In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
So she conceived him, and she retired with him to a remote place. (Koran 19.22)
When Saidna Maryam (PBUH) was pregnant and felt that her delivery was approaching she went towards Bethlehem (a remote place). It seems that she had kept her pregnancy concealed. Nobody knew about it. She was able to hide her pregnancy throughout. She left out of Jerusalem and went towards Bethlehem. She fell down under a palm tree. Allah, the Exalted, says:
And the pains of childbirth drove her to the trunk of a palm-tree… (Koran 19.23)
I want you to imagine now that you are over there. Imagine the situation. Maryam (PBUH) has been hiding this pregnancy for 9 months. That is difficult in itself. And now she is leaving out of her town, alone and with no help. She is feeling the pain of childbirth and it drives her and she falls down under a palm tree. It was so difficult on her that she said:
…She cried (in her anguish): “Ah! would that I had died before this! would that I had been a thing forgotten. (Koran 19.23)
Saidna Maryam (PBUH) was chaste and righteous. Now she is going to deliver a child and she has never been married. She knows the tongues of the people. She knows the harm they will cause her and her family. The righteous family of Al-Imran. It became so difficult on her that she wished she never had lived before this. And she wished that no one has known her and that she was forgotten and that she didn’t exist. In that moment of difficulty, Allah, the Exalted, provided her with Sakina. When things got to the level where it is unbearable for her anymore than Allah, the Exalted, brought her comfort and Mercy. Allah says:
But (a voice) cried to her from beneath the (palm-tree): “Grieve not! for thy Lord hath provided a rivulet beneath thee; (Koran 19.24)
The scholars say the voice is either Jibreel (PBUH) or Issa (Jesus) (PBUH). The voice says: La tahzani! (do not grieve), your Lord has provided a water stream under you.
“And shake towards thyself the trunk of the palm-tree: It will let fall fresh ripe dates upon thee. (Koran 19.25)
Shake the trunk of the date-palm towards you and it will let fresh ripe dates fall upon you. So Allah provided her with water and Allah provided her with dates. It is a miracle from Allah that Allah provided her with this. A water stream was suddenly flowing under her. She can reach it with her hands and then Allah, the Exalted, said to shake the palm tree and fresh ripe dates will fall unto you.
Now we learn from this some very important lessons.
Maryam (PBUH) just delivered a child, is helpless, alone. And she is told by Issa (PBUH) or Jibreel (PBUH) to shake, not the branch of the palm tree, but to shake what? The trunk, the base of the palm tree. And all of you know palm trees and how solid they are. If a group of men surrounded it and tried to shake it at the base it is impossible. So what is the point in Allah telling Maryam (PBUH) to shake the base of a palm tree? She’s not going to be able to shake it. She’s not going to be able to move it even a fraction of an inch. So why is Allah telling her to shake it? Make an effort. She has to do her part. Allah could have made the dates fall on her without her shaking it. Because it is not the shaking of a palm tree that will make the fruit fall down. It is a miracle from Allah. If you put your hands on a palm tree, don’t expect any dates to fall on you. It is a miracle from Allah. Allah, the Exalted, could have made the dates fall down without her intervention. But Allah wants her to do her part. And that is a very very important lesson. If we want the victory of Allah, we have to do our part. You have to take the first step. Allah says in the Hadith Qudsi “If you walk towards Me. I will run towards you”. But you have to take the first step. And Allah says the ones who seek guidance, who look for it, Allah will give it to them. If you seek guidance Allah will give it to you. If you wait there expecting things to come to you without any effort, nothing will happen. Allah does not reward the person for their laziness, procrastination and passiveness. Allah wants us to do our part.
So Maryam (PBUH) put her hand on the palm tree and these fresh ripe dates fell on her. We also learn from this in conjunction with the Sounna of the Messenger of Allah (SAWS) that that is the best food for the women who just delivered a baby. Dates are the best food for a woman who just delivered a child and this is also confirmed in the Sounna of the Messenger of Allah (SAWS). They used to give the women who just delivered dates to eat. Allah provided her with water and provided her with dates.
“So eat and drink and cool (thine) eye… (Koran 19.26)
SAWS: May Allah exalt his mention and protect him from imperfection
PBUH: Peace be upon him/her
Audio lecture “Lives of the Prophets” by Imam Anwar.
The full audio series may be downloaded here.