August 2, 2017
on monday july 31st, i attended a symposium on “women and gender in religions” at naz. got to engage with some interesting papers and discussions. here’s one.
hussam timani (christopher newport university) talked about “the feminine in the quran: reading mary in light of adam” and described mary’s pure nature and absolute obedience to god, qualities that endow her with angelic traits.
mary (maryam in arabic – the only woman identified by name in the quran) is considered “muharrara” or free from the taints of wordly associations. she devotes herself to god by secluding herself in the temple. her story is full of miracles including the birth of her son jesus.
the great sufi scholar, ibn arabi, considered mary the prototype of all mystics. as the mother of the one who sought union with god, she becomes a perfect human being and the manifestation of divine love.
adam, on the other hand, has a lower soul. he is disobedient, inconsistent. obedience is considered a higher virtue than monotheism. obedience is a choice whereas monotheism is understood to exist naturally in human beings.
there is a “hijab” or veil that protects mary and her son from satan’s corruption, while satan has access to adam.
dr timani sees mary as being a bridge between christians and muslims. he ended his talk with the need to recognize, acknowledge and pay attention to contemporary embodiments of mary.
i had some questions about mary’s free will as described in this paper. is obedience to god simply her nature (is she stripped of agency) or is that her choice? since mary is being compared to adam, i guess that their volition must be equally operative.
obedience itself is problematic for me but then i thought about how we are talking about obedience to god and conceptions of justice, mercy, beneficence and love. not that different from the reasoning behind social justice movements.
i find mary to be a powerful icon. during our travels to mexico, not only did we find mary’s presence (as our lady of guadalupe) to be ubiquitous, we also learned how some indigenous religions have absorbed the figure of mary and reconfigured it as the goddess of fertility. fascinating.
mara ahmed at symposium on women and gender in religions