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The Virgin Mary in the Bible and the Quran

14 April, 2019
Q As-salamu Alaikum. I would like to ask about Maryam, the Mother of Prophet Isa (Jesus, peace be upon him). When God raised `Isa to the heavens before the Jews could crucify him, did Maryam know about it? I would like to know if the Jews did anything to her and what she answered to them. I would also like to know who got crucified in place of Prophet `Isa. Thank You very much for answering my question.


Short Answer: Of the four gospels, only the Gospel of John tells us that Mary was present near the cross when the crucifixion took place. But we are told absolutely nothing about how she felt about it or what she said about the incident.

Salam Dear Muhammad,

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Thank you for your question and for contacting Ask About Islam.

We have two sources for our knowledge about Mary, the mother of Jesus: the Quran and the Gospels of the Christian Bible.

Muslims accept the Quran as divine revelation and the Gospels as containing in part the revelation received by Jesus.

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Muslims accept the Gospels as historical documents, to the extent they do not contradict the Quran and the authentic traditions of Prophet Muhammad.

Mary in the Bible

We read in the Gospels about the arrest and crucifixion of Jesus. In fact the Gospel narrations raise a number of questions, which we need not go into in this context.

The Gospels present the Romans, not the Jews, as the actual perpetrators of the arrest and crucifixion of Jesus. Some Jews are reported to have demanded Jesus’ crucifixion after he was arrested.

Of the four gospels, only the Gospel of John tells us that Mary was present near the cross when the crucifixion took place.

But we are told absolutely nothing about how she felt about it or what she said about the incident.

This may seem odd, considering the importance given by Christians to Mary as ‘the Mother of God’.

Now this is what the New Testament has to say about Mary:

Paul writes: [God sent forth his Son, made of a woman…]  (Galatians 4:4, King James Bible)

Note that there is no mention of Mary by name; and strictly speaking this is no reference to Mary in particular. Except for this indirect reference, no mention is made of Mary in the Epistles of  St. Paul.

Only very few details of Mary’s life are given even by the four Gospels, written between 65 and 100 C.E. We should remember that the Gospels are the only real sources for the Christians for the worship of Mary, encouraged by the Roman Catholic Church.

Mark narrates how Jesus treating his mother and brothers somewhat disrespectfully, as they came to see him: He was addressing a crowd of people. When he was told that his mother and brothers were looking for him, he asked:

[Who is my mother or my brethren?” And pointing at the people around him, he said: “Behold my mother and my brethren!] (Mark 3:33-34, King James Bible)

Luke, while describing the circumstances of Jesus’ birth, pictures Mary as

[the handmaid of the Lord] (Luke 1: 38, King James Bible),

a virgin to whom the angel says:

[Hail, thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women] (Luke 1: 28, King James Bible)

Matthew presents Mary less conspicuously than Luke. He says:

[When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.] (Matthew. 1:18, King James Bible)

John speaks twice of Jesus’ mother (without mentioning her name): At Cana she is said to hMarry in the Bible and the Quranave asked Jesus to change water into wine. (John 2:1-12, King James Bible)

On Calvary, she is said to have stood beneath the cross at Jesus’ death:

[Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother’s sister…] (John 19:25, King James Bible)

An eminent Christian theologian says about John’s account of Mary standing at the foot of Jesus’ cross:

“Most probably, this scene is not historical and is symbolic. In this scene, the mother of Jesus and the beloved disciple, act as representative figures.” (Merle Salazar, O.L.S.H, The Mother of Jesus in the Gospel of John)

Tradition motivated by later Christian beliefs says that when Jesus died, his body was taken down from the cross and placed in Mary’s arms.

We have no reason to accept without question these pious beliefs invented and instilled into “the Christians” by ecclesiastical fervor.

The point to underscore here is: There is only very meager references to Mary (who is venerated by the Catholics as the “Mother of God”) in the Gospels of the Christians.

Mary in the Quran

Now, what does the Quran say about Mary?

The first point to note is that the noble Quran gives far more importance to Mary the Mother of Jesus than the Christian Gospels. The following points are noteworthy:

Mary is mentioned in the Quran as the most honored woman of all the nations in these words:

{Behold! the angels said: “O Mary! Allah hath chosen thee and purified thee- chosen thee above the women of all nations.} (Aal `Imran 3:42)

There is a whole chapter in the noble Quran titled “Maryam”, the nineteenth chapter of the Quran.

The Quran honors Jesus as the worthy son of a worthy mother: Whenever Jesus is mentioned, he is named as “‘Isa ibn Maryam” meaning Jesus the Son of Mary.

The foregoing gives an idea of the importance given to Mary in Islam. But this does not mean that all the details of the life of Mary we would like to know – or of Jesus or any other prophet for that matter – are recorded in the Quran. Nor do we need to know them all for any earthly or heavenly purpose.

When Allah the Almighty says that Jesus was saved from an ignominious death on the cross, that is enough for us. We hear the word of God on the matter and we have no doubt about them.

And the response of Mary to what happened in the context is immaterial. If it had been significant in any way, Allah would have told us in the Quran.

Who Was Really Crucified?

You know that Islam was taught to us by the Last Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him). He gave us the Quran and his own Sunnah. These two will suffice us, for leading a life of submission to Allah in our earthly life, and to earn the reward of Paradise in the Hereafter.

It is not part of our Marry in the Bible and the Quranarticles of faith to know how Allah saved his servant Jesus from an accursed death on the cross, or who was crucified in his place, etc. If such details had any relevance to our felicity here in this world or in the Hereafter, they would have been in the Quran.

Now that there is no such information available to us, we are not authorized to indulge in the luxury of conjecture. Even in the same verse where Allah discredits the false claim that Jesus was crucified, He decries those who indulge in conjectures without any certain knowledge:

{That they said (in boast), “We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Apostle of Allah”;- but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no (certain) knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not..} (An-Nisaa’ 4:157)

So, let us not be among those who follow conjecture with no certain knowledge.

May Allah guide us and help us in all our endeavors in His Way.

I hope this helps.

Salam and please keep in touch.

(From Ask About Islam archives)

Please continue feeding your curiosity, and find more info in the following links:

Is There Proof of Mary’s Ascension?

If Jesus Wasn’t Crucified … Then Who Was?

Did Jesus Claim that He Is God?



About Professor Shahul Hameed
Professor Shahul Hameed is an Islamic consultant. He also held the position of the President of the Kerala Islamic Mission, Calicut, India. He is the author of three books on Islam published in the Malayalam language. His books are on comparative religion, the status of women, and science and human values.