One of the great women of our past has a story that many of us can relate to; A story of pain, fear, and confusion. In her story we can find comfort, we can find relief, and we can find hope for the future. This woman is none other than Mary the mother of Jesus. God told us her story so that we could ponder, reflect and learn.
Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He) begins by telling us where Mary was, when the news of her coming test was revealed to her. He says:
“And mention, [O Muhammad], in the Book [the story of] Mary, when she withdrew from her family to a place toward the east. And she took seclusion from them. Then We sent to her Our Angel, and he represented himself to her as a well-proportioned man.” (Qur’an, 19:16-17)
Mary, at this time, was in a place where she was alone, far away from her people. If she reached out for help from anyone, she wouldn’t find them. It was at this time that an Angel was sent to her and in the form of a man. Imagine this: it was a man she didn’t know and she had never seen before. He could be evil for all she knew so she was frightened instantly:
“She said, “Indeed, I seek refuge in the Most Merciful from you, [so leave me], if you should be fearing of Allah.” (Qur’an, 19:18)
She was scared, so she called out to him with the one thing that she hoped would turn him away if he had any faith in him, the name of God. She told him to think about his God and that if he feared Him at all that he would leave her and not do her any harm. The Angel responded letting her know who he really was, which should have been comforting, except for the fact that he had some shocking news to go along with it:
“(The angel) said: “I am only a Messenger from your Lord, (to announce) to you the gift of a righteous son.” (Qur’an, 19:19)
A son? To the young, unmarried, God-fearing woman she was. One can only imagine the intense fear she had inside of her at this time. Not only for how her life would change, but how her family and community would act. There was no way that they would understand what was happening when she herself could hardly fathom it. So she then asked the question of this blessed angel:
“She said, “How can I have a boy while no man has touched me and I have not been unchaste?” (Qur’an, 19:20)
The angel responded:
“Even so; your Lord says: It is easy to Me: and that We may make him a sign to men and a mercy from Us, and it is a matter which has been decreed.” (Qur’an, 19:21)
At this point, Mary knew there was nothing she could do to change the decree. She knew that she was about to undergo one of the hardest times of her life, but God had told her why. He said that this son of hers would be a sign to men and a mercy to the people. How could such a hard situation be a mercy? Although it’s hard for us to comprehend, God knew exactly what He was doing. Mary then carried her son in her womb and then went away from the people at the time of his birth. She went away to be alone during one of the hardest times a woman faces, but as we know she wasn’t alone.
“And the pains of childbirth drove her to the trunk of a date-palm. She said: “I wish that I had died before this, and had been forgotten and out of sight!”” (Qur’an, 19:23)
She was in such pain and in such a hard position, knowing what might come, that she wished she had just died. Not just died but that she had been completely forgotten. How many of us can relate to that feeling? Feeling that whatever is happening to us, be it internally or at the hands of the others, is too hard—so hard that we wish we had just died before it ever happened. But now let’s take a look and see what happened to Mary:
“But he called her from below her, “Do not grieve; your Lord has provided beneath you a stream. And shake toward you the trunk of the palm tree; it will drop upon you ripe, fresh dates. So eat and drink and be contented. And if you see from among humanity anyone, say, ‘Indeed, I have vowed to the Most Merciful abstention, so I will not speak today to [any] man.’ “ (Qur’an, 19:24-26)
A voice (some say this was the baby Jesus’s voice and some say it was the angel) gave her news that she didn’t expect. He told her that beneath her God had created specifically for her a stream and that if she just shook the palm tree dates would fall for her to eat. God was sending her the message that even though she was in such hardship He hadn’t left her all alone—rather He had granted her exactly what she needed to get better and to make it through this trial. He then told her to not speak to anyone, because God was going to send a sign to make her innocence apparent, and we know that this sign was the speaking of Jesus himself even though he was only a child. And now, years and years after her difficult test in life, we know that her pains were a great benefit not only to herself but the world at large—a result that she could not have assumed while in the midst of her trial—in the midst of her tears and her pain.
So we too should take this lesson from our beloved Mary. Whenever we are in a test, we should know that God will never leave us alone. We should know that even when things look impossible, He can make a way out. We should know that even if the community or the ones we love turn against us in this trial, we still have God, who will never turn away from us as long as we cling to Him. Know that He will provide you your own stream—in the manner that you need, and know that He will provide for you your own palm tree with delicious dates—in the manner that you need. Just believe, and cling tight to Him, and He will pull you through.