As Christmas draws near, one cannot help but feel consoled by the image of the Blessed Mother as she gazes upon her newborn Son, Jesus.
It is not only Christians who revere Mary. Muslims consider the Virgin Mary to be exceptionally pious:
‘And [mention] when the angels said, “O Maryam [Mary], indeed Allah has chosen you and purified you and chosen you above the women of the worlds. O Mary, be devoutly obedient to your Lord and prostrate and bow with those who bow [in prayer].”’ — Sura 3, 42-43
Indeed, Mary receives the most attention of any woman mentioned in the Quran, even though all the Prophets, with the exception of Adam, had mothers. Of the 144 suras (chapters), she is among the eight people who have a chapter named after them.
While there are similarities to the Mary seen in the Gospels, it must be made clear that the
‘Mary’ in Islam is not the same woman as the one venerated by Christians.
If one scrutinizes the Quranic verses that mention Mary, it appears that she is the sister of Aaron and Moses:
‘Then she brought him to her people, carrying him. They said: “O Mary, you have certainly done a thing unprecedented. O sister of Aaron [brother of Moses], your father was not a man of evil, nor was your mother unchaste.”’ — Sura 19, 27-28
‘And [the example of] Mary, the daughter of ‘Imran [Amram], who guarded her chastity, so We blew into [her garment] through Our angel, and she believed in the words of her Lord and His scriptures and was of the devoutly obedient.’ — Sura 66, 12
The father of Moses or Aaron is not mentioned either in the Quran or the hadiths. Yet the name ‘Imram (or Amram), as mentioned in the Quran, is associated with the figure in the Old Testament described as the father of Aaron, Moses and Miriam [Maryam]. (1 Chronicles 6: 3) — Christian tradition says that the father of Mary was Joachim.
Muhammad himself, according to Sahih Muslim, acknowledges that Maryam is not the same as Mary, Mother of Jesus.
This was even noticed by Muhammad’s child-bride ‘Aisha—venerated by Sunni Muslims as the ‘mother’ of the faithful. According to Tafsir Ibn Kathir (c. 1300–1373), one of the most respected Islamic scholars:
‘“O sister of Harun (Aaron)! (of Sura 19:28) does not refer to Aaron the brother of Moses.” Aisha replied to Ka’b: “You have lied.” Ka’b responded: “O Mother of the believers! If the prophet, may Allah’s prayers, has said it, and he is more knowledgeable, then this is what he related. Besides, I find the difference in time between them (Jesus and Moses) to be 600 years.” He said that she remained silent.’ —Tafsir Ibn Kathir 19, 28
Muslims do have an incredible veneration for the Mother of Jesus, as expressed in Persian art—unlike the Shi’ites, the Sunnis discourage images even of their own prophet. However, there are two ‘Marys’: the Blessed Mother of Christ, and Maryam (Miryam), the prophetess of the Old Testament. Notwithstanding the two having lived more than one thousand years apart, apparently, since the two women shared the same name, the author(s) of the Quran, not being familiar enough with either woman, mistakenly saw ‘Imram (or Amram) as the father of Mary the Mother of Jesus.
Non-Muslims are constantly reminded, if not warned, to speak respectfully of Muhammad, or else offended Muslims might respond with violence. One must consider, however, what
Muslims regularly say about the things non-Muslims, Christians in particular, hold sacred.
In a 2017 televised Arabic-language programme, Dr Salem Abdul Galil—former deputy minister of Egypt’s religious endowments for preaching—stated that, among other Biblical women (Moses’ sister and the Pharaoh’s wife), ‘our prophet Muhammad—prayers and peace be upon him—will be married to (the Virgin) Mary in paradise.’ (‘Marriage’ in Arabic denotes having legal sexual relations.) His claim is based on the hadith that says: ‘Allah will wed me in paradise to Mary, Daughter of Imran.’
To sum up: yes, Mary is venerated in Islam, but she is not the same Mary Christians venerate as the Mother of Jesus.