In the Name of God, the Kind, the Beautiful
Thanks be to the Precious Beloved, this was published today on the Washington Post’s “On Faith” blog on Eboo Patel’s site. It is reproduced below:
During my days as an undergraduate at Marquette University, I always enjoyed the 8th day of December. That’s because it would be day off from school for a holiday of which heretofore I had never known: the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. I had always thought that this day was to commemorate the conception of Jesus Christ, and was surprised to learn, however, that this day actually celebrates the conception of the Virgin Mary.
Although I do not officially celebrate this day, it still brings a warm feeling to my heart, for it reminds me of the Virgin Mary, who has a very exalted place in Muslim belief. The very story of the birth of Mary, which the feast day commemorates, is found in the Quran:
“A woman of (the House of Imran) prayed: ‘O my sustainer! Behold, unto Thee do I vow (the child) that is in my womb to be devoted to Thy service. Accept it, then, from me: verily, Thou alone art all-hearing, all-knowing!’ But when she had given birth to the child, she said: ‘O my sustainer! Behold, I have given birth to a female’ – the while God had been fully aware of what she would give birth to – ‘and the male is not like the female. And I have named her Mary, and verily, I seek Thy protection for her and her offspring against Satan, the accursed.'” (3:35-36)
The Holy Virgin is the only woman mentioned by name in the Quran, and the entire 19th Chapter of the Quran is named specifically after her. The Quran details how she took a special secluded place in the Temple where she worshiped God devoutly:
“And mention Mary in the Book: when she withdrew from her people to a place in the East and secluded herself from them…” (19:16-17). It was there that the Angel Gabriel appeared to her to give her the good news of the birth of her son, Jesus:
“…We sent her Our spirit, which appeared to her just like a man. She said, ‘I take refuge from you with the Benevolent One, if you are conscientious.’ He said, ‘I am only a messenger from your Lord, to give you a sinless son.'” (16:17-19)
Moreover, God singles out the Virgin Mary as the ideal example of the believer:
“And God cites as an example of those who believed…Mary, the daughter of Imran. She maintained her chastity, then we blew into her from Our spirit. She believed in the words of her Lord and His scriptures; she was obedient.” (66:11-12)
This has been the case for over fourteen centuries, and it should come as no surprise that such a prominent figure in Christianity should have such an exalted place in Islam. No devout Muslim would ever fathom attacking the character of the Virgin Mary. The deep and intense love I have for the Virgin (and her son) moved me to pen a poem in her honor on my blog, just as that same type of love moved me to write my book, Noble Brother.
And thus, it makes me sad that all Muslims – who universally love and honor all of the Prophets of God – are lumped together with the tiny number of criminals who commit crimes in Islam’s name. In any number of the mosques that dot the American landscape, on any given day, the verses of the Quran that extol the virtues and honor of the Virgin Mary are being read out in ritual prayer. Thus, it is neither right nor proper that they be attacked – such as the mosque in Oregon – whenever a Muslim happens to be arrested for committing a crime anywhere in the world.
If more people would know such things as how much Islam honors and reveres the Virgin Mary and her holy son; if more people knew that Islam condemns all acts of violence against innocent people; if more people knew that we Muslims are not like the criminals who act in the name of our faith, it would go a long way to bring harmony and peace among all the faith communities in our great nation.