The New Testament mentions Mary(as) in the story of Jesus’s(as) birth but remains silent about her early childhood, family and the rest of her life. Young innocent Mary(as) was oblivious to the world, focused in the worship of God only to suddenly be told that she is with a fatherless child. News of expecting a child is usually a joyous occasion for parents and the expectant mother is supported by family and friends from pregnancy until after the birth of the child. Instead, Mary(as) was alone and frightened; what did she do? Where did she go? How did Mary(as) endure the days ahead of her? Following a trail of Mary’s(as) life from before her birth until after the crucifixion of Jesus(as), in this article we will discover the facts and explore how Mary(as) eventually became one of the most respected and revered women to be known in history.
Mary’s(as) Family Background
The Holy Qur’an provides detailed information regarding Mary’s(as) blessed life journey, beginning by mentioning her noble family background:
‘Allah did choose Adam and Noah and the family of Abraham and the family of Imran above all peoples.’
The reason why the Holy Qur’an mentions the name ‘family of Imran’ is to use it as a sort of preamble for introducing the story of Mary(as) the Mother of Jesus(as).Even though he was not a prophet, the family of Imran was mentioned alongside the noble Prophets. The next verse mentions:
‘A race, co-related with one another. And Allah is All-Hearing, All-Knowing.’
This verse infers that God chose the individuals and families mentioned in the preceding verse because they all belonged to the same stock of good and righteous people.
Another verse that sheds light on Mary(as) belonging to the family of Imran says:
‘Remember when the woman of ‘Imran said, ‘My Lord, I have vowed to Thee what is in my womb to be dedicated to Thy service. So do accept it of me; verily, Thou alone art All-Hearing, All-Knowing.’
The reference to the family of Imran possibly refers to two persons, Imran the father of Mary(as), Mother of Jesus(as) – this Imran was the son of Yoshhim or Yoshim (Jafir & Kathir). Or Amram of the Bible who was the son of Kohath and the grandson of Levi. He was the father of Moses(as), Aaaron(as) and Miriam, Moses(as) being the youngest of the three. ‘It is not certain that he was literally the son of Kohath, but rather his descendant, since there were ten generations from Joseph to Joshua (1 Chronicles 7:20-27), while only four are actually mentioned from Levi to Moses for the corresponding period. Moreover, the Kohathites at the time of the Exodus numbered 8,600 (Numbers 3:28), which would therefore have been an impossibility if only two generations had lived. It seems best to regard Amram as a descendant of Kohath, and his wife Jochebed as a “daughter of Levi” in a general sense.’
The woman of Imran mentioned refers to Mary’s(as) descent line being traced back in history through the family of Imran or the biblical Amram as member of the Levite tribe of Israel.Other clues indicating that Mary(as) may have belonged to the Levite tribe can be found in the following verses:
There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zachari(as), of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth. [Luke 1:5]
Theologian Matthew Poole commentated, ‘And his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth, is added not to signify Zacharias’s obedience to the Divine law, that the high priest only was obliged to marry one of his own people, it is added to show the honourableness of Elisabeth’s stock. Moses and Aaron were the two first governors of the Israelites. Elisabeth was not only of the tribe of Levi, but descended from Aaron, whom God made the noblest family of the Levites.
In another verse an angel who reassures young Mary(as), says:
And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. [Luke 1:36]
An angel tells Mary(as) that her cousin Elisabeth is also pregnant; it is widely disputed whether Elisabeth was a cousin or relative, however, she belonged to the Levite tribe. In Luke 1:56, we read that Mary(as) stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.
An important point to note is that Levite Priests maintained a higher degree of purity for their work in the Temple. Because physical wholeness was closely related to purity and holiness, priests were to have no physical defects (Only the high priest could enter the Holy of Holies in the Temple, and he could do so only once a year, on the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur (see Lev 16:1–19).
Mary(as) stayed with her relative Elisabeth the wife of the High Priest for three months; it is highly unlikely that she would have been allowed to share in their family meals if she was not a Levite. The meals the priests eat are from the sacrifices and can only be eaten by the Levite families.
Hanna Devotes Her Unborn Child to the Service of God
The birth of Mary(as) was a significant turning point in history because it marked a time when something unknown to the world was about to happen.
Hanna, Mary’s(as) mother, dedicated her unborn child to the service of God.
‘Remember when the woman of ‘Imran said, “My Lord, I have vowed to Thee what is in my womb to be dedicated to Thy service. So do accept it of me; verily, Thou alone art All-Hearing, All-Knowing.’
Hanna’s Prayer for Mary(as)
Hanna was clearly surprised after giving birth to a girl because only males were dedicated to the service of the church.
‘But when she was delivered of it, she said, ‘”My Lord, I am delivered of a female” — and Allah knew best what she had brought forth and the male she was thinking of was not like the female she had brought forth — “and I have named her Mary, and I commit her and her offspring to Thy protection from Satan, the rejected.”’
Hanna’s Vow Accepted
Under the Mosaic Law, as a female, Mary(as) could not serve God as her mother had intended; however, her commitment was accepted.
‘So her Lord accepted her with a gracious acceptance and caused her to grow an excellent growth and made Zachariah(as) her guardian.’
As Mary’s(as) father had passed away, people began arguing to take care of her however she came under the care of Zachariah(as) who became her legal guardian.
Young Mary’s(as) Devotion
Mary(as) grew from childhood to womanhood under Allah’s special protection in a separate chamber in which she could devote the time and space to worship. She grew up focusing on worshipping God and studying her Jewish faith. She dedicated her entire time and life to God.
Was Mary’s(as) Sustenance a Miracle?
When Prophet Zachariah(as) would visit Mary(as), he would always find her with sustenance and ask her where it came from. Mary(as) would always reply that it was from Allah. There is no support or evidence to suggest that angels brought down the food from heaven, or that it appeared miraculously for Mary(as). The most probable explanation is that other worshippers and visitors would bring food and drinks and leave it there for her. But this response of hers indicates the degree of her piety and reliance on Allah, and her recognition that ultimately all of our sustenance comes from the Almighty.
‘So her Lord accepted her with a gracious acceptance and caused her to grow an excellent growth and made Zachariah her guardian. Whenever Zachariah visited her in the chamber, he found with her provisions. He said, “O Mary, whence hast thou this?” She replied, “It is from Allah.” Surely, Allah gives to whomsoever He pleases without measure.’
The Prayer of Prophet Zachariahas Inspired by Mary’s(as) Words
Young Mary’s(as) touching reply deeply moved Prophet Zachariah(as); so much so that he prayed to have a child of his own who was as virtuous as Mary(as).
‘There and then did Zachariah pray to his Lord, saying, “My Lord, grant me from Thyself pure offspring; surely, Thou art the Hearer of prayer.”‘
Mary(as) followed in the footsteps of her parents who devoutly practiced the Jewish faith and grew up to become a humble, modest, confident and pious young woman.
Mary(as) – The Chosen One
Exceptional and unique circumstances paved Mary’s(as) path to become the chosen one.
‘And remember when the angels said, ‘O Mary, Allah has chosen thee and purified thee and chosen thee above the women of all peoples.’
What an honour for young Mary(as), to become the chosen one in the sight of God above all other women of her time. However, being the chosen one also came with a huge responsibility and Mary(as) was guided to continue praying.
‘O Mary, be obedient to thy Lord and prostrate thyself and worship God alone with those who worship.’
In her early youth Mary(as) began worshipping even more devoutly.
Mary(as) is with Child
Mary(as) continued serving in the temple secluded from the outside world and then angels visited her.
‘When the angels said, ‘O Mary, Allah gives thee glad tidings of a word from Him; his name shall be the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, honoured in this world and in the next, and of those who are granted nearness to God.’
‘And screened herself off from them, then We sent Our angel to her, and he appeared to her in the form of a perfect man. She said, ‘I seek refuge with the Gracious God from thee if indeed thou dost fear Him.’
Mary(as) received glad tidings about the birth of a great son and these were conveyed to her through a dream or vision of an angel who took on the form of a healthy man. The varying accounts do not indicate any form of contradiction as is widely misunderstood. In fact this clarifies that the revelation of God can take different forms; Mary’s(as) vision was clearly a manifestation of God’s great power. On receiving the news Mary said: ‘”My Lord, how shall I have a son, when no man has touched me?” He said, “Such is the way of Allah, He creates what He pleases. When He decrees a thing, He says to it, ‘Be!’ and it is.”‘‘She said, “How can I have a son when no man has touched me, neither have I been unchaste?”‘
Mary(as) was clearly alarmed and afraid as not only was she unmarried but she also never had any unlawful relationships. Becoming pregnant out of wedlock in biblical times would have been scandalous being suspected of adultery or unfaithfulness. Such allegations could lead to divorce or even be put to death (Dt. 22:23-24). Mary(as) now feared rejection and social stigma. The reason why the conception of Jesus(as) was considered a miraculous birth was because a virginal conception was unheard of. But this is not rare or unheard of from a scientific perspective.
Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmadrhsaid, ‘We understand that research on the subject of single mother birth without the participation of a male is being carried out in many advanced countries of the world. But so far human knowledge is only at a stage where scientific research has not yet advanced to such a level where positive irrefutable evidence of virgin births in human beings can be produced. However, all sorts of possibilities remain open. At lower orders of life two phenomena are scientifically well established: parthenogenesis and hermaphroditism. As such, the miraculous birth of Jesus, to Mary, can be understood to belong to some similar natural but very rare phenomenon, the peripheries of which are not yet fully fathomed by man.’
The phenomenon of human hermaphroditism has been found in clinical research. A recent study was carried out in which it stated, ‘We reviewed 283 cases of human true hermaphroditism published from 1980 to 1992. Of the 96 cases described in Africa 96.9% showed a 46,XX karyotype. In Europe 40.5% of 74 cases and 21.0% of the patients in North America had chromosomal mosaicism. The 46,XY karyotype is extremely rare (7%) and equally distributed through Asia, Europe and North America. Of 283 cases 87 were of black or black mixed origin with a 46,XX chromosomal constellation. The most common gonad in patients with true hermaphroditism, an ovotestis, was found in 44.4% of 568 gonads. Gonads with testicular tissue were more frequent on the right side of the body, while pure ovarian tissue was more common on the left. Histologically the testicular tissue was described to be immature and only twice was spermatogenesis reported while the ovarian portion often appeared normal. This coincides with 21 pregnancies reported in ten true hermaphrodites while only one true hermaphrodite apparently has fathered a child. Of the patients 4.6% were reported to have gonadal tumours. Position and type of the genital ducts, frequency of clinical findings such as genital abnormalities and gynaecomastia, correlations between assigned sex and karyotype as well as the age at diagnosis are reported.’
Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmadrhexplained, ‘Miracles are not seen in Islam as unnatural occurrences, but as natural phenomena that are concealed from human knowledge at that period of time. Otherwise, there would be many questions raised against the wisdom of God. If God created the laws of nature Himself, He should have made some provisions whereby without breaking them, He could bring about desired solutions to a problem. Those things that appeared to be miracles in the early ages are no longer considered so. Miracles are so, only in relation to man’s knowledge in a specific period of time.’
Mary(as) During and After the Birth of Jesus(as)
The fact that Mary(as) conceived Jesus(as) without the agency of a husband is evidence that God’s signs are inscrutable and His powers are limitless. As soon as Mary’s(as) pregnancy became apparent she grew worried, conscious that this news would spread like wildfire and that people would accuse her of being unchaste. Unfortunately, Mary(as) was left with no option other than to leave the place where she had grown up.
‘So she conceived him, and withdrew with him to a remote place.’
The Birth of Jesus(as)
The onset of labour and the excruciating pain of childbirth became extremely difficult for Mary(as), especially as she was on her own at the time. ‘And the pains of childbirth drove her unto the trunk of a palm-tree. She said, “O! would that I had died before this and had become a thing quite forgotten!” ‘Then he called her from beneath her, saying, “Grieve not. Thy Lord has placed a rivulet below thee;”’
The words ‘beneath her’ signify the sloped lands in Bethlehem, which are surrounded by fertile valleys and rocks with fountains. The voice of the angel indicated to Mary(as) to the direction of the fountain where she could wash after giving birth to Jesus(as). This verse also indicates that the birth of Jesus(as) must have taken place during warm weather, as it would have been impossible for Mary(as) to wash herself and her new-born baby in the cold month of December.
Like all women going through childbirth, Mary(as) required nutritional energy immediately after delivery. God provided Mary(as) with the best source of energy in the form of fresh ripe dates packed with essential vitamins and minerals as we are told in the Holy Quran: ‘And shake towards thyself the trunk of the palm-tree; it will cause fresh ripe dates to fall upon thee.’
Mary’s(as) Challenges After the Birth of Jesus(as)
After the birth of Jesus(as), Mary(as) was advised to abstain from talking as this was Allah’s way of protecting her further,
‘So eat and drink, and cool thy eye. And if thou seest any man, say, “I have vowed a fast to the Gracious God; I will therefore not speak this day to any human being.”’
As passers-by or visitors seeing a new-born child might have started questioning the parentage of the child, and in order to cut short the possible embarrassing questions Mary(as) was commanded to say that she ‘vowed a fast to the Gracious God’ that she would indulge in no useless talk. Mary’s(as) silence conserved her physical strength and enabled her to devote more time in the remembrance of God at the same time. Mary raised Jesus(as) and then they returned home.
Charges and Taunts Against Pious Mary(as)
Mary(as) and Jesus(as) did not receive a big welcome back home; instead, this was the beginning of a very challenging and trying time ahead of her. The elders and religious members of the community welcomed Mary(as) and Jesus(as) with the following words which the Holy Quran tells us,
‘Then she brought him to her people, carrying him. They said, “O Mary, thou hast brought forth a strange thing.”‘
This verse does not indicate Mary’s(as) physical carrying of a baby Jesus(as); rather, it refers to how Mary(as) bore him and raised him. The elders of the Jewish community then taunted her by referring to her as the sister of Aaron(as).
‘”O sister of Aaron, thy father was not a wicked man nor was thy mother an unchaste woman!” Then she pointed to him. They said, “How can we talk to one who is a child in the cradle?”’
This verse is grossly misunderstood and does not imply that Mary(as) was the sister of Aaron(as) in the time of Moses(as); rather, this verse highlights the level of accusations and taunts levied against Mary(as), who silently pointed to Jesus(as). Obviously a child in a cradle cannot talk, as Jesus(as) does in the preceding verses of the chapter; instead, this is another taunt at mother and son, insinuating that Jesus(as) would know very little or nothing. However Jesus'(as) response indicates that he was not a baby or child but a grown man and a prophet.
‘He has given me the Book, and made me a Prophet; And He has made me blessed wheresoever I may be, and has enjoined upon me Prayer and almsgiving so long as I live; ‘And He has made me dutiful toward my mother, and He has not made me haughty and unblessed. ‘And peace was on me the day I was born, and peace there will be on me the day I shall die, and the day I shall be raised up to life again.’ Such was Jesus, son of Mary. This is a statement of the truth about which they doubt.’
The above verse demonstrates the fact that Jesus(as) not only defines his role as a prophet but he also honors his pious chaste Mother Mary(as):
The angels said to Mary: ‘Mary, God has chosen you and made you pure: He has truly chosen you above all women.’
Mary(as) – One of the Most Revered Women in History
Beloved Mary(as), Mother of Jesus(as) is one of the most respected and revered women in history. The Holy Qur’an names an entire chapter after Mary(as): Surah Maryam, meaning Mary in Arabic. The third chapter in the Qur’an is named after Mary’s father(ra), Imran. In the Holy Qur’an, Jesus(as) is referred as Isa ibn Maryam, meaning Jesus(as), the son of Mary(as).
Other than being mentioned in the Holy Qur’an several times, Mary(as) is also specifically mentioned by Prophet Muhammad(sa) as one of the four best and honorable women in the world.
In the Holy Qur’an, Allah has mentioned Mary(as) at many instances and highlighted her esteemed status. Mary was the name of that pure and pious woman who is honoured by Islam so much that the Qur’an has presented Mary as a model for all true believers to follow. This is because Mary(as) established a very special relationship with God and she upheld her virtue and chastity at all times. She developed a special bond of love with God, whereby Allah conversed directly with Mary(as) and He Himself attested to her truth. Mary(as) believed in the Books of God, she was righteous and attained a special rank in terms of her obedience to God. She was most certainly an example for all true believers. Her elevated status is reflected by the fact that the Qur’an says that true Muslims should develop the qualities of Mary(as) and if they do so then they will be those who never cause harm or suffering to anyone. Every Ahmadi Muslim therefore seeks to instil within themselves the purity, nobility and piety of Mary(as) herself.
Mary(as) truly is a source of inspiration and a virtuous model of piety, obedience and righteousness. His Holiness Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmadabasaid:
‘Mary’s(as) elevated status is reflected by the fact that the Qur’an says that true Muslims should develop the qualities of Mary(as) and if they do so then they will be those who never cause harm or suffering to anyone. Every Ahmadi Muslim, therefore, seeks to instil within themselves the purity, nobility and piety of Mary(as) herself.’
Jesus(as) had four brothers and two sisters who were related to Jesus(as) by blood and were the children of Joseph and Mary. The names of his four brothers are Judas, James, Simon and Joseph. The names of his two sisters are Assia and Lydia.
Regarding Mary’s other children, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmed(as), the Promised Messiah says:
‘I honour not only the Messiah, but also his four brothers, as all five of them were sons of the same mother. I also regard his two biological sisters as pious, for they are all from the womb of the Holy Virgin Mary. Mary’s greatness lies in the fact that she abstained from marriage for quite a time and eventually yielded only due to the insistence of her elders during pregnancy. Certain people object that Mary married during her pregnancy, which is against the teachings of the Torah. In this way, she wrongfully broke her covenant of remaining a virgin and also opened the door to polygamy, since Mary agreed to enter into matrimony with Joseph the Carpenter, though he was already married at the time. However, I say that these were compelling circumstances, which happened to arise, and for this reason both ought to be looked upon with mercy rather than disdain.’
What Happened to Mary(as) after the Crucifixion of Jesus(as)?
New Testament texts inform us Mary(as) was seen at the foot of the cross at the time of crucifixion (John 19:25-27) but there is no reference to where she may have gone or what happened after.
The Holy Qur’an informs us: ‘And We made the son of Mary and his mother a Sign, and gave them refuge on an elevated land of green valleys and springs of running water.’
Historically, ‘There is evidence of a number of roads taken by Jesus(as) during his journey to Kashmir as named after Him inclusive of the town of Murree near Kashmir, where a supposed Grave of Our Lady lies. The Grave, named as Mai Mari da Asthan that translates to ‘the Final Resting Place of Mother Mary’, showcases an east to west oriented tomb which is typical of the Jewish style and identical to the Tomb of Jesus(as) in Srinagar. The Grave of Mother Mary is highly revered by the local inhabitants of Kashmir who often call this site as the Tomb of the Mother of Issah or Jesus(as) in the Islamic term.
As you carry on from the town of Murree on the road to Kashmir, you will pass through a broad open valley named as ‘Yus Marg’, or the ‘Meadow of Jesus’. This is where the local shepherds referred to as Bani-Israel or ‘the Children of Israel’ reside. They tell tales of the fact that Jesus(as) once preached here during his lifetime in Kashmir and hence they named this valley in his honour.’
We believe that Mary(as) may have accompanied or followed Jesus(as) on his travels to India.
More About the Author:
Navida Sayed is a long serving member on the Editorial Board of The Review of Religions and is currently Editor of the Christianity Section. She has been the Coordinator of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community’s Women’s Research Team UK since 1992, whose work has predominantly revolved around Biblical studies.
The Holy Qur’an, 3:34
 Hazrat Mirza Bashir-Ud-Din Mahmud Ahmadra, The Holy Quran with Translation and Commentary(Islam International Publications, 1988), p.383
The Holy Qur’an, 3:35
Hazrat Mirza Bashir-Ud-Din Mahmud Ahmadra, The Holy Quran with Translation and Commentary (Islam International Publications, 1988), p.384
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Exodus 6:20; Numbers 26:59; 1 Chronicles 6:3; 23:13
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The Holy Qur’an, 3:36
The Holy Qur’an, 3:37
The Holy Qur’an, 3:38
The Holy Qur’an, 3:38
The Holy Qur’an, 3:39
The Holy Qur’an, 3:43
The Holy Qur’an, 3:44
The Holy Qur’an, 3:46
The Holy Qur’an, 19:18-19
The Holy Qur’an, 3:48
The Holy Qur’an, 19:21
Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad, Christianity a Journey From Facts to Fiction(Islam International Publications, 2006) p. 5
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The Holy Qur’an, 19:23
The Holy Qur’an, 19:24
The Holy Qur’an, 19:25
The Holy Qur’an, 19:26
The Holy Qur’an, 19:27
The Holy Qur’an, 19:28
The Holy Qur’an, 19:29-30
Holy Qur’an, 19:31-35
The Holy Qur’an, 3:43
Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad(as), Noah’s Ark(Islam International Publications, 2016) p. 30
Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad(as), Noah’s Ark(Islam International Publications, 2016) p. 30
The Holy Qur’an, 23:51
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