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Mary, Islam, Christianity, Bible, Qur’an, Gender, Feminist Theology, Comparative Theology


Mary has been called a bridge between Christians and Muslims for centuries. Both religions revere her as the mother of Jesus (Isa) and for her status as a virgin when she conceived him, and both traditions have within them devotees who venerate Mary. But despite this shared adoration for the blessed mother, there are a variety of differences between their understanding of Mary’s role in salvation and of her virginity. While the New Testament Gospels make some mention of Mary in their texts, the Qur’an dedicates an entire surah (chapter) to her story and mentions her with more frequency than the Bible. The Bible also describes very little of Mary’s personal history, and what we do know about her within the Catholic tradition has been influenced by the apocryphal Gospel of James. While the Qur’an contains within it more context for Mary’s life prior to conceiving Jesus than the Bible does, for this paper I felt it more important to analyze a literary moment that exists for Mary in both traditions. Therefore, in this paper, I will analyze the actual birth narrative of Jesus as well as the labor of Mary itself. How do these birth narratives compare, and how do both traditions interpret the importance of her virginity differently? Because I am comparing narratives between two different theological traditions, this is a paper dependent upon comparative theology. In addition, I will be analyzing both tradition’s narratives through a feminist theological framework in order to see how our interpretation of these themes can be liberative for women in both Christianity and Islam. To highlight the differences in both narratives, in this paper I will argue that the Muslim account of Mary’s labor contains within it themes of liberation that her Biblical labor does not.