In Pt 1 of this series, we looked the concepts of fasting and ramadhan as a way of life. People are enjoined to exercise self-discipline and restraint to the point where they experience an intensively scorched state and thus become privy to a measure of Quran. In doing so, they earn themselves a period of respite where they may interact with others and enjoy themselves before engaging in fasting again. This is a personal cycle for each individual and contributes to the evolution of society.
In this essay, we hope to demonstrate this process through the narrative of maryam and isa. While this story is seen as a historical event, we do not believe that it was included in Quran for to inform us about history. Rather all narratives in Quran are for the purposes outlined in Chapter 11 Verse 120 and 12/111. They directly contribute to our Quranic application and therefore, our reading must reflect that through a metaphorical approach. The story of maryam and isa shows a process which invokes the metaphysics, Allah’s direct intervention. Let us break down the story in verses so that we may see the similarity:
19/16: And vivify in the system maryam, when she withdrew from her family to a rising place
Here maryam is used as the first solution to the problem of zakariya (19/2) who is facing the end of his existence. Maryam (whose name means a state of seeking, hope, desire) is seen as a means of awakening the force to rejuvenate society and attaining a higher level of existence. This withdrawal from social activities to a rising place links to 2/187 which shows that after the experience of ramadhan, the believer interacts with society again. Therefore, the fast must involve a measure of retreat.
19/17: And she took, in seclusion from them, a screen. Then We sent to her our spirit, and he fashioned for her as a equilibriate human.
Maryam takes seclusion from them through a screen (hijab). In doing so, Allah sent her a spirit (which inspires to knowledge) and this spirit fashioned for her the model of the human which is equilibriate, that is, in perfect harmony with the universe.
19/18: She said, “Indeed, I seek refuge with Ar-rahmaan from you, if you should be dissmulating .”
As she fears this new spiritual knowledge is dissimulating itself to fool her into leaving her past position, she seeks refuge with ar-rahmaan. Ar-rahmaan is the name of Allah which is related to the direct connection with him. 17/110 instructs us to invoke Allah or that name. ‘if you should be dissimulating’ shows that the spirit may be fooling her into thinking it is something good when in fact it’s not.
19/19: He said, “I am only the messenger of your Lord to give you the energy of growth.”
The purpose of the spirit-messenger is explicated at this point. He is here to give her the energy of growth (ghulaman zakiyya). This is usually translated as ‘a pure boy’ in the literal translation but again different words could have been used but is not. Interestingly, Quran itself brings progress for mankind (hudan lin naas).
19/20: She said, “How can I have this ultimate energy while I am not touched by the ordinary aspects of humanity and I have not sought it?”
Maryam is surprised by this pure energy as she had not been aware of this notion of the equilibriate human being before. She has not experienced much interaction with humanity and thus not achieved realization.
19/21: He said, “Like thus your Lord says, ‘It is easy for Me, and We will make it a sign to the people and a means of evolution from Us. And it is a matter decreed.
The energy which maryam will receive will be a sign for the people and a means of evolution from Allah. This is the same energy one gets from fasting because ordinary lifestyles consumes energy more than confers it.
19/22: So she became pregnant with it, and she withdrew with it to a remote place.
Maryam conceived the energy within her and withdrew to a remote place. This place could be metaphorical as well showing her distance from society.
19/23 The intensely shaking state brought her to the cleaving/tearing apart of her resolve. “Oh, I wish I had died before this and was in oblivion, forgotten.”
The physical and mental trials of this experience brought her to the near breaking of her resolve. It brought her to the existential point where she sought death (non-being). Being in oblivion and forgotten completely shows the dissolution of her ego. This echoes the concept of shahru ramadhan where revelation comes.
19/24: But it called her from below her, “Do not grieve; your Lord has provided beneath you a stream.
The energy which she had nurtured called from ‘below’ (perhaps symbolizing an earthly connectivity) to not be sad. There is a stream of energy beneath her now due to her reaching the state mentioned above.
19/25: And shake toward you the cleaving of your resolve; it will drop upon you fresh gatherings.
Maryam is urged to keep the shaking of her resolve under control. Once the shaking of her resolve is complete, it will bring upon her fresh gatherings in her life
19/26: So eat and drink and stabilize your fountains of energy. And if you see any from the ordinary human being, say, ‘Indeed, I have vowed to the Ar-Rahmaan abstention, so I will not speak in the way of the weaker aspect of man.’ “
The fresh gatherings in her life enable her to indulge herself and bring back stability after the tremendous shaking before. This echoes 2/187 where Allah turns to those who have fasted and tells them to seek what is written for them. Coincidentally, they are also told to ‘eat and drink’ until the two threads of life become clear when the metaphorical dawn comes. This is equivalent to Maryam stabilizing her energy.
Once maryam’s energies are stable again, she is to be with the human beings again but in a state of absention. She is therefore unwilling to participate or entertain any activities associated with the weaker aspects of humans such as indulgence.
From the above analysis, we can see a confirmation of the process of fasting in 2/183-187. The results of this is the invocation of the metaphysics, seen in the personality of isa, who is the prototype of the messengers.