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Taking Lessons from The Strength of Maryam, Mother of Jesus


Palm tree, mother of jesus

She didn’t give up. She didn’t give in. Her strength saw her through the most trying and challenging time of her life. Despite fear of taunts, accusations, fear of reprisals, and oppression, God saw her through and she delivered her baby alone, onerously, in Bethlehem. She birthed Jesus 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him); one of the greatest Prophets to walk this earth, who lived in and around Jerusalem and was lifted to the Heavens from the sacred land.

Mary (also Maryam, Mariam, and Meryem) raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) is considered by Islam to be one of the preeminent women to have ever lived and is the only woman mentioned by name in the Qur’an. In fact, there are more references to Mary raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) in the Qur’an than there are in the canonical Gospels.

Mary raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) was the answer to a supplication made by the wife of the Imam of al Quds, Jerusalem (’Imran), Hannah. According to Muhammad bin Ishaq (may God grant him mercy), the famous Prophetic biographer, Hannah could not have children, but one day she saw a bird feeding its chick and she asked God the Sublime & Exalted for a child. When she became pregnant, she vowed that she would raise her child to concentrate on worshiping God the Almighty and serving the Blessed Masjid Al-Aqsa in Jerusalem. [Tafsir ibn Kathir]

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“[Mention, O Prophet] 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…”’ [Surah Ali’Imran:3; 35]

“This is Mary, the mother of Jesus. Mary spent a great deal of time in secluded worship, in the eastern part” [Surah Maryam, 19:16] of the Blessed Masjid Al-Aqsa.

She is from the region of Shaam, a land that stretches from Syria to Palestine, traditionally known as the blessed lands where each prophet of God had traversed its precincts. Her resilience, strength, courage, and God-given ability are characteristic of those brave, endearing souls in the region today. Mary raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) was a sincere believer, a Muslim, in the true sense of the word: someone who submits herself wholly and is dedicated to One God. 

“This is Mary, Mother of Jesus.”

God the Almighty describes Mary’s raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) labor in detail, in this way honoring women and their journeys to motherhood.

“So she conceived him, and went into seclusion with him to a remote place.”

“And the birth pangs, the pains of childbirth, brought her to the trunk of the palm tree (that she may support herself against it). She said, ‘O that I would have died before this and been something gone, forgotten.'”

“Then he [either Jesus in her womb or the angel Gabriel] called her from beneath her: ‘Grieve not. Your Lord has placed a stream beneath you.'”

“‘And shake the trunk of the palm tree towards yourself, and it will drop upon you ripe fresh dates.'”

“‘So eat, drink, and be content. Then if you see any human being, say (to him), “I have vowed a fast (of silence) for The Rahman (All-Merciful), and therefore, I shall never speak to any human today.'” [Surah Maryam;19:22-26]

“O that I would have died before this and been something gone, forgotten.” Mary’s raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) human frailty peeks through as she seems to question her strength to go through the test of birthing a son as a virgin. It’s as if God is showing us that even she, one of the best of creation, felt desperation and anguish at the height of her test. What would her people say? Would they believe her? What would they do to her, her son, her family? Would they dishonor her late father, ‘Imran, and her pure, chaste mother, Hannah? In her pain, both physical and emotional, she wished for oblivion – to be completely forgotten. However, God the Most Wise gave her the opposite. She is far from forgotten – in fact, she is one of the most famous, elevated, and celebrated personalities in the history of humankind. With these fears overwhelming her, and God is the knower of the hearts, fully aware of all subtleties and that which is hidden, He. the Sublime & Exalted assured her, comforted her, strengthened her “Drink from the stream, shake the palm tree..” 

It is as if God the Sublime was saying to Mary raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her): You can do it. I am with you. Be strong. You got this, you are shaping a nation. I am going to use you to uplift a people, to fortify them, to accept them as My people.

When we face challenges and feel like we’ve reached our limit and can’t go on, know that God the Exalted is with us and His assistance may be in front of us. It may not come in the time we hoped for, nor in the manner we expected, but it will come when we put our trust in Him, and it will be in the way He wills.

Unwavering Conviction

Mary’s raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) story exemplifies the proverb that the darkest part of the night comes just before the break of dawn. She reached such an emotional low that she wished for oblivion, yet her conviction and trust in God never wavered and she was taken from rock bottom to ascending, spiritual heights. In our own trials, we must realize that the difficulties we face will come to an end one day. Everything created, including problems we face,  is temporal and transient. God’s eternal Knowledge, Mercy, and Wisdom are eternal. Placing our unwavering trust and conviction in Him, as Mary raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) did, will be that shining beacon to see us through our most challenging times.

Mary may be most famously known for her virgin birth, a sign for all who reflect, because it is a reminder of God the Almighty’s incomparable Power. Nothing is difficult for Him – He only has to say ‘Be!’ and whatever He intends to create will be created. Knowing that God the Almighty is Capable of anything helps us when we are experiencing something that reminds us of our own powerlessness and helplessness. In our own lives, these trying circumstances come in a myriad of forms; from the trial of recalcitrant children, a distracted spouse, to toxic relationships, it may seem we stand against the world without anyone to understand or assist us. However, in these most difficult of situations, if we can draw from Lady Mary’s raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) feeling of anguish to her Divine fortification, we can then realize that God the Almighty has always, and will always, be with us. He knows our innermost states and He is the One that can transform even the most dire of situations in the blink of an eye. He is always with us, He is always aware and wanting us to draw near to Him.

This nearness is exemplified in the words of the Hadith Qudsi,

It was narrated from Abu Dharr that:
the Messenger of Allah (saas) said: “Allah, the Blessed and Exalted, said: ‘Whoever does one good deed will have (the reward of) ten like it and more, and whoever does a bad deed will have one like it, or I will forgive him. Whoever draws near to Me a hand span, I draw near to him an arm’s length; whoever comes to Me a forearm’s length, I draw near him an arm’s length; whoever comes to Me walking, I come to him in a hurry. Whoever meets Me with an earthful of sins, but does not associate anything in worship with Me, I will meet it (i.e., his sins) with forgiveness equal to that.'” [Sahih Muslim 2687]

This knowledge and awareness that God the Almighty desires us to draw near, and is waiting with His Divine love and assistance, strengthens our trust and surrender to Him. 

In the following verses, Lady Mary raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her)  births Jesus 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) and God the Almighty exonerates her through the second miracle of Jesus 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) speaking just hours after his birth.

“Then she came to her people carrying him (the baby). They said, ‘O Maryam you have come out with something grave indeed.'”

“‘O sister of Harun, neither your father was a man of evil nor was your mother unchaste.'”

“So she pointed towards him (the baby). They said, ‘How shall we speak to someone who is yet a child in the cradle?'”

“Spoke he (the baby), ‘Verily I am the servant of Allah. He has given me the Book and made me a prophet,'”

“‘and He has made me a blessed one wherever I be, and has enjoined prayer and charity upon me as long as I am alive,'”

“‘and (He has made me) dutiful to my mother, and he did not make me a wretched tyrant.'”

“‘And peace is upon me the day I was born, the day I shall die, and the day I shall be raised alive again.'” [Surah Maryam; 19:27-33]

The story of Jesus’s alayhis] creation reminds us that God the Almighty is truly Capable of anything, however impossible it may seem to us. We need only to examine and learn from the lesson of Mary raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) and take from the strength of her conviction and trust in God.

She is a woman of al-Quds, Jerusalem. In Islam, she is one of the most perfect humans in all history and one of the leading dignitaries in Heaven. 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.” [Musnad Ahmad]

One common thread between these extraordinary women of our tradition is that they all embodied utmost modesty, humility, conviction, and internal strength that saw them through the darkness of their personal trials to the light of Divine Pleasure and ultimate success. By drawing on their lasting examples and taking them as our guides, our lives can be truly transformed with our mundane acts being counted amongst the sacred.

Furthermore, Lady Mary’s rank is such that she was visited and addressed by the Angel Jibril himself:

“’O Mary! Surely Allah has selected you, purified you, and chosen you over all women of the world’.” [Surah ‘Ali ‘Imran; 3:42]

She is our role model. And, to me, she represents the God-given power, internal strength, and resilient nature of all birthing women, and is the embodiment of strength, courage, and fortitude of all people today living in the sacred precincts of al Quds. 

[Listen to Shaykha Shamira’s lecture “The Quds Through The Lens of Lady Maryam & Prophet Jesus 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him).”]



Lessons From Surah Maryam: 1

Muslim Women’s History: A Book List



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Born and raised in California’s Central Valley, Ustadha Shamira is passionate about educating and empowering Muslim women to reach their highest spiritual potential through acquiring sacred knowledge. Having graduated as valedictorian from a large public high school, her studies led her — following a brief soul-searching stint at Georgetown University — to seek sacred knowledge from scholars on three continents — Africa, Europe, and Asia. Ustadha Shamira began her journey in seeking sacred knowledge at the women’s Dar-ul-Uloom Mu’eenal Islam seminary in South Africa, and completed the five-year intensive ‘alima program at Ja’mia Al-Imam Muhammad Zakariyya, one of Britain’s first and most renowned Islamic universities for women. Thereafter, she continued her Arabic and Qur’anic studies in Damascus, Syria where she obtained an ijāzah in Tajwīd of the Ḥafṣ recitation from the late eminent Syrian scholar, Shaykh Ḥasan al-Kurdī. In 2005, Ustadha Shamira taught Hanafi fiqh for women at the Zaytuna Institute in California and since then has taught various Islamic sciences in venues across North America. In 2008, she earned a Master’s Degree in Demographics and Social Analysis from the University of California at Irvine, focusing on the identity formation of the Muslim-American population. In 2013, Ustadha Shamira specialized in the detailed rulings of menstruation, lochia, and abnormal discharge under the direction of Mufti Abdur Rahman Ibn Yusuf Mangera and assisted in compiling Imam Abu Hanifa’s Al-Fiqh al-Akbar Explained. As a wife and mother of five children, Ustadha Shamira has a passion to empower women in their child bearing years to gain closeness to their Lord. As a certified birth doula and lactation educator, she infuses her classes with Islamic spirituality and offers birth consultations and virtual doula services to Muslim women. Ustadha Shamira is a co-founder of the Rahmah Foundation and currently teaches for Nur al Iman, a full-time girls’ shariah program with Ustadha Mona Elzankaly based in the Bay Area.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Talal A Itani

    February 20, 2024 at 1:17 PM

    The full Surah (Chapter) is here, in English and Arabic

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