When Islam came into being in the seventh century, Christianity and devotion to Mary were already well established in the eastern and western part of the Roman Empire. Mohammed claimed he was the bearer of God's revelation. Transmitted to him by the Angel Gabriel and the Spirit, the Qur'an is the final word of what Allah, the God of Abraham, Ishmael, and Jesus wished to communicate to humankind. Mohammed is the final and most important messenger and prophet Allah sent.
Jesus in the Qur'an
Jesus is mentioned in the Qur'an only twice without reference to his utterances and no mention of the Nativity narrative. There is no mention of Jesus' public life or of the redemption because he was not crucified and was not resurrected from the dead. Jesus who is not the Messiah appears only as a holy messenger who did perform miracles. He is not God, nor is he the Son of God, a fact that in the Islamic belief-system would contradict God's oneness (Sura 4:157, 159; 5:72). Nor is Jesus Emmanuel, God-with-us. God is not present or at work among us but remains outside of this world's concerns.
Mary in the Qur'an
More in The Way of Beauty
The Qur'an negates the importance of Jesus while it extols the virtues of his Mother. However, she may not claim divine motherhood; she is not a Queen because Jesus is not a King, or rather the King of the Universe.
Mohammed names the mother of Jesus, as 'the best woman ever to live.' Several chapters in the Qur'an express an outpouring of love for her; she is mentioned thirty-four times, a far greater number than in the Gospels. Given the fact that Jesus, Isa-bin-Maryam (the son of Mary), is spoken of so rarely contrasted with the many expressions of devotion to her, are we to conclude that the Mother is preferred to her Son? It would seem that Islam and the Qur'an present knotted doctrinal issues.
Mary, a Bridge Builder?
With so many differences between the two faiths, Mary may very well be the only point of agreement between them-apart from their belief in one God. The sheer outpouring of love for Mary in the Qur'an, especially in Surat Maryam (Chapter 19), proves that she is honored both in Islam and in Catholicism. Setting up a commission of Catholic and Muslim scholars would go a long way to begin a dialogue, with Mary as a point of agreement.
Mary's Mercy Becomes Ours: One Example
Here is one person's unusual interpretation of mercy during this Jubilee Year.
When Stefan was a child, his biological father left him. Eventually, he immigrated to this country from Latvia. Then his mother left him. Today, at twenty-nine, Stefan lives with his grandmother, a pediatrician, in her basement apartment. He sleeps on a couch and forgoes any luxuries or even basic privacy. In return for lodging and food, he takes care of her.
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Once in this country, Stefan met a remarkable tutor who has recently become his benefactor. Gifted artistically, Stefan could not have entered the graduate level program at Parsons School of Design without some financial intervention. When the Federal Loans left him shy of $5,500 each semester, his tutor and benefactor helped to secure his future by making up the difference. No strings attached, except to keep up good grades. Stefan's grades are almost all A's, and he has made the Dean's List. Diligent to a fault, he submits superb papers and makes design presentations in class that win the admiration of his professors. What could be more salutary than helping to make a human life possible, promising, and fulfilling? What better use of money?
Mary's mercy must become ours, and our mercy must imitate hers. In this Jubilee Year, Pope Francis has exhorted each of us to walk through the doors of mercy with those in need of our support. It need not be financial. But any support must be sincere as each of us helps untie knots in the lives of others during this Year of Mercy.