 42-43 are about Mary, who is purified, and twice chosen for the role ahead… indeed chosen above all womankind. She is told to maintain her reverence and devotion, in prostration and bowing to God.
3. Verse 44 addresses Prophet Muhammad directly, peace upon him, and everyone else indirectly. All these narrations of past occurrences are but ‘gheyb’ to him (unseen; un-witnessed by him), and no other than God could have informed him of them. How else would he know about the competition which arose when Mary was a child, as to who would be her guardian?
4. In Verse 45-46 the angels tell Mary of her future son, a Word of God, the Anointed Jesus son of Mary, of great honor in this world and in the Hereafter, and among those who are drawn nearest to God. They also tell her that he will speak to people while yet in the cradle.
(Asad says the word ‘Christ’ is derived from Greek ‘chreien’ which means ‘to anoint’ – see note 32.)
5. In verse 47 Mary asks a question somewhat similar to what Zachariah asked, ‘How shall I have a son..’ But, in her case, she wonders how, when no human being has ever touched her. The Answer which Mary -the unmarried virgin- gets is NOT: “Thus does God DO what He wills,” which was the short response given to the married Zachariah. The response she gets is:
“Thus does God CREATE what He wills, when He wills something to be, He only says unto it : Be! And it is.”
In other words, as mentioned in the center of the beautiful verse HQ 6:73: “…قوله الحق… His word is Reality (manifested)….” which certainly is a concept difficult to grasp unless one has already acknowledged God’s Magnificence and Omnipotence. But the angels were addressing Mary and her unmatched Faith. Through her, God’s ‘qawl قوله-’ -what He said or intended- became ‘The Manifest Reality الحق-’!
6. Although Verse 48-51 seem to continue along the same vein (speaking to Mary), we gradually realize that we, the listeners, are the ones spoken to here. When we remember that both Judaism and Christianity were present in Arabia when the Qur’an was revealed, we realize the scope of this Message:
We are told about Prophet Jesus, peace upon him, bearing a Message from God with Signs to prove his authority, among which were his ability –by God’s leave- to cure lepers, raise the dead, and know what people have in their own homes. These were signs for them, if they indeed had faith. We are told how he was appointed to bring the Children of Israel back to their Divine Revelation (or its remnants, see M. Asad’s note 40 and 3)*, and make lawful for them what had been considered, till then, unlawful, and ask them to worship God Alone, his Lord and theirs. We are told that he was to lead them to a Straight Path.
It is important to note that a ‘Straight Path/Way’ is often mentioned in the Qur’an as a direction taken (and guided to) by Messengers prior to Muhammad, peace upon them all. If we were to do some research we’d also see much mention of that in the Old and New Testaments. Two examples would be in Samuel 12:20-23 and John 1:23 (King James Version):
Samuel: “Moreover as for me, God forbid that I should sin against the LORD in ceasing to pray for you: but I will teach you the good and the right way.” (Read Arabic version below, ‘tareeq saleh mustaqeem’.*)
John: “He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias.”
If we think of the Straight Path as explained in our study of the Opener and defined in HQ6:151-153, and remember its similarity to the Ten Commandments…we recognize the single Divine Source of all God’s Messages.
And the final verse in today’s reading takes us from the description of Prophet Jesus’ mission … to the outcome: He sensed their Denial. What an awful realization that must have been…may God’s peace and blessings be upon him!
Tomorrow’s reading is from HQ 3:53-70.
*We must remember that M. Asad is an authority on the Talmud and received Rabbinical knowledge, besides his proficiency in Hebrew and knowledge of Aramaic).
*1 Samuel:12:23 (in Arabic):
( وَأَمَّا أَنَا فَحَاشَا لِي أَنْ أُخْطِىءَ إِلَى الرَّبِّ، فَأَكُفَّ عَنِ الصَّلاَةِ مِنْ أَجْلِكُمْ، بَلْ أُوَاظِبُ عَلَى تَعْلِيمِكُمُ الطَّرِيقَ الصَّالِحَ الْمُسْتَقِيمَ. )