Who is Maryam? Who is Isa? Why does my maker tell me about them? What is the guidance and truth that is revealed to me in the mention of Maryam and Isa in revelation?
You probably already know the cultural-historical answer to who is Maryam and who is Isa/Jesus. And if you don’t, you can google these names and you will find out. What you will find is what people say, what they read into the Quran, what they learn from their elders as stories from the past, stories of people who lived in the past. About this maryam and this isa, i have nothing to say. So many lived and died. Maybe there was some Maryam and some Isa who also lived and died. I dont know. And I dont see why I should care really. Am I saying people lie about there being Maryam and Jesus? I dont know. I can’t know. And as far as I am concerned, I don’t have to know. It is not for knowledge that they are mentioned in revelation. I am not asked to know about them. They are mentioned as signs for me to reflect and to get guidance and light and good news and awareness of my maker etc (all the things the Quran calls itself and how it describes its purpose). How is Maryam and Isa and their mention in “revelation” a guidance for me? THAT is my question and it is their mention in revelation, NOT their ‘heard-of” historical existence that I find relevant for me.
SO if you want to know how Maryam and Isa are mentioned in revelation as “signs” that reveal some truth that I can verify and that can guide me, then I want to understand Maryam and Isa so that I may be guided where I am presently misguided. I found my misguidance and my guidance in Maryam and Isa as signs that the Quran reveals them to be. I see and attest that I am Maryam pregnant with Isa. I saw the Quran was telling me something about me that I had questions about, something that I am in the dark about. I found the Quran shining a light on this darkness, helping me make sense of it. I want to share with you what makes me Maryam of revelation (when i read the Quran as revelation), what I bear that I found unbearable and what changes for me when I realize that what I am bearing is a truthful word, the Isa of revelation (not the Isa of some holy book of a “last Abrahamic religion” or some “Muslim Jesus” vs. a “Christian Jesus” – all these constructions belong to a discourse of misguidance as far as I am concerned and have no reality that I can verify. They are hallowed names (Mary, Jesus, “Islam”, “Christianity” etc.) and stories that people have made up (or heard from those they deem knowledgeable and authoritative) and then cling to them and defend them as part of their “identities”…I say “peace” to these and turn away from them.) I turn away because such people are not innocent in relation to me. They “kill” the messengers of my maker to me, they block His signs for me that might guide me to truth and out of my darkness, when they block the way, with their identity claims and faux historicism, for me to receive them, here and now, as signs and messengers. They insist on creating a distance, without warrant, between me and my maker’s revelation to me. They deny me the living, verifiable revelation which my reason demands and tell me I am being “modern” and “protestant” and what not. They have names for everything. Peace to all. I turn away. You make your choice and may God help me and help you.
This post might get lengthy so feel free to read it in multiple sittings. One thing I remind you at the outset and I’ll try to again at the end: expect revelation when you read revelation. Don’t expect polemics, doctrines, a hearsay, unverifiable a-history (focus on your temporality here and now..THAT is being historical when listening to revelation..to focus on some “heard-of” past and not on experienced reality is to be “ahistorical” and wishy washy). I don’t know what people meant or did or mean or do. When I turn to revelation, I expect revelation of verifiable meaning and truth from my maker, the maker of the universe as I see and experience it. He may be universal but I am not and I am the addressee of His address. I do not read revelation when I read it as a record of someone else’s ideas. I encounter revelation when it reveals a truth to me. Otherwise, I read what the Quran itself pejoratively terms “stories of the past.” it expects the addressee to know that it is “truth from their Lord” as it repeats several times. At any rate, the shift in reading is not new and not specific to the Quran as revelation. Anyone who contemplates how revelation and guidance from a living source of existence should be read by human beings such as us ( in need of guidance for our questions) would likely say something like what I have said just now.
In the interest of brevity, I shall not cite the full verses in Arabic or their translations but will just paraphrase when needed. You can access the verses and translations yourself.
Like Maryam, I too sometimes want to go far from my people, my company, my ahl, all that I find enjoyable, familiar and comfortable. Why? Because I am afraid of getting hurt. It is my reality that I am afraid to love. I feel vulnerable. I feel I can get hurt. I feel dependent on them. I am similarly afraid of loving things, of getting involved with things, of desiring. I am afraid of desire. I feel it will steam roll me, betray me, cause me pain and hurt. I will lost control. I don’t want to lose control and yet when I am among “my company” (not enemies), I am drawn to them and drawn into an interdependence (people or things or relations or actions) that threaten to undo my individuality and that escape my capacity to control and direct and manage. I worry about what they feel. I start to want to please them, love them. I worry about disappointing them. I don’t know how not to injure myself one way or another “in the presence of my company” and so there is a part in me that wants to go far away. I can relate to Maryam when she retreats away from her company (ahl is not just humans and not just family). It is the ascetic impulse I find in me – the impulse to retreat not only when confronted with danger/enemies but when I realize, even more terrifyingly, that the one’s who can hurt me most are the ones I love and who I see loving me. I speak of verse 19:16.
Why to the East? Well, I guess I am, like Maryam, looking for the sunrise of meaning. The sun rising in the “east” in the physical realm is a “mithal/example/metaphor” for the reality that meaning dawns like sunlight so that the darkness of meaninglessness and confusion recedes.
I went on and on about method (how to read revelation) at the start of this post (and probably pissed off a lot of people who love history and religion etc). Again, peace be with you all but I must go my way. Call me what you will. I am in search of meaning for my questions about my existence and I turn to my maker, not historians and “scholars” for answers.
to be continued….