Friday, November 6, 2015

The Quran on Mary’s Heavenly Ascension



By Sam Shamoun

It is apparent to anyone having carefully read the Quran that Muhammad was clearly influenced by the various Christian sects that flourished during his time. It is equally obvious that his views on Mary were heavily impacted by the teachings of Byzantine Christianity, much of which can still be found today in both Roman Catholicism and Orthodox Christianity. 

Although we have written extensively on this issue in other articles and rebuttals (the links to which will be posted at the end), here we will list just some of the many qualities and honors that Islam ascribes to the glorious Lord Jesus and his blessed mother.

Allah preferred Jesus’ maternal family above all creatures, making them superior to the rest of creation:

Lo! Allah preferred Adam and Noah and the Family of Abraham and the Family of 'Imran above (all His) creatures. They were descendants one of another. Allah is Hearer, Knower. (Remember) when the wife of 'Imran said: My Lord! I have vowed unto Thee that which is in my belly as a consecrated (offering). Accept it from me. Lo! Thou, only Thou, art the Hearer, the Knower! And when she was delivered she said: My Lord! Lo! I am delivered of a female - Allah knew best of what she was delivered - the male is not as the female; and lo! I have named her Mary, and lo! I crave Thy protection for her and for her offspring from Satan the outcast. S. 3:33-36 Pickthall

Allah honored Jesus and his blessed mother by making them the only ones whom Satan was absolutely forbidden from touching when they were born: 

And when she gave birth to her, a girl, and she had been hoping for a boy, since only males were consecrated to the service of God, she said, apologetically, ‘O, Lord, I have given birth to a female’ — and God knew very well what she had given birth to: a parenthetical statement constituting God’s speech (a variant reading [for wada‘at, ‘she gave birth’, has wada‘tu, ‘I gave birth’ [making these Hanna’s words, sc. ‘and God knows very well what I have given birth to’]); the male, that she had asked for, is not as the female, that was bestowed upon her, because he is designed for the service [of God], while she would not be suitable on account of her lesser physical ability, her private parts, the effects of menstruation on her, and so on. ‘And I have named her Mary, and commend her to You with her seed, her children, to protect them from the accursed, the outcast, Satan’. In a hadith [it is stated]: ‘Every new-born is touched by Satan and begins [life] by crying, except for Mary and her son’, as reported by the two Shaykhs [Bukhari and Muslim]. (Tafsir al-Jalalayn;  bold and underline emphasis ours)

And:

Allah's statement that Maryam's mother said…

(“… And I seek refuge with You for her and for her offspring from Shaytan, the outcast.”) means, that she sought refuge with Allah from the evil of Shaytan, for her and her offspring, i.e., `Isa, peace be upon him. Allah accepted her supplication, for `Abdur-Razzaq recorded that Abu Hurayrah said that the Messenger of Allah said...

<<Every newly born baby is touched by Shaytan when it is born, and the baby starts crying because of this touch, except Maryam and her son.>>

Abu Hurayrah then said, “Read if you will…

(And I seek refuge with You for her and for her offspring from Shaytan, the outcast).” The Two Sahihs recorded this Hadith. (Tafsir Ibn Kathir; bold and underline emphasis ours)

On a related point, Allah not only made Mary absolutely pure, he also preferred her above all the rest of the women of creation:

And when the angels said: O Mary! Lo! Allah hath chosen thee and made thee pure, and hath preferred thee ABOVE (ALL) THE WOMEN OF CREATION. S. 3:42 Pickthall

Allah also caused Mary to conceive and give birth to an absolutely holy and pure son by the power of his Spirit. Allah further made both Jesus and his blessed mother a sign for all creation:

And make mention of Mary in the Scripture, when she had withdrawn from her people to a chamber looking East, And had chosen seclusion from them. Then We sent unto her OUR SPIRIT and it assumed for her the likeness of a perfect man. She said: Lo! I seek refuge in the Beneficent One from thee, if thou art God-fearing. He said: I am only a messenger of thy Lord, that I MAY BESTOW on thee A FAULTLESS SON. She said: How can I have a son when no mortal hath touched me, neither have I been unchaste? He said: So (it will be). Thy Lord saith: It is easy for Me. And (it will be) that We may make of him a revelation for mankind and a mercy from Us, and it is a thing ordained. S. 19:16-21 Pickthall

And she who guarded her private parts, and we breathed into her of our Spirit, and we made her and her son a sign unto the worlds. S. 21:91 Palmer

And Mary, Imran's daughter, who guarded her virginity, so We breathed into her of Our Spirit, and she confirmed the Words of her Lord and His Books, and became one of the obedient. S. 66:12 Arberry

Now this creates a major dilemma for Muslims since both the Quran,

If God should take men to task for their evildoing, He would not leave on the earth ONE CREATURE that crawls; but He is deferring them to a term stated; and when their term is come they shall not put it back by a single hour nor put it forward. S. 16:61 Arberry

If God should take men to task for what they have earned He would not leave upon the face of the earth ONE CREATURE that crawls; but He is deferring them to a stated term. But when their term is come -- surely God sees His servants. S. 35:45 Arberry

And ahadith teach that there is no creature that is absolutely sinless:

Sunan Ibn Majah

The Chapters on Asceticism

It was narrated from Anas that the Messenger of Allah said:

EVERY son of Adam commits sin, and the best of those who commit sin are those who repent.’”

Grade: Hasan (Darussalam)

English reference: Vol. 5, Book 37, Hadith 4251

Arabic reference: Book 37, Hadith 4392 (Sunnah.com; capital, italic and underline emphasis ours)

Jami` at-Tirmidhi  

Chapters on the description of the day of Judgement, and Ar-Riqaq, and Al-Wara'

Anas narrated that the Prophet said: "EVERY son of Adam sins, and the best of the sinners are the repentant.

Grade: Da'if (Darussalam)

English reference: Vol. 4, Book 11, Hadith 2499

Arabic reference: Book 37, Hadith 2687 (Sunnah.com; capital, italic and underline emphasis ours)

Now this either means that Mary and her blessed Son are not merely descendants of Adam and are no mere creatures, but are also fully divine. Or this is simply one of the many blunders that Muhammad made by parroting the beliefs of Christians without understanding the ramifications of doing so.

To top it off, Mary is called al-Batul in Islamic tradition in recognition of not only her essential purity, but also of her being a perpetual virgin since the Quran knows nothing of Mary’s betrothal to Joseph.  Muslimah Aliah Schleifer writes:

Tabari paraphrases the meaning of 19:20 thus: ‘When no mortal has touched me, either from the point of view of halal [allowed acts] or haram [forbidden acts].’ Thus, because of Mary’s purity of body and soul, she is entitled al-batul. She is called the Virgin Mary in the Christian context, thus stressing the physical aspect of her purity, but the Arabic word, al-batul implies more, as the scholars have noted.

According to the classical dictionary Lisan al-‘Arab, the root of batul, b.t.l., has the sense of ‘severance’, and the original meaning of the words batul, batil, and batila is: a palm shoot which has separated itself from its mother tree. The verb which is related to the form batul is tabattala, and the phrase tabattala ila Allah means to withdraw or to cut oneself off in order to devote oneself sincerely to divine worship. Thus, if God’s servant severs all concerns and devotes himself totally to His worship, he has tabattala, i.e., has separated himself from everything except the cause of God and obedience to Him. Lisan al-‘Arab further states that ‘the batul among the women’ is the woman who separates herself from men, having no desire or need for them. Thus, Mary the Virgin [al-‘adha] was called batul because of her abstention from marriage and her severance from all worldly preoccupations in order to worship God. Batul may also refer to physical beauty, in addition to spiritual excellence; consequently, al-Khazin describes Mary as the most beautiful and the most excellent of women of her time.

Mary’s characteristics of spiritual and bodily purity are reiterated in the various stories and accounts of her life, one of which is found in Wahb ibn Munabbih’s tale about Joseph the Carpenter’s awareness of her pregnancy, which at first he found to be unacceptably bizarre: ‘Then he considered what he knew about her religiousness and her worship,’ at which point he realised that the situation was beyond his ken. Another account found in Fada‘il literature portrays Mary’s physical purity:

Sa‘id ibn ‘Abd al-‘Aziz said: ‘In the time of the Israelites there was a spring [or well] in Jerusalem around the site of the Spring of Silwan. If a woman was accused of adultery or fornication, she would drink from this spring. If she were guilty, she would die. So when Mary became pregnant, they brought her there. She drank from it, and nothing happened except good. And she prayed to God not to let her be dishonoured as she was a believing woman, and the spring dried up.’ (al-Khatib)

From the perspective both of the customary practices of the Jews at the time of Mary’s birth, and of those presented in the Qur‘an and Sunna. Mary’s dedication to worship and her conscious abstention from marriage are characteristics which set her apart from the ordinary. For Jewish believers, such dedication had previously reserved for men, and did not entail lifelong abstention from marriage. And as the following discussion indicates, the fact that Mary was chosen to posses these characteristics is an even greater distinguishing factor in the Islamic context, as it places her outside the realm of what is generally advised for the believers, male or female…

The Quranic injunctions at 33:35 and 24:33 apply to both men and women; thus Muslim women are normally expected to marry, and to remarry in case of widowhood or divorce. An exception to this condition is found in the special status of the widows of the Prophet… who were prohibited from marrying after his death…

Another exception is the Blessed Virgin, who was designated never to marry, to remain together with her son, as a ‘sign for [all] peoples’. (21:91)…

The last of the two hadiths emphasise the importance of choosing a path of moderation, in spite of the fact that it may be difficult for the fervent believer who wants to abandon him or herself to total worship, ignoring marriage and other worldly attachments. But Mary, the universal symbol of female purity and piety, was permitted to do what was forbidden to others. (Schleifer, Mary The Blessed Virgin of Islam [Fons Vitae; ISBN: 1887752021; July 1, 1998], pp. 65-69)

That’s’ not all. The Quran alludes to the popular belief held by many Christians at the time of Muhammad that Mary was assumed into heaven not long after the ascension of her majestic Son:

And [as We exalted Moses, so, too,] We made the son of Mary and his mother a symbol [of Our grace], and provided for both an abode in A LOFTY PLACE of lasting restfulness and unsullied springs (wamaAAeenin). S. 23:50 Muhammad Asad

Note the various ways the following English versions of the Quran render this verse:

And We made the son of Mary and his mother a symbol, and provided them with an abode in a lofty place of lasting restfulness and a fresh spring.  Sayyid Qutb

And We made the son of Mary and his mother a portent, and We gave them refuge on a height, a place of flocks and watersprings. M. M. Pickthall

And We made the son of Maryam and his mother a sign; and We sheltered the twain on a height: a quiet abode and running water. Abdul Majid Daryabadi

And We made the son of Maryam (Mary) and his mother a sign, and gave them shelter on a height, having a place of rest and running springs. Muhammad Taqi Usmani

And We made the son of Mary and his mother a sign; and We gave them both shelter on high, a place of security and springs. Hamid S. Aziz

And we appointed the Son of Mary, and His mother for a sign; and we prepared an abode for both in a lofty spot, quiet, and watered with springs. Rodwell

And we made the son of Mary and his mother a sign; and we lodged them both on a high place, furnished with security and a spring. Palmer

and We made Mary's son, and his mother, to be a sign, and gave them refuge upon a height, where was a hollow and a spring: Arberry (SOURCE)

Despite the Quran’s repeated assertion of being a perspicuous book, which provides a thoroughly detailed explanation for all of its verses,

Shall I seek other than Allah for judge, when He it is Who hath revealed unto you (this) Scripture, fully explained? Those unto whom We gave the Scripture (aforetime) know that it is revealed from thy Lord in truth. So be not thou (O Muhammad) of the waverers. S. 6:114 Pickthall

A Book whereof the Verses are explained in detail; A Qur'an in Arabic for people who know. S. 41:3 Hilali-Khan

This text is anything but clear, which explains why the Muslim were/are all over the place regarding its precise meaning. The expositors are not clear where or what this lofty place happens to be.

The reason why the Muslims couldn’t figure where this lofty height was located is because they assumed that the Quran must have been referring to an earthly location. However, if we forego this assumption and take this as a reference to Allah having elevated Mary and her Son to a place in heaven then everything makes perfect sense.

After all, the Quran uses the very same word for spring elsewhere in respect to the heavenly garden where the believers will be drinking from a pure, gushing spring:

For them there is a known provision, Fruits. And they will be honoured In the Gardens of delight, On couches facing one another; A cup from a gushing spring (maAAeenin) is brought round for them, White, delicious to the drinkers, Wherein there is no headache nor are they made mad thereby. S. 37:41-47 Pickthall

Those are they who will be brought nigh In gardens of delight; A multitude of those of old On lined couches, Reclining therein face to face. There wait on them immortal youths With bowls and ewers and a cup from a pure spring (maAAeenin) Wherefrom they get no aching of the head nor any madness, And fruit that they prefer And flesh of fowls that they desire. S. 56:11-21 Pickthall

And it further speaks of Allah taking Jesus to himself, to dwell alongside him above the seven heavens:

When God said, 'Jesus, I will take thee TO ME and will raise thee TO ME and I will purify thee of those who believe not. I will set thy followers above the unbelievers till the Resurrection Day. Then unto Me shall you return, and I will decide between you, as to what you were at variance on. S. 3:55 Arberry

But Allah took him up UNTO HIMSELF. Allah was ever Mighty, Wise. S. 4:158 Pickthall

It therefore seems reasonably certain that this is another case of Muhammad adopting certain doctrines and traditions held by various Christian groups at that time and making it a part of his own theology. In this case, Muhammad took over the belief that Mary had been assumed into heaven to dwell in the presence of her Son, whom the inspired Scriptures teach is seated at the right hand of God as King of kings and Lord of lords (cf. Mark 14:61-62; Acts 2:33-36; 7:55-56; 1 Timothy 6:15-16; Revelation 12:1-2, 4-5, 10; 17:14; 19:16).

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