This is a continuation of a multi-post article. You can read the first post here. You can also find the previous post here. This is also part of a larger series called "The Koran from a Christian perspective." You can find other posts in this series here.The Koran begins the story of Mary with her conception and birth.
"When the wife of Imran said, 'Lord, I have vowed to Thee, in dedication, what is within my womb. Receive Thou this from me; Thou hearest, and knowest.' And when she gave birth to her she said, 'Lord, I have given birth to her, a female.' (And God knew very well what she had given birth to; the male is not as the female.) 'And I have named her Mary, and commend her to Thee with her seed, to protect them from the accursed Satan.'" (Koran 3:31)In the Christian account of Mary, we know little about her family and her parents. We know she and Elizabeth were relatives for, in the angels' greeting to her, he says, "And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month." (Luke 1:36) The Greek word here translated as "relative" is often translated as "cousin" but can also mean some form of close of distant relative. We know that Elizabeth was the daughter of an Arron. "Zacharias, of the division of Abijah; and he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth." (Luke 1:5) This also means that Mary would have been somehow related to Aaron, probably the daughter of one of his children. It is unlikely, however, that Mary was the direct daughter of Aaron as the Koran stipulates. This is because we know that Elizabeth was and she and Mary were pregnant at the same time, yet Elizabeth was well advanced in years while marry was most likely still a teenager. It is more probable that Mary and Elizabeth were Aunt and Niece rather than sisters or cousins. There is also no indication n the Christian scriptures that there was any premonition of Mary's significance before her conception by the Holy Spirit. The Koran seems to indicate that Mary's mother knew she was special and she was special because of her seed that would follow. All parents believe their children are special, but there is no indication that Mary's mother knew that her seed would be special in the way He was. Finally, I find it amusing that Muhammad added the parenthetical thought that God already knew she had given birth to a female because female babies look different from male babies. It seems to me God would have known simply by knowing and without having to look at the child.
Muhammad further speaks of Mary's family when he records the words of her relatives that came to condemn her for having a child outside of wedlock.
"Sister of Aaron, thy father was not a wicked man, nor was thy mother a woman unchaste.'" (Koran 19:29)We have already shown that Elizabeth was the daughter of Aaron and therefore it is highly unlikely that Mary was the also the daughter of Aaron, making Elizabeth and Mary sisters, especially when considering the great disparity of their ages. Muhammad also records that Mary, for some reason, was not reared by her parents but by Elizabeth's husband, Zacharias.
"That is of the tidings of the Unseen, that We reveal to thee [Mohammad]; for thou wast not with them, when they were casting quills [lots and reeds] which of them should have charge [rear] of Mary; thou wast not with them, when they were disputing [about it]." (Koran 3:39)
"Her Lord received the child with gracious favour, and by His goodness she grew up comely, Zachariah taking charge of her." (Koran 3:32)The Christian account give no indication that Mary was raised by anyone other than her parents and it is even more unlikely that it would have been Zacharias and Elizabeth. If they were her wards then there would have been no reason for Mary to travel to them when she first received the news of her conception. "Now at this time Mary arose and went in a hurry to the hill country, to a city of Judah, and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth." (Luke 1:39-40) If she was being raised by them then she, being unmarried, would most likely have already been living with them.
Muhammad includes this miraculous story regarding Mary.
"Whenever Zachariah went in to her in the Sanctuary, he found her provisioned [supplied with food]. 'Mary,' he said, 'how comes this to thee?' 'From God,' she said. Truly God provisions [supplied] whomsoever He will without reckoning." (Koran 3:32)This story seems to indicate that Mary resided, at least in part, in the sanctuary. However, no such story is recorded in the Christian scriptures nor is there any indication that Mary lived anywhere else than with her parents.
Muhammad relates the events of Mary's conception as follows,
"And mention in the Book Mary when she withdrew [went apart] from her people [family] to an eastern place [eastward], and she took a veil apart [to shroud herself from them] from them; then We sent unto her Our Spirit that presented himself [took the form] to her a [perfect] man without fault." (Koran 19:16-17)However, the Christian account has Mary not withdrawing to the hill country until after she conceives as we have shown above. Also, there is no record that God appeared to Mary as a perfect man to impregnate her with Jesus. This would be tantamount to fornication regardless if the man she was having relations with was a spirit or a human being. When Mary asked how she was to conceive, the explanation from the angel was simply, "The angel answered and said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God." (Luke 1:35) There is no indication of the necessity of intercourse or the need for the image of a perfect man for Mary to conceive.
Muhammad goes on to describe Jesus birth.
"and We made [appointed] Mary's son, and his mother, to be a sign, and gave them refuge [abode] upon a height, where was a hollow and a spring:" (Koran 23:52)
"So she conceived him, and withdrew with him to a distant place. And the birthpangs surprised [came upon] her by the trunk of the palm-tree. She said, 'Would I had died ere this, and become a thing forgotten!'" (Koran 19:22-33)
However, the Christian scriptures are very clear regarding the events of Jesus' birth.
"Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child. While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn." (Luke 2:4-7)
Joseph and Mary were in Bethlehem that the prophesies might be fulfilled that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. The scriptures also tell us that Jesus was born in a manger, not near a palm tree. Such a manger, at the time of Joseph and Mary, may have been a hollowed out cave or even a room attached to the house where animals were stabled during the night. Either way it was not a distant place nor besides a plan tree and not, as Muhammad claimed, in some elevated place.
"But the one that was below her called to her, 'Nay, do not sorrow; see, thy Lord has set below thee a rivulet [streamlet at thy feet]. Shake also to thee the palm-trunk [towards thee], and there shall come tumbling upon thee dates fresh and ripe. Eat therefore, and drink, and be comforted; and if thou shouldst see any mortal, say, "I have vowed to the All-merciful a fast [abstinence], and today I will not speak to any man." (Koran 19:24)
It is unclear who the "one below" was; whether it was the child Jesus, and angel, or just a passer by. Either way, there is no indication from the Christian scriptures that Jesus was born in an elevated place, that Mary was alone, that she was distressed by lack of food, that she stood near a plan tree at His birth, and that she had the strength to bend a palm tree and miraculously received a tumbling of fruit. In all of this there is very little agreement between the Koran and the Christian scriptures as it pertains to this story
More to come...