Mary (PBUH) spent most of her young life in the temple dedicated in prayer to God. She was not deterred from entering the house of God even though usually only men were allowed to worship there.
Mary (peace be upon her—PBUH—Maryam in Arabic) is a figure known and greatly respect in both Islam and Christianity.
When Mary’s mother was pregnant with her, she dedicated the child she was carrying to the service of God. Upon her birth, Mary’s mother was shocked that Mary was a girl and stated:
[…] the male is not like the female […] (Quran 3:35)
And certainly, the difference and capabilities of women was most evident in Mary’s (PBUH) life and purpose. She is listed in Surah al-Anbiya (chapter of the prophets) as one of the great prophets:
And [mention] the one who guarded her chastity, so We blew into her [garment] through Our angel [Gabriel], and We made her and her son a sign for the worlds. (Quran 21:91)
Male prophets were given revelation in the form of words, recitation, and texts. Mary was given revelation in the form of a great human being.
Mary (PBUH) was given a blessed son who was created by God without a father. She was a virgin at the time of Jesus’ birth. And she herself was a model of human behavior. Both Islam and Christianity hold these characteristics of Mary to be true.
Encounter with Angel Gabriel
Mary’s (PBUH) encounter with the angel Gabriel is strikingly similar in the Quran and the Bible. Angel Gabriel said to Mary in the Quran:
Behold! the angels said: “O Mary! Allah has chosen you and purified you – chosen you above the women of all nations.” (Quran 3:42)
And in the Bible:
The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” (Luke 1:28)
Angel Gabriel reveals to Mary (PBUH) her child:
Behold! The angels said: “O Mary! Allah gives you glad tidings of a Word from Him: 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” (Quran 3:45)
And this is also related in the Bible:
Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.” (Luke 1:29-31)
Confusion about Her Pregnancy
In the Quran, God relates how Mary was confused by God’s creation of a human being without intercourse or a father:
“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!” (Quran 3:47)
Similarly, the Bible relates:
“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So, the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.” (Luke 1:34-5)
Her Experience in Labor
The pains of childbirth drove her to clutch at the trunk of a date-palm tree and she cried out in anguish: Would that I had died before this, and had been forgotten and out of sight! (Quran 19:23)
In this verse, Mary’s experience gives a glimpse into the pain and hardship all mothers go through for their children even if the reader will never experience childbirth.
Once the child was born, Mary was exhausted and frightened. But the Quran narrates that she hears a voice calling to her:
Grieve not! Your Lord has provided you a stream of clear water under you; and shake the trunk of palm tree toward you; it will let fall fresh ripe dates upon you. So eat and drink and be glad […] (Quran 19:24)
To ease her, God provides Mary (PBUH) with everything she needs and comforts her distressed heart after such an intense experience.
From here, the Quran relates that Mary was not to speak to her people when she brought her son to them. Instead, God allowed Jesus (PBUH), as a baby, talk and explain who he was to his people.
The Quran relates that Jesus said:
Verily, I am a slave of God. He has given me the Scripture and made me a Prophet; and he has made me blessed wheresoever I be, and has enjoined on me prater, and alms, as long as I live, and to be dutiful to my mother […] (Quran 19:30-34)
Mary (PBUH) is a central figure in both Islam and Christianity. She is venerated in both faiths. She is spoken about in the Quran and the Bible in strikingly similar verses. Even though many may not know Mary is a central figure in Islam, the Quran tells even more about the life and mission of Mary, may God’s peace and blessings truly be upon her.
(From Discovering Islam archive)