This article (the edited version) was first posted on the Standard Newspaper, Ramadhan insert on 1st May 2020.
Photo Courtesy: Ahmed Elmawi.
Ibn Abbas reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “The best of women among the people of Paradise are Khadija bint Khuwaylid, Fatimah bint Muhammad, Maryam bint ‘Imran, and ‘Asiyah bint Muzahim, the wife of Pharaoh.” For our Ramadhan series in shaa Allah, we will discuss the stories of these four magnificent women. Today we start with the story of Maryam Aleyha ssalam. Bismillah.
#The Dua (The Prayer)
It all begins with one beautiful dua. One sincere supplication. One important pledge by a pious mother. Hannah, the wife of Imran and mother of Maryam, made a special dua when she became pregnant.
“Mention, (O Muhammad), when the wife of Imran said, “My Lord indeed I have pledged to you what is in my womb, consecrated (for your service), so accept this from me. Indeed, you are the Hearing, the Knowing.” Then she goes on to say, “And I have named her Mary, and I seek refuge for her in You and (for) her descendants from Satan, the expelled (from the Mercy of Allah.)” (Qur’an; 3: 35-36)
This supplication was accepted by Allah Subhanahu Waatala and Maryam became the greatest woman of her generation. She was very devoted, very pious, very chaste; the noblest and purest of all women. And just as her mother had pledged, Maryam did become attached to the service of the Sacred House to worship Allah therein. Take note that the dua wasn’t just for Maryam. Hannah included her descendants in it, and thereafter Maryam’s son, Essa aleyhi ssalam became a prophet. This also shows the importance of choosing a pious spouse who will thereafter be a guiding light to the children.
It all began with a dua. Something we sometimes take so much for granted. It reminds us of the power of dua and its huge capacity to change fate. Allah Subhanahu Wataala says: “And your Lord says, “Call upon Me; I will respond to you.”” (Qur’an; 40: 60)
Common misconception is that Allah Subhanahu Wataala only responds to the pious. You might be thinking, ‘But I am not Hannah, the wife of Imran who was mentioned in the Qur’an, why would Allah respond to me?’ Yes, Allah will respond to you because you are His beloved and He loves you just as well. He will respond to you if only you take a moment to raise your hands and supplicate sincerely. Yes, He will respond because He says:
“And when My servants ask you, [O Muhammad], concerning Me – indeed I am near. I respond to the invocation of the supplicant when he calls upon Me. So let them respond to Me [by obedience] and believe in Me that they may be [rightly] guided.” (Qur’an; 2: 186)
Take note, Allah in the verse above says, ‘when my servant’, he does not say, ‘when the believer, the super pious, the prophet’ he says ‘I respond the invocation of the supplicant’, that means anyone. You, me, even the worst sinner on earth, Allah hears all our supplications and He will respond. He will respond.
#The Girl Child
After Hannah pledged to Allah that her child will be of His service, she eventually gave birth to a girl. She then said to Allah, and I quote from the Qur’an :
“But when she delivered her, she said, “My Lord, I have delivered a female.” And Allah was most knowing of what she delivered, and the male is not like the female…” (Qur’an; 3: 36)
Hannah goes ahead and shares her concern with her Lord, ‘she is a girl’. How will a girl be in service to a place of worship? How will a girl preach about the religion? The male is definitely not like the female. But Allah Subhanahu Wataala narrates to us, that HE KNEW that it was a girl. That was no accident. It wasn’t by mistake that she gave birth to a girl. Yet Allah knew that this same girl would be one of the greatest, most devoted person in His worship.
“And (mention) when the angels said, “O Mary, indeed Allah has chosen you and purified you and chosen you above the women of the worlds. O Mary, be devoutly obedient to your Lord and prostrate and bow with those who bow in prayer.” (Qur’an: 3:42-43)
You still think the girl child is under-valued and oppressed in Islam? Think again!
#Allah’s Rizq (Allah’s provision)
There is this common saying that goes like, ‘If human beings were responsible for our provision, then we’d definitely starve to death.’ Well luckily then, our Lord is the Giver and He is Most Merciful with His servants and we get to learn something through Maryam’s story.
“So her Lord accepted her with good acceptance and caused her to grow in a good manner and put her in the care of Zechariah. Every time Zechariah entered upon her in the prayer chamber, he found with her provision. He said, ‘O Mary, from where is this (coming) to you?’ She said, ‘It is from Allah. Indeed, Allah provides for whom He wills without account.” (Qur’an; 3:37)
Allah gives to whomever He wills. Some people get more than others, some get less than others and that is all part of Allah’s test and decree upon us. And when you have trust and faith in Allah, He always blesses you beyond what you expect.
“…And whoever fears Allah – He will make for him a way out. And will provide for him from where he does not expect…” (Qur’an; 65: 2-3)
#Qadar of Allah (Decree of Allah)
“And mention, [O Muhammad], in the Book [the story of] Mary, when she withdrew from her family to a place toward the east. And she took, in seclusion from them, a screen. Then We sent to her Our Angel, and he represented himself to her as a well-proportioned man. She said, “Indeed, I seek refuge in the Most Merciful from you, [so leave me], if you should be fearing of Allah .” He said, “I am only the messenger of your Lord to give you [news of] a pure boy.” She said, “How can I have a boy while no man has touched me and I have not been unchaste?” He said, “Thus [it will be]; your Lord says, ‘It is easy for Me, and We will make him a sign to the people and a mercy from Us. And it is a matter [already] decreed.’ ” (Qur’an: 19: 16-21)
Indeed, it is a matter already decreed. A closed case. Imagine being in Maryam’s shoes; a woman known for her chastity and devoutness is suddenly pregnant. Imagine the despair, the agony and the great fear. This was a tragedy for her. Her chastity and purity was in question. Despite being so pious, Allah still put her through a huge test. That was Allah’s decree for her because He had better plans for her. He knew that she would give birth to a prophet who would speak at birth, do unconceivable miracles and call people to the religion of Allah. He knew that there was actually a greater good to come from it. So yes, Allah will always test us; whether we are the most pious or the biggest sinners. We will all feel the pinch of this worldly life, but it is not just for no reason. Allah knows why He gave you the struggle that you do. You might never realize it, but there’s always some good in it. Allah reminds us here why we are tested:
“Do the people think that they will be left to say, “We believe” and they will not be tried? But We have certainly tried those before them, and Allah will surely make evident those who are truthful, and He will surely make evident the liars.” (Qur’an; 29: 2-3)
Yet still he reminds us of His promise:
“Verily, I have rewarded them this Day for their patience; they are indeed the ones that are successful” [Qur’an; 23:111]
We all face sorrow at some point in our lives. Some huger than others yet Allah does not burden us except that we can handle, so each is given as per their ability to persevere. So here was Maryam aleyha ssalam, pregnant yet unmarried. What does she do? She goes away to a remote place.
“So she conceived him, and she withdrew with him to a remote place. And the pains of childbirth drove her to the trunk of a palm tree. She said, “Oh, I wish I had died before this and was in oblivion, forgotten.” (Qur’an: 19: 22-23)
Here we come to the issue of mental health whereby we still somewhat regard it a taboo to talk about in our societies. Maryam aleyha ssalam was in so much pain and anguish, she wished for death. This brings one reality to light; however much we deny it, sometimes people do wish for death. Whether pious or not, it happens to the best among us. It doesn’t necessarily mean one has weak imaan (sometimes it is), sometimes, our human nature unintentionally takes over our faith and we fall into despair. Yet, grief and sadness is not something new. Prophet Ya’qoob aleyhi ssalam wept over the loss of his beloved Yusuf until he lost his eyesight. Prophet Muhammad was so saddened by the death of his wife Khadijah and his uncle Abu Talib that that year was called ‘the year of sorrow.’ And when his son Ibrahim died, ‘tears began to fall from the eyes of the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ). He said: The eye weeps and the heart grieves, but we say only what our Lord is pleased with, and we are grieved for you, Ibrahim.’ (As narrated by Anas Ibn Malik).
Indeed sadness is part of human nature, and does not necessarily make someone less pious for feeling sorrowful over what has befallen them. Yet still, we are always reminded to be patient and have faith in Allah’s decree.
Narrated Anas bin Malik:The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “None of you should wish for death because of a calamity befalling him; but if he has to wish for death, he should say: “O Allah! Keep me alive as long as life is better for me, and let me die if death is better for me.’ “
So whenever the pain of this life overpowers you, remember that we have a Most Merciful Lord over-watching you. Indeed, you have no better Protector. And when you are around a grieving person, be kind, empathic and compassionate. We all need support systems.
#Tawakkul (Reliance on Allah)
Despite being in great pain, angel Jibril asks Maryam to shake the palm tree so she can get the ripe dates.
“But he called her from below her, “Do not grieve; your Lord has provided beneath you a stream. And shake toward you the trunk of the palm tree; it will drop upon you ripe, fresh dates. So eat and drink and be contented…’” (Qur’an: 19: 24-26)
Remember at this point Maryam is in labour, how will she do that? Where will she get the strength from? But Allah still gave her ease in it.
“And whoever relies upon Allah – then He is sufficient for him. Indeed, Allah will accomplish His purpose. Allah has already set for everything a [decreed] extent.” (Quran; 65:3)
The story of Maryam and her son, Eesa aleyhim ssalam and the lessons from within are many. The above mentioned are but the very few. With all that is going on right now, having Ramadhan during a pandemic, is a very sad situation, yet we can still make the best use of this time for self-reflection, more ibadah (worship) and seeking more knowledge. For more details on Maryam’s story, you may read surat Maryam, some parts of Surat Imran and other Surahs in the Qur’an.
May Allah protect us during these trying times, may He grant us peace and tranquility, may He bless us, may He accept us repentance and our good deeds. Ameen. Stay safe wherever you are and Ramadhan Mubarak!
Note: This is just my small effort in trying to research on this topic in the best of my ability. Kindly pardon me for any mistakes and don’t hesitate to correct me if anything.
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The Qur’an Translation
The Superstars series by Sheikh Omar Suleiman: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZgJuK0OtRf8
Islamic Guidance channel: Maryam [AS]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=20EbcIR6fr8