Interpretation of Sura Maryam (Mary) - Verses 21-23
21. " He said: 'So (it will be)'. Your Lord says: 'It is easy for Me, and that We will make him a Sign (miracle) unto the people and a Mercy from Us, and it is a matter decreed.
22. " So she conceived him (Jesus) and withdrew with him to a distance place."
23. " And the pains of childbirth drove her to the trunk of a palm-tree. She said: 'Would I had died ere this, and had been a thing forgotten'."
The Divine angel, in the guise of a man, appeared before Mary and blew on her so that she became pregnant. Then, Mary went to a distant place for she was worried about the accusation of people who did not know of the matter, or because a pregnant woman needs comfort and a quiet environment.
The opinions recorded in most commentaries are divided and abundant about the place and that how Mary became pregnant, or who was the first person that was informed of the matter, but since the Qur'an has not stated anything in this regard, we, too, do not offer any discussion concerning these subjects, because they are not so functional in the development of our understanding.
Some of the difficulties and hardships that Mary tolerated are as follows:
A. The accusation and suspicion of people.
B. Pregnancy and childbirth in solitude and isolation.
C. The lack of a resting place and taking refuge beside a palm tree.
D. Maintaining a child with no father and being among some people who looked at her with revulsion.
However, when the angel saw Mary's surprise at hearing that glad tidings, he told her that Allah's command was exactly what he had said to her, and that her Lord announced that creating a child out of a virgin was not difficult for Him. Allah intended for that extraordinary occurrence to be evidence of the child's prophethood and a proof of the immunity of his mother, and that it might also be a bounty from Him upon mankind for their guidance by means of this prophet. The verse says:
" He said: 'So (it will be)'. Your Lord says: 'It is easy for Me, and that We will make him a Sign (miracle) unto the people and a Mercy from Us, and it is a matter decreed.
The creation of Jesus with no father, of course, is a special event that occurred by the Will of Allah. Finally, at the higest spiritual point Mary experienced the most intense experience of the divine in her life, to receive the spirit of a prophet in her womb. Mary conceived and that promised child was settled in her pure womb. Most of the commentators have said that Gabriel blew into her collar and at the same moment she felt the stirrings of pregnancy.
It has also been narrated from Imam Muhammad Baqir (a.s.) that Gabriel blew into Mary's collar and at the same moment Jesus existed in mother's womb, 9 while, in the wombs of other women, the creation and growth of a child usually extends to about nine months.
Mary came out with her abdomen grown big and heavy, and when her maternal aunt saw her, she became quite upset, seeing her niece in that status. Mary was always bashful and deferential with her maternal aunt, so because of this, and the fear of being accused of immoral conduct, she chose not to stay among the people and went to a far off place.
She spent in seclusion relying on hope in her Lord, with a state of anxiety, mixed with happiness. It was her Lord Who had wrought this great miracle upon her, and only He could silence the accusing fingers and voices that could not accept that a woman could conceive without a man. What could she do with that accusation?
But, in the other hand, she felt that this child was the promised Divine prophet, a great heavenly gift. She thought how the Lord, Who had given her the glad tidings of that child, and had created him with that miraculous quality, would leave her alone?
Accounts vary concerning the length of Mary's pregnancy. Some have said that it lasted one hour, while some others believe that it took a longer time. Ibn 'Abbas says that one hour after that she went to that distant place, the child was born, because Allah has not mentioned any length of time for between Mary's departure for that place and the birth of the child.
It is said that when Mary was ten years old, she became pregnant in one hour, and the body of the child was formed in that very hour, and in that very hour the child was born. The birth of the child occurred when the sun was setting in the horizon.
It has also been narrated from Imam Sadiq (a.s.) that Mary's pregnancy lasted nine hours.(1)
Whatever the duration of her pregnancy was, the time come for the birth of the child. Women, in such a state, usually seek the help and refuge of their kindred that they might help them in the birth of their child. But Mary's situation was an exceptional one, she did not want anyone to witness her delivery, and as soon as the pain began, she set out toward the desert. The verse says:
" So she conceived him (Jesus) and withdrew with him to a distance place."
In this regard the Qur'an implies that the pain of childbirth drove her to the stump of a withered palm-tree from which only that trunk had remained; i.e. it was a dry tree. The verse says:
" And the pains of childbirth drove her to the trunk of a palm-tree. …"
In that condition, a storm of sadness and grief came over her pure being. This storm was so turbulent, and the burden on her shoulder was so heavy, that, as the verse says:
"…She said: 'Would I had died ere this, and had been a thing forgotten'."
It is evident that it was not only the fear of future accusations that was pressing upon Mary's heart, there were also other problems such as delivering a child alone in the
1- The Commentary of Majma'-ul-Bayan, as well as Al-Burhan and As-Safi desert with no midwife or friend as a helper. There was no place to rest, nor water to drink, there was no food to eat, nor any means to take care of the child with what was available in the environment. These were all the discomforts that Mary had to tolerate.
Imam Amir-ul-Mu'mineen Ali (a.s.) said: "The best clothing of the religion is modesty." (Qurar-ul-Hikam, vol. 2, p. 398).
Ali-ibn-Abitalib (a.s.) said: "Verily modesty and chastity are among the specialties of Faith, and both of them are the epithets of the noble and the method of the righteous." (Muntakhab-ul-Qurar, p. 159)
Amir-ul-Mu'mineen Ali (a.s.) said: "The modesty of a man with himself is the fruit of Faith." (Qurar-ul-Hikam, vol. 1, p. 386)
Hadrat Ali (a.s.) said: "Modesty is from Allah, the Pure, it protects (one) from the punishment of Hell Fire." (Qurar-ul-Hikam, vol. 2, p. 143)
9. Majma'-ul-Bayan, Al-Burhan, As-Safi, and some other commentaries
Adopted from the book : "The Light of the Holy Qur'an; Interpretation of Surah Maryam" by : "Sayyid Kamal Faghih Imani and a Group of Muslim Scholars"
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