There are verses in our Book, the Quran, stating that Hz. Maryam is the sister of Hz. Harun. However, there are centuries between Hz. Isa, son of Mary, and the prophet Harun. Is it a name resemblance?

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There are verses in our Book, the Quran, stating that Hz. Maryam is the sister of Hz. Harun. However, there are centuries between Hz. Isa, son of Mary, and the prophet Harun. Is it a name resemblance?

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(editor) on Mon, 25/12/2017 - 13:47

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

“At length she brought the (babe) to her people, carrying him (in her arms). They said: ‘O Mary! Truly an amazing thing hast thou brought!‘ ‘O sister of Aaron! Thy father was not a man of evil, nor thy mother a woman unchaste!’” (Maryam, 19/27-28).

The phrase “sister of Aaron (Harun)” is interpreted differently in the resources:

a. Harun mentioned here is a person who is famous for his righteousness and goodness among Sons of Israel. He was a person who was shown as a model for good deeds. Hz. Maryam was always known as a virtuous woman; therefore, she was likened to him.

b. This person is Harun, the brother of Hz. Musa (Moses) we know. The phrase “sister of Harun” here indicates that she is good and kind like him.

c. He is a notorious man. Accordingly, Jews judged Hz Maryam by likening her to him with this phrase. 

d. This person is Hz. Maryam’s real brother, who was famous for being a good man among Sons of Israel. According to those who claim that this is the soundest view, there are two reasons that support the trueness of this view: Firstly, what is essential in expressions is literal meaning, not metaphorical. The literal meaning of this phrase is that Maryam has a brother called Harun. Secondly, Jews rebuked Hz. Maryam in this context. In order to increase it, they reminded that Maryam did not take after her clean family and that she did not fit them. They emphasized that her parents were chaste, not bad, and that her brother, who was another member of her family, was a good man; thus, they criticized her that she was an individual that did not fit this family.  

“O sister of Harun! Thy father was not a man of evil, nor thy mother a woman unchaste!” (Maryam, 19/28)

This fact is emphasized in the verse above. (see Razi, the interpretation of Maryam, 27-28)

Some tafsir scholars like Tabari and Ibn Ashur preferred the first view (a) acting upon some hadith narrations regarding the issue. Those narrations are as follows:

Mughira b. Shuba, one of the Companions, narrates:

Hz. Prophet sent me to the people of Najran. They said to me, "Do you really read a verse as ‘O sister of Harun!' in the Quran?” (In another narration, “Your Prophet says Maryam is Harun’s sister. Is that right? I said, “Yes.” They said, “You probably know how much time passed between Hz. Isa (Jesus) and Hz Musa.” When I returned to the Messenger of Allah (pbuh), I told him about it. He said, “You should have said, they used the names of the previous prophets and righteous people.” (see Tabari, Ibn Ashur, the interpretation of Maryam, 27-28)

It is also necessary to remind that in Arabic, the words ab (father), akh (brother) and ukht (sister) are used in various senses. They sometimes express affiliation, not real brotherhood. For, Hz. Maryam was from Sons of Israel; she was a Jewess. When Hz. Prophet (pbuh) was asked about it, he said,  

“The people living at the time of Maryam gave the names of the previous prophets and good people to their children; they were attributed to them.”

As a matter of fact, when Hz. Safiyya complained to the Prophet (pbuh) that some women called her “daughter of Jew, Jewess”, he said,

“Why did you not say to them, “My husband is Muhammad and my father is Harun, and my uncle is Musa; what else can I want?” (Tirmidhi, Manaqib 63; Hakim, al-Mustadrak, 4/31)

On the other hand, the tribe of Sons of Hashim lived in Quraysh. When somebody from that tribe made something wrong, and when they said, "O son of Hashim! How can you make such a wrong thing?", it did not mean that this person was the son of Hashim but that he belonged to the tribe of Sons of Hashim. (see Razi, the interpretation of Maryam, 27-28)

Those names were the names that reminded their lineage and were given to children to show respect to their ancestors. As a matter of fact, in some places today, some names are given to children a lot in order to show respect to ancestors.

Finally, we should emphasize that no Islamic scholar deduced that Hz. Maryam was Hz. Harun’s real sister and thought something like that.

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