The Qur'an uses expressions to indicate the lofty virtues and utmost heights of the chastity of Maryam (peace be upon her), indicating the great status she holds amongst mankind. Allaah, the Exalted said:
وَالَّتِي أَحْصَنَتْ فَرْجَهَا فَنَفَخْنَا فِيهَا مِن رُّوحِنَا وَجَعَلْنَاهَا وَابْنَهَا آيَةً لِّلْعَالَمِينَ
And (remember) she who guarded her chastity [the virgin Mary], We breathed into (the sleeves of) her (shirt or garment) [through our Spirit, Jibreel], and We made her and her son [Jesus] a sign for the worlds (men and jinn). (Al-Anbiya 21:91)
This verse occurs after the mention of Zakariyaa (alayhis salam), the father of Prophet Yahyaa (John) (alayhis salaam), and Zakariyaa was an old man who was married to an old and infertile wife, yet Allaah blessed them with a son, a prophet. Allaah mentions Zakariyyaa alongside and before the example of Maryam because in both cases an extraordinary thing occurred.
The meaning of this verse is: Remember Maryam (peace be upon her) who is being praised, and whose status is being explained, and whose nobility is being announced, the one who preserved her innocence and virginity through the utmost chastity by safeguarding from what is unlawful and everything that brings one closer to what is unlawful (in terms of sexual relations). Nay, she even guarded herself from what was lawful, thus, not marrying due to being preoccupied and engrossed in worship, and in serving her Lord. Indeed when Jibreel (peace be upon him) came to her in the form of a man of good appearance and manners, she said, as occurs in the Qur'an:
قَالَتْ إِنِّي أَعُوذُ بِالرَّحْمَن مِنكَ إِن كُنتَ تَقِيًّا
She said: "Verily! I seek refuge with the Most Beneficent (Allah) from you, if you do fear Allah." (Maryam 19:18)
As a reward for her utmost piety and chastity Allaah, the Exalted, rewarded her by bestowing her a son without the intervention of any male, (as is the usual order of things). Hence, she maintained her chastity. Jibreel was sent to give her glad tidings and he came with the spirit which was breathed into her, leading her to conceive, by the permission of Allaah. Both Mary and Jesus were made a sign for the worlds (of men and jinn) in that Mary gave birth without male intervention and Jesus spoke as an infant, and miracles were made to occur through him, such that generation after generation would make mention of them, and that they may come to know that Allaah is powerful over all things, and that He creates whatever and however He wills.
- Tafsir al-Tabari, Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Tafsir al-Baghawi
- Tafsir al-Sa'dee, Tafsir al-Muyassar