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Qualities, virtues and dignity of Mary (Pbuh) in Islam and Christianity-Part (2)
Mary’s superiority over Joseph (a.s):
For explaining the power of attraction and introducing the idol of chastity, the Quran uses some examples which includes both man and woman. Now, we must see which of them have manifested more chastity, man or woman? The honest Joseph (pbuh) and Mary (pbuh) were of numerous valuable superiorities which Quran states them. However, what is taken into consideration here is the existence of the idol of chastity in them. Both Joseph and Mary were tested and saved through the light of chastity. What counts is that how the reaction of each of these two virtuous human had been? Regarding the time Joseph is tested, Quran says that: “That woman certainly determined [to seduce] him, and he would have inclined to her, had he not seen the proof of his God”. Here determination refers to the determination of the Egyptian woman in seducing him that accordingly she chased him. But Joseph not only did not commit the forbidden act and did not made ready its arrangement but also he did not have any determination, ambition and desire for her. The reason is that according to this verse, Joseph’s ambition was dependent on something which was not realized. Accordingly the Quran says: “And he would have inclined to her had he not seen the proof of his God.” (Surah Yusuf-verse 24). There are other evidences regarding the fact that God mentioned Joseph as His virtuous and chosen servant. Accordingly the Quran says: “Indeed, he was of Our chosen servants.” (Surah Yusuf-verse 24). Except, among them, Your chosen servants. (Surah Al-Hijr-verse 24). As Satan confessed, the honest Joseph was free from any harm, therefore when they accused the virtuous Joseph, they finally confessed and said that: “Now the truth has become evident. It was I who sought to seduce him.” (Surah Yusuf-verse 51) and God testified the virtuosity of Joseph and said: Joseph not only did not go toward the evil and immorality but also evil and immorality did not go toward Joseph that accordingly He said: “And thus [it was] that We should avert from him evil and immorality.” (Surah Yusuf-verse 24). The Quran does not say that We prevented him from the sin but it says that We did not allow the sin to go see him.
Mary, the teacher of chastity:
In terms of being idol, Mary is either at the same level with the honest Joseph that God mentioned him as His chosen servant or she has superiority over him. The explanation is that when talking about the chastity of Mary, it is like what Joseph did, as the following verse: “And she certainly determined [to seduce] him, and he would have inclined to her, had he not seen the proof of his God”, therefore it does say that if Mary had not seen the proof of her God, she would have committed the sin but it says that: “She said, Indeed, I seek refuge in the Most Merciful from you, if you should be fearing of God .” (Surah Maryam-verse 18). Mary said: if you are fearing God, I seek refuge in the Most Merciful from you. Hence, not only did she herself not intend to commit the sin, but she also forbade the Angel who had been revealed as a human from the sin and said: if you are fearing God, do not commit the sin.
When God almighty says: “Then We sent to her Our Angel, and he represented himself to her as a well-proportioned man.” (Surah Maryam-verse 17). Therefore He does not continue in such a way to say that if she had not seen the proof of her God, she would have intended or desired to commit that but He says: “She said, Indeed, I seek refuge in the Most Merciful from you, if you should be fearing of God .” the phrase “if you should be fearing of God” is used as ordering to good deeds and forbidding the evil ones. It means that you must avoid committing that. It is like when God says: do not do that “if you are from believers”. We are frequently faced with this phrase in the Quran which is interpreted as a guidance. It means that if you are from the believers act according to your faith. Here again Mary tells the Angel who had been revealed as a human that: if you are fearing of God, do not commit that and therefore she so-called said, my hands are closed, so you close your hands too. This phrase has been used more delicately than the one which is about Joseph, hasn’t it? Regarding Joseph, God said that: If he had not seen the proof of his God, he would have inclined to commit the sin, but he did not inclined to do that because he saw the proof of his God. However, regarding Mary it has to be metioned that: Not only did she herself not intend to commit the sin, but she also forbade the Angel who had been revealed as a human from the intention of doing that.
Assessment of Mary’s status from the commentators’ point of view:
What Quran recounts about the upbringing of Mary is that whenever Zachariah (pbuh) entered Al-Mihrab to visit her, he found her supplied with special sustenance. Also Angels talked to Mary and heard Mary’s voice too. They mixed their statements with evidences orally and accordingly Mary was able to hear their voices and also they revealed to her. These are great interpretations of Quran about Mary. In explaining this part of Mary’s life, a group of Muʿtazilah including Al-Zamakhshari believed that this woman could not have reached that status, could not have had such dignity, could not have heard the Angels’ voice and she could not have received the glad tiding of herself being chosen from the Angels. Additionally, they believed that she could not have received the glad tiding of becoming the mother of the prophet from the Angels. Therefore they have told that all these superiorities which have been bestowed upon Mary are considered as the miracle of Zachariah or as the prelude to the miracle of Jesus. Another group including “Al-Qurtubi”- of well-known Sunni commentators- and those who thought like him believed that Mary had been a prophet because many Angels had been sent down to her and had made her aware of the revelations and through revelation they had announced her that she had been chosen and had given her the glad tiding of becoming the mother of the prophet and etc. They believed that since Mary had seen the Angels’ revelation and also they had been sent down to her and the verbal conversation had turned into seeing them, therefore she would have been a prophet. The reason was that they believed when Angles were sent down to a person and he/she was able to see them, she would be a prophet. But scholars of Ja'fari jurisprudence (Shiite) who acted upon justice believed that all these dignities are related to Mary herself. It means that they should not be considered as miracles of Zachariah. From the other hand, Mary has not been achieved the legislative prophecy. They explained these two matters based on the appearances of Quran.
However, regarding the first matter which says all these dignities belongs to Mary herself, it is because of the appearances of Quran that Angels talked to her, not only as the Angels of unseen, but also they revealed to her. According to the appearances of Quran, Mary herself achieved these dignities and it was because of Mary’s dignity that Zachariah could ask God to bestow upon him a child. Therefore God mentions Mary as a supporter of truth and says: “And his mother was a supporter of truth.” (Surah Al-Ma'idah-verse 75). It means that Jesus had a mother who could acknowledge the unseen words. she was not only honest but also was considered as the steadfast affirmers of truth. Being honest along with affirmation of that by God indicate that all these virtues belong to her. However, the second matter which extremists believed (those who believed that Mary was a prophet) it was based on a postulate. Since this analogy is not suitable for a postulate, therefore it is a paralogism. It is a paralogism because: Al-Qurtubi states in his commentary that: she received the revelation, the Angels were sent down to her and talked to her and this verbal conversation turned to a conversation in which she was able to see them. Therefore whomever receives a revelation and could hear the Angels’ voice is a prophet and as a result Mary is a prophet.
The first introduction of this analogy is correct. It means that she was able to talk to the Angels verbally and also she could see them. However, the second introduction in which it is claimed that whomever is able to see the Angel and receives the revelation is a prophet, is not correct. Because a prophet is a person who is in connection with the Angels not only in worldview and wisdom related issues but also in legislative issues through the revelation. Accordingly he receives the Sharia (legislation) from the Angels, undertakes the responsibility of leading and guiding people and learns the rules and notifies people. But Mary did not possess any of these features, therefore this paralogism is void.
Mary’s status in Catholic religion:
Many people ask: “Do Catholics worship Mary?” it is a very good question, because some Catholics behave in such a way that it creates that illusion. To clarify the issue, it must be immediately said that the answer to the above question is negative. The Catholics do not worship Mary because she was a human being too. She is only venerated. But if some Catholics out of their ignorance act in such a way that it may resemble the worship, it is not related to the official beliefs of the Catholic Church. Mary is revered and venerated by Catholics, Orthodoxies and also other historical and traditional churches (including Gregory Armenian Church and the Assyrian Church of the East). The only formal and necessary prayer of these churches for Mary is the following prayer:
“Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.”
This is the famous prayer which is known in Latin as (Ave Maria). It means “Hail Mary”.
Mary’s status in the Bible:
Respect and veneration of Mary has its roots in the Bible. The most important reference to Mary is found in the Gospel of Luke. Gabriel, the angel of God appeared to Mary to give her the good news of her pregnancy. See how she is venerated by the Angel from God. The Angel said: “Hail, O favored one, the Lord is with you! ... Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High…” In response to the honor that was bestowed on her, Mary said to the Angel: "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word." (Luke 1: 28-38). Then Mary went to visit Elizabeth, one of her kinswoman who was pregnant with John the Baptist. Having seen Mary, Elizabeth was filled with Holy Spirit and welcomed her and said: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy...” (Luke 1: 42-45). Then Mary, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, said: “My soul magnifies the Lord, band my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed…” (Luke 1: 46-48). Such greetings have never been said to any man or woman in Bible, not to Moses and not even to Paul the Apostle. According to the Angel, she was blessed with God. She unquestionably accepted the God’s will, though it could cost her dear. From the outset, Mary was revered by the Church. Because through complete obedience to the commands of God, she was a great example of obedience and submission to God for the Church. She was a perfect example of obedience to God for all the Christians. She deserves that "all generations" blessed her and follow her as their role model.
Additionally, we see that how Elizabeth greets her under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. She calls her blessed and doesn't think she deserves to be the mother of her Lord should come to her. Then we observe that through a prophetic song, Mary declares that "all generations" will call him blessed. Hence, according to the testimony of writings of the early church fathers, veneration of Mary had been common at that time, because they knew "all generations must call her blessed." That why the prayer of “Hail Mary” (Ave Maria) had been common from long time ago. Should you be careful, you could observe that the first part of this prayer is entirely based on the verses of Luke. The second part is nothing but a request of mediation and intercession of Mary. After the birth of our Lord Jesus, when his parents had taken him to the temple to perform the rituals of Sharia (legislation) for him, an old man named Simeon who was under the guidance and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, recognized that this child is the Messiah. Therefore he blessed him and told Mary: “a sword will pierce your soul too, so that the secret thoughts of many may be laid bare.” (Luke 2: 35). Thus, we observe that in a prophetic state, Simeon foretells the Passion of the Christ and he believes that somehow it is shared with Mary. Hence, the church has long acknowledged the role of Mary in God's plan of salvation and she is revered by the church. In the Gospel of John we also observe that Mary was one of the few people who had stood by her son at the time of crucifixion of Jesus. Our Lord Jesus when found his mother lonely, left her to his favorite disciple, John and said: “from now on she will be her mother and he will be his son”. Accordingly the Lord Jesus allegorically left the church to his mother. That is why, from the ancient times church calls Mary “Mother of the Church”. When mentioning Mary among the one hundred twenty people who between the interval of Ascension of Jesus into heaven and descent of the Holy Spirit at the day of Pentecost, were praying and doing worship along with her prophets and close followers and accompanied the church of her son ,Luke also notified the very issue. At the time when women were not given any role or social value, this issue was important for them. The fact that the name of a woman has been mentioned among the names of the prophets is an indication of the great importance of this blessed woman. In general, it should not be forgotten that at the time husbands did not talk to his wives in public, Jesus accepted the women as his disciples, and considered them as his close ones.
A very old belief:
As mentioned before, the respect and veneration of Mary is not related to the Catholic Church and it had been common since the early days of the church. That is why, according to history, Christians called her “God-bearer” or (Mother of God). It does not mean that God has a mother, but it means that Mary the mother of Christ, was the "Word of God". Since Mary was “word of God”, she was called "God bearer" or (Mother of God). Again according to the history, the early Christians had long been requesting for intercession of the Christian martyrs especially Saint Stephen, the first martyr of the Christian church. Although it was not mentioned in the New Testament, but this tradition was transmitted from the Jews to the Christians and it was generally accepted. Obviously in this regard, Mary has her own status. Who can intercede with God on behalf of us, better that her?! Some may say how a dead person can intercede for us. In response to this question, it has to be mentioned that based on apostles’ beliefs, church had always believed the “Saints’ partnership”. This point means that all Christians either alive or dead are all in connection and partnership (Hebrews 12: 22-24). So it's no surprise that Christian had been always requesting the Holy Spirit, especially Mary, the Mother of God to intercede for them. It should not be forgotten that this reverence and veneration of Mary is not because of her own, but the reason is that God chose (Luke 1: 42) Mary “among women” so as to bear His (God) Holy son in her womb. From the beginning of her conception, God purified her (immaculate conception of mary) from the hereditary sin of Adam and Eve in order to be a deserving and holy means for bearing the "Son of God". Nobody in the history has ever received this honor. So she was revered by both Angel and Elizabeth and also she has always been revered by the Church.
1 - Al-Qurtubi Commentary, vol 18, p. 204
2 - Al-Burhan commentary, vol 4, p. 325
3 - Majma al-Bayan Commentary, vol 10, p. 320
4 – translation of Tafsir Al-Mizan, vol 19, p 578
5 - tebyan Website, the article of Mary’s features, by a Atiyeh Tahqiqi
6 - Tafsir Nemoone vol 2, pp. 394-398
7 - Ali Akbar, Baba Zadeh, Women’s features in Islam, pp. 52-55
8 - The Woman in the Mirror of glory and beauty, Ayatollah Javadi Amoli, pp. 161 and 168-169
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