Mary the Blessed Virgin of Islam

Mary the Blessed Virgin of Islam

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Aliah Schleifer
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Mary the Blessed Virgin of Islam

Aliah Schleifer, American University in Cairo

Why do Muslims revere the Virgin Mary? This book throws light on the reasons for the importance of Mary as a spiritual figure in Islam. It provides the background for an understanding of her symbolic importance to Muslim men and women, both as an individual and together with her son Jesus. It poses such questions as: Is Mary to be regarded not only as the highest woman in all creation, but is she also to be counted among the prophets who received revelation? The traditional scholarly discussions about Mary’s life and characteristics, from the perspective of Sunni Islam in the classical period which took place over the centuries in regions stretching from Central Asia to Spain, provide a fascinating debate on the subject, of interest to Muslims as well as non-Muslims and those concerned with comparative religion, interfaith dialogue and women’s studies.

Timothy Winter of Cambridge University’s Faculty of Divinity contributed a foreword as well as a useful list of short biographical notes on the scholars and commentators whose works were drawn upon. The introduction is by Dr. Ali Jum’a, Professor of Law at Al-Azhar University in Cairo.

Dr. Aliah Schleifer lived, studied and worked in the Middle East for thirty years. Her interests and publications in the field of Islamic Studies range from the classical commentaries on the Qur’an, the prophetic traditions and Islamic jurisprudence, to Morisco Studies and Islamic mysticism. A previous work, Motherhood in Islam, is a popular reference on the subject, and has been used as a textbook at the American University in Cairo where Dr. Schleifer was a professor for many years. The present work on Mary is the text of her doctoral dissertation at The University of Exeter in England.

"Christians often find it curious that Mary figures so prominently in the Qur’an and in Muslim spiritual life. She is seen as the faithful servant of the Lord who allows God’s Word to bring Jesus to life in her miraculously, and so give the world a prophet whom Muslims revere. This work shows in inspiring detail the manner in which Muslim life and practice brings Mary to life as a faithful servant of the one God."

—David Burrell, C.S.C., Hesburgh Professor of Philosophy and Theology, University of Notre Dame

"As a Catholic priest it quite surprised me to find that it was the sacred words found in the Qur’an of Islam that provided me with what I was yearning to know about the Blessed Mary. As one who seeks to make the role of the Blessed Mary better known, the Qur’an brought home to me the gifts of this amazing creature. It is very beautiful to know that when any Muslim mentions Mary, he or she always refers to her as, ‘Our Lady Mary – May the peace of God be upon her.’ In this important book, Mary has been described as possessing ‘the perfection of human spiritual attainment’ and as being ‘amongst the first group of prophets to enter Paradise.’ She is ‘preferred above the women of all nations and all times and of those in Paradise.’ The book emphasizes that she is ‘a spiritual example for mankind.’"

—Fr. Vernon Robertson, The Oratory of Our Lady and Saint Phillip, Louisville, Kentucky