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Sūrat Maryam (Part 2)
Part 2 of observations on the structure, coherence, and organization of Sūrat Maryam
The second half of Section [A] teaches us about Maryam and her child, ʿĪsā. 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 ʿĪsā’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 is given a child in one and food and drink in the other.
[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 how her mother was described (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 is not 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’] - ʿĪsā’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. As explained by scholars of the Quran, salām is a comprehensive word here that means ʿĪsā will be protected from Satan, the punishments of the grave, and the trials of the Day of Judgment.
[A13.3/A13.3’] - ʿĪsā tells us two things he has and has not been made by Allah ﷻ. He was made (jaʿalanī) a prophet and blessing wherever he goes and was not made (lam yajʿalnī) 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 would outlive his mother, which is especially true if we take into consideration his second coming.
We will continue next week.
And Allah ﷻ knows best.
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