“Have We not expanded thee thy breast?”
Is it true that it was by Gabriel’s hands during the messenger’s life?.
Praise be to Allaah.
Allaah, may He be glorified and exalted, honoured His
Prophets and Messengers with immense blessings, first and foremost among
which, and the highest in status, was the blessing of Prophethood, as He
chose them to be close to Him and to bestow His mercy upon them.
Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):
“but Allaah chooses of His Messengers whom He wills”
[Aal ‘Imraan 3:179]
“And also some of their fathers and their progeny and
their brethren, We chose them, and We guided them to the Straight Path”
Allaah, may He be glorified and exalted, chose His Prophet
and Close Friend Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him)
for more honour and bestowed a high status upon him, as Allaah says
(interpretation of the meaning):
“Had not the Grace of Allaah and His Mercy been upon you
(O Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم), a party
of them would certainly have made a decision to mislead you, but (in fact)
they mislead none except their own selves, and no harm can they do to you in
the least. Allaah has sent down to you the book (the Qur’aan), and Al‑Hikmah
(Islamic laws, knowledge of legal and illegal things, i.e. the Prophet’s
Sunnah — legal ways), and taught you that which you knew not. And Ever Great
is the Grace of Allaah unto you (O Muhammad صلى
الله عليه وسلم)”
As part of this Grace, Allaah opened the chest of His Noble
Messenger Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) and He
referred to this great blessing in a soorah of the Qur’aan that will be
recited until the Day of Resurrection. It is called Soorat al-Sharh.
Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):
“Have We not opened your
breast for you ((O Muhammad?”
The opening of the chest of the Prophet (peace and
blessings of Allaah be upon him) points to a number of important meanings:
1 – Allaah opened his heart to Islam as a religion and law,
which is the greatest thing to which the heart may be opened. This is the
interpretation of Ibn ‘Abbaas, as reported by al-Bukhaari in a mu’allaq
report in his Saheeh (Kitaab al-Tafseer/Baab Soorat al-Sharh,
2 – Allaah opened the chest of His Prophet Muhammad
(peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) in order to fill it (his heart)
with wisdom, knowledge and faith, as it was interpreted by al-Hasan
al-Basri. The scholars mentioned in their commentaries on this incident of
the opening of the Prophet’s chest, which happened twice during his life.
The first occurred when he was small and living among Banu
It was narrated from Anas ibn Maalik (may Allaah be pleased
with him) that that Jibreel came to the Messenger of Allaah (peace and
blessings of Allaah be upon him) when he was playing with the other boys. He
took hold of him and threw him to the ground, then he opened his chest and
took out his heart, from which he took a clot of blood and said: “This was
the Shaytaan’s share of you.” Then he washed it in a vessel of gold that was
filled with Zamzam. Then he put it back together and returned it to its
place. The boys went running to his mother – meaning his nurse – and said:
Muhammad has been killed! They went to him and his colour had changed. Anas
said: I used to see the mark of that stitching on his chest.
Narrated by Muslim (162).
The second occurred on the night of the Isra’.
Abu Dharr used to narrate that the Messenger of Allaah
(peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “The roof of my house was
opened when I was in Makkah, and Jibreel (peace and blessings of Allaah
be upon him) came down and split open my chest, then he washed it with
Zamzam water. Then he brought a golden basin filled with wisdom and faith
and emptied it into my chest. Then he sealed it…” Narrated by al-Bukhaari
(349) and Muslim (163).
Al-Haafiz Ibn Hajar (may Allaah have mercy on him) said in
Fath al-Baari (7/204):
Some of them denied that his chest was opened on the night of
the Isra’, and said that this only happened when he was small and living
among Banu Sa’d. But that cannot be denied because there are many reports
about it. … All that has been narrated about his chest being opened, his
heart being taken out and other extraordinary events must be accepted
without objection or trying to interpret it other than what it appears to
mean, because Allaah si Able to do all that and none of that is impossible.
Al-Qurtubi said in al-Mufhim: No attention should be paid to denials
of the opening of his chest on the night of the Isra’, because the narrators
are trustworthy and well known. End quote.
The incident of his chest being opened is also mentioned in
some reports at other times, at the age of ten, and when his mission began,
but these are weak reports. See: al-Seerah al-Nabawiyyah al-Saheehah
Ibn Katheer said in Tafseer
al-Qur’aan il-‘Azeem (4/677):
Allaah says “Have We not opened your breast for you (O
Muhammad)?” meaning, did We not open your heart for you, i.e., We
illuminated it etc. This is like the verse in which Allaah says
(interpretation of the meaning): “And whomsoever Allaah wills to guide,
He opens his heart to Islam.” [al-An’aam 6:125].
And it was said that what is meant by the verse “Have We
not opened your breast for you (O Muhammad)?” is the opening of his
chest on the night of the Isra’, but there is no contradiction because the
opening of his chest includes what was done on the night of the Isra’ as
well as the metaphorical meaning of opening his heart. And Allaah knows
best. End quote.
3 – It says in Rooh al-Ma’aani (30/166):
It was said that what is meant is: Did We not relieve your
distress and worry by showing you the reality of things and the
insignificance of this world, so that enabled you to bear hardship by mans
of turning to Allaah with du’aa’.
It was narrated from the majority that what is meant is: Did
We not bestow upon him wisdom and enable him to receive that which was
revealed to him after it was difficult for him?
4 – Ibn ‘Ashoor said in al-Tahreer wa’l-Tanweer
Opening his breast is a metaphor for the blessings that were
bestowed upon him and enabling him to attain all levels of perfection, and
informing him that Allaah is pleased with him, and glad tidings of the
victory that the religion would attain. End quote.
See: Subul al-Huda wa’l-Rashaad (2/59).
5 – Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen (may Allaah have mercy on him) said
in Tafseer Soorat al-Sharh (p.1):
This opening is metaphorical, not physical. The opening of
the heart may be done so that it is able to receive the decree of Allaah of
both types, the shar’i decrees of Allaah, which means religion, and the
decree of Allaah which has to do with the calamities that may befall man.
And Allaah knows best.