Maryam (AS), daughter of Hazrat Imran and Hannah Bint e Faqudh and mother of Isa (AS) is another one of the greatest Women of Jannah. She is the only woman who is mentioned in the Qur’an by name and the only one to have an entire surah named after her. She was greatly loved and favoured by Allah (SWT). She was chosen by Allah (SWT) to be an example of excellent piety, modesty, chastity, morals and etiquettes for women and men of all time.
Allah (SWT) mentions her prayerful nature, purity, innocence and virtuousness in the Qur’an and declares that the qualities of Maryam (AS) are a sign of God to mankind; as one who “guarded her chastity” [66:20]; “an obedient one” [66:12]; “a Chosen One” [3:42]; “a Purified One” [3:42]; “a Truthful one” [5:75]; her child conceived through “a Word from God” [3:45]; and “exalted above all women of The Worlds/Universes” [3:42].
Maryam (AS)’s life has taught us so much about modesty and devotion but this series will highlight three ways Maryam (AS) displayed empowerment through modesty; modesty through commitment, modesty through speech and modesty in the heart.
Modesty Through Commitment
One of the major reoccurring themes we see in Maryam (AS) is commitment. From when she was in her mother’s womb, Maryam (AS) was committed to the worship of Allah (SWT) by her mother. Growing up, Maryam (AS) spent most of her time in the masjid either learning from other religious scholars of the masjid or spending time in her mihrab (private room) which was built by Zakariya (AS) when Maryam (AS) had reached the age of maturity. Here, she spent her time deeply worshipping Allah (SWT). Through her devoted worship and commitment, Maryam (AS) grew the strongest bond with Allah (SWT) so much so that Zakariya (AS) witnessed Maryam (AS) receiving rizq (sustenance, food) when he did not provide it. Upon asking, Maryam (AS) replied, “it is from Allah. Surely Allah gives whom He wills without measure”.
Another well-known example of Maryam (AS)’s modesty is when angel Jibraeel (AS) appeared in the form of a beautiful man in front of Maryam (AS) alone. As soon as she saw him, she did not give the man a chance to even start a conversation. Before he could say anything, Maryam (AS) said to him, “I seek refuge in Ar-Rahman from you if you are God-fearing.” (Qur’an, 19:18).
This shows us that it did not even pass her mind to engage with him even though she was alone with him and was in a most tempting situation. When angels take on a human form, they appear handsome. However, Maryam (AS) responded with modesty and caution. She was not seeking any attention or validation from a stranger and nor did she have any aspirations.
In our day in age, how many of us would have followed the actions of Maryam (AS) if we were approached by a very handsome man in an empty place? Maryam (AS) was truly spiritually liberated. Her self-esteem was built by her bond with Allah (SWT) rather than by chasing the attention, validation or trends of society. She further emphasizes that a woman’s worth is not defined by men, but rather by her creator. While modesty starts spiritually in the heart, it is expressed through our actions and interactions with others.
Modesty Through Speech
The Qur’an mentions Maryam (AS)’s speech and etiquettes to be beautiful. What is important is her choice of words. One statement of Maryam (AS)’s that shows this is when Angel Jibraeel comes out of his human form and reveals his true form. He then tells Maryam (AS) that she will be given a son. To this, she replied, “How can I have a son when no man has touched me nor have I been unchaste?” (Qur’an, 19:20). Maryam (AS) used a lot of words to say something that could have easily been said in fewer words. But this is the evidence of her modesty and her utmost etiquettes. Her speech was pure just like her heart. From this, we can learn the lessons of being modest in our speech, guarding our tongue against hurtful, arrogant or vulgar language and striving to maintain modest manners and etiquette. Maryam (AS) did not avoid people or men all together but whenever there was a need or reason for interaction in a trusted environment, she would speak respectfully and plainly.
Furthermore, the most modest and noblewoman was tested with people who used the worst speech to slandered her for a crime of immodesty. A crime she did not commit. A crime calling her child illegitimate. Not knowing that the child she carried was a pure child that was given to her when Jibraeel (AS) blew into her and ISA (AS) was created by the kalimah – Kun Fayakun, Be and it is.
Maryam (AS) along with Aisha (R.A) and Yusuf (AS) are three examples of Allah’s best slaves who were tested and trialled with slandering of immodesty. All three suffered a great deal of pain from these incidents. Nonetheless, each of them had their names cleared and their honour was restored. For the innocent people who have had to face such slander, take confidence and comfort in the fact that your test was shared by some of the most honourable and noble figures of Islamic history. But know that it is your right to have your name cleared and you must strive towards it. Allah (SWT) will protect and provide for the one he loves. Maryam (AS)’s test in facing slander gives us encouragement and hope while also emphasizing the importance of maintaining modesty in your speech.
Modesty in the Heart
Maryam (AS) carried modesty, humility and devotion for Allah (SWT) in her heart. This is evident in her relationship with Allah (SWT). The Qur’an repeatedly mentions Maryam (AS)’s modesty and chastity.
Allah (SWT) also says that “…she was of the Qaniteen (obedient) (Qur’an, 66:12). No doubt, the one who feels humility in the presence of Allah (SWT) is the one who can be obedient to him. This is why Maryam (AS) maintained her modesty when she was approached by Jibraeel (AS).
From this, we can learn to carry that sense of shame in the presence of angels. We sometimes forget that we have angels that record and witness our deeds all the time. We may be able to fool the people around us, but the angels nor Allah (SWT) can be fooled. Moreover, if we embody that sense of shame, we will be encouraged to do good deeds and avoid the bad deeds because we know he is Al-Baseer (The All-Seeing). Ultimately our goal in this Dunya is to please Allah (SWT). We can do so by maintaining modesty in our hearts, in our speech and our commitment towards Allah (SWT).