I have begun to establish my own rituals as I am submerged more deeply into the faith. Prayer at sunrise is followed by a reading from the Qur’an which is done at random. It was the day before yesterday that I read of Mary, her conceiving of Jesus. Jesus in the Islamic faith is a prophet – mentioned fifty times in the Qur’an. Mary, on her own, receives a great deal of coverage – more than any other woman. To supplement the Qur’an I did some Internet research which deftly summarizes the entire fascinating story. This is written by Francis X. Clooney, S.J.
“Mary is twice chosen in the Quran: as the pious girl dwelling in the Temple, and as the mother of Jesus. A few verses on, the angelic message is put this way,
O Mary, truly God gives thee glad tidings of a Word from Him, whose name is the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, high honored in this world and the Hereafter, and one of those brought nigh. He will speak to people in the cradle and in maturity, and will be among the righteous.” She said, “My Lord, how shall I have a child while no human being has touched me?” He said, “Thus does God create whatsoever He will.” When He decrees a thing, He only says to it, “Be!” and it is. And He will teach him the Book, Wisdom, the Torah, and the Gospel. And (he will be) a messenger to the Children of Israel (3:45-48).
Finally, Sura 19 (Maryam) treats Zachariah and John at its start, Abraham and Moses later on, and in-between (19:16-36) recounts again the story of Mary and how she came to give birth to Jesus. Mary, exiled in the desert and alone, prays to a mysterious figure who comes to her: “I seek refuge from thee in the Compassionate, if you are reverent.” (19:18) He is an angel, a messenger, who tells her about the son she will bear. Mary consents, but after conceiving the child, she is again alone and bereft, and cries out in words that refugees worldwide may be tempted to use even today: “Would that I had died before this and was a thing forgotten, utterly forgotten!” (19:23) The angel shows her the running water and date palm tree that Lord has provided for her, and she survives. When confronted by her gossiping neighbors when she returns home with her newborn child (there is no Joseph, no Bethlehem, in this account), Mary chooses to be silent (as Zachariah was by force) and lets the child speak for itself:
He said, ‘Truly I am a servant of God. He has given me the Book and made me a prophet. He has made me blessed wheresoever I may be, and has enjoined upon me prayer and almsgiving so long as I live, and (has made me) dutiful toward my mother. And He has not made me domineering, wretched. Peace be upon me the day I was born, the day I die, and the day I am raised alive! (19:30-33)
The commentary fills most of several pages on this account. It highlights Mary’s initial desperation: “She wished he could have died before the onset of the difficulties she now faced as a woman giving birth to a child alone, without a husband, including both the physical pain of labor the embarrassment about what people would think of her.” She almost prefers oblivion, though some traditional commentaries see her as “expressing the ultimate victory against the worldly ego,” to forget the world and be forgotten by it. That Jesus speaks, even as an infant, shows his resolve, as newborn prophet, “to absolve his mother of any blame or suspicion.” That is to say: to be a prophet (even today), is to speak up on behalf of the excluded, downtrodden, helpless.”
This is an inspirational story – there is no Joseph, no donkey, no Wise Man bearing gold, frankincense and myrrh, no sheep, no hay, no manger, no magical star. None of that. Just Mary saying (this is my language)
She: Huh? How can I have a son? I have not laid with any man.
The Angel: Allah has decided and what he says goes.
But after she conceives she is not altogether happy about it and says:
She: I wish that I had died and been forgotten before all of this happened.
She gives birth under a palm tree with dates (the edible kind) provided and water. She takes the baby back home to the village – they all ridicule her. She says nothing but the baby Jesus speaks for her.
Jesus: Do not speak badly of my mother – none of this was her fault.
To be perfectly clear, I do respect the fact that the Qur’an’s language has not changed over the past 1400 years but occasionally it might be possible to put the inspiring message in modern vernacular. Vernacular is the language or dialect spoken by the ordinary people in a particular country or region. Synonyms continue to explain the word: everyday language, spoken language, colloquial speech, native speech, conversational language, common parlance, jargon, cant, slang, idiom, lingo, local lingo, patter, geekspeak. It is rather unusual to think of the Qur’an being in geekspeak, slang and idiom but it is important the words of Allah and Mohammed get out so that people, particularly in the Western world, learn about the Islamic faith which is sweeping the world. There is a reason why it is taking over as the most important religion – you shall continue to learn.
When I first became a Muslim, slightly over a year ago, I spoke to an Islamic scholar living in California. We spoke of my blog – its worldwide reach and the possibility that it could be used to explain the faith to those that otherwise had no way of learning about it. Certainly the media (both social and traditional) is a source only of discord, lies, and misconceptions with regard to the faith. Someone has to tell the truth and I guess it might be up to me.
I laughingly say.
Me: It is dirty work, but somebody has to do it.
Alter Ego: That is what you say about the practice of law
Me: That and many other things. It seems that there is no such thing as clean work, particularly in these troubled times.
More about that later. Not too much later as I am now on self imposed social isolation which shall be discussed. It is room service meals for me. The grounds are now over run with hordes of people and misbehaved children. It is a huge celebratory weekend – the 50th anniversary of the formation of the UAE. It is definitely a reason to celebrate but I shall do it in my own quiet way.
You: Alexis McBride, Quiet?!?!?!
Me: Yes, I desperately need quiet time, I deserve it and now I willingly acquiesce. It is the perfect word, acquiesce, as it means: accept something reluctantly but without protest.
Photographs are two, ones promised in the past but not received. Me with my short Mia Farrow haircut taken fifty years apart. No admittedly there has been some ill effects of aging but actually not that many. Secret of success??? Inner peace and happiness. I look younger today than I did fifteen years ago with the miserable marriage, the ungrateful ‘family’ and fickle friends. I am no longer burdened and have a faith that promises inner peace and happiness.