Reflection No. 44 on Q 3:37 – The Path of God

So her Lord accepted her with a gracious acceptance, and made her grow in a worthy fashion, and He charged Zakaria with her care. Whenever Zakaria visited her in the sanctuary, he found provision with her. He said, ‘O Maryam, from where does this come for you?’ She said, ‘It comes from Allah. Allah provides whomever He wishes without any reckoning’.

(Surat Aali Imraan, 3:37)

When the mother of Maryam (a) was giving birth she expected a male child whom she vowed to dedicate to Baytul Maqdas. When she delivers a girl she asks Allah to accept it. Allah accepts it with a good and worthy acceptance, showing respect and consideration for the mother of Maryam (a). It is an answer to a sincere prayer.  Never before had a female been accepted as a servant in the temple.  According to some Mufassireen this acceptance of the female child was conveyed to the mother through Ilhaam or inspiration.

When Allah accepts Maryam (a) He nurtures her growth and progress. The word anbata here is the same word used for the growth of plants and the progress towards perfection of a tiny seed.  A similar term of growth is used in Sura al-Fath where Allah talks about the growth of those who are with the Holy Prophet (s):  . . . like a seed that puts forth its sprout, then strengthens it so it becomes stout and stands firmly on its stem, delighting the sowers . . . (48:29)

Nabi Zakaria (a) is put in charge of Maryam (a) through the casting of lots. When Maryam (a) comes to the sanctuary all the elders want to take charge of her. Thus Allah ordains a system through which Nabi Zakaria is chosen. This is referred to in another verse of the Quran where Allah says:  . . . and you were not with them when they were casting lots [to see] which of them would take charge of Maryam’s care. . . . (3:44)

The food that was found by Nabi Zakaria (a) with Maryam (a) evoked wonder. This can be verified by certain factors in the verse:

a) The fact that the word is indefinite (rizqan) shows that it was a strange type of food.
b) Nabi Zakaria (a) asks about it, showing that he was surprised to see the food.
c) Maryam (a) replies that it is from God. All food given to human beings is from God. But this is not a normal granting of sustenance. The fact that Nabi Zakaria does not ask who brought it for you reveals his immediate realization that this was a special grace given to Maryam (a) from the Almighty. His ensuing supplication to God in the following verse stems from the effect of seeing a miracle and asking God to also bless him with miraculous grace.


Tafsir narrates the story of a time when there was a famine in Madinah. Food was scarce and times were hard. During such a time Bibi Fatimah (a) comes to the house of her father the Holy Prophet (s) with some bread and meat. The Prophet (a) asks her; “where did you get this?” and she replies “It is from Allah, He grants to whoever He pleases without accounting” . The Prophet thanked God and narrated the story of Maryam (a) to his family.

Points to Ponder
1) Whoever sets out on the path of God, the Almighty takes care of all his affairs of the world. The mother of Marym (a) dedicated her child to the temple, without worrying about what would happen to her child. Allah took care of her growth and progress, entrusted her supervision to Nabi Zakaria (a), and provided her with sustenance form Heaven.

2) Good upbringing has many conditions. In the story of Maryam (a) we can see the following factors at play:
a) Noble birth  b) Guided growth   c) Wise trainer   d) Pure food

3)  The inner potential of human beings can be nurtured into progressive growth leading to perfection. Just a seed has potential that can be nurtured by skilled gardeners and can eventually become a beautiful plant, a human being has potential that can be nurtured. Under the care and guidance of Divine leaders with their wisdom and knowledge, a human being can bloom and make manifest the potential that Allah has placed inside him.

Ayatullah Nasir Makarim Shirazi (ed.), Tafsire Namune
Agha Muhsin Qara’ati Kashani, Tafsire Noor