Maryam: A Role Model for Believers
Dr S. M. Bleher
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Whereas Jews either disrespect Mary as an immoral woman for having conceived a child out of wedlock or disregard her as entirely irrelevant, Christians have made her one of their foremost saints. For some she is even part of the trinity. Following the First Council of Ephesus in 431 she was referred to as the “mother of God”, after divinity had been bestowed on Jesus with the Council of Nicaea in 325. Shrines to Mary are widespread, especially amongst Catholic and Orthodox Christians, and there are also numerous pilgrimage sites where she is said to have appeared to someone in a vision. This reverence is deceptive, however: in reality, during the history following Paul’s first attempts to make Christianity more appealing to Greek and Roman pagans, Mary simply took the place of the existing goddess of virginity and childbirth, Artemis (Greek) and Diana (Roman), in a grand rebranding exercise, just as Jesus was recast in the mould of the dying god who descends to the underworld and is reborn in spring. Like people back then, Christians of today appeal to her to grant them children and heal women’s diseases. It is therefore true to say that only Islam affords Mary, the mother of Jesus, the true respect her position and life example demand.