U Essay, Research Paper
The name Mary, and how it is used in the Koran
April 9, 1999
The role that Mary has played in the history of religion is a topic that can be debated. According to the Koran, the only importance of Mary, is that she is undisputedly the mother of Jesus. Also, the only proper name of a woman to be used in the Koran, is the name, Mary (Maryam). However, she has never been referred to as the Virgin Mary in either the Bible or the Koran.1 This is significant in comparing and contrasting some of the importance of this woman and her son to Christianity and Islam religions.
The woman known as Mary, is a name that many religions of the world honor. She was born to Anna, the wife of Imran and when she was born her mother Anna prayed to God:2
O my Lord, I vow to thee what is in my belly
dedicated (to thy service); accept (it) from me
verily thou art one who hears and knows. 3
After she had made this vow to God, she was then confused when He gave a female child. She did not understand how greatness was to come from a female child.
As written in the third sura of the Koran, Mary was raised in a way which was devoted to serving God. She worshiped in the temple, just as her mother promised she would if God would allow her to have this special child. It is said that Mary was assisted by angels throughout her childhood, and the Islamic religion regarded her as sinless.4 The Koran implies this pure, sinless and Godly inspired view of Mary by stating in sura three verses 30-35:
And I have named her Mary,
and commend her to Thee
with her seed, to protect them
from the accursed Satan5
Although it was not obvious at first, Mary would eventually play a large role in Christianity and other religions, due to the fact that she would be the mother of Jesus.
Muslims and Jews also recognize the importance of Mary to their religions. They agree that she is the true mother of the prophet Jesus. Muhammad, when clearing and cleansing the Ka ba of idols, is said to have spared the removal of a picture of Mary and Jesus.6 The phrase, Son of Mary is also written more times in the Koran than it is in the Bible. She is also highly respected in Judaism, and it is considered a mighty slander for a Jewish person to speak against her. Although these and other stories may not be true, it shows that Muhammad and Muslims hold a great deal of respect for Mary and her son Jesus.7
The phrase, Son of Mary, is one that refers to Jesus, and occurs much more frequently in the Koran than in the Bible. In fact, it is only used one time in the Bible compared to twenty-three times in the Koran.8 This shows that the Muslims acknowledge Jesus, and the impact he had on that time period.
Some feel that the primary message that is delivered by the Koran to Muslims is that the term Son of Mary is used in a negative way. Parrinder however disagrees with this view. He feels that when the Koran uses the term Son of Mary, it is in a more positive and honorable way. The Muslims, unlike the Jews, do not have such harsh and negative views towards Jesus, and this is one of the main reasons why Parrinder feels that the term is used in a honorable way.9 The Muslims believe that Jesus was not divine, but they do feel he was a prophet worthy of their respect and worship. Muslims feel that he was no more important than any of the other prophets, which were all worthy of their worship. The Jews on the other hand, do not acknowledge him as a prophet or being divine. They do not recognize him as a chosen person of God.10
Muslims see Jesus as a man. He, along with his mother Mary, were not considered divine or Godly by the Muslims. This is one reason for the use of the phrase, Jesus, Son of Mary, in the scriptures of these religions. It implies that he was no more than a human being. He had a mother, he was the Son of Mary, which implies that he was a human just like everyone else.11
The virgin birth is also agreed upon by Muslims, and is discussed in the Koran. It does not reject these views about a virgin birth, unlike the Jews who do. In sura 3, 37/42, it states that:
Mary, God gives thee good
tidings of a Word from Him
whose name is Messiah,
Jesus, son of Mary;
high honoured shall he be
in this world and the next,
near stationed to God.12
This passage implies that the Muslims believed that Mary was a virgin when she gave birth to Jesus. However, they do not agree completely with the views that are portrayed in Luke, chapters one and two, of the New Testament of the Bible.13 Christians portray Jesus one of the most important figures in their religion. This allows us to better understand Islam, because the fact that Muslims believed in the Virgin Mary helps to prove that Christians and Muslims came into contact with each other in Syria and other parts of the west.14
Some have argued, including R. H. Lightfoot, that it was an insult to have Jesus take on his mothers name rather than his fathers. It is believed by many that in the seventh century, most males took on the name of their father, and the only reason for having a mother s name was for negative reasons. Parrinder contradicts this by giving examples of some of the poets of that time period, like Ibn Aisha, Ibn Mayyada, who were given the name of their mother. It is also argued that Ali, one of the four rightly guided caliphs, had a son who was named after his mother in order to differentiate him from some of his brothers. It is even said that Muhammad himself was often known as Ibn Abi Kabsha, thought to be a connection to one of his ancestors. According to Parrinder, it was not an insult to have taken on the name of your mother. He feels that the phrase Son of Mary, became so wide spread due to the popularity she gained through being the mother of the prophet Jesus. The point that Parrinder is stressing with this topic is that the term, Son of Mary, when used to refer to Jesus was in no way slanderous or implied in a negative connotation. In all ways, they were using the term in an honorable and dignified manner.15
Another debate about the use of the phrase Son of Mary, deals with the fact that it is mentioned in the book of Mark, chapter 6, verse 3.
Isn t this the Carpenter?
Isn t this Mary s son
and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas, and Simon?
The book of Mark is believed to have been one of the first books to be written, and the referral to Jesus being Mary s son is written here only . Parrinder believes that the reference to Jesus being the son of Mary is no longer mentioned in the scriptures that follow Mark because there was just no need to write it again. Other names for Jesus were used in these chapters instead, like son of the carpenter, Son of God, Lord, and Christ. 16
Monophysite Christians, which are prominent in Ethiopian and Coptic churches, have a certain one-sided view towards Jesus. They believe he has only one true spiritual nature. They do not believe he had both a human and a divine characteristics, they saw him only as a God-like individual. This is a different view of the Nycians. They felt that Jesus represented two persons in one being. They saw him as having both a human and a divine side. This view of the Nycians, the two aspects of Jesus, eventually won out in popularity. This Nycian view also was the official religion of the Byzantine Empire, which helped to make this view a more commonly excepted one. This is the reason for some creeds, like the Apostles Creed and the Nycian Creed, which are used extensively in today s Christian religion.17
The Koran s view of Christianity is also more closely related to that of the view of the Nycians. This is evident by the Koran s acknowledgement of Mary, and the honor that is bestowed upon her. The honor that is given to Mary also represents the importance of the Nycian s view of the human aspect of Jesus along with the spirit portion.18
The phrase Son of Mary is also found in apocryphal books and gospels that were not mentioned in the cannon of orthodox scriptures. This proves that Syrian Christians had contact with the Islamic faith, allowing them to blend cultures, language, and knowledge.19 Parrinder and other scholars debate at the validity of these apocryphal texts, they really are not valid and do not say much. The one thing that these texts do is that they prove the fact that close ties between these two groups of people did exist.20
There are two main conclusions to be made about the use of the word Mary in the Koran and the meanings behind it. The first conclusion deals with the mother of Jesus, Mary. She holds a great deal of respect in the minds of Muslims. They see her as a person who is worthy of their honor. In those times, it was not common to see a woman who was as admired as Mary was.21
The final conclusion to be made deals with Jesus being known as the Son of Mary. It is argued that the use of this phrase is done so in a negative way. However, a closer look at some true interpretations of the Koran will help to support the fact that it is a term that holds a great deal of honor and respect when used to describe both Jesus and his mother Mary. The phrase, Son of Mary, appears in both the Bible and the Koran, and is used by both Christians and Muslims today in an honourable way.22
1. Parrinder, Geoffrey. Jesus in the Koran. Oxford: Oneworld, 1995, pg. 60.
2. Parrinder, pg. 63-64.
3. Arberry, A. J. The Koran Interpreted. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1996, pg. 77-78.
4. Parrinder, pg. 62.
5. Ali, A. Yusuf. The Holy Koran. Amana Corp. 1983.
6. Parrinder, pg. 65.
7. Class lecture and notes from April 7, 1999.
8. Parrinder, pg. 22.
9. Parrinder, pg. 23
10. Class notes.
11. Class notes.
12. The Holy Bible. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984. Book of Luke, chapters 1 & 2.
13. Arberry, pg. 79.
14. Class notes.
15. Parrinder, pg. 23-24.
16. The Holy Bible, Book of Mark.
17. Class notes.
18. Class notes.
19. Parrinder, pg. 26-28.
20. Class notes.
21. Parrinder, pg. 67.
22. Parrinder, pg. 29.
1. Ali, A. Yusuf. The Holy Koran. Amana Corp. 1983.
2. Arberry, A. J. The Koran Interpreted. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1996, pg. 77-79.
3. Parrinder, Geoffrey. Jesus in the Koran. Oxford: Oneworld, 1995, pg. 22-29 & 60-67.
4. The Holy Bible. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984.
5. Class lecture and notes from April 7, 1999.
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