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The Qur’an says
And imagine when thereafter Allah will say: ‘Jesus, son of Mary, did you say to people: “Take me and my mother for gods beside Allah?” and he will answer: “Glory to You! It was not for me to say what I had no right to. Had I said so, You would surely have known it. You know all what is within my mind whereas I do not know what is within Yours. You, indeed You, know fully all that is beyond the reach of human perception. (5:116)
Some Christians were not content merely with deifying Jesus and the Holy Spirit. They even turned Mary, the mother of Jesus, into a full-fledged object of worship. The Bible does not contain even the remotest suggestion that Mary was in any way either divine or superhuman.
During the first three centuries after the Messiah, such a concept was totally alien to Christian thinking. Towards the end of the third century of the Christian era, however, some theologians of Alexandria employed, for the first time, the expression ‘Mother of God’ in connection with Mary. Subsequently, belief in Mary’s divinity and the practice of Mariolatry began to spread among Christians. Even then, however, the Church was not prepared to accord official approval to this belief and denounced the Mariolaters as heretics. It was not until the Council of Ephesus in 431 that the Church officially used the expression ‘Mother of God’ for Mary.
The result was that Mariolatry began to spread fast within the Church itself, so much so that, by the time of the revelation of the Qur’an, Mary had become so important a deity that she obscured even the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. Statues of Mary adorned the cathedrals. She became the object of rites and worship. People addressed their prayers to her. She was regarded as the one who responded to people’s supplications, who heeded people’s grievances and complaints, who relieved them in distress, who provided support and succour to the helpless. For a devout Christian there could be no greater source of comfort and inner strength than the belief that he enjoyed the support and patronage of the ‘Mother of God’.
Heraclius, a contemporary of the Prophet (peace be on him), had a picture of Mary on his standard and he was confident that by her grace the standard would never be lowered. Several centuries later the Protestants argued strongly against Mariolatry during the movement which led to the Reformation. The Roman Catholic Church has, nevertheless, managed so far to cling to Mariolatry in one form or another.
From Towards Understanding the Quran by Sayyid Abul A’la Mawdudi, page 183.