Islamic Garden

Islamic Garden
Islamic Garden in Lausanne, Switzerland

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Blessed Virgin Mary - An Imaginal Hermeneutic

Azmina Suleman's NDE confirms in her memoir, "A Passage to Eternity" the argument made by a number of scholars of Islam that the Virgin Mary enjoys the status of Prophetess (See my post in December 2007 on Mary - Blessed Virgin of Islam). The implications for an imaginal hermeneutic of al-Fatiha and the question of gender in Islam are immense. Not only because the Virgin Mary is without question one of "those upon whom Thou hast bestowed favors" but also because of the parity she enjoys in the celestial planes with the other prophets of Allah.

If Bibi Miriam can be embraced by all Muslims as equal in significance and stature as all the other 124,000 prophets of Islam, then surely one can de-link the particularly patriarchal interpretations of al-Fatiha that have gone before.

I will leave it to the seeker of Truth to also examine the significance of the relationship between Prophet Muhammad and Hazrat Ali which is implied in Azmina Suleman's account of her celestial encounters:

"At the end of the long procession of individuals was the broad and stalwart figure of the Prophet Muhammad. Even though I have yet to see a picture or reasonable facsimile of the Prophet Muhammad, I seemed to intuitively recognize him. He had a mass of thick dark hair and an intensely penetrating quality to his eyes, something that was, in fact, confirmed by his cousin and son-in-law, Hazrat Ali, in a documented description of the Prophet.

What surprised me, however, was the fact that standing next to the Prophet Muhammad was the shining countenance of the Virgin Mary, or Bibi Miriam as she is commonly referred to in Islam. Looking at it logically, I would have expected to see the figure of Mother Mary beside her son, Jesus of Nazareth. But as I discovered many months later, the Virgin Mary is venerated in her own right by Muslims the world over. In fact, she merits a special place in the Qur'an, the Holy Book of the Muslims, universally acclaimed to be the word of God transmitted through the Prophet Muhammad.

As I reflected in awe upon this rare and majestic vision of the illuminated Messengers of God, I felt my spirit soar. Projecting itself out from the dazzling form of the Prophet Muhammad, the last in God's great line of prophets, was the luminous face of my Beloved Lord, Ali. I felt myself irresistibly drawn towards their combined radiance. As I drew closer, their faces seemed to blur and become obliterated by the sheer power and brilliance of their light. All I could see was the glowing incandescence of their shining frames as they once again merged into a single ray of Light. In that brief but glorious moment of illumination, I knew that I had arrived. I had arrived at the very threshold of my Truth."

~ Excerpted from "A Passage to Eternity" by Azmina Suleman, (2004, pp. 61-62).

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