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By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

1/5/2013 (2 years ago)

Catholic Online (

To the extent that Islam's view of Jesus is motivated by the spirit of antichrist--a position amply proved by prior articles in this series--Islam's view of Mary is motivated by a like spirit.

The Muslim's devotion to Mary, as sincere as it may be, is rendered cancerous by Islam's unequivocal theological denial of the divine Sonship of Jesus, the rejection of Jesus as Redeemer of mankind, and its rejection of Jesus as the unique Savior from sin and death.  By denying the greater truth of Jesus, Islam mars the subordinate truth of Mary which relies on the superordinate truth that Jesus is Lord, and all that Lordship means.


By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

Catholic Online (

1/5/2013 (2 years ago)

Published in Middle East

Keywords: Muhammad, antichrist, redemption, salvation, Jesus, Mary, Andrew M. Greenwell

CORPUS CHRISTI, TX (Catholic Online) -- Without doubt, the Qur'an gives a preeminent place to Mary (Maryam), the mother of Jesus (Umm 'Isa).  It is in fact remarkable that the Qur'an appears to recognize Mary's preeminent sanctity and her virginal conception of Jesus (e.g., Qur'an 19:20-22; see also 3:47, 21:91, 66:12).  Some argue by implication that the Qur'an also asserts Mary's perpetual virginity so that Islam teaches that Mary was a virgin ante partum, in partu, et post partum (before, during, and after birth), but this is highly doubtful since Islam does not not give any particular religious or spiritual value to virginity. 

She appears, like in the Gospels though with markedly different theological meaning, to be the most blessed of women: "Behold! the angels said: "O Mary! Allah hath chosen thee and purified thee--chosen thee above the women of all nations." (Qur'an 3:42)  Mary is an example of fidelity and holiness.  "And Mary the daughter of 'Imran, who guarded her chastity; and We breathed into (her body) of Our spirit; and she testified to the truth of the words of her Lord and of His Revelations, and was one of the devout (servants)."  (Qur'an 66:12)

She is called by the Muslims Sayyidatuna Maryam (loosely translated as "Our Lady," or "Our Mistress"),  an honorific title not unique to her and which she shares with three other women, Khadijah and 'Aisha (two wives of Muhammad), and the wife of the Pharaoh Ramses II named Asiya (who, according to the Qur'an 28:7-9 saved Moses, though here it contradicts Exodus 2:7, which states it was the daughter of the Pharaoh, not his wife, who saved Moses from death.)  In assessing this honorific title, it should be noted that Mary is not considered one of the Ummahat al-Muʾminin, "mothers of the faithful," an honorific title reserved to Muhammad's many wives.  (Qur'an 33:6)

In the Qur'an, Mary's birth is perceived as miraculous, the result of the pious prayers of her parents 'Imran (a likely confusion by Muhammad with Amran, the father of Moses and Aaron and their sister Miriam, since the name has no relationship to the traditional name Joachim) and Hannah (whom Christians call Anne).  (Qur'an 3:36-38) 

Some commentators even go so far as to suggest that Muhammad taught the immaculate conception of Mary (e.g., Patrick Hughes in his Dictionary of Islam), and point to a hadith where Muhammad reportedly said, "'There is none born among the off-spring of Adam, but Satan touches it. A child therefore, cries loudly at the time of birth because of the touch of Satan, except Mary and her child . . . ."   E.g., Sahih al-Bukhari, 4.55.641.  However, inasmuch as Muhammad clearly rejected the doctrine of original sin, it is not reasonable to interpret this hadith in favor of the doctrine of immaculate conception which presupposes an understanding of the former doctrine. 

There is, finally, no mention of Mary's assumption into heaven one way or other in the Qur'an.

Despite the differences, then, it seems nevertheless significant that Mary is the only woman in the entire Qur'an mentioned by name.  She has an entire chapter named after her (Chapter 19, Sura Maryam).  She is mentioned 34 times in the Qur'anic text, and so, superficially at least, would appear to be given great importance by Muhammad.

Given the rigorously antichristian position of Muslims in all other major doctrines, Catholics with their sensitivity for things Marian have been particularly tempted to see the Qur'anic emphasis on, and positive view about, Mary as a source of possible inroads into the conversion of Muslims.  For example, it was the great Archbishop Fulton Sheen's belief that Muslims, who are notoriously difficult to bring to Christianity, would be converted not through the direct proclamation of the truths of Christ, but rather indirectly, through the "summoning of the Moslems to a veneration of the Mother of God" and through Mary to the fullness of Christ.

The perception is that the Qur'anic veneration given to Mary is a chink in the Islamic armor that allows the the arrow of the Gospel to touch the heart of the Muslim.  This is a popular and widely-held perception.

However, in my view, while undoubtedly well-intentioned, this seems to me to be a theological cul de sac. While this view is without doubt advanced in good faith, sincerely, and with the desire to spread the Gospel, it is my belief that it may be built upon a mistaken and superficial understanding of Islam and its understanding of Mary.

The reason for this is that Mary's titles and privileges, which mean so much to Christians and in which Catholics place such hope for dialogue with Muslims and conversion of Muslims, while superficially similar to some of the Catholic doctrines, have an entirely different meaning in the Qur'an.  In the Qur'an, they have no relationship in to the Incarnation and Redemption and Salvation which are at the heart of the Gospel. 

Mary's titles in the Qur'an and Islamic tradition are theologically false friends.

If Jesus is not God incarnate, the Redeemer of all mankind, the Savior of all men, and Mary not the Mother of God (Theotokos), the Mother of the Redeemer, and the Mother of the Savior, then to what avail does the Qur'an provide such titles to Mary such as a sinless and noble virgin and mother of a mere human prophet named 'Isa? 

While Muslims see Mary as the mother of Jesus, the Mater Iesu (ibn Maryam), and therefore hold her in great regard because of their regard for Jesus as prophet only, they do not see her, and--as long as they are held captive by the Qur'an and the false doctrine of Muhammad--cannot see her properly in the order of grace.  That is, they do not know her as the mother of God, the Mater Dei or Theotokos, nor as the mother of the Redeemer, the Redemptoris Mater, nor as the Mother of their Savior, the Mater Salvatoris, nor as the Mother of the Church, the Mater Ecclesiae.

For Mary to have any theological, soteriological, charisological, or ecclesiological significance, the Muslim would have first to accept Jesus as the Son of God, as mankind's Redeemer, and as his Savior, and recognize his need to be baptized into his mystical Body the Church.  This requires a direct proclamation of the Gospel message that Jesus is Lord and God, and that he came to redeem and save Muslims from their sins, something neither Muhammad nor his Shari'a can do.

"One cannot think of the reality of the Incarnation without referring to Mary, the Mother of the Incarnate Word," wrote Blessed John Paul II in his encyclical Redemptoris Mater.  (RM, No. 5)  It is clear from the Qur'an that the opposite is not the case.  "It is not befitting to (the majesty of) Allah that He should beget a son. Glory be to Him! when He determines a matter, He only says to it, "Be", and it is." (Qur'an 19:35)  The Qur'an shows that one can think of the reality of Mary without referring to the reality of the Incarnation.  But it is a categorical mistake to think of Mary without giving thought to the Incarnation, which is exactly what Muslims do. 

The Muslim's devotion to Mary, as sincere as it may be, is rendered cancerous by Islam's unequivocal theological denial of the divine Sonship of Jesus, the rejection of Jesus as Redeemer of mankind, and its rejection of Jesus as the unique Savior from sin and death.  By denying the greater truth of Jesus, Islam mars the subordinate truth of Mary which relies on the superordinate truth that Jesus is Lord, and all that Lordship means.

The Church could not be clearer that our understanding of Mary is directly related to our understanding of Jesus Christ.  The Catechism, for example, states:

"The 'splendor of an entirely unique holiness' by which Mary is 'enriched from the first instant of her conception' comes wholly from Christ: she is 'redeemed, in a more exalted fashion, by reason of the merits of her Son.'  (LG 53, 56)  The Father blessed Mary more than any other created person 'in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places' and chose her 'in Christ before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless before him in love.'" (Eph. 1:3-4)  (CCC § 492)

Mary's response to the angel Gabriel in the Qur'an is not Christocentric. It is not, as it is in the Gospel:  "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be [done] to me according to your word." (Luke 1:28-38).  As the Catechism explains this verse: "Thus, giving her consent to God's word, Mary becomes the mother of Jesus. Espousing the divine will for salvation wholeheartedly, without a single sin to restrain her, she gave herself entirely to the person and to the work of her Son; she did so in order to serve the mystery of redemption with him and dependent on him, by God's grace."  (CCC § 494)

Quoting St. Augustine, the Catholic Catechism observes something essential about Mary which we ought not to forget.  "Mary is more blessed because she embraces faith in Christ than because she conceives the flesh of Christ."  (CCC § 506)  It is the entire first half of St. Augustine's sentence that Muhammad rejects.

Mary's faith informs our faith, is in fact a model for it:   As Blessed John Paul II explains in his encyclical on Mary: "Another essential element of Mary's maternal task is found in her words to the servants: "Do whatever he tells you." [John 2:5]  The Mother of Christ presents herself as the spokeswoman of her Son's will, pointing out those things which must be done so that the salvific power of the Messiah may be manifested."  (RM, 21)  This is absent in the Qur'an.  In the Qur'an, Mary has no faith in Christ as the Son of God, as her Redeemer, as her Savior, and the Mary of the Qur'an does not tell us to do whatever Christ tells us.

The Mary in the Qur'an is not the Mater Fidei and Mater Fidelium, the Mother of Faith and of the Christian Faithful.  The Mary of the Qur'an is a Muslimah, a Muslim, not a Christian.  "O Mary! worship thy Lord devoutly: Prostrate thyself, and bow down (in prayer) with those who bow down.'" (Quran 3:42-43).  She prays to Allah, not to the Holy Trinity.

The Catholic devotional rule ad Iesum per Mariam, as promoted by St. Louis de Montfort among others saints and spiritual guides, works marvelously well, as those who are devoted to Mary (including this author) know.  But it is a rule for Christians, not for non-Christians.

The crucial key to the efficacy of the formula ad Iesum per Mariam is that the Marian devotion has to be authentic.  In other words, it already presumes a deep attachment and faith in Jesus as God, as Redeemer, and as Savior.

As Blessed John Paul II, a Christian with impeccable Marian credentials, wrote in his Letter to the Montfort Religious Family, "[a]uthentic Marian devotion is Christocentric."  (Monfort Letter, No. 2)  The Catechism's presentation is crisp and succinct: "What the Catholic faith believes about Mary is based on what it believes about Christ, and what it teaches about Mary illumines in turn its faith in Christ."  (CCC § 487

What Islam believes about Mary is based upon what it believes about Jesus, and what it teaches about Mary illumines its belief about Jesus.  So it turns out that we are dealing with two completely different Marys, one true and one false, just like we are dealing with two completely different Christs, one true and one false.  To the extent that Islam's view of Jesus is motivated by the spirit of antichrist--a position amply proved by prior articles in this series--Islam's view of Mary is motivated by a like spirit.
As Blessed John Paul II pointed out in his Marian encyclical Redemptoris Mater, "If it is true, as the Council itself proclaims, that "only in the mystery of the Incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light," then this principle must be applied in a very particular way to that exceptional "daughter of the human race," that extraordinary "woman" who became the Mother of Christ. Only in the mystery of Christ is her mystery fully made clear." (No. 4)

The Catechism wonderfully expounds on the "mystery of Christ" in sections 512-70.  Yet it is the very "mystery of the Incarnate Word" that Muhammad rejected, and the Mary of the Qur'an has no attachment--none at all--with the mystery of the Incarnate Word.

The rejection of the "mystery of the Incarnate Word" has more than Mariological ramifications.  It also has Trinitarian effects. This relationship of of Mary to Christ the Incarnate Word is essential in devotion to her as it is Trinitarian only with this link.  "Mary's total relativity to Christ and through him," leads us "to the Blessed Trinity."  (Montfort Letter, No. 3)   Authentic devotion to Mary is inextricably tied to devotion to Jesus as the Incarnate Word and through the Incarnate Word to the Blessed Trinity. 

The Muslim devotion to Mary, while sincerely held, is not authentic because it has no tie--none at all--to Jesus as the Incarnate Word, the Redeemer of the world, and the Savior of all mankind.  It has therefore no Trinitarian tie-in which would make it authentic  "St Louis Marie expresses the Trinitarian dimension of his relationship with God: "Hail Mary, beloved Daughter of the Eternal Father! Hail Mary, admirable Mother of the Son! Hail Mary, faithful Spouse of the Holy Spirit!" (The Secret of Mary, p. 71). (quoted in Montfort Letter, No. 3)  To a Muslim, each one of these utterances is blasphemous, infected by the worst of sins, one that is taught will send you to hell: shirk.  That's how far apart the Muslim Mary is from the Christian Mary.

The Muslim view of Mary is no closer to Catholicism than the Muslim view of Jesus, which means theologically they are worlds apart.  In my view, Muhammad's concessions to Jesus and to Mary in the Qur'an are nothing less an exploitation and perversion of the Gospel calculated to persuade or finagle simple Christians into his greater theological system.  When that failed, Muhammad turned to violence.

Succinctly put, the antichrist  Mary in the Qur'an is a Trojan Horse.  With respect to the  Mary of Islam, we might paraphrase Virgil:

Timeo Mahometanos et dona ferentes. 

Beware of Mohammedans bearing gifts.


Andrew M. Greenwell is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas and practicing in Corpus Christi, Texas.  He is married with three children.  He maintains a blog entirely devoted to the natural law called Lex Christianorum.  You can contact Andrew at


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