Culture

Why I want to call my daughter Maryam-Lessons learned from the Virgin Birth

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When looking for strong female examples, we often forget that the Virgin Mary is not only an important part of Christianity, but is also an important part of Islamic history and heritage. During the process of picking names for my daughter, Maryam- the Arabic/Islamic version of the name Mary- was suggested. But it was only after listening to and reading the story of the virgin birth in the Quran during Ramadan that I felt that the name Maryam had so much significance, beauty and strength. This is what one can learn from the story of the virgin birth.

1-Empowering Women

Nothing says girl power like a story that renders men biologically irrelevant. It sort of suggests the idea that their role in reproduction is in fact secondary and focuses on women as the primary vehicles for bringing life into the world.

2- Motherhood reigns supreme over fatherhood

In many cultures and especially Eastern ones, there always seems to be more of a focus on fatherhood than motherhood. For example, lineage goes through the males of the family and children take their father’s family name. In Saudi Arabia, even legal procedures are limited to fathers- for instance, a mother cannot issue a passport for her child. The virgin birth draws attention to motherhood and the role of ‘the mother’, as the Prophet Jesus didn’t have a biological father. This is very significant in patriarchal societies.

3- De-sexualising the sexual

The virgin birth not only desexualises reproduction by getting rid of the role of intercourse, but also brings a new understanding to female sexuality that is pure, motherly and nurturing. It is a sexuality that is disconnected from the notion of the female body as a sexual object available for the pleasure of men; and instead focuses on its life-bringing role.

4- Patience and faith during adversity

Pregnancy and the pains of birth are  trials in themselves. But the virgin birth brings to light other adversities that the Virgin Mary had to overcome. Such as social alienation, being misjudged and having your reputation attacked. Despite these challenges, she remained patient and strong in faith-which is an incredibly important lesson to learn.

5- Female Spirituality

It’s no mystery that religious institutions are dominated by men. During the time of the virgin birth, women were not allowed into places of worship; and the Virgin Mary’s mother found this problematic as she had promised her unborn child to the temple. However, a virginal birth to a Prophet draws attention to female spirituality – especially as the lineage of Prophets is paternal. As part of the Islamic story, Mary was also given ‘an order from above’ as it were to enter the temple as a woman for the first time- which again reinforces a shift in the way female spirituality is viewed.

6- Never Judge

Women are often quickly judged especially when it comes to matters relating to promiscuity and reputation. The virgin birth teaches us that things are not always as they seem. An individual may seem very obviously guilty of a sin or crime but is in fact innocent.

7-The miraculous nature of the female body

The virgin birth also draws attention to the extraordinary nature of the female body. The virgin birth is miraculous but in fact, birth in general is  a miracle.

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