The Birth of Jesus, Prophet Isa, and the Virgin Mary

As-salámu ‘alaikum wa rahmatul láhi wa barakátuh!”
“A-úthu billáhi minash shaytánir rajeem.  Bismilláhir rahmánir raheem.
Al hamdu lillahi nahmaduhu wanasta’eenahu, wanastagh-firuhu, wanatoobu ilayhi, wana’oothu Billaahi min shuroori an-fusinaa, wamin sayyi aati a’maalinaa. May- Yahdillahu fa huwal muhtad, wa may- yudlill falan tajidaa lahu waliyan murshida. Wa ash-hadu an Laa ilaaha ill-Alláh, wahdahoo laa shareeka lah, wa ash-hadu anna Muhammadan ‘abduhoo warasooluh”
In the Name of Allah, Most Merciful, Most Compassionate.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

As the Christmas season approaches and Christians begin to prepare to commemorate the birth of Prophet Isa, Jesus, I would like to talk in this khutbah about the importance of Prophet Isa and of his mother, the Virgin Mary.

Even before Mary’s birth, the Qur’an tells us, everything was put in place to help make her ready for her special role as the mother of Prophet Isa (PBUH). Surah al-Imran, which bears the name of Mary’s father, gives an account of Mary’s family background and the circumstances of her birth. We are told that Mary’s own mother came from a righteous family who had faith in Allah (SWT) and served Him with devotion. When she found that she was pregnant she prayed to Allah (SWT), dedicating her child to His service. The Qur’an tells us:

Remember when the wife of ‘Imran said: “My Lord, I have pledged to You what is in my womb, consecrated [for Your service]. Please accept my prayer. You are the All-Hearing, the All-Knowing.” (Qur’an, 3:35)

The Qur’an goes on to tell of the wife of ’Imran’s surprise when she gave birth to a girl; she had anticipated a male child who would ultimately serve Allah (SWT) as a religious leader. Regardless of this, she trusted Allah (SWT) and prayed that He would watch over the girl and her children, saying, “My Lord! I have given birth to a girl… and I have named her Mary and placed her and her children in your safekeeping.” (Qur’an 3:36).

Allah (SWT) answered that prayer. Mary was blessed with excellent sense of morality as well as with good health and beauty, and her upbringing protected her physical and spiritual wellbeing. The Qur’an says:

Her Lord accepted her with approval and made her grow in health and beauty. And Zechariah became her guardian. (Qur’an, 3:37)

The Qur’an tells how Mary, dedicated to the service of Allah (SWT), went away to the East to live in seclusion. Her life had long been touched by miracles. Allah (SWT) would miraculously provide the child with food, to the astonishment of her guardian, Zechariah. While she was living in seclusion she was visited by an even greater wonder. The Archangel Gabriel appeared to her, as the Qur’an relates:

Mention Mary in the Book, how she withdrew from her people to an eastern place and veiled herself from them. Then We sent Our Spirit [Gabriel] to her, and it took on for her the form of a handsome, well-built man. She [Mary] said: “I seek refuge from you with the All-Merciful if you guard against evil.” (Qur’an, 19:16-18)

After Mary had expressed her trusting, chaste commitment to Allah (SWT) in this way, the Archangel explained the purpose of his visit as the Qur’an tells us:

He said [to Mary]: “I am only your Lord’s messenger so that He can give you a pure boy.” (Qur’an, 19:19)

When Mary wondered how this could come about, as she was still a virgin, Gabriel explained that Allah’s (SWT) Will was sufficient to bring such a miracle about. Allah (SWT) creates events or creatures simply by commanding their existence. The Qur’an relates the conversation between Mary and the Archangel as follows:

She said: “My Lord, how can I have a son when no man has yet touched me?” He said: “It will be so.” God creates whatever He wills. When He decides on something, He just says to it “Be!” and it is. (Qur’an, 3:47)

The Archangel also foretold that Mary’s son would have special gifts, even as a baby, and that he would grow up to serve God:

He will speak to people in the cradle, and also when fully grown, and will be one of the righteous. (Qur’an, 3:46)

So, while still a virgin, Mary conceived the Prophet Isa through the will of Allah (SWT). The Qur’an explains that in being chosen to be the mother of Prophet Isa, Mary was greatly honoured by Allah (SWT), who specially purified her for the role:

And when the angels said: “Mary, God has chosen you and purified you. He has chosen you over all other women..” (Qur’an, 3:42-43)

He (SWT) also blessed and protected her as she went on to carry out her task. Although, having left behind her family to live in devoted seclusion, Mary was on her own, Allah (SWT) did not leave her unsupported. He kept her in seclusion to protect her from being harmed by people who would misunderstand her situation, but He Himself helped her and she gave birth safely. Allah (SWT) provided her with sustenance to help her in her labour, just as earlier in her life He had given her miraculous food. The Qur’an tells us:

The pains of labor drove her to the trunk of a date-palm. She exclaimed: “Oh if only I had died before this time and was something discarded and forgotten!” A voice called out to her from under her: “Do not grieve. Your Lord has placed a small stream at your feet. Shake the trunk of the palm toward you, and fresh, ripe dates will drop down to you. Eat and drink and delight your eyes. If you should see anyone at all, just say: ‘I have made a vow of abstinence to the All-Merciful, and today I will not speak to any human being.'” (Qur’an, 19:23-26)

When she returned to her community with her little son, Mary was met with scorn and accusations. Her own people said to her:

“Mary! You have done an unthinkable thing! Sister of Aaron, your father was not an evil man nor was your mother an unchaste woman!” (Qur’an, 19:27-28)

However, as we have mentioned, the Archangel Gabriel had announced that Prophet Isa would speak while a baby in his cradle (Qur’an, 3: 46). In the face of her community’s scorn, this miracle rescued Mary. Her tiny child explained his own special role and thereby made it clear that Mary, far from being a disgrace to her community, was, like him, an honoured servant of Allah (SWT). To their astonishment, he said:

“I am the servant of God. He has given me the book and He has made me blessed wherever I am, [has] directed me to perform prayer and give alms as long as I live, and to show devotion to my mother. He has not made me insolent or arrogant.” (Qur’an, 19:30-33)

We can learn a great deal from accounts of Prophet Isa and of his mother Mary. Having both been consecrated to Allah (SWT) before their births, they went on to accept His will faithfully at all times. They remained His devoted servants even when faced with great challenges, including scorn and hatred from their own communities. Allah (SWT) watched over and rewarded them, and generations of the faithful have honoured them and studied their examples of devotion. May we continue to do the same.

I would like to end with a verse from the Holy Qur’an:

Isa said, “And peace be upon me on the day I was born and the day I shall die and the day I shall be resurrected alive.” (Qur’an,19:33)

And may Peace be upon each and every one of us. Ameen

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