“Whoever Allah Wants to Guide, He Opens his Chest to Islam”: Tafsir al-Sa’di

Allah strikes the following parable in surah al-An’aam:

فَمَن يُرِدِ اللَّهُ أَن يَهْدِيَهُ يَشْرَحْ صَدْرَهُ لِلْإِسْلَامِ ۖ وَمَن يُرِدْ أَن يُضِلَّهُ يَجْعَلْ صَدْرَهُ ضَيِّقًا حَرَجًا كَأَنَّمَا يَصَّعَّدُ فِي السَّمَاءِ ۚ كَذَٰلِكَ يَجْعَلُ اللَّهُ الرِّجْسَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ لَا يُؤْمِنُونَ

So whoever Allah wants to guide, He opens his chest to Islam. And whoever He wants to misguide, He makes his chest tight and constricted as though he were climbing up the sky. Thus does Allah place wrath upon those who do not believe. [6:125]

In his commentary on this parable, sheikh ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Sa’di wrote the following beautiful words:

يقول تعالى -مبينا لعباده علامة سعادة العبد وهدايته، وعلامة شقاوته وضلاله-: إن من انشرح صدره للإسلام، أي: اتسع وانفسح، فاستنار بنور الإيمان، وحيي بضوء اليقين، فاطمأنت بذلك نفسه، وأحب الخير، وطوعت له نفسه فعله، متلذذا به غير مستثقل، فإن هذا علامة على أن الله قد هداه، ومن عليه بالتوفيق، وسلوك أقوم الطريق. ـ

Here, Allah is making it clear to His servants what are the signs of a slave’s ultimate joy and guidance and what are the signs of a slave’s ultimate misery and misguidance. So He says that whoever’s chest has been opened up to Islam – that is, it has been made wide and spacious – then it becomes enlightened with the light of faith and enlivened with the light of certainty. So his heart becomes at peace with that, loves good, and becomes compliant in doing it – taking enjoyment from it, nor at all feeling burdened. So this is a sign that Allah has guided such a person and blessed him to be rightly guided and traversing the most upright path.

وأن علامة من يرد الله أن يضله، أن يجعل صدره ضيقا حرجا. أي: في غاية الضيق عن الإيمان والعلم واليقين، قد انغمس قلبه في الشبهات والشهوات، فلا يصل إليه خير، لا ينشرح قلبه لفعل الخير كأنه من ضيقه وشدته يكاد يصعد في السماء، أي: كأنه يكلف الصعود إلى السماء، الذي لا حيلة له فيه. ـ

And a sign that Allah wishes to misguide a person is that He makes his heart tight and constricted, that is: extremely constrained against faith, knowledge and certainty. His heart has become completely submerged in doubts and lowly desires, so no good reaches it. His heart is not open to doing any good, as if it had the tightness and difficulty of practically going up to the sky – i.e. as if he were charged with climbing up to the sky, which is something impossible for him to do.

وهذا سببه، عدم إيمانهم، هو الذي أوجب أن يجعل الله الرجس عليهم، لأنهم سدوا على أنفسهم باب الرحمة والإحسان، وهذا ميزان لا يعول، وطريق لا يتغير، فإن من أعطى واتقى، وصدق بالحسنى، يسره الله لليسرى، ومن بخل واستغنى وكذب بالحسنى، فسييسره للعسرى. ـ

And the root cause of all this is: a lack of eemaan. That is what causes Allah to place wrath of them, for they have shut the door of Allah’s mercy and goodness on themselves.

This is a ever-applicable scale of measurement and an unchanging road. For whoever gives, has taqwa, and affirms the truth, then Allah will make the path to good easy for him. But whoever withholds, thinks himself to not need Allah, and denies the truth, then Allah will make the path to evil easy for him [c.f. 92:5-10]

[Taysir al-Kareem al-Rahman pg 304-305]

See also: Parables of the Qur’an Article Index

See also: A Living Heart and a Light to Walk by: Tafsir ibn Kathir

4 thoughts on ““Whoever Allah Wants to Guide, He Opens his Chest to Islam”: Tafsir al-Sa’di

  1. ‘… And whoever He wants to misguide, He makes his chest tight and constricted as though he were climbing up the sky…’

    Whether or not this was also what was meant by the verse, I figured you might like to know that tightness of the chest is actually a medical symptom you can get from going up a tall mountain (2500m+) too fast.

    https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/altitude-sickness/

    https://www.healthline.com/health/altitude-sickness#symptoms

    Assuming for a moment that this was also what was meant, it’s something that can now imagined more easily or something we can read the accounts of from those that have experienced it.

    • Yes, some of the contemporary scholars also point to this meaning when discussing this ayah.

      When it comes to “scientific miracles” of the Qur’an, it’s important to remember that we can’t take these new meanings as the only correct meaning, as this would entail that the Prophet failed to convey the intended meanings and that the previous generations all misunderstood the intended meaning. However, if the new meaning fulfills the conditions of “opinion-based tafsir” and is accurate, then it is acceptable to take the new meaning as a possible additional meaning of the ayah. And Allah knows best. The linked article above discusses this topic some, and we have a much more detailed article of the subject of scientific miracles in the Qur’an which is forthcoming, inshaAllaah.

      JazaakAllaahu khairan

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