Privileged Status, Burden of Atonement, Basic Religions
Issue 1005 » June 29, 2018 - Shawwal 15, 1439
Al-e-Imran (The House of Imran) Sura 3: Verses 36-37
But when she delivered her, she said, "My Lord, I have delivered a female." And Allah was most knowing of what she delivered, "And the male is not like the female. And I have named her Maryam, and I seek refuge for her in You and [for] her descendants from Satan, the expelled [from the mercy of Allah]. So her Lord accepted her with good acceptance and caused her to grow in a good manner and put her in the care of Zakariyya. Every time Zakariyya entered upon her in the prayer chamber, he found with her provision. He said, "O Mary, from where is this [coming] to you?" She said, "It is from Allah. Indeed, Allah provides for whom He wills without account."
In the Quran, Maryam's story begins from the time of her conception. Her birth itself was a miracle because her mother is presented to have been barren and passed the age of childbirth. Her mother, whom the Quran identifies as "the wife of Imran," appears to have been disappointed after giving birth to a female child, uttering the words: "My Lord, I have delivered a female." This disappointment may be attributed to the mother's sense of an unfulfilled dream that her child be dedicated to the service of God. Since such roles were reserved only for males at the time, her mother did not expect Maryam to be able, socially or otherwise, to enjoy such a role. But, as the Quran notes, God's response to Maryam's mother's dissatisfaction was for to accept her "with good acceptance" and to "cause her to grow in good manner". And so it was that Maryam became the first woman in history to pray in a temple.
Verse 3:37 is a potentially radical (progressive radical, that is) statement: It is a reminder to Maryam's mother—and, by extension, to all of us—that if she thinks Maryam will not fulfil a certain role because of her gender, then make sure her surroundings are such that they will enable her to do so. In other words, we are the bearers of change in our times and societies. In Maryam's case, the Quran tells us that she was sent to be raised by Zakariyya, a religious teacher, where she completely submitted herself to God's service. In exchange for her devotion, God blesses her with miraculous provisions of foods outside of their season (e.g., summer foods in winters and winter foods in summers). This surprises Zakariyya, although he had always known Maryam was a miracle and someone to be emulated, and, when he asks her where she gets her food from, she tells him they are from God. Zakariyya, aware that they must be the literal fruits of her commitment to God, is thereby inspired to ask God to bless him with a child of his own who could enjoy the privileged status of Maryam.
Jesus, Muhammad and the Goddess, "Who is Maryam and What is Her Story?" - Shehnaz Haqqani, pp. 179, 180
Burden of Atonement
Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, "By Allah, I seek forgiveness from Allah and I repent to him more than seventy times in a day." [Bukhari]
Be quick in seeking forgiveness. Spread out your hands towards Allah to seek His forgiveness as soon as you have sinned. The stains on your heart shall have been wiped away and it will shine brightly. The darkness shall recede and there will be light. The faith that shall have gone away from you shall return. Do not ever delay this.
Recite istighfar frequently. The Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, recited it more than 70 times every day. Do not let the frequent repetition of your sins keep you away from seeking pardon. Sinning repeatedly and then seeking forgiveness just as frequently does not come within the definition of a state of deliberate insistence upon sin. It is sinning with impunity and then not attempting to seek forgiveness, and attempting to explain your sins away that comes within that meaning of insistence on sinning.
Shed your tears after every sin. Do not shy away from this. Self-impose a burden of atonement whenever you sin, such as giving away something as sadaqah (alms); forgiving someone for any wrong he may have done you, or a certain number of rakat of Prayer. Hasten in repenting and seeking forgiveness. Do not relent in this. The door for seeking forgiveness is open at all times but the best time of all is the early hours of dawn before Fajr. Even if Allah enables you to devote just a few moments, do so. Place your forehead on the prayer mat and seek forgiveness with flowing tears.
If you have sinned with regard to the rights of others, then together with repentance and seeking forgiveness, it is also essential to ask for the pardon of those concerned and to make up for the damages. Recitation of istighfar will open the door to that forgiveness which is essential for entry into heaven. Not only that, this will lead to other blessings as well - material prosperity, relief from difficulties, and a feeling of ease even in adversity.
"Dying and Living for Allah" - Khurram Murad
Two basic religions have existed in history, two groups, two fronts. One front has been oppressive, an enemy of progress, truth, justice, the freedom of people, development and civilization. This front which has been to legitimate greed and deviated instincts and to establish its domination over the people and to abase others was itself a religion, not disbelief or non-religion. And the other front was that of the rightful religion and it was revealed to destroy the opposite front.
These two fronts are not allies. They have continuously opposed each other throughout history. The jihad of history has been the jihad of the religion of monotheism which says: "Unto you is your religion and unto me is my religion," against a religion which developed so that the hungry will remain hungry, so that others may continue to plunder their bread by rendering people senseless or insensitive to the plight of their fellow human being.
"Religion vs. Religion" - Ali Shariati, pp. 61, 62