¡ Did We not expand for thee thy breast,
1 The expansion of the breast relates to ease, especially in matters pertaining to religion, and is thus considered a characteristic of those who are rightly guided. This is particularly evident in the famous prayer of Moses when he received the call to prophethood: My Lord! Expand for me my breast! Make my affair easy for me, and untie a knot from my tongue, that they may understand my speech (20:25-28). In contrast, the constriction or contraction of the breast is seen as a characteristic of those who are astray, as in 6:125: Whomsoever God wishes to guide, He expands his breast for submission. And whomsoever He wishes to lead astray, He makes his breast narrow and constricted, as if he were climbing to the sky. Those who are rightly guided can also experience straitening of the breast through trials and hardship. In this vein the verse can be seen as an allusion to God’s providing the Prophet with the patience and forbearance necessary to bear the insults of his enemies (Ṭs), as in 15:97: And certainly We know that thy breast is straitened because of what they say. This verse has also been seen as an allusion to the manner in which God expanded the Prophet’s breast and made his heart a container for the wisdom of the revelation (Ṭ) or for prophethood and knowledge (Ṭs). According to some, this verse refers to the relief that came to the Prophet’s breast after a period of solitude on Mt. Ḥirāʾ. According to others, it refers to the end of a period in which the revelation was said to have been interrupted (see introduction to Sūrah 93). Still others read it as a reference to an
episode in the Prophet’s youth when two angels opened his breast and removed a dark clot that is said to represent the root of malice and envy within the soul (Bḍ).