Psalm 31: Giving Voice to the Qur’an’s Mary and the Bible’s Hagar

The Psalms are generally assumed to be authored by men such as king David and Korah. They largely express human experiences and emotions in terms of war and power that are emblematic of the David narrative in the Bible and as such represent archetypical male preoccupations. The birth narrative of Jesus, on the other hand, depicts an archetypal female experience and one that is shared by the Bible and Qur’an. However, the Quran’s portrayal of the event shows greater affinity with the Hagar narrative in the Bible than with the Nativity scenes in the Gospels. For example, both biblical Hagar and qur’anic Mary are excluded from a community and driven to the desert. Alone and in despair, both receive divine provision and sustenance, and both are vindicated by their sons. Clearly, each text has a distinctive narrative trajectory that pronounces their respective claims and contends for a particular theological framework, and historical-critical questions arise about borrowing between the texts and about accuracy of transmission. However, such questions do not explicate the nuanced intertextuality of shared motifs and symbolism between the texts. This paper will explore whether the intertextuality between the characters of Mary and Hagar may be found in the psalmic expression of human anguish and yearning for deliverance. It selects Psalm 31, a lament that mourns the human experience of trauma and search for rescue as expressions of the inner female world. The juxtaposition of the Mary and Hagar narratives with the Psalm as intertext provides a paradigm for expressing the inner world of biblical characters that may inform the basis for certain shared material between the Qur’an and Bible.