Central Theme and Relation with Previous Sūrah
This sūrah along with Sūrah Dhuhaa, the previous sūrah,
form a dual pair. It begins after Sūrah Dhuhaa without any prior introduction,
and the subject raised in the verse ‘Did We not find you an orphan and gave you
shelter’ and in the subsequent verses of the previous sūrah has been brought to
a completion in this sūrah. The only difference it seems, is that in Sūrah
Dhuhaa the bounties and blessings of the Almighty, cited as a means to comfort
and assure the Prophet (sws), belonged to the period prior to his Prophethood
and extending a little after it; whereas, in this sūrah the favours which were
showered by the gracious Lord on him when the message of Islam had spread in
other parts of the Arabian peninsula have been pointed out.
In the previous sūrah, the Prophet (sws) had been given the
glad tidings of a bright future as far as the extent of the propagation of the
Islamic thought was concerned which would overshadow the bleak present. The
difficulties and hardships which he had been facing were, according to the law
of providence, only meant to train and discipline him. He would soon be relieved
of them. In this sūrah, by making a reference to some such predictions which by
then had shown clear signs to materialize, an emphatic assurance is given to the
Prophet that all his troubles and grievances will continue to give way to the
happiness of success if he faces them with courage and determination.
An Analysis of the Sūrah’s Meanings
There is no ambiguity in the meanings of the sūrah.
Initially a reference is made to the gift of sharh-i-sadr, (inner conviction)
which the Almighty had blessed the Prophet (sws) with, in order to alleviate his
mental worries. The Prophet(sws) is then consoled and solaced that just as
before every hardship had been succeeded by ease and comfort, likewise, in the
subsequent stages of this mission also the pattern would continue. After this an
indication is made to the final phase of the completion of this mission with an
assertion of how to benefit from its successes and triumphs.
Meaning of the Sūrah
Have we not opened your heart, and relieved you of the
burden which weighed down heavily on your back, and raised your voice.
So, with every difficulty there is relief; verily with
every difficulty there is relief.
So, when your task is over, prepare yourself and seek your
Lord with all fervour.
Explanation of the Sūrah
Alam nashrah laka sadrak. Wa wadh’naa ‘an ka wizrak.
(Have We not opened your heart and relieved you of the burden.)
In the explanation of the previous sūrah a detailed account
of the mental worries and anxieties which the Prophet (sws) had been facing in
the early period has been given. In the period just before Prophethood these
worries were a result of his wanderings in quest for the truth while in the
early period of Prophethood they were caused by a scarcity of followers and
supporters of the religion he had started to preach. Also a bright future,
better than the past and present, with regard to the acceptance of his message
had been predicted with the assurance that the difficulties he had been
encountering were only transient in nature and the Almighty would soon relieve
him of their burden. Later on, when the truth had been unveiled to him and his
apprehensions were allayed, to educate and further encourage him the Almighty
revealed His unchanging law of trial which every inviter towards virtue will
have to face if he is to succeed in his mission. The law is in fact the real
subject of the sūrah and is stated near its end in verses five and six: ‘With
every difficulty there is relief.’
To open someone’s heart means to create in him a correct
recognition of the truth, which is the outcome of true belief. This also is a
means to develop in a person trust and faith in God which is the fountain head
of resolve and determination. With such a strong faith no impediment, however
great it may be, can waver his stand and without it not even an impediment is
needed to defeat his will.
The sentence Wa wa dha’naa ‘anka wizrak (and have We not
relieved you of the burden) is coordinated in meaning with the first, and hence
it has been translated keeping in view that the interrogative alam (is it not
that...) of the first verse governs this second verse also. In Sūrah Nabaa also
this style has been adopted.
Allazee anqadha zahrak.
(Which weighed down heavily on your back). (3)
This verse qualifies the word wizr (burden) stated in the
previous verse. By wizr is implied the severe perplexity the Prophet (sws) was
in when he was seeking the truth with no avail and later when the Almighty
revealed it to him his troubles merely changed shape as all his people turned
There is no overstatement in the fact that the Prophet’s
troubles were breaking his back. The way the Almighty had provided him with
Guidance quite naturally induced him to think that if one soul is able to
appreciate and understand it why is that others are finding a difficulty in
accepting it. Moreover, he saw that the more effort he made in calling them
towards it the more they evaded his calls, he was driven into thinking that
probably his efforts were lacking both in approach and intensity as the desired
results were not being produced. This led him to double his efforts, but when
the situation did not change his worries increased twofold. Furthermore, if in
these circumstances a delay occurred in between revelations then, again such a
deference multiplied his worries making him think that the delay’s real cause
might be the Almighty’s displeasure. To remove all these fears and to comfort
and encourage the Prophet (sws) the sūrah was revealed. In Sūrah Taahaa, also,
the Prophet has been assured in a similar manner:
"This is Sūrah Taahaa. We have not revealed the Qur’ān
upon you to distress you. It is only an admonition for the God fearing."
Wa rafa’naa laka zikrak.
(And raised your voice.) (4)
This simply comforts the Prophet (sws) by asserting that is
it not that his once feeble voice has now become a reverberating roar. The word
laka, as in the first verse, expresses the exclusive nature of help provided by
the Almighty to the Prophet (sws).
The verse also helps us in ascertaining the time of
revelation of the sūrah as when the message of Islam had penetrated in the
surrounding areas of Arabia. It should be borne in mind that the leaders of
Quraish, who were the first invitees of this religion persisted to oppose it.
However, during Haj the pilgrims who came to Ka’ba became a constant source of
spreading its teachings in the whereabouts of Mecca, particularly among the
Ansaar of Medina. Subsequently, it reached the far flung areas of Arabia and
then infiltrated into other countries. Such was the extent of its tide that it
was not difficult to imagine that very soon a hitherto feeble voice will become
a defining uproar.
Fa inna ma’al ‘usri yusraa. Inna ma’al ‘usri yusraa.
(So, with every difficulty there is relief. Verily, with every
difficulty there is relief.) (5-6)
This is the real lesson which is meant to be given in the
light of the above mentioned references, and which actually is the central theme
of the sūrah. The Prophet (sws) is being addressed and asked to ponder over how
persistent the Almighty has been during the course of his mission. When he is
witnessing that every hardship is being followed by relief then he should bear
all afflictions with patience, for only after passing through such trying
circumstances would he taste the fruit of success. In the previous sūrah, the
consistency in application of this law of trial has been proven by citing
examples from natural surroundings and some from the Prophet’s life, while in
this sūrah the first element has been excluded and only some experiences of the
Prophet’s life have been included to demonstrate the law and make the matter
An important aspect that should be kept in mind is that the
sentence has not been repeated merely to emphasize the point, as most
commentators contend. The repetition only stresses that difficulty and ease
co-exist and follow each other in an eternally periodic sequence. After
surmounting one peak no one should rest asure that his remaining life would be
spent on a smooth terrain. In fact, a series of such peaks might have to be
overcome if he has to succeed in life. He should always be prepared to scale
every summit that comes his way---for life is the name of a relentless struggle.
Every passenger of this journey must brave the storm of its vicissitudes if he
has to reach his destination. The Almighty has decreed the same law for those
who tread the path of truth. Those who intend to trudge through it will have to
make their own way and struggle through every inch they trek. But the Almighty
has guaranteed one thing: If inspite of all these obstacles and hindrances they
remain steadfast, muster all their strength to combat every test they are put
through, and hold on to the slogan ‘to seek, to strive to fight and never to
yield’, He shall bring ease after every difficulty, and rejuvenate them to
continue this remorseless journey till the ultimate destination is reached.
The philosophy behind this test has at many instances been
stated in the Qur’ān. By its means the Almighty distinguishes the righteous from
the hypocrites and believers from the disbelievers, so that everyone can be
rewarded or punished according to his deeds, and that no one should be able to
complain that he has been the victim of injustice. Without this test the good
could not have been distinguished from the evil to the extent that no one would
be able to refute the fate he deserves.
Fa izaa faraghta fansab. Wa ilaa rabbika farghab.
(So, when your task is over, prepare yourself and seek your Lord
with all fervour.) (7-8)
This verse directs the Prophet (sws) to prepare for the
ultimate destination. The verb nasaba means ‘to prepare’ and ‘work hard’. After
successfully overcoming the obstacles which come in way of the mission, when the
Almighty showers His help, and Mecca is conquered once again and the enemies are
humbled once and for all and the people embrace Islam in large numbers, the
Prophet(sws) is being directed to totally converge all his efforts and turn all
his attentions to earnestly seek the Almighty. In other words, two aspects are
being highlighted in these verses:
First, they bring glad tidings to the Prophet(sws) that he
shall soon successfully complete his mission. Second, they assert that even
after accomplishing the mission he should continue with even more fervour, and
direct all his energies and efforts in seeking the Almighty and prepare for the
final journey which will confront him with the Creator of the heavens and the
In complying with this final directive the Prophet(sws)
began to spend more and more time in worship. Such was the extent of his
involvement that some people even inquired from him that when all his sins had
been forgiven, why was he taking so much pains in worshop. The Prophet(sws) is
said to have replied: ‘Should not I become a grateful servant of my Lord.’ In
Sūrah Nasar an elaborate treatment has been given to this topic which has just
been stated here :
"When comes the help of God and victory and you see men
embrace the religion of God in multitudes, celebrate the praises of your Lord
and seek His forgiveness. He is ever disposed to mercy." (110: 1-3)
(Translated from Islahi’s "Tadabbur-i-Qur’ān")