Chapter Three
The Miraculous Birth of I`sa

The Quran has shed light on the birth of I`sa  with thorough detail, emphasizing the fact that his birth was supernatural and extraordinary. It is proof that Allah can do whatsoever He wills - for Him, the Lord of the Worlds, nothing is impossible. The Quran also implies that I`sa’s death will also be out of the ordinary as it will take place after his descent from the heavens. This is in contrast to the Christian belief that he is already dead and will be resurrected prior to Doomsday. Whereas in Islam we believe that I`sa is not dead at all, but will remain with Allah until his descent is decreed, whereafter he will reside in this world like any normal human being and suffer a normal death.

"So she conceived him and she withdrew with him to a far remote place. The pains of child birth drove her to the trunk of a date-palm. She said in her anguish, "Ah, would that I had died before this and had been a thing forgotten and out of sight!"


Imam Qurtubi has stated that Maryam’s questions were how she could become expectant, would she need to get married in the future or would it occur without marriage, yet she accepted that Allah has the Power to give a child if He so wishes and she therefore had no doubt in its occurrence. Then Jibrael blew in her sleeve and in the open neck of her cloak and she became pregnant at that very moment."

Imam Ibn Kathir(d.774/1352) has recorded from Ibni Abbas(d.68/646) that when the mother of Yahya (John) was expectant she said to Maryam, who was expectant also, "I can feel that which is in my womb to be bowing down to that which is in your womb.

Imam Qurtubi has stated that the period of pregnancy and birth was altogether only three hours. Imam Ibn Kathir(d.774/1352) opposes this opinion and says, "This is a strange view and the view of the majority is that the pregnancy was for nine months."

Imam Qurtubi says that after receiving the glad tidings of the pending birth of her son, Maryam became anxious as the people were not aware of the true situation concerning the conception of the child. She thus feared the accusations and allegations which would be thrown her way. When the time of the birth came close, she left the sanctuary and retired to a valley about four to six miles far from Jerusalem, called Baytul-lahm. After a few days she began to feel the pangs of child birth.

Imam Ibn kathir (d.774/1352) has stated that Maryam became pregnant like normal women over a period of nine months and there was a pious person who was the caretaker of the mosque and was related to Maryam. He was called Yusuf An-Najjar (Josepth the carpenter). When he noticed the signs of pregnancy on her he was confused and said to Maryam, "I am going to ask you a question, do not be quick in replying. Could there be a plant or tree without a seed or a son without a father?" She replied, "Yes! The first plant and tree which God created was without a seed. The answer to the second question is that Allah created Adam,  not only without father, but without father and mother." Yusuf the carpenter understood that this birth would be similar to Adam’s  birth and a divine miracle. From Yusuf’s question Maryam noticed and realized that the people would not understand this miraculous birth and would direct false allegations towards her. Due to this fear she went away from the people towards the east."

Imam Ibn Kathir(d.774/1352) also stated that when the people missed Maryam for a few days, they went out looking for her. They came to a shepherd and asked him, "Have you seen a woman of such and such description and appearance?" He replied, "No, but I have noticed at night something which I have never experienced before." They asked him, "What is that?" He replied, "I saw my sheep facing the valley of Baytul-lahm as if they were prostrating towards it and I saw a bright light from the skies directed towards the valley of Baytul-lahm (Bethlehem)." The people then went quickly to the valley of Baytul-lahm where they found Maryam with a child in her lap. They said to Maryam, "Oh Maryam you have brought a strange thing."

Once again an angel was sent to Maryam during her moment of anxiety and helplessness in labor, giving her the welcome news of special arrangements for her, so that she would not suffer hunger or thirst. The Quran expounds upon this arrangement in the following verse :

"Then cried unto her from below her, saying, "Grieve not your Lord has provided a stream beneath you. And shake the trunk of the date-palm towards you, it will let fall ripe dates upon you. So eat and drink and cool your eye and if you see any human being, say, "Verily I have vowed a fast unto the most Gracious, so this day I shall not talk with any human being." 19/24-26 Imam Qurtubi has stated upon the authority of Ibn Abbas, concerning the voice mentioned in this verse, that it belonged to the angel Gabriel.

Imam Ibn Kathir states that the verse can be read as, "m`an tahtahu" meaning literally, "he who was beneath her." According to this interpretation, the caller would be Jesus.

"Then she brought him (the baby) to her people, carrying him. They said, ‘O Maryam (Mary)! Indeed you have brought a mighty strange thing. O Sister of Harun , your father was not a man of evil, neither was your mother an unchaste woman.’" 19/27-28

Imam Qurtubi and Imam Ibn Kathir(d.774/1352) have mentioned that Jesus was safeguarded from the devil’s pricking at the time of birth. Imam Qurtubi has supported his view by stating the Hadith mentioned by Imam Muslim(d.261/839) in the Book of Virtues, upon the authority of Abu-Hurayrah(d.57/635) that the prophet Muhammad  has stated, "No child is given birth to, but the devil pricks it so that it weeps due to the pricking of the devil, except Maryam and her son." Qurtubi has adopted the explanation given in this particular Hadith, as is mentioned previously.

Maryam was ordered not to speak or reply to the people and to indicate that she had vowed a fast. Fasting in those days meant abstinence from talking. The child was to answer their queries and to satisfy their curiosities. The Quran has expounded upon the accusations and allegations in the above mentioned verse.

Imam Qurtubi has stated differing views as to why the people addressed Maryam as the sister of Harun, when Maryam did not possess any brothers. This leaves us to infer the identity of Harun and the reason for his being referred to. Some scholars (whose names have not been specified by Qurtubi), have taken the Harun named in this verse to be the brother of Musa (alay his salaam). Maryam was called sister of this Harun u for either of the following three reasons. Firstly, this was due to the similarity in purity and piety i.e. "O you who we thought to be pious and virtuous like Harun ." Secondly, because Maryam was descended from the offspring of Harun, and thirdly, this was a common and popular manner of addressing one another within the Israelite community, as Harun  was one of their Prophets.

Imam Qurtubi quoting from Qatadah(d.117/695), presents the view that Harun is the name of a pious person during Maryam’s time and Maryam being similar to him in status of piety, was referred to as the sister of that particular Harun.

Another view is that that Harun is the name of an impure person during that period of time and due to Maryam suddenly producing a son, she was placed in the same sinful category as him, by being referred to as the sister of the unchaste Harun. But this view contradicts the well known chastity of Maryam, therefore this opinion is not thought to carry much weight. Similar accounts have also been recorded by Imam Alusi(d.127/705) and Imam Ibn Kathir(773) in their tafsirs.

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