According to Islamic traditions Hannah (Anna) and Ashyaa’ (Elizabeth) were two sisters. The first married Imran who was one of the outstanding figures among the Israelites. Some traditions suggest that he was even a prophet or a saint. Her sister Ashyah was married to Prophet Zachariah. Hannah was barren and for several years after her marriage, did not fall pregnant. One day, while sitting under a tree, she observed a bird on the top of the tree feeding her chicks. The scene brought her to tears and maternal love brought pain to her heart. Simultaneously, from the depth of her soul she invoked Almighty God to grant her a child. Her sincere invocation was accepted and soon after she fell pregnant with Maryam. At the same time Almighty God revealed to her husband Imran that there would be a blessed boy in his family who would heal the terminally ill and would revive the dead by the permission of God. He will also be a Messenger of God to the Israelites.
In fact, the inspiration was referring to their grandson, Jesus, but once Imran shared the inspiration with his wife she assumed that she was pregnant with a baby boy.
Thus, as a gesture of thanksgiving she made a vow to free her baby for the cause of God and to be the servant of God in His House.
“When the wife of Imran said, O my Lord! I have vowed to You what is in my womb to be dedicated for Your services (free from all worldly work), so accept this from me. Verily You are the All-Hearer the All-Knower.” [3:35]
The service of the temple was a masculine task and therefore when the baby born was a girl, she was baffled as to what she should do. She had already made a vow to free her baby for the service of the temple and at the same time no girl would be accepted by the temple authorities for any type of service. Nevertheless, she called her baby girl Maryam (a devout female) and prayed to God to keep her and her offspring aloof from Satan the Outcast.
Maryam’s father had died prior to her birth and therefore once she was old enough her mother took her to the temple and offered her as a gift to be the servant of the House of God. She also requested that one of the Rabbis or the Saints should look after her upbringing. Her beauty and innocence provoked competition amongst the Rabbis as to who should be her guardian. Finally, they agreed that they would cast lots with their pens as to which of them should be given the position of the carer of Mary. By the will of God it so happened that Zachariah won the lot and he became the custodian of Maryam.
In fact, he was the most suitable person to look after the Virgin Mary for not only was he a Prophet but he was also her uncle.
Prophet Zachariah enjoyed a special high respect in the temple and hence Maryam’s devotion to the temple by his request was accepted by other authorities.
“So her Lord accepted her with goodly acceptance. He (Allah) made her grow in a good manner and put her under the care of Zachariah.” [3:37]
Thus, Maryam grew up in the temple indulged in the worshipping of God and engulfed in her devotion. Maryam was only nine years of age when she was fasting throughout the days and praying throughout the nights. She soon became renowned for her devotion, chastity and piety more so than all the men and women of her time.
During this period of her life her sustenance was provided from heaven. The holy Quran with reference to this blessing states:
“Every time he (Zachariah) entered her Mehrab (Worshipping room) to visit her, he found her supplied with sustenance. He said: O Mary! From where have you got this? She said: This is from Allah. Verily, Allah provides sustenance to whom He wills without limit.” [3:37] Her devotion elevated her to such a height that soon she was in the presence of angels. In the holy Quran we read,
“And when the angels said O Mary. Verily Allah has chosen you, purified you, and chosen you above the women of the worlds. O Mary! Submit yourself with obedience to your Lord and prostrate yourself, and bow down along with those (angels) who bow down.” [3:42-43]
Mary is also referred to in the Quran as the Sign of Allah (23:50].
Siddiqeh (a very truth telling female) [66:12, 5:75].
Qaniteh (an obedient lady to Allah) [66:12].
Mohsineh (a chaste woman) [66:12].
Mohadatheh (spoken to by Angels) [3:42].
Ma’soomeh (divinely protected and immaculate from sin) [3:42].
* Article Author: Sheikh Mansour Leghaei