Did We not expand (an interrogative meant as an affirmative, in other words, ‘We did [indeed] expand’) your breast for you, O Muhammad (s), by means of prophethood and otherwise,
Did We not expand (an interrogative meant as an affirmative, in other words, ‘We did [indeed] expand’) your breast for you, O Muhammad (s), by means of prophethood and otherwise,
Did We not expand your breast for you?He said:‘Did We not dilate your breast for you, with the light of the Message (risāla), and make it a mine for the spiritual realities (maʿdan li’l-ḥaqāʾiq)?’He [further] said:The first expansion takes place through the light of Islam, just as He has said, Exalted is He, Whomever God desires to guide, He expands his breast to Islam [6:125].Then he said:Then He augments the degrees (manāzil) in addition [to this light], and the lights of [a believer] will be in proportion to the insights he has been granted.
The Meaning of opening the Breast
أَلَمْ نَشْرَحْ لَكَ صَدْرَكَ
(Have We not opened your breast for you) meaning, `have We not opened your chest for you.' This means, `We illuminated it, and We made it spacious, vast and wide.' This is as Allah says,
فَمَن يُرِدِ اللَّهُ أَن يَهْدِيَهُ يَشْرَحْ صَدْرَهُ لِلإِسْلَـمِ
(And whomsoever Allah wills to guide, He opens his breast to Islam.) (6:125) And just as Allah expanded his chest, He also made His Law vast, wide, accommodating and easy, containing no difficulty, hardship or burden.
A Discussion of Allah's Favor upon His Messenger Concerning Allah's statement,
وَوَضَعْنَا عَنكَ وِزْرَكَ
(And removed from you your burden.) This means
لِّيَغْفِرَ لَكَ اللَّهُ مَا تَقَدَّمَ مِن ذَنبِكَ وَمَا تَأَخَّرَ
(That Allah may forgive you your sins of the past and the future.) (48:2)
الَّذِى أَنقَضَ ظَهْرَكَ
(Which weighed down your back) Al-Inqad means the sound. And more than one of the Salaf has said concerning Allah's saying,
الَّذِى أَنقَضَ ظَهْرَكَ
(Which weighed down your back) meaning, `its burden weighed heavy upon you.'
Did We not expand for thee thy breast, and lift from thee thy burden that weighed down upon thy back, and raise up for thee thy mention?
Know that when God brought the creatures from the concealment of nonexistence to the confines of existence with the command “Be!” and when He scattered over them the treasuries of mercy and the gardens of blessings, He showed largesse to that master of the world, that greatest child of Adam, through exalted bounties, generous gifts, and various sorts of favor. From the beginning of the cosmos to the annihilation of the children of Adam, all creatures are his followers. The first thing desired by the beginningless gentleness was he. He is the king, and the rest of the creatures are his army and horse. He is the dear guest, and the dear ones are all his followers and hangers-on. Look carefully at the edict of his splendor and the book of his good fortune to see if the specification and explicit statement of this announcement of generosity and elevation was given to any other prophet.
Did We not expand for thee thy breast? “O paragon of the universe! O honored chosen one! O foremost messenger! O ennobled eminent one! Did We not brighten your heart with the light of recognition, give it courtesy and rectification with the subtleties of contemplation and unveiling, give it goodliness and proximity with the generous gifts of exaltedness and elevation, and give your clay the cape of adornment and the robe of elevation?
“O master! The goal of creation was to unveil the sign of your perfection, the flag of your majesty, and the form of your beauty. 'But for thee, I would not have created the spheres. But for thee, the world would have neither bottom nor top.'
“O master! You were the first in prophethood and the last to be sent out. You are the manifest in union and the nonmanifest in blessings. You are the first of all creatures in nearness and familiarity and the last in judgment and felicity. You are the manifest in sinlessness and greatness and the nonmanifest in the majesty of state.”
In the reports about the miʿrāj it has come that MuṣṬafā said, “The All-Compeller said to me, 'Ask, O MuḤammad!'
“I said, 'My Lord, You took Abraham as a bosom friend, You gave David a tremendous kingdom [4:54] and forgave him his slip, You bestowed on Solomon a kingdom such as no one after me will have [38:35], You spoke to Moses directly [4:164], You raised Idris to a high place [19:57], You taught Jesus the Torah and the Gospel [3:48] and You made him heal the blind and the leper and give life to the dead with Your permission [3:49].
“My Lord said to me, 'O MuḤammad, I took thee as a beloved just as I took Abraham as a bosom friend. I spoke to thee as I spoke to Moses, directly. I sent thee to all people as a goodnews bringer and a warner [34:28]. I expanded for thee thy breast, I lifted from thee thy burden, and I raised up for thee thy mention, so I will not be mentioned without thy being mentioned along with Me. I bestowed upon thee seven of the oft-repeated and the tremendous Qur'an [15:87] and did not bestow them on any prophet before thee. I bestowed upon thee the concluding verses of the Surah al-Baqara and did not bestow them on any prophet before thee. I bestowed upon thee the abundance [108:1]. I bestowed upon thee the eight whose names are the submission, the emigration, the struggle, the prayer, the charity, the fasting of Ramadan, commanding the honorable, and forbidding the improper. And I made you an opener and a seal.'”
The chieftain of the engendered beings, the master of the masters, is saying this: “On the night of proximity and generosity, the night of nearness and familiarity when I was taken on the miʿrāj, I reached the Exalted Presence and this call came from the Presence of All-Compellingness: “O MuḤammad, speak so that I may listen! Ask so that I may bestow!”
He said, “When this generous address and infinite caress reached me, my tongue began to flow with felicity, my heart found the luster of mastery, my secret core saw the exaltation of increase, and I became bold in the Presence, having found the intimacy of solace and the robe of good fortune. I said, 'O Lord, every prophet has received a bestowal from You. You gave Abraham bosom friendship, You spoke to Moses without intermediary, You conveyed Idris to a high place, You gave David a tremendous kingdom and forgave his slip, You gave Solomon a kingdom the worthiness for which You gave no one after him, and You taught Jesus the Torah and the Gospel in his mother's belly and made it easy for him to bring the dead to life.
When MuṣṬafā finished talking, an address came in answer from the Exalted Threshold: “O MuḤammad, though I gave Abraham bosom friendship, I gave you love. Though I spoke to Moses without intermediary, there was a veil in the midst-he heard the words but did not see the speaker. With you I speak without intermediary and without veil; you hear the words and you see the speaker. Though I conveyed Idris to heaven, I made you pass through the heavens and conveyed you to the presence of two-bows' length in the way station of He drew close and the seclusion of or closer [53:8-9]. Though I gave David the tremendous kingdom and forgave his slip, I gave your community the kingdom of contentment and forgave their sins with your intercession. Though I gave Solomon the empire, I gave you the seven oft-repeated, the tremendous Qur'an, and the conclusion of the Surah al-Baqara, which I gave to no prophet but I gave to you; and I responded to your supplications at the end of Surah al-Baqara.
“Outside of these I honored you with three traits. With these three traits I made you more excellent than the folk of heaven and earth. First, did We not expand for thee thy breast? Second, and lift from thee thy burden? Third, did We not raise up thy mention for thee? We opened up your empty breast and limpid heart and made them vast for accepting the traces of power and for holding firm to the Unseen and the assurance of the Real.
“And lift from thee thy burden: The burden of the community's sins was weighing down upon your back and making you weak, and you were unsettled and without ease in sorrow for the disobedient. We put aside that burden from you, We forgave all their sins, and We gave your heart stillness and quiet.
“And raise up for thee thy mention: We lifted high your name, mention, and fame, for We bound it to Our own name and paired it with the formula of tawḤīd. O MuḤammad, whenever the sun of your having been raised up shone on someone, he took a portion: From your status and being raised up Adam the chosen found the rank of chosenness.
Because of you Idris found the rank of chieftainship. In relation to you the Bosom Friend found the good fortune of bosom friendship. Through your love Moses found the exaltedness of speaking with God. By being your door-keeper Jesus found confirmation and help.”
The command came to the proximate angels of the Presence and the beings of the realm of creativity: “All of you place the brand of love for MuḤammad on your hearts, strike the fire of yearning for him in your spirits, and attest to his messengerhood and prophethood! With the effusion of munificence We have brought him into existence at the end of the cycle, made him the leader of the world's folk, and placed him on the throne of good fortune at the forefront of messengerhood. All those reached by his gaze will be exalted and raised up. All those who have faith in him will have lucky stars. All those who wear the bells of his community around their necks will have his love and affection in the heart and will walk straight in his Shariah and Sunnah. Today they will be purified of faults and their sins will be expiated, and tomorrow they will drink from the Pool of Abundance. Their place will be the perfumed paradise, and their robe of honor will be vision and the approval of the Greatest Lord.”
To begin the discourse with this question, and then the subsequent theme, shows that the Holy Messenger (upon whom be Allah's peace) at that time was very disturbed and distressed at the great hardships that he was passing through in the initial stage of his mission of calling the people to Islam. Under those conditions Allah addressed him and consoling him, said: "O Prophet, have We not blessed you with such and such favor? Then, why do you feel so disturbed and distressed at these initial difficulties?"
A little consideration of the context wherever the word sharh sadr (opening up of the breast) has occurred in the Qur'an, shows that it has two meanings:
(1) In Surah Al-An'am: 125, it was said: "So whomever Allah wills to guide aright, He makes his breast wide open to Islam (yashrah sadrahu lil-lslam)"; and in Surah Az-Zumar; 22: "Can the person whose breast Allah has opened for Islam (sharahallabu sadrahu liI-Islam) and he is walking in the light shown by his Lord.." At both these places sharh sadr implies to free oneself from every kind of distraction and vacillation and to be satisfied with Islam as the only right way of life, and to regard the beliefs, principles of morality and civilization, religious instructions and injunctions, which Islam has given to man, as right and true.
(2) In Surah Ash-Shu`ara': 12-13, it has been mentioned that when Allah appointed the Prophet Moses to the great office of Prophethood and commanded him to go and confront the Pharaoh and his mighty empire, he submitted: "My Lord, I fear that they will treat me as a liar, and my breast straitens." And in Surah Ta Ha: 2526, it has been stated that on this very occasion the Prophet Moses implored Allah, saying: "Lord, open up my breast for me (Rabbisbrah-li sadri) and make my task easy for me." Here, straitening of the breast implies a person's finding it too hard for himself to shoulder the onerous responsibilities of Prophethood and going out to clash with a mighty and tyrannical power of disbelief all by himself, and sharh sadr implies that his morale be boosted so that he is ready to undertake any campaign and any task however difficult and hard, without any hesitation, and he develops the nerve and courage to shoulder the great responsibilities of Prophethood.
A little consideration will show that in this verse "opening up of the Holy Prophet's breast" contains both these meanings. According to the first meaning, it implied that before the Prophethood the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace) looked upon the religion of the polytheistic Arabs, Christians, Jews and fire worshipers as false, and was not even satisfied with the hanifiyyat prevalent among some of the Arab monotheists, for it was an ambiguous creed which contained no detail of the right way. (This we have explained in E.N.'s of As Sajdah). But since he himself did not know what was the right way, he was mentally confused and distracted. With the blessing of Prophethood Allah removed his mental agitation and opened up before him the way of right guidance, which brought him full peace of mind. According to the second meaning, it implies that along with the blessing of Prophethood Allah also blessed him with the courage, spirit,of resolution and broad mindedness which were needed for shouldering the onerous responsibilities of the great office. He became bearer of the vast knowledge, which no other human mind could encompass and contain. He was blessed with the wisdom which could rectify any evil however grave and wide spread. He developed the capability to stand up without any equipment and the apparent help and support of a worldly power as the standard-bearer of Islam in a society sunk in ignorance and barbarism, to brave any storm of hostility without the least hesitation, to endure patiently all the difficulties and hardships of the way 'so that no power might cause him to abandon his position and standpoint. Thus, The verse means to impress the point: "When Allah has blessed you, O Prophet, with this invaluable wealth of sharh sadr, why do you feel distressed and depressed at the hardships you are experiencing in the initial stage of your mission."
Some commentators have taken sharh sadr to mean shaqq Sadr (splitting up of the breast) and have declared this verse to be a proof of the miracle of sharh sadr as related in the traditions of the Hadith. But the fact is that the proof of that miracle is dependent only on the traditions of the Hadith, it is not correct to prove it from the Qur'an. According to the Arabic language, sharh sadr can in no way be taken to mean shaqq sadr. `Allama Alusi in the Ruh al-Ma'ani says:"In the sight of the research scholars it is a weak thing to regard sharh sadr as shaqq sadr. "
Some of the commentators have interpreted this to mean that before Prophethood, in the days of ignorance, the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace) had happened to commit certain errors because of which he was feeling disturbed, and Allah by sending down this verse consoled and satisfied him, saying that He had forgiven him those errors. But in our opinion it is a grave mistake to interpret this verse thus. In the first place, the word vizr does not necessarily mean a sin, but it is also used for a heavy burden. Therefore, there is no reason why it should in every case be taken in the bad sense. Secondly, the Holy Prophet's life before Prophethood also was so clean and pure that it had been presented in the Qur'an as a challenge before the opponents.. So much so that the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace) was made to point out to the disbelievers: "I have already lived a lifetime among you before the revelation of this Qur'an." (Yunus 16). and he was also not the type of a person who would commit a sift secretly. God forbid, had he been such a man, Allah would not have been unaware of it, and would not have made him proclaim the thing before the people openly, which He made him proclaim in the above-mentioned verse of Sarah Yunus, if his person carried the blot of a sin committed secretly. Thus, in fact, in this verse vizr means a heavy burden and it implies the burden of distress, anguish and anxiety that was, telling on his sensitive nature when he saw- his nation deeply sunk in ignorance and barbarism. Idols were being worshiped, the community was engrossed in idolatry and polytheistic customs and practices, filth of immorality and indecency prevailed all around, wickedness and corrupt practices were rampant in society, the powerful were suppressing the powerless; girls were being-buried alive, tribes were subjecting, one another to surprise attacks, and sometimes the wars of vengeance continued for a hundred years at a stretch. No one's life, property and honor was safe unless he had a strong hand at his back. This grieved the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace) but he could find no way to cure the malady. This same anxiety was weighing down his back. Allah by showing him the way to Guidance removed its burden from him. Then as soon as he was appointed to the office of Prophethood,. he came to know that belief in the doctrine of Tauhid, the Hereafter and Prophethood was the master-key by which each corruption in human life could be eradicated and the way to reform opened in every aspect of life. This guidance front Allah relieved him of his burden and he felt re-assured that by means of it he would not only be able to cure the maladies of Arabia but also of all mankind outside Arabia as well.
This was said at a time when no one could even conceive how the renown of the one unique individual who had only a few followers confined only to the city of Makkah, would be exalted throughout the world, and what high fame he would achieve. But Allah Almighty gave His Messenger (upon whom be peace) this good news under those very conditions and then fulfilled it in a strange way. In the first place, he took from his enemies themselves the task of exalting his renown. One of the methods that the disbelievers of Makkah adopted to defeat his mission was that in the Hajj season when the pilgrims from every corner of Arabia were attracted to their city, they would visit them at their halting places and would warn them to beware of a dangerous man called Muhammad (upon whom be Allah's peace and blessings), who they alleged, worked such magic on the people that father was separated from son, brother from brother, and husband from wife; therefore, they should keep away from him, The same thing they said to all other people, who visited Makkah on other than Hajj days in connection with pilgrimage or on other business. In this way although they were trying to defame the Holy Prophet, yet the result was that his name reached every nook and comer of Arabia and the enemies themselves. took him out of his seclusion in Makkah and introduced him among all the tribes of the country. After this, it was but natural that.'the people should become curious to know as to who was this man, what he preached, what was his character like and who were the people influenced by his magic and what sort of effect his "magic" had on them. As the propaganda of the Makkan disbelievers spread the people's curiosity also grew. When as a result of this curiosity the people came to know of the Holy Prophet's morals, his character and conduct, when they heard the Qur'an and found what teachings it presented and when the people saw how different the lives of those who had been influenced by what was being described as.magic had become from the lives of the common Arabs, the bad name started being changed into good name. So much so that by the time the Hijrah took place there was perhaps no tribe left anywhere in Arabia from which one or another person, one or another clan had not accepted Islam and in which at least some people had not developed sympathy and interest in the Holy Prophet and his message. This was the first stage of the exaltation of his renown. Then from the Hijrah started the second stage in which on the one hand the hypocrites, the Jews and the prominent polytheists of Arabia were actively engaged in defaming him and on the other the Islamic State of Madinah was presenting such a practical model of God-worship, God consciousness, piety and devotion, purity of morals and community life, justice and equity, equality of man and man, generosity of the rich, care of the poor, fulfillment of pledges and promises and righteousness in dealings, which was conquering the hearts, The enemies tried by resort to war to impede the growing influence of the Holy Prophet, but the party of the believers, trained and developed under his own leadership, proved its superiority by their discipline, their bravery, their fearlessness of death, and their adherence to restrictions of morality even in the state of war; so convincingly that entire Arabia had to recognize it as a power to be reckoned with. Within ten years the Holy Prophet's renown become so exalted that the same land in which the opponents had exerted their utmost to defame him, reverberated with the slogan of Ash hadu anna Muhammad ar-Rasul Allah from one end to the other. Then the third stage commenced with the establishment of the righteous Caliphate when his holy name started being mentioned and praised everywhere in the world. This process continues till today, and will continue till Resurrection if Allah so wills. Wherever in the world there exists a settlement of the Muslims, the apostleship of Muhammad (Upon whom be Allah's peace) is being proclaimed aloud in the call to the Prayer five times a day, blessings of Allah are being invoked on him in the Prayers, and his sacred remembrance is being made in the Friday Sermons. There is no moment in the 12 months of the year and in the 24 hours of the day when at one or another place in the world, the Prophet's holy name is not being mentioned. This is a clear proof of the truth of the Qur'an that when in the initial stage of the Prophet hood Allah proclaimed wa rafa `na Iaka dhikrak, no one could estimate and imagine with what esteem and to what great extent the Holy Prophet's renown would be exalted. In a Hadith Hadrat Abu Sa`id Khudri has reported that the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace) said: "Gabriel came to me and said: My Lord and your Lord asks: In what ways have I exalted your renown? I submitted: Allah alone has the best. knowledge. He said: Allah says: Whenever mention is made of Me, yon too will be mentioned along with Me." (Ibn Jarir, lbn Abi Hatim, Musnad Abu Ya`la, Ibn al-Mundhir, Ibn Hibban Ibn Marduyah, Abu Nu`aim). The whole later history stands witness that this prediction has proved literally true.
This has been repeated twice so as to reassure the Holy Prophet that the bad times hp was passing through at that time would not last for ever, but were going to be replaced by good times in the near future. On the surface this appears to be a contradiction that hardship should be accompanied by ease, for these two things do not co-exist. But the words "hardship with ease" instead of "ease after hardship" have been used in the sense that the period of ease is so close to it as if it were a concomitant of it.
“When you are free,” When you are free from other occupations, whether occupations in connection with the preaching of Divine message, or teaching and training of the new converts, or domestic occupations of mundane nature." The commandment means: "When you are no more occupied, you should spend your time in the labor and toil of Allah's worship and turn all your attention exclusively to your Lord."
And from his narration on the authority of Ibn 'Abbas that he said concerning the interpretation of Allah's saying (Have We not caused thy bosom to dilate): '(Have We not caused thy bosom to dilate) this is in conjunction with His saying (Did He not find thee destitute and enrich (thee)?), and so Allah says: did We not open your heart for Islam? i.e. did We not soften your heart on the Day of the Covenant through knowledge, understanding, help, reason and certainty, as well as with other things? It is also said this means: did We not expand your heart through prophethood? And the Prophet (pbuh) said: “Yes, indeed!”