Sūrah Maryam (Part 2)
Part 2 of observations on the structuring, organization and cohesion of Sūrah Maryam
Last week we began our observations on Sūrah Maryam (Mary, mother of Jesus). Remember, this work has already been published and is available for purchase, so please consider supporting our teachers and institution if you’ve benefitted from this blog.
We ended the previous post halfway through the analysis of Section [A] - Divine Intervention at Birth. This week we’ll continue our analysis of Section [A].
The second half of Section [A] teaches us about Maryam and her child, ʿĪsā (Jesus). This half can also be split into two parts, with each part forming its own parallel structure. The first parallel structure covers the story of Maryam all the way through 'Īsā’s sermon:
[A9/A9’] - The structure begins by mentioning Maryam as she withdrew (intabadhat) from her family to worship. The corresponding āyah also tells of her withdrawing (intabadhat), but this time with a child in her womb, drawing a possible connection between pregnancy and a recommendation to increase in worship.
[A10/A10’] - Maryam screening herself from people is paired with her labor and delivery. While there is the obvious connection of a woman being in private as she gives birth, there is also the contrast between her attempt to be physically forgotten when she withdrew for worship and her wish to be mentally forgotten during childbirth.
[A11/A11’] - Both parts have a messenger from Allah ﷻ being sent to Maryam to give her good news and provide her with provisions. She’s given a child and food and drink. Interestingly, the āyāt in [A11’] include “and put your heart at ease” (waqarrī 'aynā) which is similar to the wording of the prayer we are encouraged to say when asking for righteous children, “And those who say, ‘Our Master, gift us from our spouses and children those who put our heart at ease (qurrata aʿun), and make us leaders of the God-conscious.’”1
[A12/A12’] - Just as Maryam had never physically touched others (bashr), she later vowed to not even verbally address others (al-bashr). We also learn that Maryam was not unchaste (baghiyyā), same as her mother (baghiyyā).
[A13/A13’] - The structure ends with the messenger informing Maryam that Allah ﷻ will make ʿĪsā a miraculous sign (āyah) for people. The parallel āyāt show the manifestation of that miracle as ʿĪsā speaks from the cradle to defend his mother’s honor.
Upon closer examination, we find that Sections [A12’] and [A13’] also form their own individual mirror structures. [A12’] appears to be organized as so:
[A12.1/A12.1’] - Maryam taking a vow to not speak (ukallima) to anyone is paired with her people being frustrated that they are being asked to talk to (nukallimu) a child in the cradle, whom they presume cannot speak.
[A12.2/A12.2’] - Both parts describe Maryam interacting with her baby
[A12.3/A12.3’] - The center of the structure focuses on the shock of her people upon seeing her with a newborn. They call her by two different names, and state that she has done a “horrible thing.” The horrible thing isn’t detailed, but the context clues in the paired āyah give us an idea of what they were implying.
And [A13’] is structured as follows:
[A13.1/A13.1’] - 'Īsā’s role is made very clear through the pairing of the outsides of this mirror structure. ʿĪsā was an honorable servant of Allah ﷻ, not a god.
[A13.2/A13.2’] - By virtue of ʿĪsā following guidance from Scripture, he will have “as-Salām” at all points in life, including the hereafter. Salām is a comprehensive word that, according to tafsīr (scholarly interpretation), means ʿĪsā will be protected from Satan, the punishments of the grave, and the trials of the Day of Judgment. Salām is also directly associated with the Revelation, as Allah ﷻ used it to describe the day on which Revelation was sent down in Sūrah al-Qadr.
[A13.3/A13.3’] - ʿĪsā tells us two things he has and hasn’t been made by Allah ﷻ. He was made (ja‘alanī) a prophet and blessing wherever he goes and was not made (lam yaj‘alnī) arrogant and defiant.
[A13.4/A13.4’] - The center informs of us two different timelines for the tasks of ʿĪsā. He is to establish prayer and give alms-tax for as long as he lives, but being dutiful to his mother was not cut off by his death. One reason mentioned for this is that this is him prophesying that he’d outlive his mother, which is especially true if we take into consideration his second coming.
Next week we’ll conclude the structuring of Section [A] and note some incredible parallels between the narratives of Zakariyyā and Maryam.
والله أعلم - And Allah knows best
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25:47 - وَٱلَّذِينَ يَقُولُونَ رَبَّنَا هَبْ لَنَا مِنْ أَزْوَٰجِنَا وَذُرِّيَّـٰتِنَا قُرَّةَ أَعْيُنٍۢ وَٱجْعَلْنَا لِلْمُتَّقِينَ إِمَامًا