The miracle of the virgin conception of Mary, as depicted in the Quran, is a clear example of God's absolute power and His domination over the happenings of the universe. The immense significance of this miracle is that it involved a physiological phenomenon taking place which could not have occurred under the normal working of the laws of nature. By discarding the natural process whereby male and female unite to produce an offspring God demonstrated His absolute power and domination. This was to convince mankind that creation need not necessarily follow the rules of cause and effect or be subjected to it. For God has the capacity to ordain a thing to be and produce effects without prerequisite engendering causes.
Here, God is involved with four different processes of creation to demonstrate that the reproduction and perpetuation of the human species can be fulfilled without the necessity of physical contact between male and female or their participation, if He so ordains. These four processes are namely:
- the creation of Adam
- the creation of Eve from Adam (or female from male);
- the creation of mankind through the union of male and female;
- the birth of Jesus from a female without being touched by a male.
Thus has God accomplished the four kinds of creation of the human race.
Although birth and reproduction have been ordained to occur in accordance with the union between male and female, the fruitfulness of any such union rests with God's will and providence. About this divine will, the Quran says:
"Unto God belongs the sovereignty of the heavens and the earth. He creates what He will. He bestows female (offspring) upon whom He will, and bestows male (offspring) upon whom He will. Or He mingles them, males and females, and He makes barren whom He will..." (Qur'an Al-Shura 42:49-50)
God tells believers not to succumb to despair or confusion if they fail to account for causes and effects, because ultimately it is He alone that determines all causes and their effects as He wills, regardless of laws or norms. With this knowledge at hand, the believer is better prepared to confront the upheavals of daily life with greater confidence in God's providence and omniscience. This faith rekindles his heart and soul with renewed hope. The thought of unaccountable happenings occurring is no longer disturbing or frightening. Once this faith takes root in the believer's heart, the true believer firmly holds the conviction that God is capable of ordaining happenings and events in isolation of their due causes. This unwarranted despair is referred to in the Surah of the Family of Imran (Al 'Imran), wherein God says:
"(Remember) when the wife of 'Imran said: My Lord! I have vowed unto You that which is in my womb as a consecrated (offering). Accept it from me. Lo! (You, only You) are the Hearer, the Knower. And when she was delivered she said, My Lord! I am delivered of a female..." (Qur'an Al 'Imran 3:35-6)
The sentence "I am delivered of a female", spoken by Imran's wife, indicating her disappointment that the child born was not a male, illustrates the kind of despair which we are cautioned not to let infiltrate our faith in God and His wisdom. Imran's wife had pledged to offer her unborn child to the service of God and had, therefore, felt certain that He would give her a son who, in her reckoning, would be better able to serve Him. This was an unfounded belief to which God replies: "(God knew best of what she was delivered). The male is not as the female." (Qur'an Al 'Imran 3:36)
In this verse, God again cautions us not to judge His decrees and plans in terms of our imperfect knowledge and logic. In all divine acts is a purpose that might not be obvious at the time of their actual manifestation. This verse also corrects the misconception that males are superior to females in the service of God or in fulfilling His purpose. Hence came the reminder that 'The male is not as the female.' In other words, the daughter Imran's wife had given birth to was much more worthy than any son she could have wished for. God alone knew what the great significance of the birth of this female child to mankind would be.
In preparing Mary for her predestined role, God planned that she should be offered by her mother to His service in the temple. Her spiritual education began by being instilled with faith in God's power to make things happen independent of their natural causes. She was given evidence of this when He provided her with food that was unlike any found on earth and with fruit out of season. Despite many divine signs, however, Mary continued to doubt the possibility of a miracle conception, asking Gabriel, who had come to announce to her God's will:
"How can I have a son when no mortal has touched me, neither have I been unchaste?" (Qur'an Maryam 19:20)
To reinforce her faith and reassure her of His almighty power, God said to her through Gabriel:
"So (it will be). Your Lord says: It is easy for Me. And (it will be) that We may make of him a revelation for mankind and a mercy from Us." (Qur'an Maryam 19:21)
What God was saying to Mary was "Do you wonder at what is happening to you after all that you have seen of My limitless power?"
Another Verse (3:49) tells us that Jesus was given the power to "heal him who was born blind, and the leper, and raise the dead by God's leave". In other words, the true healer was God Himself. He was, likewise, the One who gave life and took it. On the other hand, we have the second class of miracles which Jesus could perform spontaneously, using the divine powers already vested in him. Unlike the former class, God revealed to him the secrets of these (latter) miracles and gave him access to His knowledge regarding them. Thus, although he was given the power to revive the dead, neither he nor any other Prophet was given the secret of life and death.
Despite the miracles that demonstrated the power of the Absolute and the support it gave Jesus from the moment he was born until his death, the Israelites rejected his message and refused to believe in his God. They seemed to alienate themselves further from God and began to plot against him and cast doubt about his message, exactly as they had previously done to Moses. Even when they seemed to have rid themselves of the attraction of the material world, their faith did not last long and they always regressed to their old ways and the worship of matter, as is stated in the following verse:
"But when Jesus became conscious of their disbelief, he cried: Who will be helpers in the cause of God? The disciples said: We will be God's helpers. We believe in God, and bear witness that we have surrendered (unto Him) [are Muslims]." (Qur'an Al 'Imran 3:52)
Thus Jesus began to look for true believers and supporters when he discovered that all the miracles and evidence he brought the Israelites could not weaken their deeply-rooted corruption and love for the material world. In seeking disciples to carry on his message after his ascension, Jesus was showing his despair that the Israelites would never see the light of truth, that they would ever cease to fight his religion.
He put all his hope in spreading his message to mankind in his disciples and the few supporters who truly believed in his God, and began to teach them the content and purpose of his divine message. He explained to them the commands and injunctions contained in his message and made them pledge to spread it throughout the whole world.
Indeed the message of Jesus was an embodiment of the limitless power of God's will, which was manifested throughout Jesus' life. It showed itself most vividly when God revealed to Imran's wife that He alone knew best why she should give birth to a girl. The same divine power showed itself in providing Mary with food unlike any other. Finally the immaculate conception and birth of Jesus, his ability to speak and defend his mother when he was but a few days old gave further evidence of the Almighty will of God.
The Islamic Bulletin
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