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Surah Mariam - The Curse of the Apocrypha - By Masud Masihiyyen

Surah Mariam - The Curse of the Apocrypha - By Masud Masihiyyen

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Published by Gilbert Hanz
The primary reason underlying my choice of these verses is that they are partly related to Jesus’ nativity and infancy narrative in the canonical Gospel of Luke. Luke the Evangelist narrates John
and Jesus’ miraculous births comparatively to highlight some
fundamental theological points and presents John as the precursor of Jesus, who is called the Son of God and the Savior.
The primary reason underlying my choice of these verses is that they are partly related to Jesus’ nativity and infancy narrative in the canonical Gospel of Luke. Luke the Evangelist narrates John
and Jesus’ miraculous births comparatively to highlight some
fundamental theological points and presents John as the precursor of Jesus, who is called the Son of God and the Savior.

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Published by: Gilbert Hanz on Sep 02, 2011
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06/27/2014

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SURAH MARIAM THE CURSE OF THE APOCRYPHA
“Mention in the book the errors and absurdities of Muhammad’s scribes”
 
In the current and standard Qur’an version of the Islamic world the nineteenth chapter bears
the name
 Mariam
, which corresponds to Jesus’ mother Mary in the Christian scripture and
tradition. Being a chapter (Surah) of the period prior to Muhammad and his
followers’migration to Medina, Surah Mariam is significant in that it illustrates Muhammad’s early
approach to some basic Christian tenets as well as his familiarity with the oral and written
data about Christianity in his era. Elwood Morris Wherry’s comp
rehensive commentary of 
the Qur’an,
1
which is based on Sale’s translation and notes, gives information on the probabledate of this Surah’s supposed revelation to Muhammad and categorizes the 98 versesthematically under the title “principal subjects”.
In this study I shall mainly use Wherr
y’s commentary and meticulously analyze verses 2
through 35. The primary reason underlying my choice of these verses is that they are partly
related to Jesus’ nativity and infancy narrative in the canonical Gospel of Luke. Luke the
Evangelist narrates John
and Jesus’ miraculous births comparatively to highlight some
fundamental theological points and presents John as the precursor of Jesus, who is called theSon of God and the Savior. Unsurprisingly, the birth and infancy narrative in this chapter of the Qu
r’an objects to Jesus’ identification as the Son of God and attempts to explain Jesus’uniquely miraculous birth through God’s general and arbitrary omnipotence, awkwardly
forcing Jesus into the line of ordinary prophets. In addition to this major Islamic deviation
from the Christian tenet concerning Jesus’ identity in the New Testament, the account in this
Surah also has a number of comparatively minor discrepancies with the teachings of the NewTestament about Zachariah, John the Baptist, Mary, and the events occurring prior to and
after Jesus’ nativity. The source of the contradictory and baffling statements in the Islamic
version of the story will be the subject of my project as I aim to prove both the casual anddeliberate distortion of the original accounts of the New Testament by the hands of the
scribes devising the Qur’an.
The secondary motive that has driven me to analyze verses 2 to 35 is the existence of a fewissues that have given birth to ongoing controversies between Islamic and Christian scholars
due to their introduction by Christian polemicists as examples of the Qur’an’s historicalerrors. The accusation of the Qur’an’s writers for plagiarism from non
-canonical Christianliterature is also related to the analysis of Surah 19, which will become obvious when theoriginality of some statements about Mary and Jesus in the Islamic scripture is questioned.
The name of Surah 19
 The fact that the 19
th
chapter of the Islamic scripture is named
 Mariam
 
(Mary) after Jesus’
mother is generally brought
up by Muslims and introduced as hard evidence for Mary’s high
 
position in Islam.
2
 Even though Christians in general are not as willing as some Muslims toget involved in these kinds of childish plays of rivalry, it should still be made known that the
existence of a chapter bearing Mary’s name in the Qur’an is theologically significant only for 
Muslims. First, some chapters of the Koran have the names of certain animals, which provethat the naming process was completely arbitrary. Surah 19 is named Mariam whilst Surah 2,
the longest Surah of the Qur’an, is named the Cow
3
 (
al Baqarah
in Arabic).The name of the 19
th
chapter gains sense and significance only in the light of the fact that
Jesus’ mother Mary is the sole woman to have a personal name in the entire Islamic scripture.
This again can be designated as a revolutionary act by Muslims, most of who either ignore ordo not know that in the Jewish and Christian scriptures several women are recorded by theirpersonal names.
4
 Thus, the supposed unique and privileged place ascribed to Mary throughthe title of Surah 19 is derived from the peculiar form of the Koran.
The existence of a chapter with the name of Jesus’ mother in the Qur’an is not a matter of 
praise or
critique for Christianity. Still, every person reading the Qur’an objectively has theright to ask why specifically the name “Mary” was considered fitting for the title of the 19
th
 
Surah. According to the Islamic tradition, the narrative about Jesus’ mothe
r Mary drove thecompilers of the Islamic scripture to name this whole chapter after her.
5
 If it is true that thesole motive determining the title of the chapter was the account about Mary (and Jesusthrough her), this once more affirms the theory that the whole process of entitling thechapters of the Islamic scripture was purely arbitrary and not necessarily consistent. Aboveall, it is rather interesting th
at there is not one chapter named after Jesus in the entire Qur’an
even though Jesus is clearly greater than Mary even in Islam. Thus, the chapters of theIslamic scripture were not necessarily named after the greatest figure their narrativescontained.The analysis of the content and form of the 19
th
chapter exposes with how much arbitrariness
and insistence the writers of the Qur’an concurred upon the name "Mary" for the title. First,
the first name that occurs in this Surah is Zachariah rather than Mary as the second verseintroduces the account about Zachariah after the verse that has but a few cryptic letters:Kaf. Ha. Ya. A'in. Sad. A mention of the mercy of thy Lord unto His servant
Zachariah
.(Surah 19:1-2)
6
 The narrative about Mary, on the other hand, begins in verse 16:And make mention of 
Mary
in the Scripture, when she had withdrawn from her people to achamber looking East. (Surah 19:16)Second, the narratives about different prophets and holy figures are separated from oneanother through an introductory sentence that refers to the notion of mention/remembrance.
This repetitive formula appears in the Surah first with regard to Zachariah’s story, and
is
linguistically associated with Zachariah’s name since the word Zachariah in Hebrew means“the Lord remembers”(
*
). Third, most of the verses of Surah 19 are written in poetic stylewith a rhyming pattern. Verses 2 to 33
 – 
the narratives about Zachariah and Mary
 – 
have thesame rhyming pattern, the final words of most verses ending in the letters IYYA.2) ZAKAR
IYYA
3) HAF
IYYA
4) SHAK
IYYA
5) WAL
IYYA
6) RAD
IYYA
7)SAM
IYYA
8) IT
IYYA
9) SHE
Y’A
10) SAW
IYYA
11) ASH
IYYA
12) SAB
IYYA
13)
 
TAK
IYYA
14) AS
IYYA
15) HA
YYA
16) SHARK
IYYA
17) SAW
IYYA
18) TAK
IYYA
 19) ZAK
IYYA
20) BAG
IYYA
21) MAKD
IYYA
22) KAS
IYYA
23) MANS
IYYA
24)SAR
IYYA
25) CAN
IYYA
26) INS
IYYA
27) FAR
IYYA
28) BAG
IYYA
29) SAB
IYYA
 30) NAB
IYYA
31) HA
YYA
32) SHAK
IYYA
33) HA
YYA
 Apparently, the first word from which this rhyming pattern is drawn is Zachariah, whichcorresponds to ZAKARIYYA in Arabic. When these facts about the content and form of 
Surah 19 are taken into account, it is rather natural to wonder why the writers of the Qur’an
7
 preferred the name
 Mariam
to
 Zakariyya
. The only plausible explanation is that the ones
devising this chapter aimed to counter the Christian tenets concerning Jesus’ nativity by
distorting the Gospels, which led them into a chain of faulty conclusions about the sacredtexts of Christianity. As those scribes had limited knowledge of the canon of the Christianscripture, they naturally failed to distinguish an apocryphal Gospel from a canonical one. Thepopularity of non-
canonical Christian literature in the Arabian peninsula of Muhammad’s era
was another significant factor that caused the smooth adoption of apocryphal accounts intothe Islamic scripture.
8
 Nonetheless, it will not be fair to blame the existence of some non-
canonical Gospels in the Qur’an on the scriptural knowledge of the Christian minority living
in Arabia at that time. There is more non-
canonical Christian material in the Qur’an basically because Muhammad’s scribes gave priority to the accounts of Jesus’ nativity and infancy intheir battle against Jesus’ identification as the Son of God. Since they tried to discardChristianity as a false religion supposedly similar to paganism with regard to God’s having a
son, they chose the texts r
elating Jesus’ nativity as their primary target for denial through perversion. This hideous strategy compelled Muhammad’s scribes to plagiarize from the most
popular non-canonical Gospels of infancy: The Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew, The Gospel of James, and The Arabic Gospel of Infancy.The writers of the Islamic scripture are accused of plagiarism as the examples of parallelismbetween the apocryphal texts and the narratives in the 19
th
and 3
rd
 
chapters of the Qur’an
cannot be jettisoned as trivial or superficial coincidences. Surprisingly, Christian historyowes the existence of these non-canonical Gospels of Infancy not to heresies, but to theefforts of some Orthodox
9
Christians who deemed it necessary to relate Virgin Mary’s birth
and infancy. Accordingly, the non-canonical sources of Infancy demonstrate such Christian
writers’ wish to respond to some critiques of their era and refute the charges targeting Mary’s
virginity and chastity. Of these non-canonical sources, the Gospel of James and the Gospel of Pseudo-
Matthew lay emphasis on the events taking place prior to Mary’s birth and relateMary’s miraculous conception and subsequent dedication to the Temple.Mary’s supposed accusation by her folk of an illegitimate affair as a result of her miraculousconception is a prevalent theme in the Qur’an.
 This prevalence can be linked to
Muhammad’s desire to convince the Jews of Arabia of Mary’s virginity and chastity at thetime of their invitation to Islam. Muhammad’s tendency to lay emphasis on Mary’s virginity
and embrace the non-canonical Gospels of Infancy (particularly the Gospels of James andPseudo-Matthew) also functions as the answer to our question concerning the name of the19
th
chapter. This chapter is named after Mary because Mary is the primary holy and chastefigure of the non-canonical Gos
 pels of Infancy through whom Jesus’ birth and infancy are
recounted.

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