A Muslim governor in Saudi Arabia has a plan to combat the Wuhan virus: Turn to the Virgin Mary.
Saudi Arabia has the highest number of COVID-19 infections of any Arab nation, and the governor of 'Asīr, a region south of Mecca, is telling his Islamic constituents to turn to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus, to overcome their affliction.
In an editorial in the Saudi Gazette, Gov. Turki Bin Talal writes that "numerous success stories [of] perseverance, courage ... and finding strength in faith" have helped in the midst of the pandemic. In the Koran, he states, "we'll find one particular story that tells of perseverance. ... The story of Mariam (Mary) tells the story of every true victor."
"In her story," the governor continued, "she had faced the struggles of her pregnancy, self-purification, family and history against a harsh society that had shown her no mercy. It was only through divine directives that she was able to see the path to survival and success."
Many Westerners, including Christians, would be surprised to hear this coming from an Islamic leader. But most Muslims have great respect for the Virgin Mary — and for her Son. In fact, Islam believes Jesus was conceived miraculously by Mary, who remained a virgin — a miracle foretold to her by the angel Gabriel.
They also believe Mary was pure in the sense that she came forth from a pure ancestry and was a woman of great virtue. Jesus, in the Koran, was a great prophet and was taken up to Heaven by God, to come back later before the Last Day to restore justice and defeat the Antichrist. Similar beliefs are held by Christians.
Major differences, of course, are also found between the two faiths. In the Koran there was no St. Joseph. Mary was on her own. When she came back to Jerusalem with the baby Jesus, her only defense before those poised to stone her to death was the testimony of the baby Himself. In the Koran, Jesus as a newborn is seen as miraculously speaking with a clear voice on His mother's behalf, explaining to the elders he was a special servant and prophet of God.
The Koran describes Jesus as performing miracles like curing the blind, healing lepers and raising the dead, but it also includes accounts of Jesus talking as a newborn baby and making real birds out of clay as a child. Scholars believe these fantastical stories were adopted from apocryphal writings, which were rejected in the second and third centuries by the authority of the Church as not being inspired or authentic.
Muslims have no theology of Mary being Theotokos or the New Eve, but greatly revere her as the model of purity and feminine virtue. She is the only woman mentioned by name in the entire Koran. Though the Gospel of Luke speaks of Mary impregnated by the Holy Spirit overshadowing her (Luke 1:35), the Koran says it was enacted by the angel Gabriel who breathed on her.
While most Muslims believe Jesus was born of a virgin and will defeat evil in the end, they do not believe he was crucified and rose from the dead. One Islamic tradition holds that authorities mistakenly crucified Judas instead. Ultimately, in Islam, as in Judaism, there is no belief in Christ's divinity. Though the Islamic view of Jesus is more exalted than that of Judaism, this Christological error remains a major obstacle.
Many believers think that if there is to be a conversion and reconciliation with Muslims (and Jews), it will come through Mary. The theology is simple: The world is saved by God through Christ and comes to know its Savior through Mary. Christians see this beginning in the Incarnation. In the other monotheistic faiths, there is an incomplete theological reflection on the Annunciation and the nature of atonement. Mary, some suggest, can be the bridge.
Muhammad's daughter Fatima is one of the only women other than Mary revered in the Koran. After her death, Muhammad wrote, "Thou shalt be the most blessed of all the women in Paradise, after Mary." Fatima herself is even known to have said, "I surpass all women, except Mary."
In the 12th century, when Christians reconquered the territory now known as Portugal, the daughter of the last Muslim chief, whose name was Fatima, fell in love with a Christian knight and married him. He renamed the town in which they lived "Fatima" — her Muslim name before she changed it.
Venerable Fulton J. Sheen firmly believed Islam will eventually be converted — not through the work of missionaries, but "through a summoning of the [Muslims] to a veneration of the Mother of God." Sheen saw no mere coincidence in Mary appearing in Fatima in 1917.
"Since nothing ever happens out of Heaven except with a finesse of all details, I believe that the Blessed Virgin chose to be known as 'Our Lady of Fatima' as a pledge and a sign of hope to the Moslem people," Sheen said, "and as an assurance that they, who show her so much respect, will one day accept her Divine Son, too."
Fatima is popular among Muslims. Samir Khalil Samir wrote in the Asian News Agency PIME about pilgrims that visit Our Lady of Fatima and other Marian holy sites: "For years now, planeloads of Muslim women from Iran have been landing at Fatima, Portugal. They come to pray before Our Lady who appeared to three shepherd children. The reason is that the Madonna was named after the daughter of Muhammad and wife of Ali ibn Abi Talib."
In Egypt, an approved apparition of Our Lady of Light took place in the Zeitoun district of Cairo over a period of 2–3 years, beginning on April 2, 1968. According to Coptic tradition, the site is one of the locations where the Holy Family stayed during their flight into Egypt. At the time, the Six-Day War had recently ended, passions were high and the Middle East was in turmoil. In the midst of this chaos, Our Lady appeared, bathed in light, atop St. Mary's Coptic Christian Church. Hundreds of thousands saw her, Christian and Muslim alike. Both the Church and the (Muslim) government approved its authenticity.