Ben: I recently saw some conservative Christians sharing a video that supposedly showed a Muslim destroying a statue of Mary, the mother of Jesus. The implication was that Muslims hate Christians, and hate Mary. What can you tell us about the view and role of Mary in Islam?
Ejaz: I think I saw the video you are referring to on Youtube after receiving your questions. I will start by saying that Mary, the blessed mother of Jesus has a very special and a very high status in Islam.
I can’t speak for the guy since he did not explain why he was doing it but I have a feeling he was destroying the statue- the idol, rather than to show any disrespect for Mary. But this idol demolishing does not seem to be limited to this Muslim guy.
I found at least two Youtube videos where Christians are seen, destroying the statue of Mary.
In one of them, Pastor Gino Jennings smashes the statue- calls it idolatry and ‘a work of hands’. He calls praising the statue a form of idolatry, quoting from the Bible: ‘They have mouth but they speak not. They have eyes but they see not. They have ears but they hear not’. Then he smashes the statue of Mary in front of a large gathering of worshippers.
In another video, Ruben Israel breaks the statue- once again calling it idol worshipping and a violation of the 2nd commandment. The video is rather graphic with many hateful anti-Catholic, anti gay and anti women rants.
In Islam, just as it is in Judaism and Christianity, idolatry is considered a major sin, no matter if the subject idolized is one of the highly revered holy figures, including Mary, Jesus and Muhammad. So as a Muslim, I understand where these people may be coming from. I must also admit that seeing them smashing the statue of Mary was hard to watch. And I definitely don’t condone the hateful rhetoric expressed in these videos, especially the one by Ruben Israel. That is plain disgusting.
Mary’s position in Islam- Qur’an’s teachings:
I published a post on Mary’s status in Islam a little while ago. A quick overview first:
- She is highly revered in the Qur’an.
- She is mentioned by name more often in the Quran than in the New Testament.
- A whole chapter is named after Maryam, as she is known in the Qur’an. (Chapter 19, Surah Maryam)
- There are 8 chapters in the Qur’an named after a person; Mary is the only woman in this elite group.
- In fact, she is the only woman mentioned by name in the entire Qur’an!
- In the Qur’an, Mary and Jesus are nearly inseparable. Jesus is frequently referred to as ‘the son of Mary’.
Behold! The angels said: ‘O Mary! Allah gives you glad tidings of a Word from Him: his name will be Christ [ messiah] Jesus, the son of Mary, held in honor in this world and the Hereafter and of (the company of) those nearest to Allah; He shall speak to the people in childhood and in maturity. And he shall be (of the company) of the righteous.’ The Qur’an: 3:45–46
And in a stunning moment when people around her question her nobility, she lets the newborn Jesus do the talk- something that is not described in the Gospels. (The ‘sister of Aaron’ is a reference to her ancestry, not to mean that she was a biological sibling of Aaron, the brother of Moses).
At length she brought the (baby) to her people, carrying him (in her arms). They said: ‘O Mary! Truly an amazing thing have you brought! O sister of Aaron! Your father was not a man of evil, nor your mother a woman unchaste!’ But she pointed to the baby. They said: ‘How can we talk to one who is a child in the cradle?’ He (Jesus) said:
‘I am indeed a servant of Allah: He has given me revelation and made me a prophet; And He has made me blessed wheresoever I be, and has enjoined on me prayer and charity as long as I live; (He) has made me kind to my mother, and not overbearing (or hard to deal with); So peace is on me the day I was born, the day that I die, and the day that I shall be raised up to life (again)!’ Such (was) Jesus the son of Mary: (it is) a statement of truth, about which they (vainly) dispute. 19:27–34
The Qur’an then leaves no doubt as to what her status is in the eyes of the Almighty.
And 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. 23:50
“Behold!”, the angels said: “O Mary! God has chosen you and purified you, chosen you above the women of all nations.” 3:42
I don’t know how you would see these proclamations, but I am blown away every time I read these verses. Can’t think of a status higher than that!
Next: Ben asks about Jesus’s role in Islam. The answers will surprise many.