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Chapter 94:
Al-Inshirah — The Expansion:

Revealed at Makkah : 8 verses

English Translation and Commentary of the Holy Quran by Maulana Muhammad Ali


Introduction:

This chapter, like its predecessors, comforts the Prophet. His difficulties were not to continue, but would soon be followed by ease, and it was a sufficient indication of this that his breast was opened or expanded for the Truth, whence the title of this chapter. The great burden which almost broke his back, his deep anxiety for humanity, had been removed by Divine revelation. This chapter is closely connected with the preceding one, to which it forms, as it were, a supplement. It is one of the earliest revelations.

Translation:

In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.

94:1 Have We not expanded for thee thy breast,a

94:2 And removed from thee thy burden,

94:3 Which weighed down thy back,a

94:4 And exalted for thee thy mention?a

94:5 Surely with difficulty is ease,

94:6 With difficulty is surely ease.a

94:7 So when thou art free (from anxiety), work hard,a

94:8 And make thy Lord thy exclusive object.

Commentary:

1a. The expanding of the breast is also mentioned in Moses’ prayer in 20:25: “My Lord, expand my breast for me”. The same words occur also in 6:125: “So whomsoever Allah intends to guide, He expands his breast for Islam”. As opposed to this, it is added: “And whomsoever He intends to leave in error, He makes his breast strait and narrow”. There is a report according to which Gabriel opened the breast of the Holy Prophet while he was yet a boy in charge of his nurse, and washed his heart; the authenticity of this has been questioned on critical grounds (Rz). But even that criticism is due to a misconception, for the same incident is related to have taken place again, when the Holy Prophet was entrusted with his Divine mission. The incident was therefore evidently a kashf, or a clear vision. AH says: “The expanding of the breast signifies its illumination with wisdom and its vastness for the reception of what was to be revealed to him”. Raghib gives a similar explanation, viz., its expansion with Divine light and tranquillity. The expansion of the breast stands, in one word, for the greatness of the heart of the Prophet.

3a. The burden which weighed down his back signifies anxiety for raising humanity from the ignorance and superstition in which it was involved. Compare 26:3: “Perhaps thou wilt kill thyself with grief because they believe not”. The removal of the burden signifies giving relief from anxiety.

4a. This is a clear prophecy of the glorious eminence to which the Holy Prophet was to be raised, uttered at a time when he was alone and unknown.

6a. In consonance with what it said in v. 4, the ease refers to the ultimate triumph, and the difficulty to the trials which the Prophet was then undergoing. But the passage as well reveals a general law of nature that difficulty is followed by ease. The statement is repeated, showing that Islam would twice be in great difficulties and face hard trials, and that on both occasions it would come out with ultimate triumph. There are clear indications in the Holy Qur’an and in the sayings of the Holy Prophet of the trials and difficulties of Islam in the latter days, as great as those at the time of its birth, and of its ultimate triumph on both occasions.

7a. The Prophet’s being free signifies his freedom from anxiety, in reference to what is said in the previous verse. Being now free from all anxiety, he was to work hard for the regeneration of a fallen humanity, and make his Lord his exclusive object, i.e., apply himself wholly to establish the greatness of God.

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