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The story of Mary’s life before the birth of Jesus Christ: (part 2)
According to the history, Mary’s father passed away before her birth and her mother brought her to Jerusalem to the Jewish scholars. “This child is a gift to Jerusalem” said Mary’s mother. She said, one of you receive her custody. Since the greatness of her character was clear by her face and she was born in a decent family as well, there were some disputes over receiving her custody and every scholar of the Israelites (Children of Israel) intended to have the honor of receiving her custody and taking caring of her. Finally they agreed to cast lots and Zachariah’s name was drawn and the custody of Mary was given to him (Surah al-Imran - verse 37) as in the following verse: This is a part of the news of the unseen, (i.e. the news of the past nations of which you have no knowledge) which We inspire you with. You were not with them, when they cast lots with their pens as to which of them should be charged with the care of Maryam (Mary); nor were you with them when they disputed (Surah al-Imran - verse 44) and He says and mentions other part of the story of Mary: what about the story of Mary and Zachariah said unto you, was of tidings and news of unseen which we will reveal to you. Because these stories (true and free from any superstition) do not exist in any of the earlier books which have been distorted, and their proof is only the divine revelation of Quran.
Then He says: you were not with them when they cast lots with arrows, as to which of them should be charged with the care of Mary: Nor were you with them when they (Jewish scholars of Israelites (Children of Israel) for having the honor of receiving her custody) disputed and We told you all through Revelation. After giving birth to her, Mary’s mother wrapped the baby in cloth and brought her to the temple and addressed the scholars and the elders of the Israelites (Children of Israel) that this baby is a vow to serve God's house, therefore do receive her custody and take care of her and since Mary was from a great family which was known as the purity and integrity (the family of Imran), the pious of the Israelites (Children of Israel), were outstripping each other for receiving her custody and taking care of her.
Consequently they found no alternative but to cast lots. They came down to a river and brought the pens and woods by which they cast lots and then wrote their names on each of them. The pen that sank in the water did not win the lot. The only pen that remained on the water was the one that the name of Zachariah had been written on it. So the custody of Mary was definitely given to Zachariah and indeed he was the most deserving person because in addition to being prophet he was Mary's uncle as well.
Casting lots as the final settlement of disputes:
It is inferred from this verse and those in the surah As-Saffat which is about Jonah that it is possible to use casting lots for solving a problem. We can use it when there is a dispute and it comes to a complete deadlock and there is no way to end it. These verses along with the Hadiths of the Islamic leaders caused that casting lots known as one of the jurisprudence rules in Islamic books but as previously mentioned, casting lots is only helpful while there is a complete deadlock, and therefore if there are other ways for solving the problem you cannot use it. Islam has not determined a special form of casting lots, but you can use the woods of arrows, pebbles or papers and the like in a way that there is no collusion. It is clear that in Islam you cannot win or lose by casting lots because in this case there is no problem that you intend to resort to casting lots for solving it and such incomes are not legitimate. It is also to be remembered that casting lots is not specific to settling the disputes and disagreements among people but using that, other deadlocks can be broken. For instance according to the Hadiths if a perverted person has a sexual intercourse with a sheep and then leave it among the flocks of sheep in the way that, that sheep cannot be recognized from other sheep, one of them must be discarded through casting lots and the meat must be avoided as well. Because it is a great loss to discard them all and it is not also permitted to use the meat. In this case casting lots will solve the problem.
Heavenly foods on Mary’s table:
The more she aged, the greatness of her character got clearer by her face. It was to the extent that Quran says: Every time Zachariah entered Mihrab to (visit) her, he found her supplied with sustenance. He said: "O Mary! Where did you get this food from?" She said, "This is from God." Verily, God provides sustenance to whomever He wills, without limit." (Surah al-Imran - verse 37). “Mihrab” is a special place which is considered for Imam of that temple or for special people and there are some reasons for choosing this term which the best three reasons are as follows: the first reason is that it is a derivate of the term “Harb” which means war because this is a place where the believers fight the Satan and their lusts. The second reason is that the term “Mirab” basically means the upper part of a place and it has been given this name because it is located over the temple. In addition, it should be noted that as stated, the situation of Mihrab among the Children of Israel was different from ours. They built their Mihrab above the ground level in a way that there were a few stairs and it was surrounded like walls of a room so that the people inside the Mihrab were rarely seen from the outside. The third reason is that Mihrab is the whole temple which was the place for fighting lust and Satan. Mary grew up under the care of Zachariah. She was so overwhelmed by worshiping God that according to Ibn Abbas when she was nine years old, she went on a fast on days and worshiped God at nights. She continued the piety, wisdom and knowing God in such a way that she surpassed the pious scholars of that time. When Zachariah came to her Miharb for visiting her, he observed special foods beside the Mihrab which amazed him. One day he said to her: Where did you get this food? "Mary replied," This is from God and He provides sustenance to whom He wills, without account. But it has not been explained in the verse that, what kind of food it was and where it did came from to Mary, however according to Tafsir-Ayyashi (Ayyashi exegesis) and different Hadiths in Shia and Sunni books, it was a kind of non-seasonal fruits from paradise which got ready by God’s command for Mary beside her Miharab. So it's no surprise that God would welcome her pious servant in such a way. It can be recognized from the evidences in the verse that “Rizqa” meant foods of paradise. Firstly because the term “Rizqa” has been used in an indefinite form which indicates that there has been a special and unknown sustenance for Zachariah. Secondly Mary’s response that, "This is from God" is another indication of that. Thirdly, the excitement of Zachariah and invoking God to grant him an offspring which has been referred to in the next verse is another indication of that. But some interpreters (including the author of Al-Manar) believe that the term "Rizqa" meant the ordinary foods of the world because as quoted form "Ibn Jarir," the Children of Israel were suffering from famine and Zachariah was unable to support Mary. At this time they decided to cast lots and the name of a carpenter was drawn and therefore he had the honor of providing food for Mary through his income. When Zachariah was in her the Mihrab and got surprised by such a food on that difficult condition and in replying his question, said Mary “this is from God”, it means that God has made a faithful man interested in serving her on that difficult condition. In this sentence the term “Rizqa” has been used without the term “Al” and it indicates that the previously mentioned sustenance has not been an ordinary food among people, as some have said; whenever Zachariah came to visit Mary, he found winter fruits in summer and summer fruit in winter with her.
It confirms the fact that if the previously mentioned sustenance was involved the typical and seasonal foods, therefore using the term “Rizqa” in an indefinite form, meant that Zachariah never found Mary’s room without food and there have always been sustenance on her room. In this case Mary’s response did not convince Zachariah because Mary’s response was that the sustenance is from God and that the sustenance is from God is not specific to Mary. All people’s sustenance is from God. Zachariah could have asked again, by whom this sustenance has been provided for you, because it could have been brought to him by those who came to the temple, whether they had spiritual or satanic goals. Since Zachariah had been convinced by Mary’s response, it was clear that the previously mentioned sustenance had not been a typical one. Besides, Zachariah’s invocation after Mary’s response who said: “O my God! Grant me from You, an offspring” implies that he has recognized finding the previously mentioned sustenance with Mary, as a divine and outstanding dignity, as a result he has been tempted to invoke God to grant him a good offspring to support him. So it was clear that the previously mentioned sustenance was an indication of God’s generosity toward Mary that the statement of “O Mary…” in the following sentence refered to this very meaning. In this verse although the word “and” could be used, He did not use it and separated the sentence. It means that Zachariah has said all those words to Mary at once and she has also convinced him with her response and he has believed that these foods are considered as God’s generosity toward Mary. Here his greediness becomes apparent by invoking God for granting him a good offspring. There is a Hadith from Imam Baqir in Tafsir-Ayyashi (Ayyashi exegesis) which is briefly as follows: one day prophet Muhammad (pbuh) entered Fatima’s house (a.s) while there was no food in her house for a few days. Suddenly he observed that there was plenty of food with her “where did you get this food from?" Muhammad asked her. "This is from God." Fatima replied. Because He gives sustenance to whomever He wills on no account. The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said: this is like the story of Zachariah when he came beside the Miharb of Mary and observed a special food there and asked her: "O Mary! Where did you get this food from?" She said, "This is from God."
Angels’ glad tidings for divine selection of Mary:
In some parts of the Quran’s verses, God states Mary’s booming time and her high status. Firstly it begins with Mary’s conversation with Angels, God says: “remember when the angels said: O Mary! God has chosen you from among all the women of the world for His purposes” (Surah al-Imran - verse 42). This verse indicates that Mary (a.s) was “Muhudissa”. It meant that she was one of those who said to be spoken by angels and she heard the words of these angels. This verse: “then We sent to her Our soul [angel (Gabriel)], and he appeared before her in the form of a man in all respects” (surah Mary-verse 17), and the following verses of Mary also indicate the very meaning. What is better for a human being than being able to speak with angels? And a kind of speak that includes glad tidings of divine selection of her from God and also a kind of speak that indicates her purity and superiority over all women in the world. It was not possible except in the light of virtue and piety, faith and worship of God. Yes, true it was, she was chosen to give birth to a prophet like Jesus Christ. So “divine selection of Mary” means that she has been accepted in worshiping God and her purification is her immunity to sins. Thus this honorable woman has been chosen and become sinless. Many interpreters have stated that: here the meaning of purification is becoming “Batool” or virgin. “Batool” means a woman which does not menstruate. God Almighty made her Batool because He did not want her to be forced to leave the church during menstruation. This theory seems to be faultless. If the word "Astfa’" which means divine selection becomes transitive by the word "Ala" it will mean superiority and preference. This "Astfa’" is not the absolute one which means to Surrender. According to previous statement, her "Astfa’" or being chosen from among all women in the world means having superiority over other women.
Now let us see if she has superiority from one aspect over all women or from all aspects?
“And remember Mary who guarded her chastity, We breathed into her of Our spirit, and We made her and her son a sign for all peoples” (surah Al-Anbiyaa-verse 91).
“And Mary the daughter of ´Imran, who guarded her chastity; and We breathed into (her body) of Our spirit; and she testified to the truth of the words of her God and of His Revelations, and was one of the devout servants” (surah At-Tahrim- verse 12). Again this verse does not point to any of Mary’s Characteristics except her strange way of giving birth to his son; therefore it just refers to her strange way of giving birth to his son and this "Astfa’" is not from all aspects. But except the term "Astfa’" there are other terms including "purification”, “confirming the words of God and His Books”, "qunoot " being Muhudissa " which are not specific to her. They may be found in any other women too. This verse is a proof that at that time Mary was her greatest female character in the world and it is not in contradiction with what we know about Fatima (a.s), the greatest woman in the world. Because there are many Hadiths of the Prophet of Islam (pbuh) and Imam Sadiq (a.s) which say: “Mary was the greatest woman of her time, but Fatima was the greatest woman of the whole time in the whole world from the first woman to the last one.” There is no contradiction between the above mentioned statement and the word "the whole world" because as we will read about the Children of Israel in the Quran and ordinary statements, this word has been used for the people who live in the same age. I preferred you to all other people in the world (surah Al-Baqarah-verse 47). Obviously it means the preference and superiority of the children of Israel’s believers over the other people of that time. In the next verse Mary is addressed by another Angel who says: "(O Mary! for acknowledging this great bounty of God that you've been chosen by Him to have preference over all the women of your time and by all accounts have got clean and neat) Submit yourself with obedience to your God devoutly and Prostrate yourself, and bow down with those who bow down."(Surah al-Imran-verse 43). In this verse Mary has been called by God and since calling requires the attention of the person to be called toward the one who calls her, necessarily wherever the word "call" is repeated, it would be an indication that the person who is being called understands that she would have some news. So listen carefully and well to that news which it tells us in the related verses that we have two news for you: the one is that God Almighty has honored you with your high status and the second one is the duty of obedience that you should always do that , to compensate for your high status which you’ve been granted. Then this commandment which is at the same time a command for doing the duty of obedience is a command for thanking God for this high status as well. As a result the repetition of a statement indicates that the verse "(O Mary! For acknowledging this great bounty ..." is the conclusion of the verse “O Mary! God has chosen you…”. So it means that now that God Almighty has chosen you, He deserves to be worshiped. You must do “Qunut”, “Bowing” and “prostrating” and it is not unlikely that each of the three properties mentioned in this verse, is the conclusion for each of the three mentioned properties mentioned in the previous verse.
Glad tidings for the birth of Jesus Christ:
Undoubtedly the important part of Mary’s life is the birth of his son, Jesus Christ (a.s). In this regard, God explains important points. First He says: “When the angels said, ‘O Mary, God gives you glad tidings of a word from Him; his name shall be the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, honored in this world and in the Hereafter, and of those who are granted nearness to God.”(Surah al-Imran-verse 43). Apparently the purpose of this glad tiding is the same story which states elsewhere and says: So We sent our own soul (Holy Spirit) to her, and then he appeared as a full human to Mary, in a way that she said: "Verily! I seek refuge with the Most Beneficent (God) from you, you did not come here if you were a man of piety, Our soul said to him: "I am only a Messenger from your God, to announce you the gift of a righteous son." (Surah Maryam-verse 19). Therefore the glad tiding which in this verse attributed to the angels is the same glad tiding in the Surah Maryam attributed to the soul.
1-Mary in the Quran, author : Hosein Rahimi, Publication: Bashgah Andishe
2-Mashoor Javid, Vol. 12, p. 356
3-Tafsir Nemoone Vol. 2, p. 548, pp. 522-528, p 544, p 517
4- Al Mizan Translation, vol. 3, p. 298, p. 271, pp. 262-267
5-Along with the prophets in the Quran, by Mr. Afif Abdul Fattah Tabbarih
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