This is by no means an exegesis. It’s only my reflections over the ayaat of Surah Ale Imraan, more specifically verse 31-43, after listening to a scholar’s reflections.
The Story of Two Amazing Women, Two Amazing Worshippers of Allah SWT
Allah SWT talks about the kind of people He loves and the kind he does not. Prophet Muhammad SAW tells us about Allah SWT’s condition that if you Love Allah then you’d do the following…:
Say (O Muhammad to mankind): “If you sincerely love Allah then follow me, Allah will love you and forgive you of your sins. And Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (31)
Say (O Muhammad ): “Obey Allah and the Messenger (Muhammad ).” But if they turn back, then (warn them, that),Allah does not love the disobedient. (32)
Then Allah SWT talks about people He chose (and obviously loved), more specifically 2 individuals and 2 families:
Indeed Allah exalted Adam, Nuh (Noah), the family of Ibraheem and the family of Imraan above all the worlds.(33)
They were the offsprings of one another. Allah Hears all and Knows all. (34)
Now here’s where Umm S. gets a little emotional…and I’ll tell you why.
Notice how Allah SWT is talking about whom He loves. He then ended the previous verse with, ‘…Allah hears all and Knows all.’ I want you, the reader, to keep that in mind and make connections as you proceed to the next few verses:
(Allah heard) When the wife of Imraan said, “O My Rabb! Dedicate to Your Services what is in my womb. Please accept if from me. You Alone Hear All and Know All. (35)
In verse 35, Allah SWT tells us that He SWT listens not only to Prophets but also to the duaa of a woman who may not be a Prophet! And He SWT describes to us how that woman (Umm Maryam) expressed her love to Allah SWT, i.e. by dedicating the child which was still in her womb. Allah SWT mentions in verse 33 that He SWT chose family of Imraan over the worlds. Allah SWT sent blessings on this family of Imraan because of their extremely pious women. Muslim women mustn’t forget that their gender bars them from blessings. That they too can be chosen and the blessings of their piety will most definitely be by the Permission of Allah SWT, transferred to the off-spring if they make that duaa.
What is so amazing about it?
Well, I think Muslim women today feel powerless for a variety of reasons and it is better not to mention them in order not to waste time. What’s amazing is that Allah SWT has preserved this story to tell us that despite the fact that you’d be all alone in your room, making duaa, in the deepest part of the night…Allah SWT is going to listen to it. You may be a nobody but to Him, you’re somebody. You’re His slave. And He’ll take care of you. Trust Him and ask Him.
When she gave birth (to a girl instead of a boy), she said, “My Rabb! I have given birth to a girl.” Allah Knew very well what she had delivered – and that male is not like the female. “I have named her Maryam and I seek your protection for her and her children from (the mischief of) the Shaytan, the accursed.” (36)
Umm Maryam (Hanna) wanted to dedicate a child in the service of Allah SWT and usually we feel that sons can support the propagation of Islam and that’s what she expected too. But Allah SWT says a beautiful thing, ‘…and that male is not like the female.’ That every gender has a special role. We usually say women can never be like men. But the Lord of the Worlds says that the men can’t be like women. You notice the difference? In a way Allah SWT is saying that the male can’t accomplish what the female can. Where are those women who rant about polygyny and Muslim women’s rights? Allah SWT responded comfortingly to the plea of Hanna when she gave birth to a girl because she really wanted to fulfill her oath. Also we learn that Umm Maryam (Hanna) was such an amazing woman that she sought protection not only for the infant but also the baby’s next generations from the Shaytan! Wow, she must have amazing foresight mashaa’Allah. A wide vision. She really took Shaytan as the greatest enemy and not poverty as an enemy. Scholars say that Umm Maryam was a widow. Usually widows are concerned about the livelihood of their children. They are concerned about getting their children through school and empowering them with education so that they can be financially independent and strong even though their father is not there. So that they don’t ‘fail’ at life. And widows are more worried about their daughters than their sons. SubhanAllah, this lady – Umm Maryam – is not concerned about that. Widows are also concerned about when and how their children will support them in their old age. As a result they ensure that their children are not out of sight. Umm Maryam’s a widow and then while she’s pregnant, she dedicates her child to Allah SWT’s Service. If you look at the verse 35, the word ‘Mu-Harrara’ is used, which means ‘one freed’. That she frees this child from her personal obligations, that the child is no longer obligated to her mother to serve her. Instead, the child is going to be fully dedicated to Allah SWT. Wow, that’s amazing! A mother who wants her child to totally occupy his/her time for Allah SWT’s Sake! What a big heart Umm Maryam must have! Mashaa’Allah.
Her Rabb graciously accepted that girl. He made her grow in a good manner and entrusted her to the care of Zakariya. Whenever Zakariya entered the sanctuary to see her, he found with her food. He asked, “O Maryam! From where did you get it?” She replied, “It came from Allah. In fact, Allah gives to whom He wants without measure.” (37)
SubhaaaaaanAllah! This verse shows that if you turn to Allah SWT with love, He SWT will accept your love and bless you without any measure! So Allah SWT took care of the young Maryam, grew her in the best form (scholars say both intellectually and physically) and made a Prophet take care of her! Prophet Zakariya was the husband of her mother’s sister. There’s something very interesting in this verse that Allah SWT is teaching us. That when mothers dedicate their children in the path of Allah SWT, they worry about the Rizq of their children. They worry about their careers and how they’ll be provided for. Here Allah SWT brought Rizq to Maryam from Himself! What does this tell us? That He SWT especially takes care of those who are dedicated to His Deen. He especially provides for them. That these people needn’t worry. He will take care of everything. Like how Maryam eloquently says, ‘It came from Allah. In fact, Allah gives to whom He wants without measure!’ SubhanAllah!
Thereupon Zakariya prayed to His Rabb saying, “O My Rabb! Grant me a righteous (tayyib) child as your special favour. Surely you hear all prayers.” (38)
What’s fascinating is that Allah SWT tells us that the Prophet of Allah SWT gets inspired by a young girl (Maryam), so much so that he makes such a strong duaa which gets answered despite him being old and his wife being barren. Allah SWT doesn’t look at the outer appearance ladies! Allah SWT looks at the hearts and He SWT chooses people on the basis of their piety (Taqwa) and their Tawakul. And once you get chosen by Allah SWT, you are going to be tested quite severely to exalt your status over the other common people!
So the Angels called him while he was standing in prayer in the chamber, “Indeed, Allah gives you good tidings of Yahya, confirming a word from Allah, he will be a great leader, abstaining [from women, i.e. chaste], and a prophet from among the righteous (SawliHeen).” (39)
He said, “My Lord, how will I have a boy when I have reached old age and my wife is barren?” The angel said, “Such is (the Will of) Allah ; He does what He Wills.” (40)
These verses tell us that even if you don’t have the means or resources, you can call onto Allah SWT and if He Wills, He SWT can make impossible possible. Like how a plant grows from dead life-less soil,it is not difficult for Him to grant children to couples who have been told ‘medically’ that they can’t have children. It is all upto Allah SWT. Doctors don’t have ‘Ilmul Ghayb, they don’t have knowledge of Unseen. Just because they say things are impossible, doesn’t mean they are actually impossible.A Muslim never gives up hope when he/she is told that he/she can ‘never’ get better or that there’s ‘no hope’. We have a clear example here in the story of Prophet Zakariya AS.
He said, “My Lord, make for me a sign.” He Said, “Your sign is that you will not [be able to] speak to the people for three days except by gesture. And remember your Lord much and exalt [Him with praise] in the evening and the morning.” (41)
And mention when the Angels said, ‘O Maryam! Surely Allah has exalted you, purified you, and preferred you for His Service over all the women of the worlds. (42)
O Maryam! Be obedient to your Rabb, prostrate and bow down in worship with other worshippers.’ (43)
Women love approval. Especially if a woman wins a beauty pageant (the Miss World title) or gets selected for whatever reasons. But that honor is limited. Very soon she loses her youth and beauty for which she was selected. She loses approval because people are quick to forget. But when Allah SWT chooses a woman, He preserves her honor and makes sure that the whole world seeks inspiration from her. That even if they are mistreated and not respected by the world, to Allah SWT they will remain gems. Because they loved Allah SWT and Allah SWT loved them as slaves. Some Ulema say that Maryam AS was crucified! So what that means is, things are not what they seem. You may get physically persecuted and people may go at great lengths to do your character assassination, but just because people deem you worthless…that doesn’t mean that’s the truth. This is the beautiful story of the two amazing pious women, Umm Maryam (Hanna) and Maryam. May Allah SWT be pleased with them and make us like them, make our daughters like Maryam and make our sons like Yahya AS. Ameen.
And Allah SWT knows best.