Many Christians are surprised to learn that the Qur’an contains numerous references to Mary. In fact, there is a sura (chapter) entitled “Maryam” (Arabic for Mary) — the only sura in the Qur’an that bears the name of a specific woman. This chapter includes a scene where Mary is told she will be the mother of Jesus. In this scene, just as in the Gospel of Luke, Mary questions how this birth could take place, given that she is a virgin: “‘How can I have a son,’ she said, ‘when no man has touched me, nor am I sinful?’” (Sura 19, verse 20)
Obviously, the Qur’an’s portrayal of Mary diverges from the Gospels in other key areas (among other things, Muslims believe that Mary’s son was a prophet, not God, as Christians believe). But it’s striking to see that the virginal conception of Jesus is a point of common ground between Christianity and Islam. In fact, the very positive portrayal of Mary in the Qur’an has been seen by some scholars as a potentially powerful bridge between Muslims and Christians. Whatever their differences, both faiths portray Mary as someone worthy of respect.