Saturday, 1 September 2007

The Family of Imran

Hazrat Maryam and Baby Isa (Alaysalam)

Hazrat Maryam was a pious and chaste woman and used to stay in seclusion, living a life of purity and was a frequent visitor to Baitul Muqadis for worship and prayers. One day as she intended to take a bath or perform prayers in the eastern part of the mosque, a strange figure appeared out of nowhere.

Due to her purity, she began to feel fear but was comforted by the fact he is not a man, but an angel with glad tidings from Allah of a child to be born to her. A child, who was a sign of Allah’s Greatness, was to be given birth by a virgin mother.

As she was known for her piety and was descended with pious parents and ancestors she began to fear the news breaking out to the people and the possibility of merciless reaction.

As she drew closer to giving birth, she moved away to a place now known as Bethlehem. Whilst taking support of a tree, Allah gave her comfort and she is given a stream of water to drink from and fresh dates from the bark she was taking rest against.

Allah instructed her not to fear the people, but to tell the people she was on a fast of not talking and thereafter point to her child.

Due to her trust in Allah, her worries were eased and she returned to the people carrying the child. On seeing her with child, the people start to chant and provoke her. She remains silent as she was ordered and points to the child.

This increased their anger, but to their amazement the child speaks out and gives a speech, which more than clears his mother’s name.

He then grows into a very intelligent young man and becomes a threat to the Jewish scholars, who by fooling the people had made their way to high posts and positions.

At the age of thirty he is given Prophethood and as his time was one of medicine and cures, when many breakthroughs had been made, he was granted with many cure related miracles; he could cure the leper, give sight back to the blind (including those born blind), bring the dead back to life, he could mould a bird out of clay and the bird could fly off, he could tell what a person had eaten and what he had left behind (i.e. what he has stored to eat later) at home.

The Jews slowly increasing in their hatred for Isa (AS) and falsely bring him to the king’s attention. An army is sent to have him captured. The person who came to take Jesus entered his residence and didn’t find him there.

Allah changed the appearance of another man in the house to Isa (AS), a young disciple who had volunteered to be arrested in place of Isa and it is he who is arrested and later crucified by the Romans.

Isa (AS) meanwhile had been briefed of their arrival beforehand and through a small space within the house ascended to the Heavens with the assistance of the angels a short time earlier.

Isa (AS) was no more than an apostle; his significance was only due to his Prophethood and no other reason. Since his ascension to the Heavens, Isa (AS) is still awaiting permission to return. Once he is able to, he will after some time die a natural death.

A few other additional details

The pious Maryam kept herself busy in worship and did not come out of her chamber except in extreme cases. At night Hazrat Zakariya, her uncle and guardian, would take her to his house where she would have something to eat. Maryam’s cousin, Elizabeth also lived there and was married to Hazrat Zakariya.

In this way Maryam was raised among Bani Israel in an honourable way. She was well known for her remarkable aspects of worship, devotion and perseverance throughout her youth.

Zakariyya himself however, the only man who had access to her chamber, to attend to her nutritional and other guardian-related requirements would often find her with out of season fruit not available in the land with her.

He would for example find her with winter fruit during the summer and summer fruit during the winter. Maryam responded to his amazement by saying Allah provided her with such arrangements.

When Angel Jibreel (AS) appeared before Hazrat Maryam in human form one day, she was confused and said, ‘If you have any fear of Allah, I seek refuge from you in the name of Allah.’

After Jibreel (AS) assured her of his intentions and presence and informed her of the birth of Isa (AS) he said, ‘I am a message-bearer from your Lord, Who has commanded me to communicate this message to you; Allah has decided that He will make you and your son a ‘portent’ of His Omnipotence and this child will prove a Divine Blessing and this decision of His is absolute. O Maryam! Allah gives you the glad tidings of a son who would be a portent. His title will be ‘Maseeh’.

‘Portent’ here refers to the miraculous sign Jesus, her future son, will be born against the natural law of birth and will be conceived by Hazrat Maryam (AS) directly by the command of Allah.

‘Maseeh’ means blessed or a traveller having no home.

Maryam herself was surprised at the news and responded ‘How can I have a son when no man has touched me, nor am I unchaste.’ (Surah 19, Verse 20)

The word used in the Qur’an for ‘unchaste’ is Baghiyya which literally means fornicator and Baghiyy is a female fornicator. This shows she was neither married nor in a physical relationship with another man.

Shortly before giving birth, Maryam (AS) began to feel a little anxious over the reaction she was likely to face back home. Jibreel (AS) was sent with the following message.

‘O Maryam! Grieve not! Thy Lord has placed a rivulet flow underneath you.

In Arabic lexicon ‘Sari’ means a rivulet as well as an exalted personality, the majority of scholars hold this view. A few other scholars have said it means the Lord has created an exalted personality from you.

Mujahid said Sariy means a river in the Syrian language, whilst Sai’d bin Jubayr says it is a small flowing river. Others have said Sariy refers to Isa (AS). The Scholars say the first view is more likely to be correct.

As the time for birth approached nearer, Maryam experienced the usual pains that precede childbirth and was asked to grab the trunk of a date palm tree and shake it towards her, by doing so Allah blessed her by giving her food and drink.

‘It will let fall fresh ripe dates upon you. So eat and drink and rejoice.’
(Surah 19, Verse 26)

Initially Maryam was unsure of how her people would receive her and so she wished momentarily to have died before this event and been something or someone insignificant to have avoided this episode.

Allah then instructed her to fast, whereby in addition to abstaining from food and drink, she could only signal with gestures and signs instead of statements of speech and for her defence in respect to the miracle birth point to the child for anyone who required answers.

Later the child spoke to shocked residents whilst the mother observed silence. The people were convinced of her innocence and believed in Jesus as a portent of Allah, righteous people took his coming as a blessing whilst the evil ones took his birth as an evil omen.

The news of his special birth spread all over instantly and different factions assigned different notions to it. In this atmosphere, the child Isa (AS) grew up under the divine protection of Allah. He was going to revive the deadened hearts of the Children of Israel.

Zakariya (Alaysalam)

The Prophet Zakariya (Alaysalam) was a direct descendant of Prophet Yaqub (Alaysalam) a pious man of his time and belonged to the respected priestly class of Hekal in Jerusalem.

Allah describes the Prophet Zakariya and his wife as ‘Khashi’in meaning those who humble themselves before Allah and sincerely believing in that which was revealed by Allah. Abu Sinan adds it also means ‘fear which should never leave our hearts’ was in both of them. Mujahid says it means ‘truly believing’ and Abu Al Aliyah says it means ‘fearing’.

Allah also describes both as ‘they used to hasten on to good deeds’.

The Jews would refer to him in their religious matters and despite his knowledge, age and sincerity he was and remained a carpenter by profession and earned his livelihood for himself and his family through these means alone.

A fellow priest and revered Israelite, Imran, who was among his contemporaries and had received glad tidings he was shortly to become a father for the first time. His wife, Hannah, had vowed that if the child was a boy she would give him to the temple in service.

Both spouses were delighted at the prospect of becoming parents. Imran wondered briefly, what would happen if the baby were a girl, in light of his wife’s vow. Only males were permitted entry to Baitul Muqadis and grow up within its vicinity for the purposes of attaining religious knowledge and devoting their lives to religious service.

The couple however put their trust in Allah and left it at that awaiting their new baby’s arrival. This thought had earlier grieved Hannah, but her husband responded the female is not like the male and Allah knows best whom to honour and place his trust. Alas, Imran died shortly afterwards and never saw his child. Hannah herself later gave birth to a girl, whom she named Maryam.

Maryam remained with her mother until she attained puberty. Some writers have suggested she was as young as thirteen, others have put her age at fifteen and a few have suggested she was eighteen or twenty years.

After reaching maturity, in fulfilment of the pledge by her mother before her birth, Maryam was entrusted to the care of her maternal uncle, Zakariya, the husband of her mother’s sister. According to the Shariah of the time, this was permissible as he was regarded as her mahram, and hence was the best person to be given custody of the child.

Maryam was allotted a small space within the enclosure of Baitul Muqadis in Jerusalem and Zakariya would be responsible for her welfare, personal needs and other social concerns.
Yahya (Alaysalam)

As someone born for a special purpose, Yahya (AS) was the son of pious parents. His father, Zakariya (AS) was a respected priest as well as a Prophet and although he and his wife were both past child-bearing age, Yahya (AS) was given as a gift to them to continue their preaching.

The Qur’an adds he was taught the Tawrat (the book used by the Prophets and the Rabbis to rule themselves) and he was given understanding, knowledge, fortitude, diligence and zeal for good and the pursuit of good. He was blessed with these characteristics even though he was young.

Allah encouraged him, as the Qur’an adds, to learn the Tawrat with strength, to learn it well with zeal and studious effort. Allah describes him as a ‘Hananan’ (in the Qur’an) a ‘mercy that no one would be able to give except Allah’ Qatadah adds ‘With it Allah had mercy upon Zakariyya’. A similar word ‘Hanan’ means the love for affection and tenderness (towards others).

Yahya was given Hikmah (Divinely Inspired Wisdom), compassion and purity and was a ‘Zakatan’ a ‘blessing’ from Allah.

As an individual his character is described as ‘pious’ which the Scholars assert means he was pure and had no inclination to do sins. He was also the first among the Prophets until then never to marry.

His personality in turn was neither arrogant, nor disobedient and dutiful to his parents. He refrained from disobeying them in speech, actions, commands and prohibitions and attached good treatment to both. Scholars also add he was more easier to raise than most children of his age even in infancy and caused little problems as a youth.

As a boy of only two or three years old, Yahya (AS) assumed his role as a preacher and later left the city for the forest where he would live for the rest of his life. It was there he became famous.

Yahya (AS) lived as a sort of wild man, wearing a coat of camel's hair (rather than the woven cloth of a city man) and ate “locusts and wild honey,” i.e., he lived off the land rather than tilling the soil or buying food in the marketplace. He lived and preached in the wilderness. People went out to the wilderness to see him; he did not come into the City.

Scholars add Yahya (AS) used to teach the people Tawheed and deliver speeches in the vicinity of what now is Masjid Aqsa.

Yusuf Ibn Najjar

Much has been written, discussed and spoken of about this specific individual known to Christians as Joseph the Carpenter. To them he was betrothed to Hazrat Maryam in advance and married her shortly after she became pregnant.

After that he seems to disappear from history altogether. To many anti-Jesus individuals and organisations and even some Pseudo Muslim cults he was the actual and not just earthly father of the child.

The historical Yusuf is nonetheless one of the most mysterious personages in the episode and although the assertions made about him are few, the statements said are very direct and in the accusative sense.

What is known is that Yusuf Ibn Najjar was neither a native resident of Jerusalem, a settled visitor nor even a short stay traveller to the City when Maryam first became pregnant. In fact, he was not even in the City at all for the most part of her life at the time.

Yusuf knew Maryam herself by being in the same family as her and respected the latter for her piety, religious devotion to God and her personal chastity and sincerity. The first meeting in recorded history between both Maryam and Yusuf is shortly after the former was already heavily pregnant with child.

Yusuf knowing her chaste background enquired through a parable about her sudden appearance with child, she replied in a similar manner informing him just as Allah can create life from nothing, He can further create life through another life. Yusuf apologised for his questions and went his way.

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