Mary/Maryam and the birth of Jesus/’Isa

The stories of the birth of Jesus demonstrate that He is a major figure in Bible and Qur’an. In both books, his mother Mary becomes pregnant while still a virgin. Her pregnancy is a miracle. The birth of Jesus is announced by the angel Gabriel in the Bible; the name of the divine messenger is not specified in the Qur’an, but presumably it was the same angel Gabriel who brought Muhammad the Qur’an.

In the Bible, Joseph marries Mary and cares for her child. Angels tell of its birth. Shepherds adore the baby, and Wise Kings travel from afar to visit it. In later stories, an adoring ox and ass are added to the nativity scene.

In the Qur’an, the pregnant Mary remains alone, taking refuge in the desert. Hovering on the brink of despair, she hears a voice – was it the angel (Gabriel) or the newborn baby? – giving her fresh heart. Later, when Mary faces severe criticism from her family, the infant speaks up for her.

In the Bible, Jesus is called the Messiah. This title derives from the Hebrew for ‘God’s anointed’, a titled reserved for a king or savior. The Greek term used in the Bible is Christos. The birth of Jesus is celebrated by Christians at Christmas.

In the Qur’an, Jesus is also called Messiah or Christ. He is God’s prophet and the messenger of His Word.

An important difference is the status of Jesus. In the Gospels according to John and Luke, He is called the ‘son of God’, giving Him a special status above the children of God. Jesus is God incarnate. He is part of the Divine Trinity, together with The Father and the Holy Spirit.

The Qur’an emphatically rejects the Trinity and the special status for Jesus. He is the son of Mary, not of God. God has no sons. No persons can acquire divine status. No one can be like God. The Qur’an does speak of the Word and the Spirit in connection with Jesus, but they are attributes of God, not of parts of a Trinity.

The birth of Jesus is described mainly in Surah 19, named after Mary. The Biblical story can be read in the Gospels according to Mathew and Luke, with John giving relevant statements about the status of Jesus.


The angel Gabriel visits Mary

…the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And…the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!” But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was.

Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David.”

Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?”

And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. For with God nothing will be impossible.”

Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” Luke 1: 26-32, 34-35, 37-38

…you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name. John 20:31

“…in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Matthew 28:19

God’s Son, Word Incarnate, Trinity

“…in the name of the Father (God ed.) and of the Son (Jesus ed.) and of the Holy Spirit.” Matthew 28:19

…our fellowship is with the Father and His Son Jesus Christ. 1 John 1:3

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1-5, 12-14

The Holy Family

…a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered …everyone to his own city. Joseph…went into… Bethlehem… to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child.

So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Luke 2:1, 3-7

Mary, entering a stable, placed the child in a manger, and an ox and an ass adored him. Pseudo –Matthew Gospel, 8th century

Angels and adoring shepherds

Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid.

Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” Luke 2: 8-14

Wise men in adoration

…wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying,

“Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.”

… the star…went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. …they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Matthew 2:1-2,9,11


Christ Jesus promised to Mary

Relate in the Book (the story of) Mary, when she withdrew from her family to a place in the East. She placed a screen (to screen herself) from them; then We sent to her Our angel (Gabriel ed.?), and he appeared before her as a man in all respects.

She said: “I seek refuge from you to (Allah) Most Gracious: (come not near) if you fear Allah.”

He said: “Nay, I am only a messenger from your Lord, (to announce) to you the gift of a holy son.

She said: “How shall I have a son, seeing that no man has touched me, and I am not unchaste?”

He said: “So (it will be): Your Lord says, ‘That is easy for Me: and (We wish) to appoint him as a Sign to men and a Mercy from Us’: it is a matter (so) decreed.”

So she conceived him (‘Isa ed.) and she retired with him to a remote place. 19 Maryam, 16-22

Behold! The angels said: “O Mary! Allah gives you good news of a Word 1 from Him, his name will be the Messiah, 2 Jesus, son of Mary; honoured in this world and the Hereafter, his name will be Christ 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.” She said: “O my Lord! how shall I have a son when no man has touched me?”

He said: “Even so: Allah creates what He wills: when He has decreed a Plan, He but says to it, ‘Be,’ and it is!”3 Al-‘Imran, 45-47

Jesus son of Mary

Christ Jesus the son of Mary was (no more than) a Messenger of Allah, and

His Word, which He bestowed on Mary,

and a Spirit proceeding from Him: so believe in Allah and His Messengers.

Do not say ‘Trinity’. 4 The Women, 171

We strengthened him with the holy spirit. 2 The Heifer, 87

It is not befitting to (the majesty of) Allah that He should beget a son. 19 Maryam, 35

He begets not, nor is He begotten; And there is none like unto Him.112 The Purity of Faith, 3-4

Glory be to Him! When He determines a matter, He only says to it: “Be”, and it is.19 Maryam, 35

Mary gives birth alone

So she conceived him (Jesus ed.) and she retired with him to a remote place.
And the pains of childbirth drove her to the trunk of a palm-tree: she cried (in her anguish): “Ah! would that I had died before this! would that I had been a thing forgotten and out of sight!”

But (a voice) cried to her from beneath the (palm-tree): “Do not grieve ! for your Lord has provided a rivulet beneath you; and shake toward yourself the trunk of the palm-tree: It will let fall fresh ripe dates upon you. So eat and drink and cool (your) eye.” 19 Maryam, 22-26

The baby defends Mary

At length she brought the (babe) to her people, carrying him (in her arms).

They said: “O Mary! truly an amazing thing you have brought!

O sister of Aaron! your father was not a man of evil, nor your mother an unchaste woman!”

But she pointed to the babe.

They said: “How can we talk to one who is a child in the cradle?”

He (the baby Jesus ed.) 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 miserable; 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)”! 19 Maryam, 27-33

Mary not a goddess

And behold! Allah will say:

“O Jesus the son of Mary! Did you say to men, ‘worship me and my mother as gods in derogation of Allah?’”

He (Jesus ed.) will say: “Glory to You! Never could I say what I had no right (to say). Had I said such a thing, You would indeed have known it. You know what is in my heart, though I do not know what is in Yours. Never said I to them anything except what You commanded me to say, to wit, ‘worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord’…” 5 The Table Spread, 116-117

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