Welcome Friends: Ahlan wa sahlan!
This Chapter is oft-listened to by Arab Christians, and is even memorized by some, as its detail and beauty is unmatched. There is no equivalent narrative on Mary and Jesus in world literature, including the Bible.
LISTEN to the entire Chapter of Mary in Tanzil; I like al-Ghamadi’s voice.
Or click on the links below to read this Chapter in Ali or Asad's interpretations; they are both wonderful.
Yusuf Ali’s Translation of this Chapter.
Muhammad Asad’s Translation of this Chapter.
Their commentaries can only be read in verse by verse view
The Chapter of Mary
As Muhammad Asad tells us in his Commentary:
ALL THE AUTHORITIES agree in that this surah belongs to the Mecca period; but whereas some of them (e.g., Suyuti) place it chronologically towards the end of that period, there is uncontrovertible historical evidence that it was revealed not later than the sixth and possibly even as early as the fifth year of the Prophet's mission, i.e., about seven or eight years before his hijrah to Medina. The Companions who at about that time took part in the second emigration of Muslims from Mecca to Abyssinia were already acquainted with this surah: thus, for instance, it is recorded that Ja'far ibn Abi Talib - the Prophet's cousin and leader of the first group of those emigrants - recited it before the Negus (i.e., King) of Abyssinia in order to explain the Islamic attitude towards Jesus (Ibn Hisham).
The title by which this surah is commonly known is based on the story of Mary and Jesus, which (together with the story of Zachariah and his son John, the precursor of Jesus) occupies about one-third of the whole surah and is re-echoed towards its end in verses 88-91.
PAGE 305 Arabic Qur’an.
1. The Chapter of ‘Mary’ begins with what is called ‘disjointed letters’- “كهيعص” – which actually make up a series of ‘sounds’ (Kaaf. Haa. Yaa. Ein. Ssad) -discussed on April 6th. Here however, unlike most occurrences where the ‘Compilation’ is mentioned, we find mention of the ‘Thikr [i] of God’s Mercy…’
THE Thikr is The Evocation.
In HQ 38:1 we find the Qur’an affirmed/ pledged as being ‘OF The Thikr (by the letter ‘wawو-’ which is called ‘waw of qassam, or pledgeواو القسم- ’).
(ص والقرآن ذي الذكر) This verse offers us another important clue as to the distinction between the ‘Compilation/ Kitaab’ and the ‘Qur’an:’
· In the Kitaab, certain issues are drawn attention to, as the Messenger is commanded to ‘recall/ evoke’ them (أذكر في الكتاب" ’). Therefore, as we can see, he/we are supposed to recall/ evoke something in the ‘Kitaab.’
· As for the Qur’an, the Qur’an ITSELF IS ‘of Evocation’ (ذي الذكر)- meaning that it is evocative, in and of itself.
What a difference!
See important Posting of May 26th to understand how, when the ‘static’ Compilation is approached by the dynamic of IQRA, it is revealed to be ‘Live’ all along!
2. Verses 2 addresses the Messenger Muhammad, peace upon him, ‘In Evocation of the Mercy of your Lord, upon His Worshipper, Zacharias..’ And then in Verse 3 we are told how he called upon his Lord ‘secretively/ in private!’
Verses 4- 5- 6 show us Prophet Zacharias’ predicament, and his fears that there would be none to continue his mission after his death. His prayer is absolutely beautiful, peace upon him… and we are listen-in on it all!
3. In Verses 7- 8- 9- 10 we hear the exchange that took place between Zacharias and his Lord/ his Lord’s emissaries. Well-explained by Muhammad Asad.
In Verse 11 he comes out of his place of worship to indicate to everyone أوحى (literally: convey exclusive information) that they should praise God by word and deed morning and evening.
PAGE 306 Arabic Qur’an.
4. Verses 12- 13- 14- 15 tell us of Prophet Yahya, peace upon him, who received wisdom at an early age. He is commonly believed to be John the Baptist.
Read these beautiful verses as they describe him, and note that among these exemplary traits mentioned, is his being FORTHCOMING TO HIS PARENTS برّا بوالديه-.
5. And now we arrive at the beautiful story of Mary, where we understand that she had sequestered herself away from her family, in devotion to God. (Please read Posting of February 1 for background on Mary –who was still in her mother’s womb- when her mother dedicated her to God’s service!)
We encounter the word ‘hijaab’ here for the third time (after HQ 7:46; 17:45). See April 8th Post for the meaning of ‘hijaab.’
Most importantly however, Verses 16- 17- 18- 19 tell us how she was informed as to her role as Mother of Jesus. ‘Our Spirit’ is understood to be Angel Gabriel.
6. In Verse 20 she questions how she could have a son, when not a single individual of the human species ‘bashar’ had touched her!
The response is given to her in Verse 21 (read Asad’s footnote).
In Verse 22 we learn of her conception and how she distanced herself from everyone. In Verse 23 we hear her heart-wrenching agony at the time of her delivery, with no creature to support her other than a palm tree… may God’s Peace and Blessings be upon her!
Verse 25 is important in that it shows us that we have to make an effort before God grants us His gifts. ‘Shake the palm tree’ has become a lesson for us all!
7. Verse 26 is the single verse which best illustrates the distinction between the two words ‘bashar’ (human) and ‘insaan’ (COGNIZANT human/ person, ‘insi’).
“… if you were to see any human, indicate: I have vowed unto The Creator الرحمنa Fast, therefore I shall not speak to any person today.”
(Also read 26 in Ali’s interpretation).
فكُلِي وَاشْرَبِي وَقَرِّي عَيْنًا فَإِمَّا تَرَيِنَّ مِنَ الْبَشَرِ أَحَدًا فَقُولِي إِنِّي نَذَرْتُ لِلرَّحْمَـٰنِ صَوْمًا فَلَنْ أُكَلِّمَ الْيَوْمَ إِنسِيًّا ﴿٢٦﴾
‘Humans’ may be seen (as a species), but only ‘cognizant humans’ may be spoken to (as persons)!
It seems that ‘fasting’ in Zacharias and Mary’s time was an act of worship that included abstention from talking to other people!
Our next Reading is from HQ 19:26-50.
Peace unto all!
[i] (ذكر) أصلان، فالمُذْكِر: التي وَلَدَتْ ذكراً. والمِذْكار: التي تَلِد الذُّكْرانَ عادةً.
والمِذْكار: الأرض تُنْبِت ذُكور العُشْب. والمذَكَّرَة من النُّوق: التي خَلْقها وخُلُقها كخَلْق البعير أو خُلُقه. وسيف مذكَّر: ذو ماءٍ. وذُو ذُكْرٍ، أي صارم.
وذُكور البَقْل: ما غلُظ منه.
والأصل الآخر: ذَكَرْتُ الشيء، خلافُ نسِيتُه. ثم حمل عليه الذِّكْر باللِّسان.
ويقولون: اجعلْه منك على ذُكْرٍ، بضم الذال، أي لا تَنْسَه.
والذِّكر: العَلاء والشَّرَف. ويقال رجلٌ ذَكِرٌ وذكيرٌ، أي جيِّد الذِّكْر شَهْمٌ.