It’s quite interesting that even the grandparents of Jesus (peace be upon him) are mentioned in the Quran, albeit briefly. We know that his maternal grandfather was called Imran, but not much else is known about him. We also know that his maternal grandmother (name not known) prayed fervently for the birth of a child that she could devote to the service of God. In chapter Ale Imran (chapter 3) God says:
“God chose Adam, Noah, the family of Abraham, and the family of Imran over all other people. They are descendants of one another. God hears and knows all. Imran’s wife said, ‘Lord, I have dedicated what is growing in my womb entirely to You, so accept this from me. You are the One who hears and knows all,’ but when she delivered, she said, ‘My Lord! I have given birth to a girl—and God fully knew what she had delivered—‘and the male is not like the female. I name her Mary and I seek Your protection for her and her offspring from Satan, the accursed.’” [Quran 3:33-36]
So what lessons can we learn?
1. You can be among great people for doing things that no one knows about.
We do not really know much about Imran. However, God mentions his family among the chosen ones and places his name next to Adam, Noah, and Abraham (peace be upon them)—all magnificent prophets in their own right. God named the third chapter in the Quran Ale Imran—the Family of Imran.
2. Do good without seeking approval and even if people are not appreciative.
Going on from the last point—we do not really know much about the actions of Imran. We know he was the father figure in a successful family that is mentioned throughout the Quran, but not much else is known. However, we know he was a pious man. And God-consciousness can make us great, even if people do not appreciate it.
3. Make the effort, even if you do not see the end result.
Scholars say that Imran died even before Maryam was born, so he did not actually see his daughter grow up to be a great woman. However, he still did his part in setting up a household that was pious, and he encouraged religiosity in his house. He never saw his daughter become one of the greatest women to have ever lived or his two grandsons John and Jesus become prophets or when his son-in-law Zechariah took care of his daughter. He paved the way for that and God rewards him for it.
4. He allowed his wife to make decisions.
The wife of Imran decided that her child would be dedicated to the service of God, and there was no hint of any opposition from him. It is quite clear that they were both partners in righteousness that helped one another achieve good deeds—just like how an Islamic marriage should be.
5. Make supplication before a child is born.
Mary’s mother is supplicating for her child even before she is born. That is something that we need to pick up today.
6. Be careful—society does affect us.
Mary’s mother was from a society that really did not value women. She initially fell into the same trap when she thought giving birth to a baby girl would ruin her plans of letting her child take the path of God, and that is something we are affected by even today. And yet God shatters those stereotypes.
7. Reform in society starts with women—invest in them.
God wanted to reform the Children of Israel, and He chose a woman. He chose Mary instead of a man. God is showing us through this that if we truly want to be successful as an Ummah we really need to start investing in our girls and helping them achieve success in both this world and the next.
8. What God gives is always better.
The mother of Mary hoped for a son, but she got a daughter. Her daughter ended up being one of the greatest women in history. What God gives us is better for us even if we do not understand.
9. Accept what God gives and do your best with it.
As soon as realization hit the mother of Mary, she immediately supplicated for her daughter again after birth. She accepted what God had given her, and she immediately went about preparing her daughter for the task. Whatever we get in life, we need to learn to make the best of it. Just like Mary turned out more suitable than any other man, we don’t know what it is that will turn out the best for us.
10. The supplication of a mother is powerful.
Mary’s mother made supplication seeking refuge from Satan for Mary and her offspring. Prophet Muhammad, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him, said that the only two human beings who were not touched by Satan were Mary and Jesus. Subhan Allah (How Perfect is God!), what power the supplication of a mother carries!