The Unrecognized Prophetess

When she had delivered, she said:
“O my Lord! Behold! I am delivered of a female child!”
—and God knew best what she delivered—
“And no wise is the male
like the female.
I have named her Maryam (Mary),
and I commend her
and her offspring
to Thy protection from the Evil One, the Rejected.” (Qur’an 3:36)

A Prophet is someone who can communicate / has communicated with the Divine. Prophets are examples for all believers.

A Messenger (also a Prophet) receives a scripture, such as Abraham who received the Scrolls, Moses who received the Torah, David who received the Psalms, Jesus who received the Gospel, and Muhammad who received the Qur’an. There are others, estimated in the thousands, among every civilization that ever existed. As the Qur’an states, “And messengers We have mentioned unto thee before and messengers We have not mentioned unto thee” (Qur’an 4:164). [Note the chapter]

Mary as far as we know was not given a scripture, but delivered a son who delivered a scripture to his people. Precisely on the mark, she was sent an angel, just as Prophets are, and communicated with the Divine. She is not the only woman who fits the definition of a Prophet yet remains unrecognized of her Prophethood by the Islamic community even though scholars of the past (Al-Qurtubi, Al-Razi, Al-Suyuti, Ibn Hazm) had considered her a Prophet. This is unfortunate, as the Qur’an most certainly recognizes her Prophethood, and includes her in a list of Prophets, in a chapter of the Qur’an titled Prophets.

And remember Dawud (David) and Suleiman (Solomon) when they gave judgment […]
And remember Ayyub (Job), when he cried to his Lord […]
And remember Isma’il (Ishmael), Idris (Enoch), and Zul-Kifl (Ezekiel), all of constancy and patience […]
And remember Yunus (Jonah), when he departed in wrath […]
And remember Zakariya (Zecharia), when he cried to his Lord […]
And remember her who guarded her chastity:
We breathed into her of Our Spirit,
and We made her and her son
a Sign for all peoples. (Qur’an 21:78—91)

I’m guessing Eve was one too.

But it seems men know better than God, and recognize the Prophethood of only other men, overturning what God has proclaimed in the Qur’an. When they cannot be Prophets themselves, they appoint themselves intermediaries between believers and God, which enables them to make up whatever they want and pass it for Islam.

25 thoughts on “The Unrecognized Prophetess

  1. JDay

    Do you consider the revelation a Prophet receives to be different from the spiritual experience that a saint receives to be different from inspiration (as in poetic, inventive, creative day-to-day problem solving)? Do these different forms of outside guidance interact from the same or different places in human consciousness?


    1. I’m not as familiar with the Christian tradition of sainthood. Although awliya (such as Rabia al-Adawiyya) are often considered the Muslim equivalent, I think there are some important nuances.

      Inspiration often does feel as though it is coming from an outside source! But I would say there is an enormous difference between the revelations of Prophets and inspiration, though it is one that requires a little leap of faith. Prophets can clearly see their source take on a(n angelic) form. On a very human level, the experiences can have the same effect… (in fact I think there are studies) though there’s no way I could possibly tell, since I obviously haven’t experienced both! =X It’s definitely an interesting question.


  2. No truer words spoken Nahida.

    I’ve always considered Mary (as) to be a Prophet — but who except my family is going to listen to little ol’ me? Even without a “scripture,” she carried the very “Word” of God and is made even more important in the Qur’an by her son’s name: Jesus SON OF Mary. His name is never mentioned without hers — so yes, how could generations of scholars ignore her importance as a Prophet?

    I know some within the Shia Bohra community turn to her for intersession, as well as the Prophet Muhammad — so I wonder if there are non-Sunni sources that revere her true calling?


  3. “Remember Prophetess of God, Mary,
    remember her and her patience in the face of adversity.
    Remember how God never mentions Jesus alone.

    It is always Jesus, son of Mary,
    peace and blessings be upon them.”
    An excerpt of a poem I wrote early in the morning, our wavelengths are in-phase Nahida :)
    Also, Asia, the Pharaoh’s wife is also considered a Prophet :)


  4. Whoa… this blew my mind. I had no idea that a case could be made for Mary and other women being Prophets, but you make the case very well. That’s so cool. Now I want to write a story about her.


    1. rosalindawijks

      It indeed is interesting to note that the Bible recognizes several prophetesses, like Maryam/Mirjam sister of Moses and Debora.

      And since we as Muslims also recognize the Bible as a scripture that originally came from God and we also recognize the Biblical prophets as prophets, then wy wouldn’t we also recognize the prophetesses?


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  6. Yosr

    Can you tell me the arabic translation where it says ‘ wise’ . Because when I read the verse in other websites i find that it says the female isn’t like the male. That just confises me, help please ? :)


  7. One of the commenters stated that Mary’s significant virtue seemed to be the fact that she was a virgin or chaste, which is why God chose her, and not because of anything else (her wisdom, resilience, etc). However, going through the relevant verses, her chastity is only mentioned twice as a virtue: in 21:91 and 66:12. In these verses, it is mentioned that she was chaste, so God breathed into her and made her a sign or a miracle. The only way Jesus’s birth would be miraculous, i.e. would be a sign/miracle, was if she was a virgin. Her chastity is simply regarded as a necessity for her to be a sign of God. If she was not a virgin, there would be no miraculous virgin birth, and she would not be a sign. So yeah. I hope that made sense.

    In addition, another reason her chastity may be emphasized was because they accused her of being an adulteress.

    Her virginity is never mentioned as being the REASON God chose her. It’s mentioned as the reason she and her virgin birth were made a “miraculous sign for all the worlds.”

    And she who guarded her chastity, so We breathed into her of Our spirit and appointed her and her son to be a sign unto all beings. 21:91


  8. abuasiyahyahya

    Surah al Baqarah mentioned the name of Isa عليه السلام without reference to his mother Maryam عليها السلام so to say that he is not mentioned without her being mentioned is a false claim. Maryam عليها السلام was a waliyah and any statement from a true scholar of Islam that says she was a Prophet is an anomalous statement that is given no consideration. Their is a verse in the Qur’an that explicitly says that Prophets were men and the ijma of the scholars of Islam are upon this. Encounters with angels is not the criteria for ascertaining prophethood. Prophethood is to be given the order to call people to islam by Allah and commisioned as a Prophet. Differentiating between the Prophet and Messenger is not by whether one was given a book or not, but if one was given a new rule that abrogated a previous rule. Hence Dawud عليه السلام was a Prophet and not a Messenger as the Zabur didn’t have any rulings that abrogated anything in the Torah. ‘Isa عليه السلام however came with rules that abrogated parts of the Torah so he was a Messenger. Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم also came with rules that abrogated things in the Injil and Torah.


  9. bilqis

    I’ve heard many say that Maryam (ra) was was a waliyah and not a prophet like Imam Razi.
    But it’s weird that you’d say she was forgotten because various scholars have said she was a prophetess such as Al Qurtubi and Ibn Hazm from Andalus (both of which are extremely influential especially Al Qurtubi who’s had a lasting impact on the Muslim community to this day) apparently these two scholars and a bunch of others got into a debate with other scholars (who said that she was a waliyah) about Maryam and others being prophetesses. And it was apparently so extremely heated and controversial that the Governer at the time kicked all of them (on both sides of the debate) out of Córdoba for a while.
    they also argued that the mother of Musa (as) who was inspired by God to put Musa (as) into the river in a basket was a prophetess and also Hawwa (ra).


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