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Women in the Qur’ān: 8 Lessons We Can Take From Maryam Peace Be Upon Her

by in Ramadan on 27th January, 2021

The Qur’ān is not an arbitrary book that we read and store in an adorned cover on a pretty shelf. The Qur’ān is a book of mercy that came to really help and guide us intellectually, spiritually and emotionally.

We have sent the Scripture down to you explaining everything, as guidance, mercy and good news to those who devote themselves to God. (Sūrah Nahl: 89)

Its words can have powerful effects on readers and listeners to relieve suffering, and to act as a form of assurance. One of the ways that the Qur’ān does this, is through setting out examples of people in difficult situations, describing their behaviours and responses; so that we can learn from them, take strength from them, and use them as a recourse in challenging times.

This article looks at the lessons we can learn from Maryam (peace be upon her), her strength and resilience, her worship and dedication to Allāh.

This is part of a three-part series on Women in the Qur’ān, to learn more about these characters and many others, you can join this course by the author, starting 3rd February 2021.

Maryam is listed in the Qur’ān as an example for believing men and women. Her example is in her devotion to worship and in her trust in Allāh: Allāh says about her:

She was truly from the devout (Sūrah Tahrīm: 12)

The angels said to Maryam: ‘Maryam, God has chosen you and made you pure: He has truly chosen you above all women’. (Sūrah Āl Imrān: 42)

1. Defying Gender Norms: Maryam’s dedication to worshipping Allāh in the temple*

From the time of her birth, Maryam (peace be upon her) defied the gender norms of her community and took her place as a child growing up in the temple. In her era, only boys would be assigned to the service of the religion at the temple. And yet, when she was born, Allāh allowed her mother to fulfil her promise to Him of dedicating her child to Allāh, to worship him at His house.

Despite Maryam going against the grain of her community and challenging the standards of her people, she turns her attention to Allāh and solely focuses on worshipping Him and pleasing Him. Her worship and dedication to Allāh became known by everyone in the community, and she became adored and revered by all those around her.

Despite going against the status-quo, Maryam remained firm and grounded in her worship and in her relationship with Allāh. We can learn from her example, and we too, can ensure that we are scrupulous in our commitment to observing Allāh’s rights, no matter what normalised form of injustice we stand against.

*temple is in reference to the religious place of worship at the time.

2. Worshiping in Isolation

Maryam’s worship (peace be upon her) was in seclusion and she was isolated for most of her worship:

Mention in the book is the story of Maryam. She withdrew from her family to a place to the east. And she secluded herself away… (Sūrah Maryam: 16-17)

During lockdown when masājid may be closed, or when we are unable to engage in collective acts of worship like visiting family, we can remember Maryam and her sole focus on Allāh during her isolation, and we too, can be devout and sincere to Allāh in our aloneness.

We can remember that like Maryam, we are never alone.

…And He (Allāh) is with you wherever you may be… (Sūrah Hadīd: 4)

Allāh is always with us, ready to heed our call, ready to gift us with the care and provisions that we crave.

3. Remembering that our blessings come from Allāh the Provider

Allāh blessed Maryam (peace be upon her) with a special sustenance and divine gifts. These were gifts of out of season fruits, unique provisions from Allāh, and gifts of knowledge and wisdom. Maryam’s uncle Zakariyyā (peace be upon him), who was appointed as her guardian in the temple, was one day surprised and shocked to find her with this variety of blessings:

…And (Allāh) entrusted her to the charge of Zakariyyā. Whenever Zakariyyā went in to see her in her sanctuary, he found her supplied with provisions. He said, ‘Maryam! How is it you have these provisions?’ She said, ‘They are from Allāh: Allāh provides limitlessly for whoever He will.’ (Sūrah Āl Imrān: 37)

When Zakariyyā asks Maryam about her provisions, she immediately recognises their source, just like the source of every other blessing: she attributes them back to Allāh. In this detail is a lesson for us readers of the Qur’ān too; a reminder to ascribe any blessing back to the One who gifted us with such blessings in the first place. Whether that is a beautiful home; a new piece of clothing; a satisfying job, an educational qualification, or just simply having a stress-free day.

Remembering the source of the blessing, and thanking Allāh for it, means that Allāh will give us even more.

Allāh says:

…If you are thankful, I will give you more… (Sūrah Ibrāhīm: 7)

4. Making limitless Du’ā

Not only does Maryam (peace be upon her) consciously attribute her special provisions to Allāh, she also reminds Zakariyyā (peace be upon him) that:

…Allāh provides limitlessly for whoever He will. (Sūrah Āl Imrān: 37)

This was a message to Zakariyyā that he too could be a recipient of Allāh’s care. Hearing Maryam’s words, he was inspired to call upon Allāh and ask Him for a child, despite his old age and his wife’s barrenness:

There and then, Zakariyyā prayed to his Lord, saying, ‘Lord, from Your grace grant me virtuous offspring: You hear every prayer.’ (Sūrah Āl Imrān: 38)

Zakariyyā is reminded through Maryam’s words, that Allāh’s sustenance is limitless.

That he does not need to be shy in asking Allāh, because Allāh is not stingy, nor does He have to give account of how much he provides for us. And through his du’ā, Zakariyyā was gifted with the miracle of a caring, pious son, Yahya.

Just as Maryam’s words acted as a prompt to Zakariyyā to ask Allāh for a son when it seemed impossible, it is also a reminder to each of us, readers of the Qur’ān, that when we turn to Allāh, we can ask him for the most. He loves when we ask of Him!

And your Lord said: Call on me, and I will answer you! (Sūrah Ghāfir: 60)

5. Allāh sees our Pain and Struggles

Maryam (peace be upon her) was a chaste woman, committed to worshipping Allāh, and yet Allāh tested her with a miraculous pregnancy in a community where pre-marital sex would mean surely being out-casted, even being stoned to death. She withdraws from her community alone, and while she suffers the pangs of childbirth, she cries out to Allāh with these heart-wrenching words:

And, when the pains of childbirth drove her to [cling to] the trunk of a palm tree, she exclaimed, ‘Oh how I wish I had been dead and forgotten long before all this!’ (Sūrah Maryam: 23)

Her emotive words are indicative not just of the physical pain and difficulty she is going through, but also the emotional trauma of being separated from her family, her fears of being cast away and her child possibly killed. Both male and female readers are brought along on this uniquely feminine journey to empathise with her distress, as she turns to Allāh in her cry.

To those of us who have been through childbirth, we can feel seen and heard by Allāh, that He is describing the pain she is experiencing. As if it is telling us that Allāh knows how we feel during those times!

To women who have not experienced childbirth, and to men, her exclamation can help us to empathise with this uniquely female challenge, to feel what she is feeling. It means that when we recite the Qur’ān, we say her exact words, and when we listen to the Qur’ān, we hear her cry being pronounced.

Remember that during this testing time when she feels that she has nobody’s support, she turns to Allāh. We too, can turn to Allāh during our unique struggles, at times when we feel alone.

6. How to get Care and Comfort from Allāh

And when Maryam (peace be upon her) turns to Allāh, He comforts her, by telling her:

But a voice cried to her from below, ‘Do not worry: your Lord has provided a stream at your feet. And, if you shake the trunk of the palm tree towards you, it will deliver fresh ripe dates for you. So eat, drink and be glad… (Sūrah Maryam: 24-26)

She is told to shake the palm tree after she has given birth, a time when she must have been frail, completely drained and exhausted, and Allāh miraculously causes fruit to fall from the tree. This is the care and provision that Allāh sets out for her. Alone, weak from the pain and exhaustion of giving birth, Allāh gifts her with water and dates; a divine miracle, to strengthen her before the tasks she will complete next.

These strengthening gifts of consolation act as a form of comfort and assurance for us as readers of the Qur’ān; that we too, can receive this comfort and care from Allāh, just as Maryam did, if we turn to Him during our distress and if we trust Him to have our best interests at heart. If we cry out to Allāh, as Maryam did, and we direct our worries and sorrows to Him, we can find peace in the knowledge that Allāh will not leave us empty handed and abandoned.

7. Having Courage and Placing our Confidence in Allāh

At this point, Maryam (peace be upon her) could have run away with her baby, yet she has such amazing courage and returns to her people. She goes back to them, when it seems like this would just result in shame and even more pain.

She must have been wondering what she would say to defend herself, how she could possibly explain her situation to them; trying to think of every excuse and struggling to imagine a positive outcome by telling the truth. And yet Allāh commands her with the following, yet another challenge and test of her trust in Allāh:

…And say to anyone you may see: ‘I have vowed to the Lord of Mercy to abstain from conversation, and I will not talk to anyone today.’ (Sūrah Maryam: 26)

She is told to remain completely silent! This too would require such strong resolve and trust in Allāh; that she must return to her people, with what seems to be an illegitimate child and with no explanation to give.

She places her confidence in Allāh, strong in her knowledge that she has not committed any crimes, and that this child is a miraculous gift. She goes back to her people, not expecting anything but the worse, and she puts up with their immediate ridicule and judgement. The Qur’ān narrates the words of her community:

She went back to her people carrying the child, and they said, ‘Maryam! You have done a terrible thing! Sister of Hārūn! Your father was not an evil man and your mother was not unchaste!’ (Sūrah Maryam: 27-28)

At this point, it must have seemed as though her fears were coming true; her people were condemning her as she had predicted, and her silence was no defence. And yet she continued to rely on Allāh, not losing her faith.

We too can remember, just as Maryam did; that at times when it feels like we have been waiting for too long, struggling for too long, that Allāh is not ignoring us. He hears us, is actively listening to us, and is testing us. He wants to strengthen us through our struggles, He wants us to earn the rewards of calling him, the rewards of patience, and the rewards of waiting. And the wait will come to an end, and Allāh will respond to us.

8. Rewards of Patience and Tawakkul

Allāh rewarded her with an unprecedented miracle; the baby in her cradle suddenly spoke and came to her defence. She was not told by Allāh that this baby would talk, neither had she ever heard the baby speak before! This was her reward of tawakkul, the outcome of her trust in Allāh.

By reading this Quranic account, we can be comforted in the knowledge that we too, can have our own small miracles through our patient commitment to trusting in Allāh, just as Maryam (peace be upon her) did.

Maryam (peace be upon her) is a woman who was a cut above the rest. Her story teaches us how to remain dedicated to Allāh despite the odds.

We learn through her story:

  • To remain dedicated to Allāh regardless of what injustice we are trying to challenge
  • To remain dedicated to Allāh even in our loneliness
  • To remember that all blessings we have are from Allāh
  • To remember to ask Allāh for His limitless blessings
  • To remember that Allāh sees all our struggles, and that we should direct them to Him
  • To remember that Allāh will give us the care and consolation that we need
  • To have courage and confidence in Allāh
  • To remember the rewards of patience and tawakkul

May we always find ourselves turning to Allāh in the most difficult of times.

This is part of a three-part series on Women in the Qur’ān, to learn more about these characters and many others, you can join this course by the author, starting 3rd February 2021.



Rumaysa is a qualified teacher with ijazaat in hadith. With experience teaching Islamic Sciences for over 10 years, she completed her Masters in Islamic education and subsequently worked on developing curriculums for Islamic institutions. She also has a degree in Biochemistry and a PGCE, having taught science for a number of years. She is a book lover and writer, contributing articles on a range of topics, and is particularly passionate about female scholarship. She is a member of a Shariah panel, and works with Muslim women in the community on a range of different issues. You can sign up to her latest course on Women in the Qur’ān on Eventbrite: