Mary, Sister Of Aaron?

Islamic Awareness

© Islamic Awareness, All Rights Reserved.

First Composed: 15th August 1999

Last Modified: 30th October 2014

submit to reddit

Assalamu ʿalaykum wa rahamatullahi wa barakatuhu:

1. Introduction

At length she brought the (babe) to her people, carrying him (in her arms). They said: "O Mary! truly an amazing thing hast thou brought! "O sister of Aaron! Thy father was not a man of evil, nor thy mother a woman unchaste!" [Qur'an 19:27-28]

Perhaps one of the most widely known alleged historical contradictions in the Qur'an recorded in Christian literature, the honorary epithet of Mary, mother of Jesus, as “sister of Aaron” has proven controversial from the earliest period of Muslim-Christian dialogue. Nicetas of Byzantium, a 9th century Christian theologian famous for his anti-Islamic polemical works, noted that in the Qur'an Mary is greeted as “sister of Aaron” [Qur'an 19:28]. He concluded that Mary, whose name in Greek and Arabic is Maryam, has been confused with Miriam the sister of Aaron and Moses found in the Old Testament.[1] This argument was developed by subsequent authors, as we shall soon see, by indicating that ‘Imran, the name which the Qur'an gives to Mary's father, sounds similar to Amram, the Old Testament name of the father of Moses, Aaron and Miriam (Numbers 26:59). For example, Abraham Geiger says in his book Was hat Mohammed aus dem Judenthume aufgenommen?:

According to Muhammad Miriam is the mother of Jesus. Although Miriam's name is not mentioned in the passage where she is alluded to in the history of Moses, yet there is not the slightest doubt that Muhammad took both Marys for one and the same person;...[2]

In what has been hailed as a "classic" article by Theodor Nöldeke that was published in Encyclopædia Britannica in 1891 and reprinted several times since, a similar claim was made:

The most ignorant Jew could never have mistaken... Miriam the sister of Moses with Mary (= Miriam) the mother of Christ.[3]

Alphonse Mingana reiterated the same claim:

Who then will not be astonished to to learn that in the Qur'ân, Miriam, the sister of Aaron, is confounded with the Virgin Mary? (Sūrat Ali-Imrân, iii. 31 et seq.)[4]

This alleged historical contradiction rose to prominence in the writings of St. Clair Tisdall, a Christian missionary evangelising Persia. He says in his The Original Sources Of The Qur'an:

In Sûrah XIX, Maryam, 28, 29, we are told that when Mary came to her people after the birth of our Lord, they said to her, "O Mary, truly thou hast done a strange thing. O sister of Aaron, thy father was not a man of wickedness, and thy mother was not rebellious." From these words it is evident that, in Muhammad's opinion, Mary was identical with Miriam, the sister of Moses and Aaron![5]

Similarly, D. S. Margoliouth, formerly Professor of Arabic at Oxford University, writes:

Having heard a Mary mentioned in the story of Moses and another in the story of Jesus, it did not occur to him to distinguish between them.[6]

Perhaps the strongest wording about this alleged contradiction comes from Henri Lammens who stated that in the Qur'an one of

"the most glaring anachronisms" is "the confusion between two Marys (19,22)"[7]

This alleged confusion was also mentioned by Richard Bell,[8] Arthur Jeffery[9] and Charles Torrey,[10] among others.[11] It has been freely transmitted by Christian missionaries and apologists without any independent analysis or investigation.[12]

A curious thing which one notices is that this alleged historical contradiction is similar to that of Haman, who is mentioned in the time of Pharaoh and Moses in the Qur'an. Many Western scholars have suggested that the appearance of Haman in the Qur'anic story of Moses and Pharaoh has resulted from a misreading of the Bible, leading the author of the Qur'an to move Haman from the Persian court of King Ahasuerus to the Egyptian court of the Pharaoh. Similarly, the mention of “sister of Aaron” during the time of Mary, mother of Jesus, is a result of confusion between the two Marys, i.e., Mary, mother of Jesus, and Miriam, sister of Moses and Aaron.

The case here is based on a superficial reading of Qur'an 19:28 without taking into account the qualities of Mary, mother of Jesus. No real effort has been exerted to properly understand the context in which the phrase “sister of Aaron” was uttered, either by earlier Western scholars or the Christian missionaries. Although this alleged historical contradiction is now rejected by modern Western scholars, as we shall see, it is worthwhile pointing out why this is the case. We will also draw attention to some important aspects of the story of Mary in the Qur'an that were hitherto missed by earlier scholars.

2. Mary In The Qur'an

As opposed to the New Testament, the Qur'an has copious mention of Mary, starting from her birth, to her seclusion, the annunciation and her giving birth to Jesus. While the Qur'an has lots of things to say regarding the childhood of Mary, the New Testament contains nothing of the sort. It practically sheds no light on the life of Mary before she became pregnant.

The Qur'anic narrative begins with the pregnancy of the wife of ‘Imran. When the wife of ‘Imran became pregnant, she took a vow to dedicate the child in her womb to God [Qur'an 3:35]. She was disappointed when she delivered a girl who was named Mary; but God accepted the female child [v. 36-37]. Zakariyya was appointed as the guardian of Mary [v. 37]. The angels informed Mary that God had purified her and chosen her above the women of the world. She was asked to bow down in prayer and spend time in worship [v. 42-43]. Being a pious woman, Mary had secluded herself from the people and devoted her life to God. Whenever Zakariyya entered Mary's mihrāb, to his surprise, he always found her being provided with food miraculously. When Zakariyya, Mary's caretaker, asked her who was providing her mysterious assistance, she says: "It is from Allah. Surely Allah gives to whom He pleases without measure" [v. 37]. Therefore, it is God, not Zakariyya, who is Mary's true keeper.

The Qur'an informs us that God preferred the family of ‘Imran above all the people [v. 33]. This is consistent with the picture of Mary depicted in the Qur'an, a pious woman, chaste, dedicated to serving God and putting her trust in Him. God chose her above the women of the world. Thus Mary not only came from a very illustrious family but also one which was very devout. The Qur'an connects Mary with another illustrious and pious family of the past; the events leading to it which we shall now turn our attention.

3. “Sister Of Aaron”: A Genealogical, Historical And Lexical Enquiry

When Mary reached the age of maturity, she was divinely informed that she would give birth to a prodigious child Jesus [Qur'an 3:45]. When Mary conceived Jesus, she withdrew with him to a far place [Qur'an 19:22]. The nativity of Jesus and pangs of Mary's labour can be read in the Qur'an 19:23-26. After she gave birth to Jesus, they both came to her people. The people were amazed to see Mary with a child. They said: "O Mary! Thou hast come with an amazing thing. "O sister of Aaron! Thy father was not a man of evil, nor thy mother a woman unchaste!"


As we have mentioned, earlier scholarly critics of the Qur’anic account (of which Muḥammad is the implied author), have made the simple assertion that Muḥammad has conflated the lives of two Mary's, namely Mary, mother of Jesus, with Mary, sister of Aaron and Moses. Put another way, Muḥammad believed Mary - whose father was Amram - had two brothers Moses and Aaron. This can be graphically represented as follows:

Crucially the Qur’an informs us that Mary was also the mother of Jesus. By focussing on the immediate lineage and neglecting the full spectrum of familial relations given in the Qur’an, including mention of other historical personalities (such as Zakariyyah), the resulting genealogy becomes untenable in that it cannot be derived from information provided in the Qur’an. If this relation is included in the genealogy asserted by earlier scholars, the following chart would result:

One could counter that the verses examined mention only Aaron being the sister of Mary so perhaps Muḥammad did not know Aaron had a brother called Moses. This can be answered by reading the Qur’an where Moses and Aaron are clearly depicted as brothers. The question posed is thus: Did Muḥammad and/or the Qur’an really understand Moses to be Jesus uncle? Were Jesus and Moses separated by only a single generation? The Qur’an mentions that Jesus and Moses both reached maturity and adulthood. Consequently, applying the confused genealogy of the critics would have the Qur’anic Jesus and Moses both alive at the same time. Surprising though it may seem, as far as we are aware, none of earlier scholars delved any further into their proposed genealogies other than to suggest that Muḥammad thought Jesus son of Mary was the brother of Aaron and Moses. Are there any statements present in the Qur’an which suggest that Jesus and Moses lived at the same time? No. In fact, Moses and his brother Aaron are placed in an ancient Egyptian setting during the time of the Pharaoh, far removed in place and time from first century Palestine.

If the Qur’an's use of the terms wife, daughter and sister in this particular context cannot be understood in a literal sense, as we have shown above, is there another way to understand these terms and what historical circumstances could warrant such an explanation?


The question now is why the epithet “O sister of Aaron”? Upon seeing Mary with a child, and having no knowledge of her having married anyone or being unchaste, her people exclaimed using the epithet yā ukhta harūn or “O sister of Aaron”. From the immediate context it is obvious this epithet was used to draw Mary's attention, which could mean the following things.

Firstly, it was to remind her of her similarity to Aaron in her piety and worship of God. Thus the statement becomes a reprimand to her having borne a child without being married, a shocking sin given her piety and the known righteousness of her immediate family and her ancestors.[13] Secondly, the epithet yā ukhta harūn was also to remind Mary of her pious ancestor Miriam, the sister of Aaron (and Moses), who was given the title "prophetess" (Exodus 15:20) and is highly regarded in the Hebrew Bible and rabbinical literature. She is mentioned in Micah 6:4 with Moses and Aaron as one of the three who led Israel out of Egypt. The rabbinical literature elaborates the biblical account where Miriam is portrayed as a person for whom God intervened. God honoured her by Himself officiating as the cohen to declare her definitely a leper and subsequently to declare her cleansed (Zebahim 102a).[14] Because she had waited for Moses by the river, the Israelites waited for her to recover (Sotah 11a).[15] A miraculous well, created during the twilight on the eve of the first Sabbath (Avot. 5:6), accompanied the Children of Israel in the desert due to her merits (Ta’an. 9a).[16] Like Moses and Aaron, she too died by the kiss of God since the angel of death had no power over her (Baba Bathra 17a).[17]

Both these explanations have a support from a ḥadīth of Prophet Muḥammad. The Christians of Najran during the time of the Prophet raised a similar objection and it was answered by the Prophet. In Ṣaḥiḥ Muslim, a ḥadīth related by Mughirah ibn Shu‘bah [5326] says:

Mughira b. Shu‘ba reported: When I came to Najran, they (the Christians of Najran) asked me: You read "O sister of Harun" in the Qur'an, whereas Moses was born much before Jesus. When I came back to Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) I asked him about that, whereupon he said: "The (people of the old age) used to give names (to their persons) after the names of Apostles and pious persons who had gone before them."

It is clear from this ḥadīth that the Prophet did not "confuse" between the two Marys.[18] He pointed out that people from earlier times gave names after the pious people who had gone before them. Furthermore, the Muslim exegetes have already disproved the alleged confusion of the two Marys using the above ḥadīth and the Qur'an itself. For example, Barbara Freyer Stowasser points out:

Mary's designation as "sister of Aaron" (and also "daughter of Amram") has led some non-Muslims to allege a Qur'anic "confusion" of Miriam (Maryam) the sister of Aaron and Moses with Mary (Maryam) the mother of Jesus. This controversy is very old..., and refutation of the allegation by Muslim authorities is well-documented. According to the tafsir, Mary was addressed as "sister of Aaron" because the Qur'an is drawing a comparison, or because she did have a brother by that name.[19]

Elsewhere, concerning the alleged contradiction of the two Mary's, Stowasser, quoting Ibn Kathir, and says:

This controversy is as old as the Muslim-Christian dialogue. The Prophet is said to have refuted similar arguments made by the Christians of Najran during his lifetime; "to confuse Mary the mother of Jesus with Mary the sister of Moses and Aaron in Torah is completely wrong and in contradiction to the sound Hadith and the Qur'anic text as we have established it in the Tafsir" (Isma'il ibn Umar Abu l-Fida Ibn Kathir, Qisas al-anbiya', ed. Mustafa Abd al-Wahid, vol. II [Dar al-kutub al-haditha, 1968] pp. 393-394;[20]

Therefore, the epithet "O sister of Aaron" used by Mary's people when they saw a baby in her arms, was simply a reminder to her of the people like her who had gone before and were pious and chaste. Furthermore, the Qur'an, just like the New Testament, associates Mary, mother of Jesus, during the time of Zakariyya. This makes the case for "confusion" between the two Marys untenable.


The words "sister", "brother", "son" and "daughter" in Arabic usage have very wide connotations. On this basis itself, modern day Western scholarship has rejected the claim of "confusion" between the two Marys, i.e., Mary, mother of Jesus, and Miriam, sister of Moses and Aaron. For example, A. J. Wensinck writing in the Encyclopaedia Of Islam says:

Maryam is called a sister of Hārūn (sūra XIX, 29), and the use of these three names ‘Imrān, Hārūn and Maryam, has lead to the supposition that the Kur'ān does not clearly distinguished between the two Maryams, of the Old and the New Testaments. The Kur'ān names two families as being especially chosen: those of Ibrāhim and of ‘Imrān (sūra III, 32). It is the family of ‘Imrān, important because of Moses and Aaron, to which Maryam belongs. It is not necessary to assume that these kinship links are to interpreted in modern terms. The words "sister" and "daughter", like their male counterparts, in Arabic usage can indicate extended kinship, descendance or spiritual affinity. This second ‘Imrān, together with Harun, can be taken as purely Kur'ānic... Muslim tradition is clear that there are eighteen centuries between the Biblical ‘Amram and the father of Maryam.[21]

Similarly, the wide usage of the Hebrew word ’achôwth, the equivalent of Arabic ukhtun, meaning "sister", is also attested in the Hebrew Bible. The material below is taken from Gesenius's Hebrew And Chaldee Lexicon To The Old Testament Scripture.

Figure 1: The usage of ’achôwth, i.e., "sister", in the Hebrew Bible.[22]

Similarly, the online Blue Letter Bible, under ’achôwth, lists the following usages in the Bible:

Similar statements can also be seen in The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew And English Lexicon.[23] The New Strong's Exhaustive Concordance Of The Bible very briefly describes the word ’achôwth, "sister", and says that it is widely used both literally and figuratively in the Hebrew Bible.[24]

According to the Christian missionaries, the phrase "brother of" (and consequently the phrase "sister of" in the Qur'an) "refers not to descendants but to two contemporaries". No such limited definition exists. Checking "’Achôwth" in various Hebrew lexicons such as Gesenius's Hebrew And Chaldee Lexicon To The Old Testament Scripture,[25] The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew And English Lexicon,[26] The Hebrew And Aramaic Lexicon Of The Old Testament,[27] Theological Dictionary Of The Old Testament,[28] A Comprehensive Etymological Dictionary Of The Hebrew Language For Readers Of English[29] and The Dictionary Of Classical Hebrew[30] reveals no support for the claims of Christian missionaries that the phrase "sister of" can only "refer not to descendants but to two contemporaries". On the other hand, all the Hebrew lexicons give an unqualified support that the word ’achôwth can be used both literally and figuratively. This word is used to denote a sister, half sister, relatives, members of the same tribe, to someone who is beloved and even one’s wife. Interestingly Judah is called a "sister" of Israel (Jeremiah 3:7-10) not because they were contemporary with each other, but because they were the descendants of a common ancestor, i.e., Israel's united monarchy (as well as Prophet Jacob!).[31] Hence the word "sister" describes the close relationship between Judah (southern kingdom) and Israel (northern kingdom) after the split. Moreover, "sister" can mean "beloved" or someone who is close and thus it could refer to any number of people or group of people, past or present.

Figure 2: The usage of adelphe, i.e., "sister", in the New Testament.[32]

Similarly, in the New Testament the use of the word adelphe, meaning "sister", is used to imply a blood sister and someone connected by the tie of the Christian religion (Figure 2). Again there is no qualification mentioned that this word can only "refer not to descendants but to two contemporaries".

It is not surprising that the alleged "confusion" between the two Marys does not even appear in the Encyclopaedia Of The Qur'an published in 2003.[33] This alleged "confusion" disregards both the Arabic idiom and the context of the verse. In Arabic, the word akhun or ukhtun (underlined with red colour in the images) carries two meanings.

  1. Blood brother or sister and
  2. Brotherhood/sisterhood in clan and faith.

The verse under discussion has used the word ukhtun in the second sense. This is not unusual as the Qur'an uses the same idiomatic expression in several earlier verses. In chapter 11 verse 78, Prophet Lot refers to the women folk of his community as my daughters.

And his people came rushing towards him, and they had been long in the habit of practising abominations. He said: "O my people! Here are my daughters: they are purer for you (if ye marry)! Now fear Allah, and cover me not with shame about my guests! Is there not among you a single right-minded man?" [Qur'an 11:78]

In Chapter 7 verses 65, 73 and 85 Prophets Hud, Saleh and Shu‘ayb are referred to as "brothers" of their respective peoples.

And unto (the tribe of) A'ad (We sent) their brother, Hud. He said: O my people! Serve Allah. Ye have no other Allah save Him. Will ye not ward off (evil)? [Qur'an 7:65]

And to (the tribe of) Thamud (We sent) their brother Salih. He said: O my people! Serve Allah. Ye have no other Allah save Him. A wonder from your Lord hath come unto you. Lo! this is the camel of Allah, a token unto you; so let her feed in Allah's earth, and touch her not with hurt lest painful torment seize you. [Qur'an 7:73]

And unto Midian (We sent) their brother, Shu‘ayb. He said: O my people! Serve Allah. Ye have no other Allah save Him. Lo! a clear proof hath come unto you from your Lord; so give full measure and full weight and wrong not mankind in their goods, and work not confusion in the earth after the fair ordering thereof. That will be better for you, if ye are believers. [Qur'an 7:85]

The people of Lot are also mentioned in chapter 50 verse 13 as the brothers of Lot except for the word banati which means my daughters in 11:78, all other references have used the word "akhun" which means brother.

The ‘Ad, Pharaoh, the brethren of Lut, (Qur'an 50:13)

And in another place, the Qur'an addresses the believers as brothers-in-faith.

The Believers are but a single brotherhood: So make peace and reconciliation between your two (contending) brothers; and fear Allah, that ye may receive Mercy. [Qur'an 49:10]


While discussing the epithet yā ukhta harūn ("O sister of Aaron"), Muslim scholars such as Yusuf Ali[34] and Muhammad Asad[35] have depicted Mary, mother of Jesus, as a Levite and claimed that she originated from a priestly family. There is an element of uncertainty over the exact genealogy of Mary in the New Testament. The clue about Mary's genealogy comes from the Gospel of Luke.

And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. [Luke 1:36, KJV]

The Greek word used for "cousin" is suggenes. The New Strong's Exhaustive Concordance Of The Bible suggests that this word could mean "relative" or "kinswoman" or "cousin".[36] Elizabeth was a descendant of Aaron, and Mary mother of Jesus, was her "relative" or "kinswoman" or "cousin". Given a multitude of possibilities, biblical scholars have suggested that Mary could possibly be either a Levite or a half Levite.[37] There is a Prophetic ḥadīth that throws some additional light on this matter. The ḥadīth says that both Jesus and Yahya were cousins from the maternal side (بابني الخالة). The English text says (Arabic text is here):

When I entered ‘Isa b. Maryam and Yahya b. Zakariya (peace be upon both of them), cousins from the maternal side welcomed me and prayed for my good...

It implies that Mary and Elizabeth were closely related but as to their exact relationship, the matter is unclear.

The Christian missionaries are quick to dismiss any suggestions of Mary being a Levite and claim that the Muslims will "have to make their argument apart from the Bible" to show that Mary was a Levite. Instead it is pointed out using the New Testament that Jesus was a descendant of David. However, as is well known in the scholarly literature, a large amount of ink has been spilled in order to determine the ancestry of Jesus and Mary. The genealogies of Jesus in the New Testament are fraught with difficulties and contradictions, consequently it is impossible to determine the precise lineage of Jesus and thereby of Mary. Perhaps the most comprehensive study in recent times on the issue of the genealogies of Jesus in the New Testament is that of the Catholic scholar Raymond E. Brown's The Birth Of The Messiah: A Commentary On The Infancy Narratives In The Gospels Of Matthew And Luke.[38] The discrepancies in Jesus' genealogy was also discussed briefly by Lee Martin McDonald and Stanley E. Porter in their book Early Christianity And Its Sacred Literature.[39] The problems and discrepancies within the Matthean and Lucan genealogies are so overwhelming the vast majority of scholars do not bother to defend them.[40] Instead, the explanation offered is that Matthew and Luke had a certain theological point of view and dogma that they wished to propagate. Hence they fashioned and moulded the genealogies in accordance with their theological views and outlooks. This in turn suggests that these genealogies may be fictional with no historical basis. Raymond E. Brown summarises the discussion on the Matthean and Lucan genealogies by saying:

In summary, then, the Lucan list, while in some ways more plausible than Matthew's list, scarcely constitutes an exact record of Jesus' biological ancestry. One can always speculate that the last few generations of immediate ancestors might be correct, but the same speculation is possible for Matthew's list - with no chance of proving either and with little in the rest of the list to warrant much confidence in such speculation. What one may say with surety of Luke's list is that, in part, it is artificially arranged in numerical patterns of seven and that it contains enough inaccuracies and confusions to suggest a popular provenance (rather than an archival provenance) among Greek-speaking Jews. Luke adopted this list and adapted it for theological purposes by placing it between the baptism of Jesus and his temptations.

This means that, while the two NT genealogies tell us how to evaluate Jesus, they tell us nothing certain about his grandparents. The message about Jesus, son of Joseph, is not that factually he is also (grand)son of either Jacob (Matthew) or of Eli (Luke) but that theologically he is "son of David, son of Abraham" (Matthew), and "Son of God" (Luke).[41]

Paul perhaps recognised the severity of the inherent problems with the two irreconcilable genealogies of Jesus recorded in the New Testament. He teaches that asking about the genealogies is akin to asking foolish questions. Therefore, no heed should be given to them and they should avoided.

... nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. These promote controversies rather than God's work - which is by faith. [1 Timothy 1:4]

But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless. [Titus 3:9]

4. Conclusions

The controversy surrounding the honorary epithet “Sister of Aaron” applied to Mary, mother of Jesus, in the Qur'an, has been a characteristic of Muslim-Christian dialogue from the very beginning of the Prophet’s mission. The Christians of Najran queried the use of this epithet, suggesting the Qur'an had confused Mary, mother of Jesus with Mary, sister of Aaron and Moses. This observation developed polemical overtones beginning in the 9th century in the form of Nicetas of Byzantium's trenchant criticisms and general Anti-Islam polemic.

Believing the Qur'an was simply a hodgepodge of Jewish and Christian texts, Western scholarship continued to transmit this alleged historical contradiction until recent times, where a balanced and fair look at the relevant texts shows no such anachronism exists.[42] Though descriptions such as ‘Children of Adam’, ‘Children of Israel’, ‘mother of’ ‘brother of’, ‘sister of’, ‘son of’, etc., may presuppose direct physical consanguinity, they cannot in all instances be understood as such, without imposing a patently absurd, nonsensical understanding of the text.

And Allah knows best!

References & Notes

[1] A-Th. Khoury, Les Théologiens Byzantins Et L'Islam: Textes Et Auteurs (VIIIe - XIIIe S.), 1969, 2e Tirage, Éditions Nauwelaerts: Louvain & Beatrice-Nauwelaerts: Paris, p. 146.

[2] A. Geiger, Judaism And Islam (English Translation Of Was hat Mohammed aus dem Judenthume aufgenommen?), 1970, Ktav Publishing House Inc., New York, pp. 136-137. Also reprint in A. Geiger, "What Did Muhammad Borrow From Judaism?" in Ibn Warraq (Ed.), The Origins Of The Koran: Classic Essays On Islam's Holy Book, 1998, Prometheus Books, p. 213.

[3] Th. Noldeke, "The Koran", Encyclopædia Britannica, 1893, Volume 16, Adam And Charles Black: Edinburgh, p. 600. This article was reprinted many times with slight modifications. T. Nöldeke (J. S. Black [Trans.]), Sketches From Eastern History, 1892, Adam and Charles Black: London & Edinburgh, p. 30. This article was reprinted and edited by N. A. Newman, The Qur'an: An Introductory Essay By Theodor Nöldeke, 1992, Interdisciplinary Biblical Research Institute: Hatfield (PA), p. 9; Also see Th. Nöldeke, "The Koran" in Ibn Warraq (Ed.), The Origins Of The Koran: Classic Essays On Islam's Holy Book, 1998, op. cit., p. 43; Also see Th. Nöldeke, "The Koran" in C. Turner (Ed.), The Koran: Critical Concepts In Islamic Studies, 2004, Volume I (Provenance and Transmission), RoutledgeCurzon: London & New York, p. 77.

[4] Rev. A. Mingana & A. S. Lewis (Eds.), Leaves From Three Ancient Qur'âns Possibly Pre-‘Othmânic With A List Of Their Variants, 1914, Cambridge: At The University Press, p. xiv. Also reprint in A. Mingana, "Three Ancient Korans" in Ibn Warraq (Ed.), The Origins Of The Koran: Classic Essays On Islam's Holy Book, 1998, op. cit., p. 79.

[5] Rev. W. St. Clair Tisdall, The Original Sources Of The Qur'an, 1905, Society For The Promotion Of Christian Knowledge: London, p. 150. Also see St. Clair-Tisdall, "The Sources Of Islam " in Ibn Warraq (Ed.), The Origins Of The Koran: Classic Essays On Islam's Holy Book, 1998, op. cit., p. 259.

[6] D.S. Margoliouth, Muhammad And The Rise Of Islam, 1905, G. P. Putnam's Sons: London, p. 61.

[7] H. Lammens (Translated from French by Sir E. Denison Ross), Islam: Beliefs and Institutions, 1929, Methuen & Co. Ltd.: London, p. 39.

[8] R. Bell, The Origins Of Islam In Its Christian Environment, 1926, The Gunning Lectures Edinburgh University - 1925, Macmillan And Co., Limited: London, p. 132.

[9] A. Jeffery, The Foreign Vocabulary of the Qur'an, 1938, Gaekwad's Oriental Series No. LXXIX, Oriental Institute: Baroda, p. 262; idem., The Qur'an As Scripture, 1952, Russel F. Moore Company Inc.: New York, p. 37 note 43; idem., The Koran: Selected Suras, 1958, The Heritage Press: New York, p. 226, note 7.

[10] C. C. Torrey, The Jewish Foundation Of Islam, 1967, Ktav Publishing House, Inc.: New York, p. 70. Also reprint in C. C. Torrey, "The Jewish Foundation Of Islam" in Ibn Warraq (Ed.), The Origins Of The Koran: Classic Essays On Islam's Holy Book, 1998, op. cit., p. 301.

[11] For example see H. Schwarzbaum, Biblical And Extra-Biblical Legends In Islamic Folk-Literature, 1982, Beiträge Zur Sprach- Und Kulturgeschichte Des Orients - Volume 30, Verlag für Orientkunde Dr. H. Vorndran: Walldorf-Hessen, p. 99; K. Armstrong, Muhammad: A Biography Of The Prophet, 2001, Phoenix Press: London, p. 131; R. Tottoli, Biblical Prophets In The Qur'an And Muslim Literature, 2002, Curzon Press: Richmond (Surrey), p. 57, note 36. Tottoli only alludes to the earlier work of Speyer which this "confusion" is mentioned.

[12] See for example, Dr. A. A. Shorrosh, Islam Revealed: A Christian Arab's View Of Islam, 1988, Thomas Nelson Publishers: Nashville, pp. 213-214; R. Morey, The Islamic Invasion: Confronting The World's Fastest Growing Religion, 1992, Harvest House Publishers: Eugene (OR), p. 142; ‘Abdallah ‘Abd al-Fadi, Is The Qur'an Infallible?, 1995, Light of Life: Villach (Austria), pp. 38-39; Ibn Warraq, Why I Am Not A Muslim, 1995, Prometheus Books: Amherst (NY), p. 56 and p. 63; N. A. Newman, Muhammad, The Qur'an & Islam, 1996, Interdisciplinary Biblical Research Institute: Hatfield (PA), p. 388; J. Jomier (Trans. Z. Hersov), The Great Themes Of The Qur'an, 1997, SCM Press Limited: London, p. 75; Abdullah Al-Araby, Islam Unveiled, 2002 (10th Edition), The Pen Vs. The Sword: Los Angeles (CA), p. 42; D. Ali & R. Spencer, Inside Islam: A Guide To Catholics, 2003, Ascension Press: West Chester (PA), p. 74; M. Elass, Understanding the Koran: A Quick Christian Guide To The Muslim Holy Book, 2004, Zondervan: Grand Rapids (MI), p. 58.

[13] This appears to be the most accepted explanation by the Islamic exegetes. For details see A. Schleifer, Mary The Blessed Virgin Of Islam, 1998, Fons Vitae: Louisville (KY), pp. 36-37 and note 63 on p. 113.

[14] Rabbi Dr. I. Epstein (Ed.), The Babylonian Talmud: Seder Kodashim In Three Volumes, 1948, Volume I, The Soncino Press: London (UK), p. 490.

[15] Rabbi Dr. I. Epstein (Ed.), The Babylonian Talmud: Seder Nashim In Four Volumes, 1936, Volume III, The Soncino Press: London (UK), p. 52.

[16] "Miriam", Encyclopaedia Judaica, 1971, Volume 12, Encyclopaedia Judaica Jerusalem, col. 84.

[17] Rabbi Dr. I. Epstein (Ed.), The Babylonian Talmud: Seder Nezikin In Four Volumes, 1935, Volume II, The Soncino Press: London (UK), p. 86.

[18] Tisdall quoted this ḥadīth and claimed that the Christians of Najran pointed the "blunder" of two Marys to Mughirah ibn Shu‘bah. When the latter asked the Prophet, he could not get a "satisfactory answer". See Rev. W. St. Clair Tisdall, The Original Sources Of The Qur'an, 1905, op. cit., p. 150, note 1. The Christians of Najran never came back with any further queries concerning the epithet yā ukhta harūn. Neither did Mughirah ibn Shu‘bah find the answer "unsatisfactory" as he had no further clarification to make on this matter.

There are approaches which actively dispense with the Islamic tradition in its entirety. Referring to a different incident also involving the Christians of Najran, Angelika Neuwirth says, “… interpretation relies, however, on sīra data, involving the Christians of Najran, who according to Islamic tradition are the addressees in Q 3:63, whereas our approach tries to dispense with data from the Islamic tradition.” See A. Neuwirth, "The House Of Abraham And The House Of Amram: Genealogy, Patriarchal Authority, And Exegetical Professionalism" in A. Neuwirth, N. Sinai & M. Marx (Eds.), The Qur'ān In Context: Historical And Literary Investigations Into The Qur'ānic Milieu, 2010, Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden: The Netherlands, p. 518, footnote 41. Similarly, summarising the state of the art of Mary and her presentation in the Qur’an, Michael Marx makes no use of Islamic tradition. See ibid., pp. 533-563. The general approach of Corpus Coranicum and similar initiatives is to elevate Late Antiquity (read Christian and Jewish traditions) as hermeneutically superior to Islamic traditions, and consequently regard its textual output as the Qur'an's explanatory arbiter.

[19] B. F. Stowasser, Women In The Qur'an, Traditions, And Interpretation, 1994, Oxford University Press: New York, p. 156, note 23. As for the issue of whether Mary "did have a brother" by the name Aaron, this interpretation appears to be unlikely as Mary's mother desperately prayed for a child. This important point was noticed by Aliah Schleifer in her Mary The Blessed Virgin Of Islam, 1998, op. cit., p. 36.

[20] ibid., pp. 137-138, note 24.

[21] A. J. Wensinck (Penelope Johnstone), "Maryam" in C. E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel, W. P. Heinrichs & Ch. Pellat (Eds.), The Encyclopaedia Of Islam (New Edition), 1991, Volume VI, p. 630.

[22] S. P. Tregelles (Trans.), Gesenius's Hebrew And Chaldee Lexicon To The Old Testament Scripture: Translated With Additions And Corrections From The Author's Thesaurus And Other Works, 1881, Samuel Bagster And Sons: London, pp. xxix-xxx.

[23] F. Brown, S. Driver & C. Briggs, The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew And English Lexicon Coded With Strong's Concordance Numbers, 2005 (9th Printing), Hendrickson Publishers: Peabody (MA), pp. 27-28, Strong's Corncordance Number 269.

[24] J. Strong, The New Strong's Exhaustive Concordance Of The Bible, 1990, Thomas Nelson Publishers: Nashville (TN), No. 269, p. 5 (Hebrew).

’achôwth: ... a sister (used very widely... lit. and fig.): - (an-) other, sister, together.

[25] S. P. Tregelles (Trans.), Gesenius's Hebrew And Chaldee Lexicon To The Old Testament Scripture: Translated With Additions And Corrections From The Author's Thesaurus And Other Works, 1881, op. cit., pp. xxix-xxx.

[26] F. Brown, S. Driver & C. Briggs, The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew And English Lexicon Coded With Strong's Concordance Numbers, 2005 (9th Printing), op. cit., pp. 27-28

[27] L. Koehler & W. Baumgartner (Rev. W. Baumgartner & J. J. Stamm), The Hebrew And Aramaic Lexicon Of The Old Testament, 1994, Volume I, E. J. Brill: Leiden, p. 31.

[28] G. J. Botterweck & H. Ringgren (Eds.) (Trans. J. T. Willis), Theological Dictionary Of The Old Testament, 1974, Volume I, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company: Grand Rapids (MI), pp. 188-193.

[29] E. Klein, A Comprehensive Etymological Dictionary Of The Hebrew Language For Readers Of English, 1987, Carta: Jerusalem & University of Haifa, p. 17.

[30] D. J. A. Clines (Ed.), The Dictionary Of Classical Hebrew, 1993, Volume I, Sheffield Academic Press: Sheffiels (UK), pp. 184-186.

[31] The united monarchy refers to a period in the history of Israel where the Twelve tribes of Israel were united into one monarchy under King Saul roughly around 1050 BC.

[32] J. H. Thayer, Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon Of The New Testament Coded With Strong's Concordance Numbers, 2005 (7th Printing), Hendrickson Publishers Inc.: Peabody (MA), p. 10.

[33] B. F. Stowasser, "Mary" in J. D. McAuliffe (Ed.), Encyclopaedia Of The Qur'an, 2003, Volume III, Brill: Leiden, pp. 288-295.

[34] Y. Ali, The Holy Qur'ān: English Translation Of The Meaning And Commentary, 1410 AH, King Fahd Holy Qur'ān Printing Complex: Al-Madinah al-Munawarah, p. 860, note 2481.

Mary and her cousin Elisabeth (mother of Yahyā) came of a priestly family, and were there, "sisters of Aaron" or daughters of ‘Imrān (who was Aaron's father).

[35] M. Asad, The Message Of The Qur'an, 1980, Dar al-Andalus: Gibraltar, p. 460, note 22.

Since Mary belonged to the priestly caste and hence descended from Aaron, the brother of Moses, she was called a "sister of Aaron"...

[36] J. Strong, The New Strong's Exhaustive Concordance Of The Bible, 1990, op. cit., No. 4773, p. 84 (Greek).

A relative (by blood); by extens. a fellow countryman: - cousin, kin (-sfolk, -sman).

Also see the online version of the concordance.

[37] P. H. Davids, "Mary" in W. A. Elwell (Gen. Ed.), Encyclopedia Of The Bible, 1988, Volume II, Marshall Pickering: London, p. 1411; E. P. Blair, "Mary Mother Of Jesus " in G. A. Buttrick (Ed.), The Interpreter's Dictionary Of The Bible, 1962 (1996 Print), Volume 3, Abingdon Press: Nashville, p. 290; "Elizabeth" in G. W. Bromiley (Gen. Ed.), The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, 1982 (Fully Revised, Illustrated), Volume II, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company: Grand Rapids (MI), p. 73.

[38] R. E. Brown, The Birth Of The Messiah: A Commentary On The Infancy Narratives In The Gospels Of Matthew And Luke, 1999 (Updated Edition), The Anchor Bible Reference Library, Doubleday: New York, see Book I, Chapter II "The Genealogy Of Jesus", pp. 57-95.

[39] L. M. McDonald and S. E. Porter, Early Christianity And Its Sacred Literature, 2000, Hendrickson Publishers Inc.: Peabody (MA), pp. 123-125.

[40] Christian apologetical literature is in a class of its own when it comes to defending the diverse genealogies of Jesus. The mistakes are explained away by giving ingenious explanations which sometimes goes against common sense. For example, see N. L. Geisler & R. M. Brooks, When Skeptics Ask, 2001, Baker Books: Grand Rapids (MI), pp. 325-326 and pp. 385-386; "Genealogies, Open Or Closed" in N. L. Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia Of Christian Apologetics, 2002, Baker Books: Grand Rapids (MI), pp. 267-270; N. Geisler & T. Howe, When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook On Bible Difficulties, 2004 (7th Printing), Baker Books: Grand Rapids (MI), pp. 167-169; G. L. Archer Jr., New International Encyclopedia Of Bible Difficulties, 1982, Zondervan: Grand Rapids (MI), pp. 316-317. Compare this Christian apologetical literature with Raymond E. Brown's The Birth Of The Messiah: A Commentary On The Infancy Narratives In The Gospels Of Matthew And Luke, 1999 (Updated Edition), op. cit., Book I, Chapter II "The Genealogy Of Jesus", pp. 57-95.

[41] R. E. Brown, The Birth Of The Messiah: A Commentary On The Infancy Narratives In The Gospels Of Matthew And Luke, 1999 (Updated Edition), op. cit., pp. 93-94.

[42] It is worth mentioning George Sale, who in 1825, wrote the following (G. Sale, The Koran Commonly Called Alcoran Of Mohammed Translated Into English Immediately From The Original Arabic With Explanatory Notes Taken From The Most Approved Commentators To Which Is Prefixed A Preliminary Discourse, 1825, Volume I, London, p. 56):

From the identity of names it has been generally imagined by Christian writers that the Koran here confounds Mary the mother of Jesus with Mary of Miriam, the sister of Moses and Aaron; which intolerable anachronism, if it were certain, is sufficient of itself to destroy the pretended authority of this book. But though Mohammed may be supposed to have been ignorant enough in ancient history and chronology, to have committed so gross a blunder; yet I do not see how it can be made out from the words of the Koran. For it does not follow, because two persons have the same name, and have each a father and brother who bear the same names, that they must therefore necessarily be the same whereby it manifestly appears that Mohammed well knew and asserted that Moses preceded Jesus several ages. And the commentators accordingly fail not to tell us, that there had passed about one thousand eight hundred years between Amran the father of Moses and Amrean the father of the Virgin Mary: they also make them the sons of different persons; the first, they say, was the son of Yeshar, or Izhar (though he was really his brother) the son of Kahath, the son of Levi; and the other was the son of Matthan, whose genealogy they trace, but in a very corrupt and imperfect manner, up to David and thence to Adam. It must be observed that though the Virgin Mary is called in the Koran, the sister of Aaron, yet she is nowhere called the sister of Moses.

Likewise, H. A. R. Gibb and J. H. Kramers say (H. A. R. Gibb & J. H. Kramers, Shorter Encyclopaedia Of Islam, 1961, E. J. Brill: Leiden, p. 328):

It has been supposed that the name of ‘Imrān, which apparently corresponds with the Biblical ‘Amram, the father of Moses, as well as the fact that Maryam is called a sister of Hārūn (Sura xix. 28), is due to a confusion between the two Biblical Maryam's. Sale, Gerock and others think such a confusion improbable. At any rate Muslim traditions assures us that there is a distance of 1,800 years between the Biblical ‘Amram and the father of Mary.

Back To Refutation Of External Contradictions In The Qur'an