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Why the Virgin Birth in Islam?


By Sami Zaatari





We the Muslims just like the Christians believe that Mary gave birth to Jesus as a virgin, and not the result of sexual intercourse. Both us and the Christians agree that this was a mighty miracle and sign from God, however so the differences between us and the Christian arise when we discuss why the virgin birth was done, both of us have different reasons, and in this article I shall talk about why Allah choose to carry out such a great miracle.


To begin with, here are the relevant passages from the Quran:



YUSUFALI: Behold! the angels said: "O Mary! Allah giveth thee glad tidings of a Word from Him: his name will be Christ Jesus, the son of Mary, held in honour in this world and the Hereafter and of (the company of) those nearest to Allah;




YUSUFALI: "He shall speak to the people in childhood and in maturity. And he shall be (of the company) of the righteous."



YUSUFALI: She said: "O my Lord! How shall I have a son when no man hath touched me?" He said: "Even so: Allah createth what He willeth: When He hath decreed a plan, He but saith to it, 'Be,' and it is!


Ibn Kathir's tafsir writes:


Delivering the Good News to Maryam of `Isa's Birth


This Ayah contains the glad tidings the angels brought to Maryam that she would give birth to a mighty son who will have a great future. Allah said,


[???? ??????? ?????????????? ????????? ????? ??????? ??????????? ?????????? ???????]((Remember) when the angels said: "O Maryam! Verily, Allah gives you the glad tidings of a Word from Him,) a son who will come into existence with a word from Allah, `Be', and he was. This is the meaning of Allah's statement (about Yahya)


[?????????? ?????????? ????? ???????](Believing in the Word from Allah.) [3:39], according to the majority of the scholars.


[??????? ?????????? ?????? ????? ????????](His name will be Al-Masih, `Isa, the son of Maryam) and he will be known by this name in this life, especially by the believers. `Isa was called "Al-Masih'' (the Messiah) because when he touched (Mash) those afflicted with an illness, they would be healed by Allah's leave. Allah's statement,


[?????? ????? ????????](`Isa, the son of Maryam) relates `Isa to his mother, because he did not have a father.


[???????? ??? ?????????? ????????????? ?????? ???????????????](Held in honor in this world and in the Hereafter, and will be one of those who are near to Allah.) meaning, he will be a leader and honored by Allah in this life, because of the Law that Allah will reveal to him, sending down the Scripture to him, along with the other bounties that Allah will grant him with. `Isa will be honored in the Hereafter and will intercede with Allah, by His leave, on behalf of some people, just as is the case with his brethren the mighty Messengers of Allah, peace be upon them all.

`Isa was Created Without a Father

When Maryam heard the good news that the angels conveyed from Allah, she said;


[????? ?????? ??????? ??? ?????? ?????? ??????????? ??????]("O my Lord! How shall I have a son when no man has touched me.'')

Mary said, "How can I have a son while I did not marry, nor intend to marry, nor am I an indecent woman, may Allah forbid'' The angel conveyed to Maryam, Allah's answer,


[???????? ??????? ???????? ??? ???????](So (it will be) for Allah creates what He wills.)

He is Mighty in power and nothing escapes His ability. Allah used the word `create' here instead of the word `does' as in the tale about Zakariyya [3:40], to eradicate any evil thought concerning `Isa. Allah next emphasized this fact when He said,


[????? ????? ??????? ?????????? ??????? ???? ??? ?????????](When He has decreed something, He says to it only: "Be! ? and it is.) meaning, what Allah wills, comes into existence instantly and without delay. In another Ayah, Allah said,


[????? ????????? ?????? ???????? ???????? ??????????? ](And Our commandment is but one as the twinkling of an eye.) [54:50], meaning, "We only issue the command once, and it comes into existence instantly, as fast as, and faster than, a blink of the eye. ''


So from this we can conclude one reason why Allah did this why to show his strength and how he can do what he wills whenever he wills, he just says be and it is. As the tafsir says, he is mighty in power and nothing escapes his ability, this is showing that Allah is able to do all things, including a birth of a child with no father, and also a birth of a child with no father and mother, such as in the case of Adam.


The Quran touches on the virgin birth again in Surah Maryam:


YUSUFALI: Relate in the Book (the story of) Mary, when she withdrew from her family to a place in the East.



YUSUFALI: She placed a screen (to screen herself) from them; then We sent her our angel, and he appeared before her as a man in all respects



YUSUFALI: She said: "I seek refuge from thee to (Allah) Most Gracious: (come not near) if thou dost fear Allah."



YUSUFALI: He said: "Nay, I am only a messenger from thy Lord, (to announce) to thee the gift of a holy son.



YUSUFALI: She said: "How shall I have a son, seeing that no man has touched me, and I am not unchaste?"



YUSUFALI: He said: "So (it will be): Thy Lord saith, 'that is easy for Me: and (We wish) to appoint him as a Sign unto men and a Mercy from Us':It is a matter (so) decreed


Here we see why Allah carried out the virgin birth, as verse 21 says, Allah wanted to make Jesus as a sign for man. What this basically means is that Allah wanted the virgin birth to signify a mighty miracle and mighty proof and sign of God, because such a thing was impossible and unthinkable, and that the only way that such a thing could happen is only if a divine being carried this act out.


And what better proof do we need than the existence of a divine being and creator than a virgin birth? This is a very strong proof for the Children of Israel, and mankind, and only a fool would deny the existence of God with such a miraculous sign.


verse 21 also shows us that Allah said that causing a birth even with the fact that no man has touched Mary is easy for him, this once again demonstrates God's mighty power and how all things are possible with him.


Ibn Kathir's tafsir writes:


The Story of Maryam and Al-Masih (`Isa)


After Allah, the Exalted, mentioned the story of Zakariyya, and that He blessed him with a righteous, purified and blessed child even in his old age while his wife was barren, He then mentions the story of Maryam. Allah informs of His granting her a child named `Isa without a father being involved (in her pregnancy). Between these two stories there is an appropriate and similar relationship. Due to their closeness in meaning, Allah mentioned them here together, as well as in Surahs Al `Imran and Al-Anbiya'. Allah has mentioned these stories to show His servants His ability, the might of His authority and that He has power over all things. Allah says,


[????????? ??? ?????????? ????????](And mention in the Book, Maryam,) She was Maryam bint `Imran from the family lineage of Dawud. She was from a good and wholesome family of the Children of Israel. Allah mentioned the story of her mother's pregnancy with her in Surah Al `Imran, and that she (Maryam's mother) dedicated her freely for the service of Allah. This meant that she dedicated the child (Maryam) to the service of the Masjid of the Sacred House (in Jerusalem). Thus, they (Zakariyya, Maryam's mother and Maryam) were similar in that aspect.


[?????????????? ???????? ????????? ?????? ???????????? ???????? ???????](So her Lord (Allah) accepted her with goodly acceptance. He made her grow in a good manner.)[3:37] Thus, Maryam was raised among the Children of Israel in an honorable way. She was one of the female worshippers, well-known for her remarkable acts of worship, devotion and perseverance. She lived under the care of her brother-in-law, Zakariyya, who was a Prophet of the Children of Israel at that time. He was a great man among them, whom they would refer to in their religious matters. Zakariyya saw astonishing miracles occur from her that amazed him.


[???????? ?????? ????????? ?????????? ???????????? ?????? ???????? ??????? ????? ????????? ?????? ???? ?????? ??????? ???? ???? ????? ??????? ???? ??????? ???????? ??? ??????? ???????? ???????](Every time Zakaiyya entered the Mihrab to (visit) her, he found her supplied with sustenance. He said: "O Maryam! From where have you got this'' She said, "This is from Allah.'' Verily, Allah provides to whom He wills, without limit.) [3:37] It has been mentioned that he would find her with winter fruit during the summer and summer fruit during the winter. This has already been explained in Surah Al `Imran. Then, when Allah wanted to grant her His servant and Messenger, `Isa, one of the five Great Messengers.


[?????????? ???? ????????? ???????? ?????????](she withdrew in seclusion from her family to place facing east.) [19:16] This means that she withdrew from them and secluded herself from them. She went to the eastern side of the Sacred Masjid (in Jerusalem). It is reported from Ibn `Abbas that he said, "Verily, I am the most knowledgeable of Allah's creation of why the Christians took the east as the direction of devotional worship. They did because of Allah's statement,


[?????????? ???? ????????? ???????? ?????????](When she withdrew in seclusion from her family to a place facing east.) Therefore, they took the birthplace of `Isa as their direction of worship.'' Concerning Allah's statement,


[???????????? ??? ???????? ????????](She placed a screen before them;) This means that she hid herself from them and concealed herself. Then, Allah sent Jibril to her.


[??????????? ????? ??????? ????????](and he appeared before her in the form of a man in all respects.) [19:17] This means that he came to her in the form of a perfect and complete man. Mujahid, Ad-Dahhak, Qatadah, Ibn Jurayj, Wahb bin Munabbih and As-Suddi all commented on Allah's statement,


[????????????? ????????? ????????](then We sent to her Our Ruh,) "It means Jibril.''


[??????? ?????? ??????? ?????????????? ????? ??? ????? ???????? ](She said: "Verily, I seek refuge with the Most Gracious from you, if you do fear Allah.'') This means that when the angel (Jibril) appeared to her in the form of a man, while she was in a place secluded by herself with a partition between her and her people, she was afraid of him and thought that he wanted to rape her. Therefore, she said,


[?????? ??????? ?????????????? ????? ??? ????? ????????](Verily, I seek refuge with the Most Gracious from you, if you do fear Allah.) She meant, "If you fear Allah,'' as a means of reminding him of Allah. This is what is legislated in defense against (evil), so that it may be repulsed with ease. Therefore, the first thing she did was try to make him fear Allah, the Mighty and Sublime. Ibn Jarir reported from `Asim that Abu Wa'il said when mentioning the story of Maryam, "She knew that the pious person would refrain (from committing evil) when she said,


[?????? ??????? ?????????????? ????? ??? ????? ????????????? ???????? ?????? ??????? ???????]("Verily, I seek refuge with the Most Gracious from you, if you do fear Allah.'' He said: "I am only a messenger from your Lord...'') This means that the angel said to her in response, and in order to remove the fear that she felt within herself, "I am not what you think, but I am the messenger of your Lord.'' By this he meant, "Allah has sent me to you.'' It is said that when she mentioned the (Name of the) Most Beneficent (Ar-Rahman), Jibril fell apart and returned to his true form (as an angel). He responded,


(???????? ?????? ??????? ??????? ??????? ???? ???????? ????????) `I am only a messenger from your Lord, to provide to you the gift of a righteous son.'


[??????? ?????? ??????? ??? ???????](She said: "How can I have a son...'') This means that Maryam was amazed at this. She said, "How can I have a son'' She said this to mean, "In what way would a son be born to me when I do not have a husband and I do not commit any wicked acts (i.e. fornication)'' For this reason she said,


[?????? ??????????? ?????? ?????? ???? ????????](when no man has touched me, nor am I Baghiyya) The Baghiyy is a female fornicator. For this reason, a Hadith has been reported prohibiting the money earned from Baghiyy.


[????? ???????? ????? ??????? ???? ??????? ???????](He said: "Thus said your Lord: `That is easy for Me (Allah)...'') This means that the angel said to her in response to her question, "Verily, Allah has said that a boy will be born from you even though you do not have a husband and you have not committed any lewdness. Verily, He is Most Able to do whatever He wills.'' Due to this, he (Jibril) conveyed Allah's Words,


[?????????????? ??????? ???????????](And (We wish) to appoint him as a sign to mankind) This means a proof and a sign for mankind of the power of their Maker and Creator, Who diversified them in their creation. He created their father, Adam, without a male (father) or female (mother). Then, He created Hawwa' (Adam's spouse) from a male (father) without a female (mother). Then, He created the rest of their progeny from male and female, except `Isa. He caused `Isa to be born from a female without a male. Thus, Allah completed the four types of creation (of the human being), which proves the perfection of His power and the magnificence of His authority. There is no god worthy of worship except Him and there is no true Lord other than Him. Concerning Allah's statement,


[?????????? ???????](and a mercy from Us,) This means, "We will make this boy a mercy from Allah and a Prophet from among the Prophets. He will call to the worship of Allah and monotheistic belief in Him. This is as Allah, the Exalted, said in another Ayah,


[???? ??????? ?????????????? ????????? ????? ??????? ??????????? ?????????? ??????? ??????? ?????????? ?????? ????? ???????? ???????? ??? ?????????? ????????????? ?????? ??????????????? - ??????????? ???????? ??? ????????? ????????? ?????? ????????????? ]((Remember) when the angels said: "O Maryam! Verily, Allah gives you the good news of a Word from Him, his name will be Al-Masih, `Isa, the son of Maryam, held in honor in this world and in the Hereafter, and will be one of those who are near to Allah. And he will speak to the people, in the cradle and in manhood, and he will be one of the righteous.) [3:45-46] This means that he will call to the worship of his Lord in his cradle and while and adult. Concerning His statement,


[??????? ??????? ???????????](and it is a matter (already) decreed (by Allah).) This is the completion of Jibril's dialogue with Maryam. He informed her that this matter was preordained by Allah's power and will. Muhammad bin Ishaq said,


[??????? ??????? ???????????](and it is a matter (already) decreed (by Allah).) "This means that Allah determined to do this, so there is no avoiding it.''


So as you see, the virgin birth was to signify a mighty sign for the people, and it also showed Allah's strength and power, his perfect strength and power.


So hence if anyone ever asks you why did Allah wish to carry out a virgin birth for Jesus, then respond to him by these answers which I have just given you. This is the Islamic reason to why the virgin birth was carried out, and is a consensus among Islamic scholarship.


And may Allah continue to send us mighty miracles! Ameen