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Surat Ash-Sharĥ (The Relief) - سورة الشرح

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    Period of Revelation: This Surah was revealed during the same period as Surah Ad-Dhuha, the early stage of the Prophet's residence at Makkah. Major Issue, Divine Law and Guidance: • Allah expanded the breast of the Prophet, relieved his burden and exalted his fame. This Surah is also to console and encourage the Prophet (peace be upon him). He never had to encounter the conditions which he suddenly had to face after embarking on his mission of inviting people to Islam. This was by itself a great revolution in his life. When he started preaching the message of Islam, the same society which had esteemed him with unique honor, turned hostile to him. The same relatives and friends, the same clansmen and neighbors, who used treat him with the highest respect, began to shower him with abuse and insult. No one at Makkah was prepared to listen to him. He was being ridiculed and mocked in the streets and on the roads. At every step, he had to face new difficulties. Although, he gradually became accustomed to the hardships, even as they became more severe, yet the initial stage was very discouraging for him. That is why, Surah Ad-Dhuha was revealed earlier to console him, and then this Surah. This Surah states that Allah has bestowed three major favors on the Prophet: the first is the blessing of Sharh Sadr (opening up of the breast), the second by removing from him the heavy burden that was weighing down his back before the call, and the third by exalting his renown, the like of which has never been granted to anyone before him. Finally, the Prophet is instructed: "You can develop the power to bear and resist the hardships of the initial stage only by one means, and it is: When you are free from your daily tasks, you should devote yourself to the labor and toil of worship, and turn all your attention exclusively to your Rabb."

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    this surah is a continuation from the one preceding it, in content as well as style, and, in a similar manner, begins by posing a number of questions. The Prophet’s heart was lifted and his spirits were raised by the knowledge and the prestige conferred upon him by God, as affirmed elsewhere in the Qur’an: God has revealed to you the Book and given you wisdom and taught you what you did not know before. God’s favor upon you has been tremendous indeed. (al-Nis¥’: 113) Muhammad was born into a society that was living in darkness and ignorance. At that time, the whole world was in the grip of corrupt and bogus systems and religions. He was charged with a heavy bur- den which, initially, he undertook with little support from those around him. But God was always there to guide him and look after his progress. The surah asserts: “Have We not comforted your heart and lightened your burden which has weighed heavily on your back?” (1–3). The most fundamental principle of Muhammad’s message is pure taw^Ïd. It is a simple, clear, and rational belief, free of paradoxes and contrived doctrines. The confirmation of Muhammad’s message is inextricably linked to this universal principle. It is the same principle taught and advocated by all prophets and messengers of all time, and Muhammad’s advocacy of it raises his surah 94 • Al-Shar^ prestige (verse 3) and is an endorsement of the unique and distin- guished origin of taw^Ïd. Many people in the West—as did people in Arabia fourteen cen- turies ago—have accused Muhammad of being an imposter, which is a result of their denial of taw^Ïd and the very existence of God Almighty. They believe that the world is self-sustaining and that life is self-perpetuating. If they can make such claims regarding God, they would not hesitate to direct vile accusations against humans. The Qur’an tells us: We know only too well that what they [the non-believers] say grieves you [Muhammad]; but it is not you that they are disbeliev- ing; the evil-doers deny God’s own revelations. (al-An¢¥m: 33) In the present surah, God Almighty advises His Messenger to persevere and persist in confronting the rejectionists, no matter how vicious their methods and attacks are. He reassures him that the future is his and his followers’: “With every hardship comes ease; every hardship is followed by ease” (5–6). The original Arabic syn- tax conveys an impression of restricted hardship but an abundance of ease. The surah closes with an exhortation to strive and struggle further in God’s cause, with no flinching or letup, saying: “As you fulfill one duty turn to another, and seek your Lord in earnest.” (7–8) Islam is a religion of honesty, truth, and justice—qualities that are most urgently needed in today’s world, where frivolity and trivia are ram- pant, and where justice and truth are being deserted and suppressed. The lesson the surah conveys to Muhammad’s followers is clear and poignant.

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    أَلَمْ نَشْرَحْ لَكَ صَدْرَكَ

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    وَوَضَعْنَا عَنكَ وِزْرَكَ

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    الَّذِي أَنقَضَ ظَهْرَكَ

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    وَرَفَعْنَا لَكَ ذِكْرَكَ

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    فَإِنَّ مَعَ الْعُسْرِ يُسْرًا

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    إِنَّ مَعَ الْعُسْرِ يُسْرًا

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    فَإِذَا فَرَغْتَ فَانصَبْ

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    وَإِلَىٰ رَبِّكَ فَارْغَب

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