In Defense of Mary the Daughter of Imran By Kashif Shahzada
The Qur’an leaves no stone unturned regarding the gender of Mary and makes it absolutely clear that she was not a hermaphrodite.
Jesus Christ is a Messenger of Allah whose personality is surrounded in controversy. Three world religions hold varying opinions about his person and his birth. On one extreme are some Jews who allege that Mary had produced a child outside of wedlock, while on another extreme are those among Christians who claim that since Jesus did not have a father, his father is God. The Qur’an refutes these claims of the Jews and Christians, and while defending the chastity of Mary, it identifies that Jesus was created and not procreated by God. Hence the mainstream Islamic view based on the narratives of the Qur’an is that Jesus was born miraculously by the will and power of God and that he is neither the son of God, nor the son of man. Along with defending Mary from human and divine fatherhood for Jesus, the Qur’an also refutes those individuals who in recent times have forwarded some theories negating the miraculous virgin birth of Jesus. One popular view forwarded by such individuals is that Mary was a Hermaphrodite who gave birth to Jesus through some process of self impregnation. This notion, wild and bizarre as it may seem is contrary to the clear cut statements of the Qur’an, as is the view that Jesus had a biological father. Here we demonstrate the origin of this heretical belief and how it goes against some very plain facts of the Qur’an.
The hermaphrodite theory is an Ahmadi (Qadiyani) belief
Writing under the title “Immaculate Conception”, in the April 2004 issue of “Review of Religions”, an Ahmadiyya publication, the author, Moosa Qureshi LLB, while attributing the theory of Hermaphroditism to Maryam, states:
“Nevertheless, the Qur’an does intimate the explanation to the miracle of Jesus(as)’s conception in another enigmatic verse, hitherto perplexing to Muslim scholars: Remember when a woman of Imran said, ‘My Lord, I have vowed to Thee what is in my 60 womb to be dedicated to Thy service. So do Thou accept it of me. Verily, Thou alone art All-Hearing, All-Knowing’. But when she was delivered of it, she said, ‘My Lord, I am delivered of a female,’ – and Allah knew best what she delivered and the male was not like the female – ‘and I have named her Mary, and I commit her and her off-spring to Thy protection from Satan the rejected’. (Ch.3:Vs.36-37). Puzzlingly, Allah does not confirm that the woman of Imran did indeed give birth to a female when she was delivered of Mary(ra). How should we interpret the enigmatic words – and the male was not like the female?”
By alluding to a mere word or two from Quran 3:36-37, the author attempts to build a mountain out of a molehill by concluding that Mary gave birth to Jesus without a father because she was a Hermaphrodite:
“..more convincingly, the mechanism of true hermaphroditism may explain the virgin birth of Jesus(as). This is a congenital condition where external genitalia and internal sex organs have both male and female characteristics. Both ovarian and testicular reproductive tissue is found in a true hermaphrodite, a quality that is still poorly understood. In 1990, a true hermaphrodite rabbit was found to conceive when kept in isolation in laboratory conditions (7). The tenability of autoreproduction in human hermaphrodites has also been affirmed: ‘If it is indeed true that in some (human) hermaphrodites auto-reproduction could be possible with medical intervention, another question may be asked: “Is it possible that such auto-reproduction could, with the greatest rarity, occur without such an intervention?” Indications exist in the mythology of various cultures which mention hermaphroditic reproduction, and there are references to virgin birth in the historical documents of several different societies.’(8) The Qur’an may indeed refer to such a biological condition of a true hermaphrodite when we read, ‘Allah knew best of what she was delivered and the male was not like the female’ (Ch.3:V.37). It is characteristic of the propriety and tactful beauty of the Qur’anic diction, that Allah should thus describe the hypothesised hermaphrodite quality in Mary (ra)…”
Thus according to the aforementioned Ahmadi interpretation, the mechanism of true hermaphroditism explains the virgin birth of Jesus. The view that Allah does not confirm that the woman of Imran did indeed give birth to a female when she was delivered of Mary is also grossly in error, once we explore all the narratives in the Qur’an concerning the subject. When we study the Qur’an it is crystal clear that Mary was not a hermaphodite.
1) The Qur’an does not use any word meaning “Hermaphrodite” within its Arabic text
Very simply, Allah does not term Mary as a Hermaphrodite or a creature of that sort within the Arabic text of the Qur’an. This is a plain fact. In Arabic the word “Mukhanas” is usually used for Hermaphrodites, and it is a fact that this term or any term close to it does not occur anywhere in the Qur’an. Thus the statement “Mary is a Hermaphrodite” is not a Qur’anic statement.
2) Wherever Mary is addressed in the Qur’an, feminine pronouns are used for her and never masculine
It is a grossly misleading to suggest that Allah does not confirm the gender of Maryam. The clear cut evidence of the Qur’an is that she is not dual sex but of the female sex. Throughout the Qur’an, wherever Mary is addressed, feminine pronouns are used which identify her as a female through and through.
“O Mary, be devoutly obedient to your Lord and Surrender and take heed with those who take heed.” 3:43
According to Arabic grammar, in the above verse “oqnutee” (be devoutly obedient) is a 2nd person feminine singular imperative verb, “lirabbiki” (to your Lord) is 2nd person feminine singular possessive pronoun, “wasjudee” (and Surrender) and “warkaAAee” (and take heed) are both 2nd person feminine singular imperative verbs with feminine subject pronouns. Thus it is clear that this language identifies Mary as a female. It is evident that wherever Mary is mentioned and addressed in the Qur’an, she is always identified grammatically as a female and never as “dual sex”, thus refuting the view that Allah does not confirm her gender. It should also be noted that in the Qur’an Mary has been called “Bint” (Daughter), “Ukht” (Sister) and “Umm” (Mother) leaving no room for doubt as to her gender.
3) Mary was chosen above “WOMEN” of all worlds, not hermaphrodites / dual sex persons of all worlds.
“And [mention] when the angels said, “O Mary, indeed Allah has chosen you and purified you and chosen you above the women of the worlds.” 3:42
In the above verse we can clearly see the words “..purified you and chosen you above the women of the worlds.” which establish that Mary was of the female gender and not dual sex / hermaphrodite. She was chosen above “Nisaa al Alameen” (Women of all worlds) not above the world’s hermaphrodites!
4) Mary questions how can she have a son when no man has touched her. If she could self impregnate then she wouldn’t be asking this question.
She said, “My Lord, how will I have a child when no man has touched me?” [The angel] said, “Such is Allah ; He creates what He wills. When He decrees a matter, He only says to it, ‘Be,’ and it is. 3:47
A hermaphrodite who is capable of self impregnation would never ask the question “..how will I have a child when no man has touched me?” because from someone who possess male and female reproductive organs and is capable of self impregnation such a question is invalid! Very clearly we see evidence in this verse of Mary being someone requiring a person other than herself for her conception, thus proving that she is not a hermaphrodite.
5) The word “Nabataa” (growth) for Mary does not imply plant like asexual features because in the Qur’an the same word is also used for regular humans.
Proponents of the hermaphrodite theory allude to the word “Nabataa” in 3:38 and draw parallels between Mary and asexual plant organisms who also “grow” to their state.
So her Lord accepted her with good acceptance and caused her to grow [ARABIC: ANBATAA] in a good manner and put her in the care of Zechariah. Every time Zechariah 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.” 3:37
This allusion is once again devoid of substance because the word “Nabataa” is not restricted for Maryam but also used for entire humanity:
And Allah has caused you to grow [ARABIC: ANBATAKUM] from the earth a [progressive] growth [ARABIC NABATAA]. 71:17
In the above verse, the same word “Nabataa” is used for entire humanity. Does it mean entire human race consists of hermaphrodites?! This certainly is not the case. Mary is no asexual plant because of the word “Nabataa”, because the same word has been used in the Qur’an for all humanity as well.
6) If Mary was a Hermaphrodite, capable of self impregnation, then why wouldAllah send his angel as an external agent to grant her a child?
In Surat Aal-e-Imraan we can see that the angels gave the good news of the birth of a child, while in Surat Maryam, we see that an angel was sent in the form of a human messenger to grant her the child which she conceived:
He said, “I am only the messenger of your Lord to give you a pure boy.” 19:19
If indeed Mary was a hermaphrodite, then she would have been capable of self impregnation and two events mentioned in the Qur’an would not be necessary requiring the information of conception of Jesus and the second being the gift of conception. These two events delivered through the agency of angels make it clear that Mary was not a hermaphrodite capable of internal self impregnation but a woman who was to conceive externally. She did conceive Jesus externally, and that was by the will of Allah and through the agency of angels.
7) Jesus addresses Mary as “Mother”, never as “Father”.
If indeed Mary was dual sex, possessing both ovarian and testicular reproductive organs, as is erroneously alleged, then such a feature would make her not only the mother, but also the father of Jesus – however we see in the Qur’an that Jesus addresses Mary only as his mother, and never as his father.
“(He) hath made me kind to my mother, and not overbearing or miserable;” 19:32
“And behold! Allah will say: “O Jesus the son of Mary! Didst thou say unto men, worship me and my mother as gods in derogation of Allah’?” 5:116
Thus as Jesus addresses Mary as “My mother”, and never as “my father” and she is mentioned as his biological mother who gave birth to him, and never as his father, therefore the view that she was a dual sex, hermaphrodite possessing motherly and fatherly features is not consistent with the Qur’an.
8) Allah says “He creates what He wills”, shows Jesus was Allah’s creation by his will and command and born without masculine/male intervention
How will Jesus be born? The Qur’an does not say through a hermaphrodite birth but by the will of Allah:
“..[The angel] said, “Such is Allah ; He creates what He wills. When He decrees a matter, He only says to it, ‘Be,’ and it is.” 3:47
The answer is very clear. It is Allah who will create Jesus as per His will. When Allah decrees a matter, He only says to it, ‘Be,’ and it is. This is how Jesus was conceived. Note how clear the verse is. Allah does not say that Mary will conceive Jesus as a hermaphrodite. No such suggestion is given. The simple and clear cut statement is that Jesus was conceived by the will and order of Allah. This Quranic statement should be the imaan of every Muslim.
9) The masculine pronoun “fihi” or ‘in him’ in sura 66 refers to the unborn Jesus conceived by Mary. Quran explains itself that Jesus was assisted by Ruh al Qudus (the holy spirit).
And Maryam (Mary) daughter of Imran, who kept safe her private parts, (i.e., safeguarded) so We breathed in it of Our Spirit, and she sincerely (believed) in the Words of her Lord, and His Books; and she was one of the devout. 66:12 (Dr Ghali)
Like the above Egyptian translator Muhammad Mahmoud Ghali’s translation, many other translators render the masculine pronoun “fihi” literally “in him” to refer to the preceding word “FarjahAA” i.e “her private parts”, while Muhammad Asad, renders it as “We breathed of Our Spirit to that [which was in her womb]..” both these renderings, indicate that in this passage the masculine pronoun refers to the unborn child conceived by Mary.
“And We have propounded yet another parable for God-consciousness] in the story of Mary, the daughter of Imran, who guarded her chastity, whereupon We breathed of Our spirit into that [which was in her womb], and who accepted the truth of her Sustainer’s words – and [thus] of His revelations – and was one of the truly devout.” 66:12, Muhammad Asad
Thus the spirit which was breathed into Mary in 21:91: “whereupon We breathed into her of Our spirit..” was ultimately for her unborn male child, “..whereupon We breathed of Our spirit into that [which was in her womb]..” in 66:12.
Numerous other verses of the Qur’an also corroborate the understanding that when God breathed of His spirit into Mary, then it was also received by [the masculine] Jesus who was conceived within the [feminine] Mary:
“..We gave Jesus the son of Mary Clear (Signs) and strengthened him with the holy spirit…” 2:87
“..to Jesus the son of Mary We gave clear (Signs), and strengthened him with the holy spirit…” 2:253
“..Christ Jesus the son of Mary was (no more than) a messenger of Allah, and His Word, which He bestowed on Mary, and a spirit proceeding from Him..” 4:171
The above verses clarify that Jesus was strengthened by the holy spirit, and it proceeded from him, thus the expression “fanafakhna feehi min roohina” (so we breathed into him of our spirit) in 66:12 refers to the breathing of spirit into the male Jesus.
Moreover that “feehi” does not refer to Mary is also obvious by the fact that in the verse the words that refer to Mary are all feminine. E.g. “allatee” (she) “ahsanatfarjaha” (she guarded her private parts), “saddaqat” (she proved true), ”rabbiha” (her Lord), ”kanat” (she was). Throughout the Qur’an Mary is identified as a female.
10) Birth of Jesus is like birth of Adam who was not born of a hermaphroditebut by the will of Allah.
Just like Adam was created by order of Allah without a male father similarly, Jesus was created by Allah without a male father – clarifies that Mary is not a hermaphrodite.
“The similitude of Jesus before Allah is as that of Adam; He created him from dust, then said to him: “Be”. And he was.” 3:59
Adam was created by the command “Be”. And he was.”, similarly about Jesus we read:
She said: “O my Lord! How shall I have a son when no man hath touched me?” He said: “Even so: Allah createth what He willeth: When He hath decreed a plan, He but saith to it, ‘Be,’ and it is! 3:47
Thus both Adam and Jesus were both created by the will of Allah and His command “Kun Fayakun” i.e. “Be, and it is!”, and not through a hermaphrodite parent.
11) If Mary was not a hermaphrodite, then how was Jesus conceived? “..your Lord says, ‘it is easy for me…”
When the news of birth of Yahya (John) was given to Zakaria (Zecharias), he posed the question:
He said, “My Lord, how will I have a boy when my wife has been barren and I have reached extreme old age?” 19:8
To which the reply was given:
[An angel] said, “Thus [it will be]; your Lord says, ‘It is easy for Me, for I created you before, while you were nothing.’ 19:9
When Mary was informed of the birth of Jesus, she posed a question on similar lines and the same answer that was given to Zakaria was repeated to her:
He said, “Thus [it will be]; your Lord says, ‘It is easy for Me, and We will make him a sign to the people and a mercy from Us. And it is a matter [already] decreed. 19:21
How did Jesus come into the world? The Qur’an is crystal clear without citing any biological process involved: “..your Lord says, It is easy for Me.” This should be our Imaan. Allah is all powerful. He is capable of doing what He wills. It is easy for Allah to cause a birth without a father. We should have Imaan on this without speculating theories.
12) Wrong to conclude that Mary’s gender was not confirmed by Allah in 3:36, because the verse, when translated accurately confirms Mary as a female child
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 Mary, and I seek refuge for her in You and [for] her descendants from Satan, the expelled [from the mercy of Allah ].” 3:36 Saheeh International
Translations such as the one cited by the author of the article in “Review of Religions” along with Yusuf Ali, Pickthall and Shakir are inaccurate in their English rendering of the expression “Falamma wadaAAat-ha” in verse 3:36, and due to this inaccuracy, the wrong conclusion that Mary’s gender was not confirmed in the verse is reached. E.g.
“But when she was delivered of it, she said..” Cited by Moosa Qureshi
“And when she was delivered she said..” Pickthall
“When she was delivered, she said..” Yusuf Ali
“So when she brought forth, she said..” M. H. Shakir
We can note that it is not apparent in the above translations as to the gender of the child delivered by the wife of Imran. However once the expression “Falamma wadaAAat-ha” is translated correctly it is clear that the child she delivered was a female child, and this is being confirmed by Allah as the narrator of the expression is Allah in the Qur’an. It is in Saheeh International’s English translation by Umm Muhammad, Aminah Assami that the expression is accurately rendered:
“But when she delivered her, she said..” Saheeh International
Muhsin Khan also translated the pronoun “Haa” accurately as “her” in his translation:
“Then when she delivered her [child Maryam (Mary)], she said…”
Thus the assertion that in verse 3:36, Allah did not confirm the gender of Mary is wrong, as it is Allah Himself who has stated that the wife of Imran had given birth to a female child. It was against the wonderment of Mary’s mother for giving birth to a female and not a male child that Allah said: “And Allah was most knowing of what she delivered..”. In the preceding verse 3:35, we read that Mary’s mother had made a vow to dedicate her unborn child to Allah, expecting a male child, as tasks devoted to those in the cause of Allah such as leading prayers, or receiving prophecy and preaching were reserved for males and not females, she expressed how would her vow would be fulfilled now that the child she had given birth to was female and not male. It was at this that she was informed that Allah knew better what she had delivered indicating that even a female can be dedicated to Allah, and not necessarily a male. We read in later verses that her vow was accepted and Mary grew up to be a righteous woman and a mother of a Prophet, thus she was dedicated to Allah as a female in her own right. The narration also gives us a lesson that in the sight of Allah, gender does not matter. Whether male or female, Allah can select either for his work.
It can be concluded from the inflection of the Qur’an:
1. The Qur’an does not use any word which carries the meaning of “Hermaphrodite” for Mary. The statement “Mary is a hermaphprodite” is not to be found in the Qur’an in the original Arabic.
2. Wherever she is mentioned in the Qur’an, she is addressed in feminine gender and never as masculine or dual gender.
3. Feminine pronouns are used for her in accordance with Arabic grammar, thereby making it clear that she is a female.
4. The Qur’an narrates that she was chosen above the “women” of all nations, further confirming she was a woman and not a hermaphrodite.
5. Her question about how she can have a son when no man has touched her indicates she was a woman and not possessing male and female reproductive organs.
6. The word “Nabataa” (growth) in 3:37 does not imply asexual features for Mary because the same term is used for other people as well and because of the fact that Qur’an has overwhelming evidence about Mary’s womanhood.
7. Jesus always addresses her as his mother and never as his father, thereby confirming that she did not have a fatherly biological function.
8. Jesus was conceived by Mary by the will of Allah and through the external agency of Malaika and not through auto-reproduction.
9. It is false to suggest that in 3:36 Allah does not confirm the gender of Mary. In the beginning of the very verse, Allah identifies her feminine gender when He says “So when she delivered HER..”. The pronoun “Her” in this statement of Allah confirms that the child was a female.
Indeed, Allah has purified Mary, she has been purified of all sorts of false allegations that people have subjected her to, whether such allegations be of producing an illegitimate child, a child begotten of God, or the suggestion that she was a hermaphrodite Whenever Qur’anic evidence shall be brought to light about Mary, the fact that Allah has chosen and purified her above women of all the worlds will be manifest to all.