Jesus-tile-StPaul Cathedral-Melbourne

Replica of a Jesus tile from a church in Iran. On display in Melbourne St Paul’s Cathedral (corner Flinders & Swanston streets)

When love attains its longing place in the human heart, desire for conflict and separation from fellow humans leaves the heart. The light of love fills up the conditioned mind and liberates it from its conditioned thinking and limitations. It is then, that the enlightenment of the human consciousness takes its first steps on the road of divine wisdom and learning.

Jesus and Mary have a revered and special place in Islam; and in these troubled times of conflict and separation I thought to share some of the beautiful Islamic writings about Jesus and Mary with you as prelude to the approaching Christmas time.

I have devoted two years to researching and writing a book (yet to be published) about what was written about Mary and Jesus in the Quran, Prophet Muhammad Hadith (discourses), and the vast Islamic mystical literature of the Sufi men and women that extends over 800 years. The extracts from my book come under various headings which describe the occasions that gave rise to the quoted extracts. I have divided this into five parts: Mary, Jesus, and Mary and Jesus in the Quran; Mary and Jesus in the Prophet discourses; and Mary and Jesus in Sufi literature. I have selected a small number of extracts to share with you here.

1. Mary in the Quran: Mary’s Inner Pain When Becoming Pregnant and Giving Birth 

Mary faces the unimaginable truths and consequent realities of Gabriel’s revelations to her. The Quran mentions her realisation of her pregnancy, and the psychological pains that she went through as a result.

Verse 19:22– So, she conceived him, and she withdrew with him to a remote place.

Verse 19: 23– And the pains of childbirth drove her to the trunk of the palm tree, she said, ‘Oh, I wish I had died before this, and was forgotten in oblivion.’

Verse 19:24– But he (the angel) called from below her, ‘Do not grieve,   your Lord has provided beneath you a stream.

Verse 19:25– And shake towards you the trunk of the palm tree; and shall tumble upon you ripe and fresh dates.

Verse 19:26– So eat and drink and be comforted. And if you see from among humanity anyone, say: “Indeed, I have vowed to the Most Merciful abstention (from people), so I will not speak  today to (any) human.”

2. Mary and Jesus in the Quran: Jesus Speaks in His Infancy about His mother and His Divinity

Mary (PBUH) carried Jesus to her family and the people of her village, and faced their accusations of fortifications. She could not defend her character by telling them about her divine revelations about Jesus. This is because they would not understand such revelations. When the people of her village accused her and waited an answer from her, she simply pointed to the infant Jesus. And they asked Mary as how can an infant answers their accusations; and the infant Jesus spoke.

Verse 19:30– He (Jesus) said, ‘Lo, Indeed I am the servant of God, He has given me the Scripture, and has made me a Prophet.

Verse 19:31– And He has made me blessed wherever I may be, and has enjoined upon me prayers and alms giving as long as I remain alive.

Verse 19:32– And (made me) dutiful to my mother, and He has not made me a wretched, tyrant.

Verse 19:33– And peace be upon me the day I was born, and the day I die, and the day I am raised up alive.’

Verse 19:34– That is Jesus, the son of Mary, the word of truth, concerning which they are in dispute.

3. Jesus in The Quran: Jesus Saying about His Message 

Jesus states his simple message to the people that he came to guide.

Verse 42:63– And when Jesus came with clear signs. He said:  ‘I have come to you with wisdom, and to clarify to you some of the matters about which you differ, so fear God, and obey me.’

Verse 42:64– Indeed, God is my Lord and your Lord, so serve Him; this is a straight path.

4. Mary and Jesus in the Discourses (Hadith) of the Prophet

The Prophetic traditions on Mary and Jesus are complementary to the Qur’an. They mention much unknown aspects of their life, personality, spirituality, religiosity, their relation to their community, and even the community of the prophet Muhammad. Prophet Muhammad was born almost five centuries after Jesus. Despite the separation of time between the two, Prophet Muhammad spoke to his own community of the message of Jesus, and the divine characters of Jesus and Mary.

Prophet Muhammad Sees Beautiful Looking Jesus Walking Around the Ka’aba

From Bukhari and Muslim’ Books on the Hadith; Abdullah Bin Omar related the following saying (Hadith) of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessing of Allah be upon him):

“Last night, I found myself having a vision of the Ka’ba and saw a ruddy man like the most good-looking of that type that you can see, with the most beautiful lock of hair you can see. He had combed it out, and it was dripping with water.

He was leaning on the shoulders of two men and going around the Ka’aba.

When I asked who he was, I was told that he was “the Messiah, son of Mary.”

5.  Mary and Jesus in Sufi literature 

Sufism is the mystical aspect of Islam. Its main springs of learning, mystical insights and wisdom, are the Quran and the prophet discourses (Hadith). Sufism other springs of wisdom, that preceded Islam in time; are the Greek philosophies of Plotinus, the teaching of the Pythagoreans, Socrates, and the cosmological and sciences of nature’s writings of Empedocles.

Another ancient source of learning from the wisdom and spiritual knowledge of the generations that preceded the Sufis arose from the mystical traditions of Egypt. This was exemplified by the teaching and writings of Hermes Trismegistus during the first to fourth centuries AD.

The Sufis also integrated the wisdom of Zoroastrianism, the faith of ancient Persia. Sufi cosmological themes have been influenced by it.

Muslim Sufi saints, like Jalal al-Din al-Rumi, and Muhy al-Din Ibn al-Arabi, Abu Hamid al-Ghazali, and others, looked at Mary and Jesus (PBUT) as their perfect spiritual guides; in terms of their creation, teachings, deeds, and personal qualities. They wrote about them, in verse and poetry, as a means of alerting and waking up humanity to look up to them as examples to be emulated and be inspired by them, both mentally and emotionally.

Rumi on Jesus

The following two selections are from the poetry of Mathnawi book 1, then book 2, of Rumi; (lines 1919 to 1921) , then (lines 113 to 119) respectively; regarding Mary and Jesus:

 On Humility, the ego, and surrender to God

Line 1919- And the meaning of the death of the ego is humility; for in humility and poverty, make yourself dead.

Line 1920- Until the breath of Jesus brings you back to life; and makes you like him, blessed and kind.

Line 1921- And, how from the seasons of spring, a stone’s surface becomes green in colour. You have to be a soft earth, to spring from you flowers with many colours.

Jesus is asked about The Hardest Thing among the Hardships of Life

Jesus warns us against the destructive human trait of anger, which has brought about endless destruction at all levels of humanity. He cannot heal an individual with such a trait, but only advise him as to how to root it out in the bud and how to try to self-heal.

It is also a self-inflicted trait, with consequences that the Divine will not tolerate.

Rumi’s poetry elucidates this.

113- An intelligent man asked Jesus, peace be upon him; What is the hardest thing in existence?

114- He answered, ‘Oh, dear one, the anger of God; is the hardest thing in existence, the hell, fully like us, shudders from it.’

115- The man asked, ‘What secures us from God’s anger?’  Jesus said:  ‘to abandon self-anger immediately at the moment it arises.’

116- And thus, the person that becomes a source of anger; His ugly anger passes over all his companions.

117- So, what hope he has for mercy? Unless that ungracious person retreats from this habit.

118- Despite the inevitable fact for this world to have them (angry persons); this very fact is worthy of throwing them into aimlessness.

119- It is as important for the world to have lavatories; but these lavatories are not for reaching for pure water.