|94.1. Have We not expanded for you your breast,|
أَلَمْ نَشْرَحْ لَكَ صَدْرَكَ
1. Have We not expanded for you your breast,1
AL-INSHIRĀH (THE EXPANSION)
This sūrah of eight verses was revealed in Makkah after the previous sūrah. It takes its name from the verb nashrah (from the root, SHaRaHa, which means to expand) in the first verse. The sūrah mentions some of God's favors upon the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, and exhorts him to carry out his sacred mission.
1. The Prophet Moses, upon him be peace, having received the Divine command to go to the Pharaoh to convey God's Message, prayed to God; and the first thing for which he prayed was for the expansion of his breast (20: 25). He did this so that he would be able to show greater patience with whatever he would encounter from the Pharaoh and his clan, and so that he could fully understand God's Religion and all that He would be pleased with (see sūrah 20, note 8).
So, literally meaning growing larger and deeper, spreading and expanding, the expansion of the breast (inbisat, in Islamic terminology) signifies the relaxing of one's heart to the extent allowed by the Sharī'ah, so that one can embrace everybody and make them pleased or contented with one's gentle words and pleasant manners. In the context of one's relationship with God Almighty, it denotes a spiritual state that is a combination of fear and hope for those who are at the beginning of journeying on the way to God; and for those near to God, like the Prophets, it signifies the exhilaration that comes from knowledge of God. Those who have attained this state are awed by being in the Presence of God, and feel exhilarated by the breezes of delight and joy blowing in His Presence. They are awed while inhaling, and feel delight when exhaling.
As pointed out in the description above, expansion can be dealt with in two categories: our relationship with the created, and our relationship with the Creator. With respect to our relationship with the Creator, expansion means that we feel both awe and exhilaration from being in God's Presence; and with respect to our relationship with the created, it means that we live in a society as a member of it: that we are generous, sincere, and respectful to everyone, and that we treat people according to their level of understanding.
The noble Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, was sincere with those around him. He spoke according to his listeners' level of understanding, and sometimes even made wise and meaningful jokes. Although he suffered inwardly from the unbelief, injustice, and sins that he witnessed, and even though he was anxious for the end and afterlife of all people, he always smiled and behaved pleasantly. So the verse means that despite the great inner suffering he felt because of the deviation of his people, and despite the harsh treatments he received from them, God enabled him to tolerate all this. The Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, always received solace from God and felt exhilaration because of His continuous Presence. (For further explanations, see Key Concepts, 1: 115–116.)