Saturday, December 19, 2015

Brief Commentary on Sura 19 (Maryam) of Quran

Sura 19 which named after the mother of Jesus, Mary or in Arabic Maryam is an interesting sura to be studied on. According to the Muslim scholars, it is believed that the sura been revealed before Hijrah at Mecca to the prophet Muhammad. 

How is the Sura organized?
The sura started with the acclamation of God who is merciful and gracious as can be seen in other sura as a pattern of starting off the reading. Then, it brought us to the story of Zachariah. Zachariah is the prophet that has been mentioned in the Bible in the Gospel of Saint Luke to be the father of John the Baptist. Zachariah received divine message from an angel of having a son in his old age and narrated the testimony of John from God.

After that, relating to the story in the Scripture was Mary, the mother of Jesus. The account started with the message of an angel followed by the birth of Jesus and Mary brought his child to her people where Jesus speaks to defend himself. Apart from there were few verses spoke about warning and judgement on follower of Jesus.

The sura continues to reveal the message of Abraham who seems to be giving advice and rebuke his father for worshipping the devil and not God. There was a dialogue between Abraham and his father. His father rejected his advice and continues to worship other gods and even threaten to stone Abraham as he asked Abraham to leave him.

The sura reaffirmed the stories of Noah and his ark, the stories of Moses and his brother Aaron as prophets. Ishmael was also said to be a prophet as been told in the sura. The sura also continued to mention Enoch, another prophet that God has raised him to a high position. 

There were few verses that described promises to the believers and warning to the unbelievers. Provided the information of heaven and hell to those who God already ordained based on his life on earth. There is a dialogue between a man and God, about the issue of reincarnation. 

The other verses continue to provide warning from God to mankind on his revelation. In those verses, God repeatedly said that he was unfavoured with worship of the other God and his rejected to their worship. There was a verse that indicates that God does not need to have son to be merciful. The last few verses showed that God revealed message to people of Arab and warn them to be watchful as not to repeat the same mistakes that God has revealed to the previous generations together with their prophet. 

What are the major themes of the Sura? 
The major theme revealed in this sura mainly on focused on how God raised up prophets upon many generations of mankind in order for them to worship the One and only God which is the theology of Tawheed. The other theme includes the concern on Jesus, God’s mercy, God’s rewards and also God’s punishment.

God on his revelation to Zechariah provided an interesting message of God’s mercy. It seems that God through his mercy granted upon the request of Zachariah to have a son as his heir. In the Bible, Zachariah is a priest in the Temple. Despite a variance in the stories, the similarities showed that God is a miracle worker to the one that he choose to favoured upon.

Relating to God’s mercy and concern on Jesus, the idea of God having a son is a humiliation to the theology of Tawheed. God in his revelation to the prophet rejected the effort of those trying to distort that idea of God’s mercy. To the Muslim, the idea of having Christ died on the cross to save mankind from sins in Christianity demeaning God’s ability to provide mercy to forgave sinners. 

Again and again, we can see that God as mentioned in the sura was really concerned that mankind should always be theologically correct regarding the worship of one true God as reinstated by Abraham to his Father and Jesus to his follower. By having this theologically correct, they will be rewarded heaven while to those who still rejecting his message of worshipping the one God will be punished in hell.

What strategies does the Quran use to express its message? 
The strategy that has been used in the Quran to express its message was apologetic and polemic to the unbelievers. Having Mohammed as the seal of the Prophet required him to be more effective in conveying the continuity of God’s revelation since the day of creation was not an easy. 

By linking to the Jewish and Christian’s traditions, his message of Islam is nothing new but to remind the people to worship the same God as all the other prophets mentioned in the Quran. It is apologetic in term to defend that revelation has also been revealed to the Arab in which the lineage of Ishmael been linked to the Mohammed. It is also polemic in nature so to correct the errors of the Jews and Christians having the Scripture corrupted and the theology of God incorrect.

Apart from that, fear also had been an effective tool to incite the importance of God’s message. By describing the detailed of reward and punishment from the stories of the prophets and afterlife, it would be useful to motivate the believer to remained faithful to religious observance as to serve the purpose of life on earth is to merit God’s favour.

This sura stirred a lot of controversial issue regarding the dogma of Christian belief on Jesus. While affirming the line of Israelites prophets, there can be also addition upon the stories which has not been covered in the Bible. In conclusion, sura 19 is rich in its content and message to the people of the Book such as Jews and Christians. 

Note: This commentary was made in response to the written assignment upon MOCC course by University of Notra Dame on Introduction to Quran. Published as notes in Facebook on 12 December 2015.