Mary in Arabia and Rome

Would it surprise you to learn that both Roman Catholicism and Islam have similar views regarding Mary? Although the latter could not conceive of a mosque with her statue inside, and the former a church without one, their shared belief in her immaculate conception is interesting. Surah 19 of the Qur’an is dedicated to her; Muhammad possibly encountered Catholic and Byzantine Christians with their obsession with Mary. Roman Catholics have had to accept her immaculate conception as official Church dogma since 1854. This means she was entirely sinless, even from birth. This is contrary to the Bible, in which she refers to ‘God her Saviour’ in her Magnificat song. Even prominent Catholic theologians objected to it, such as Bernard of Clairvaux. Likewise, Muhammad al-Bukhari quotes the Islamic prophet saying:

“No person is born but that he is pricked by Satan and he cries from the touch of Satan, except for Mary and her son.” (Hadith)

Muslims don’t share the Christian doctrine of original sin in any event. They teach that we are born uncorrupted, and choose to become wicked in time. Yet Iblis, the Arabic devil, is a jinn (from where we get the word genie) who leads people astray. Still, the Islamic hadith above comes as close as teaching Mary’s immaculate conception as it possibly can within the Muslim rubric.

There is a love of female deities throughout non-Christian religion (and arguably within it, if we use Christian in a broad sense). Feminist theologians like Rosemary Reuther have argued for the original worship of a mother goddess, whose pre-eminence was destroyed by emerging patriarchy.

There is no place for the worship of woman and no place for the worship of man, either. Mary was as tainted by sin as the rest of us and was in need of her Son’s saving work. Islam has too positive a view of human nature. Sin is more than a prick, a touch, a bad choice. It is an utter contamination, an absolute disaster. Catholicism’s deification of Mary means that it too has overlooked the ubiquity of wickedness, even though its own Saint Augustine of Hippo taught such.

Only when we understand the utter dreadfulness of sin can we fully enjoy the wonderful grace of God which saves humans. The good Muslim and the good Catholic both work hard to receive salvation. By underestimating sin’s power, they overestimate the efficacy of their own piety.

Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Romans 3:20-26

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