Why did Hz. Jibril (Gabriel) appear as a man before Hz. Maryam (Mary)?

Details of the Question
We learn from the chapter of Maryam that Hz. Jibril appeared as a man before Hz. Maryam and that Hz. Maryam took refuge in Allah from him. 1) Can angels not appear as women? 2) We should not ask about our Lord's wisdom but what is the wisdom behind Hz. Jibril's appearance as a man before a woman instead of appearing as a woman?
The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

In this visible realm, there is a movement toward the invisible like the evaporation of water, transformation of solid substances into gas, liquid and vapor, atom's breaking and becoming energy waves and quants, and stars becoming black holes. When we think of this divine activity in the opposite way, it is possible to observe a movement from the invisible to the visible and from the unknown to matter, which is seen.

Angels, jinn and spiritual beings, which are invisible beings, are not seen in this world with their structures peculiar to themselves but they can be seen by using the means peculiar to this realm as sheaths and clothes. The visibility of the angels and jinn like that is called “appearance”. The following is stated in the Quran when appearance is described:

“And he (the angel) appeared before her as a man in all respects.” (Maryam, 19/17)

The angel that conveyed the revelation to the Prophet (pbuh) sometimes came in a state peculiar to him, sometimes as a warrior and sometimes in various forms. When it was time to walk against the tribe of Banu Qurayza, Jibril came in the form of a warrior with dust on him. He said, “O Messenger of Allah! You took off your armors but we, the angels, did not take off our armors.” The same angel sometimes came in the form of Dihya, a Companion, and sometimes like a guest who had no sign of a journey on him; he asked the Prophet (pbuh) questions like “What is belief (iman), what is ihsan and what is Islam? He confirmed the answers given to them by saying, “Right!”

Imam Shibli says that spiritual beings cannot change their forms on their own, that they have no power to do it and that when they utter one of the words and names that functioned like passwords and that were taught to them by Allah, Allah changes their forms and shapes. Accordingly, Allah puts them in the shape of men, women or some other things if He wishes. 

There are several wisdoms behind Hz. Jibril's appearing in the form of a perfect and very handsome young man (Razi, the interpretation of the relevant verse) before Hz. Maryam.

- Hz. Maryam, who was alone in a closed place, was tested when she saw such a person all of a sudden. As a matter of fact, the verses related to the incident are as follows:

"Relate in the Book (the story of) Mary, when she withdrew from her family to a place in the East. She placed a screen (to screen herself) from them: then We sent to her Our angel, and he appeared before her as a man in all respects. She said: 'I seek refuge from thee to (Allah) Most Gracious: (come not near) if thou dost fear Allah.'" (Maryam, 19/16-18)

This speech of Maryam's indicated her taqwa because she took refuge in Allah from the extraordinary beauty of Hz. Jibril. For, the appearance of Jibril in this beautiful manner before Maryam served to test Maryam and her chastity. Hz. Maryam passed this test perfectly.  

- On the other hand, if Jibril had appeared in the form of a woman before her, she would not have taken refuge in ar-Rahman (the Most Gracious). Thus, Allah showed that Maryam always lived with the feeling of being in the presence of Allah and the first thing that came to her mind was to take refuge in ar-Rahman:

Maryam said: 'I seek refuge from thee to (Allah) Most Gracious: (come not near) if thou dost fear Allah!'

It is understood from this statement that Hz. Maryam had passed the age of puberty, that she knew what it meant when a man approached her and that there would be a problem about sexual ethics. She knew what to do in such a situation and what to say to the person opposite her.  

     a) "If you fear Allah": The word "taqiyyan" is derived from "taqwa", which means "protect/safeguard/abstain. Accordingly, the verse means "If you are a person that fear Allah". Hz. Maryam knew the word/concept taqwa in her language and used it. Therefore, she addressed the feeling of abstinence of the person opposite her.

     b) "I seek refuge from you to ar-Rahman." Hz. Maryam knew Allah's name ar-Rahman and she was taught to take refuge in Him from bad deeds. That is, she was educated enough to say that one could take refuge in Allah from bad deeds.  

Besides, the generations to come are taught a lesson through this incident:

Women and girls are taught what to say when they are left alone with a man and feel a danger in terms of sexuality in this verse. Hz. Maryam addresses the feeling of taqwa of the man opposite her and takes refuge in Allah, serving as an example for women and placing it in their minds.

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