Mary in Islam

This article is about Mary in Islam. For other uses, see Saint Mary (disambiguation) and Virgin Mary (disambiguation).
For other persons named Maryam, see Maryam (name).
Saint Mary the Holy Virgin

Mary and Jesus in a Persian miniature[1]
Virgin, The Purified, The Exalted, Mother of Isa, Keeper of Chastity, Mystic, Female Exemplar, Maternal Heroine, Queen of the Saints
Sai'mah, Mustafiah, Rāki’ah, Sājidah, Qānitah, Siddiqah, Tāhirah
Born c. 20 B.C.E.
Died c. 100–120 C.E.
Venerated in All Islam
All Christianity
Major shrine Mary's Tomb, Kidron Valley
Influenced All Muslim and Christian women.

Mary (Arabic: مريم, translit. Maryām), the mother of Jesus (Isa), is considered one of the most righteous and greatest women in the Islamic religion. She is mentioned more in the Quran[2] than in the New Testament and is also the only woman mentioned by name in the Quran.[3] According to the Quran, Jesus was born miraculously by the will of God without a father. His mother is regarded as a chaste and virtuous woman and is said to have been a virgin. The Quran states clearly that Jesus was the result of a virgin birth, but that neither Mary nor her son were divine. In the Quran, no other woman is given more attention than Mary and the Quran states that Mary was chosen above all women:

Behold! the angels said: "O Mary! Allah hath chosen thee and purified thee – chosen thee above the women of all nations.
Quran, sura 3 (Al Imran), ayah 42[4]

The nineteenth chapter of the Quran, Maryam (sura) is named after her and is, to some extent, about her life. Of the Quran's 114 suras, she is among only eight people who have a chapter named after them. Mary is specifically mentioned in the Quran, alongside Asiya, as an exemplar for all believers.[5] Mary plays an important role in Islamic culture and religious tradition, and verses from the Quran relating to Mary are frequently inscribed on the mihrab of various mosques, including in the Hagia Sophia.[6]


The Quran calls Mary "the daughter of Imran"[7] and "sister of Aaron".[8] In the Quran, Hannah prayed for a child and eventually conceived; but her husband, Imran, died before the child was born. Expecting the child to be male, Hannah vowed to dedicate him to isolation and service in the Temple.[9] However, Hannah bore a daughter instead, and named her Mary.[10][11][12]

Mary in the Quran

Mary is mentioned frequently in the Quran, and her narrative occurs consistently from the earliest chapters, revealed in Mecca, to the latest verses, revealed in Medina.


The birth of Mary is narrated in the Quran with references to her father as well as her mother. Mary's father is called Amran (Imran in Arabic) in tradition and is the equivalent of Joachim in Christian tradition. Her mother is called Anne (Hannah in Arabic), which is the same name as in Christian tradition (Saint Anne). Muslim literature narrates that Amram and his wife were old and childless and that, one day, the sight of a bird in a tree feeding her young aroused Anne's desire for a child. She prayed to God to fulfill her desire[13] and vowed, if her prayer was accepted, that her child would be dedicated to the service of God.

Unlike the Roman Catholic concept of the Immaculate Conception, the Quranic account does not confirm the Immaculate Conception exclusively for Mary, as in Islam every human child is born pure and immaculate,[14][15] her sinless birth is thus independent of the Christian notion of original sin. No such doctrine exists in Islam.[16] Moreover, Hannah's prayer in the Quran for her child to remain protected from Satan (Shayṭān) was said after it had already been born, not before, and expresses a natural concern any righteous parent would have. The Muslim tradition or hadith, which states that the only children born without the "touch of Satan," were Mary and Jesus,[17] if taken as authentic at all, should therefore not be taken in isolation from the Quran, and is to be interpreted within the specific context of exonerating Mary and her child from the charges that were made against them. It is not a general statement. The specific mention of Mary and Jesus in this hadith may also be taken to represent a class of people, in keeping with the Arabic language and the Quranic verse [O Satan] surely thou shalt have no power over My servants, except such of the erring ones as choose to follow thee (15:42)[16]

Early years

Mary's relation to John and Zechariah

The Quran narrates that Mary grew up in the temple of the prayer, and had a special place in the temple of her own. She was placed under the care of the prophet Zechariah, her uncle. The Muslim narrative makes it clear that lots were cast[18] as to who should be the guardian of Mary and the outcome was that she should be placed under Zechariah's care. As often as Zechariah entered Mary's prayer chamber, he found her provided with food[19] and he would ask her where she received it from, to which she would reply that God provides to whom He wills. Scholars have debated as to whether this refers to miraculous food that Mary received from God or whether it was normal food. Those in favor of the former view state that it had to be miraculous food, as Zechariah being a prophet, would have known that God is the provider of all sustenance and thus would not have questioned Mary, if it was normal food.

Annunciation to Mary

The virgin birth of Jesus is supremely important in Islam, as one of the most important miracles of God. The first explicit mention of an annunciation foreshadowing the birth of Jesus is in sura 19 (Maryam), ayah 20 where Mary asks Gabriel (Jibril) how she will be able to conceive, when no man has touched her. Gabriel's reply assures Mary that for God all things are easy and that Jesus's virgin birth will be a sign for mankind.[20] The birth is later referred in sura 66 (At-Tahrim), ayah 12,[21] where the Quran states that Mary remained "pure", while God allowed a life to shape itself in Mary's womb. A third mention of the annunciation is in sura 3 (Al-Imran), ayat 42–43, where Mary is also given the glad tidings that she has been chosen above all the women of creation.[22]

Commentators on the Quran remark on the last verse that Mary was as close to a perfect woman as there could be, and she was devoid of almost all failings.[23] Although Islam honors numerous women, including Khadija and Fatimah, many commentators[24] followed this verse in the absolute sense, and agreed that Mary was the greatest woman of all time.[23] Other commentators, however, while maintaining that Mary was the "queen of the saints", interpreted this verse to mean that Mary was the greatest woman of that time and that Fatimah and Khadija were equally great.[23][25] According to exegesis and literature, Gabriel appeared to Mary, who was still young in age, in the form of a well-made man with a "shining face" and announced to her the birth of Jesus. After her immediate astonishment, she was reassured by the angel's answer that God has the power to do anything.[23] The details of the conception are not discussed during these angelic visits, but elsewhere the Quran states (sura 21, (Al-Anbiya), ayah 91[26] and 66:12[21]) that God breathed "His Spirit" into Mary while she was chaste.[27][28]

Virgin birth of Jesus

The Quran narrates the virgin birth of Jesus numerous times. In sura 19 (Maryam), ayat 17–21,[29] the annunciation is given, followed by the virgin birth in due course. In Islam, Jesus is called the "spirit of God" because he was through the action of the spirit, but that belief does not include the doctrine of his pre-existence, as it does in Christianity.[30] Sura 3, ayat 47 also supports the virginity of Mary, revealing that "no man has touched [her]".[31] Sura:66:12[21] states that Jesus was born when the spirit of God breathed upon Mary, whose body was chaste.[32]

In Quran, When the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary: 19:16 And mention, [O Muhammad], in the Book [the story of] Mary, when she withdrew from her family to a place toward the east. 19:17 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. 19:18 She said, "Indeed, I seek refuge in the Most Merciful from you, [so leave me], if you should be fearing of Allah ." 19:19 He said, "I am only the messenger of your Lord to give you [news of] a pure boy." 19:20 She said, "How can I have a boy while no man has touched me and I have not been unchaste?" 19:21 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.' "

The Quran's narrative of the virgin birth is somewhat different from that in the New Testament. The Quran states that when the pains of childbirth came upon Mary, she held onto a nearby palm tree, at which point a voice came from "beneath the (palm-tree)" or "beneath her", which said " "Grieve not! for thy Lord hath provided a rivulet beneath thee; "And shake towards thyself the trunk of the palm-tree: It will let fall fresh ripe dates upon thee."[33] The Quran goes on to describe that Mary vowed not to speak to any man on that day,[34] as God was to make Jesus, who Muslims believe spoke in the cradle, perform his first miracle. The Quran goes on to narrate that Mary then brought Jesus to the temple, where immediately she began to be taunted by all the men, excluding Zechariah, who believed in the virgin birth. The Israelites questioned Mary how she came to be with child whilst unmarried, to which Mary pointed to the baby Jesus. It was then that according to the Quran the infant Jesus began to speak in the cradle, and spoke of his prophecy for the first time.[35]

Mary in current Islam

Mosques are named after Mary

  1. Mary Mother of Jesus Mosque in Hoppers Crossing, Victoria, Australia.[36]
  2. Mosque Maryam, the Nation of Islam National Center, Chicago, IL

Mary in Muslim tradition

Mary is one of the most honored figures in Muslim history, with the majority of Muslims viewing her as one of the most righteous women to have lived, and a minority viewing her as an actual female prophet.[37] Muslim women look upon her as an example and are known to visit both Muslim and Christian shrines. Muslim tradition, like Christian, honors her memory at Matariyyah near Cairo, and in Jerusalem. Muslims also visit the Bath of Mary in Jerusalem, where Muslim tradition recounts Mary once bathed, and this location was visited at times by women who were seeking a cure for barrenness.[38] Some plants have also been named after Mary, such as Maryammiah, which, as tradition recounts, acquired its sweet scent when Mary wiped her forehead with its leaves. Another plant is Kaff Maryam (Anastatica), which was used by some Muslim women to help in pregnancy, and the water of this plant was given to women to drink while praying.

Islamic literature does not recount many instances from Mary's later life, and the assumption is not present in any Muslim records. Nevertheless, some contemporary Muslim scholars, an example being Martin Lings, accepted the assumption as being a historical event from Mary's life.[39] One of the lesser-known events which are recorded in Muslim literature is that of Mary visiting Rome with John and Thaddeus (Jude), the disciples (al-Hawāriyūn) of Jesus, during the reign of Nero.[40]

Arabic titles

Many other names of Mary can be found in various other books and religious collections. In Hadith, she has been referred to by names such as Batul, Adhraa (Ascetic Virgin), and Marhumah (Enveloped in God's Mercy).[43]

Burial place

Mary is believed to have been buried at the Tomb of the Virgin Mary in the Kidron Valley, at the foot of the Mount of Olives, in Jerusalem. The Christian church on the site has been destroyed several times but the crypt has remained intact. The site is run by the Greek Orthodox Church of Jerusalem who share it with the Armenian Apostolic Church. A mihrab is located at the site to aid Muslims.


See also


  1. Enzyklopadie des Islam English translation of German article about "Maria" at
  2. Esposito, John. What Everyone Needs to Know About Islam. New York: University Press, 2002. P31.
  3. "Mary" in Glasse, Cyril, Concise Encyclopedia of Islam. Stacey International, 3rd edition, 2008.
  4. 1 2 3 Quran 3:42
  5. Quran 66:11–12
  6. Dimensions of Islam, F. Schuon, Wisdom of the Virgin
  7. Quran 66:12
  8. Quran 19:28
  9. Quran 3:35
  10. Wheeler, Brannon M. (2002). Prophets in the Quran: an introduction to the Quran and Muslim exegesis. Continuum International Publishing Group. pp. 297–302. ISBN 0-8264-4957-3.
  11. Da Costa, Yusuf (2002). The Honor of Women in Islam. LegitMaddie101. ISBN 1-930409-06-0.
  12. Quran 3:36
  13. Quran 3:31
  14. Quran 30:30
  15. Sahih Bukhari Kitabul Tafseer
  16. 1 2 English 5 Volume Commentary
  17. Bukhari, Anbiya, 44; Muslim, Fada'il, trad. 146, 147
  18. Quran 3:39
  19. Quran 3:32
  20. Quran 19:20–22 Sura 19:20 She said: "How shall I have a son, seeing that no man has touched me, and I am not unchaste?"
    19:21 He said: "So (it will be): Thy Lord saith, 'that is easy for Me: and (We wish) to appoint him as a Sign unto men and a Mercy from Us':It is a matter (so) decreed."
    19:22 So she conceived him, and she retired with him to a remote place.
  21. 1 2 3 4 5 Quran 66:12
  22. Quran 3:37–38
  23. 1 2 3 4 Bosworth, C.E. et al., The Encyclopaedia of Islam, Volume VI: Mahk-Mid, Brill: 1991, p. 629
  24. Two such commentators were al-Razi and al-Qurtubi.
  25. R. Arnaldez, Jesus fils de Marie prophete de l'Islam, Paris 1980, p. 77.
  26. Quran 21:91
  27. Islam: A Guide for Jews and Christians by F. E. Peters 2005 Princeton University Press ISBN 0-691-12233-4, p. 23.
  28. Holy people of the world: a cross-cultural encyclopedia, Volume 1 by Phyllis G. Jestice 2004 ISBN 1-57607-355-6 pages 558–559
  29. Quran 19:17–21
  30. Christianity, Islam, and the West by Robert A. Burns, 2011, ISBN page 32
  31. Quran 3:47
  32. Understand My Muslim People by Abraham Sarker 2004 ISBN 1-59498-002-0 page 127
  33. Quran 19:24–25
  34. Quran 19:26
  35. Quran 19:27–33
  36. "Masjid Maryam (Virgin Mary) – Hoppers Crossing, Victoria". Retrieved 2013-11-03.
  37. Beyond The Exotic: Women's Histories In Islamic Societies, pg. 402. Ed. Amira El-Azhary Sonbol. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2005. ISBN 9780815630555
  38. T. Canaan, Muhammaden Saints and Sanctuaries in Palestine, in Journal of the Palestine Oriental Sac., iv/1–2, 1924, 1–84
  39. Muhammad, M. Lings, pg. 101
  40. Bosworth, C.E. et al., The Encyclopaedia of Islam, Volume VI: Mahk-Mid, Brill: 1991, p. 631
  41. Quran 5:73–75
  42. Quran 3:43
  43. Khattan, Rahib; The Blessed names of Sayyidatina Maryam, pg 111

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