Pir-o-Murshid Hazrat Inayat Khan

The Opening of the Breast
The Mystical Life of the Prophet Muhammad
Explanation of Facts and Traditions Concerning Muhammad and his Religion which are Frequently Misunderstood
Pir-o-Murshid Hazrat Inayat Khan


There is a tradition that angels came, split Muhammad's breast in two and took out his heart. They took away something out of it, washed the heart in a golden tray with Zemzem water, and put it back in the same place, after which it was healed and well. The following is the surah of the shaqq-i-sadr which is to be found in the Qur'an :

Have We not opened thy breast for thee and taken off from thee thy burden ? (Surah XCIV)


But to the eye of the Sufi its meaning is quite different from the literal explanation of the myth. Every man, to the view of the Sufi, is the whole universe and each soul contains to a greater or lesser degree all good and bad which exist in the universe. As there is a bag of bitter substance in the breast of every creature which we take away from the fish, bird or animal before its flesh is used, so there is a poisonous attribute in every man's heart - not the piece of flesh but the mind beyond the physical existence. The outcome of it is the bitterness that men feel against one another, which has its outlet in a thousand harmful tendencies, such as wrath, revenge, tyranny, jealousy, deceit. This poison is the share of Satan in man. It is this that makes a person instantly changeable, disagreeable to himself and to others, unable to speak with God, ashamed, uncomfortable, unable even to stand before God.


There are accounts of shaqq-i-sadr having taken place three times. From a Sufi point of view we can interpret this. The first time when this bitterness that man naturally has against man was taken out of Muhammad's heart, it was done before any revelation came. With His chosen ones God wishes first to wash this off. It is quite natural that the soul born for the liberation of humanity must show even from his childhood that the bitter drop of poison which is in everybody has been taken away from his breast, and that his heart has been cleansed from all bitterness. The proof of this phenomenon should not be investigated by discussing the possibilities of its unusual occurrence which the orthodox lie before us, but by examining the phenomenon which showed itself in the life of Muhammad : an incomparable man, being all his life amidst the world and yet holding fast the sweetness and fragrance of the angelic personality.


The second occasion, when shaqq-i-sadr is said to have occurred, was when Muhammad received the divine command to declare the message. This opening of the breast is indicative of the courage to declare the truth. There are many among us who want to say, but cannot speak out, what they really want to, either through lack of selfconfidence - doubting whether it would be the right thing or not, or in absence of confidence in others - wondering how people would take it and what would be the result. Their throat is choked with fear. The thought, "How shall I speak before the world where everybody is following another path?" - this thought that comes naturally, that comes from the intellect, was taken away. The thought, "To whom to speak? All around I see idolators and narrow conservative people, among them friends, relatives. The whole of Arabia will be against me. How can I speak against all?" - that fear was taken away. Until this thought is taken away, until the heart is opened by God one cannot speak. Then the words come, eloquence comes. When darkness overwhelmed the deserts of Arabia, the words of light Muhammad spoke with the courage and power of the truth, not fearing for one moment in spite of all the most frightful threatenings which surrounded him day and night, was the evident proof of the opening of the heart : his heart spoke, not the brain.


The third occasion when the opening of the breast is said to have occurred was just before meraj. It is in reality the passion of at-one-ment with the divine Beloved which opens up paths throughout the whole existence, from the lowest to the highest plane of the individual being. The mystics have always said that internal cleansing of the physical body opens up the veins and tubes and the ways of all senses for the divine breath to make a flute of this body. The flute of Krishna is a symbol of this. The cleansing of the heart from all unkind thoughts and desires, the tightening of its strings with love and longing, turns it into a harp which the angels hold and which the beloved God strikes. The cleansing of the soul from all its impressions and ideals is like breaking the idols of many gods. By this sacrifice the jealous Beloved in the heavens is pleased, His vanity satisfied.


In this is the secret of spiritual perfection of which the person of Muhammad is the example. The angels who washed the heart are expressive of the rays of the divine light. The Zemzem water was not from the well Zemzem of Mecca but was the inspirational breath. The golden tray was the revealed world, gold being symbolical of light. Shaqq-i-sadr, mystically, was nothing else than the cleansing of body and heart by divine inspiration.


They say that Muhammad then was weighed by the angels in a scale - first against two persons, then against ten, then against a hundred, and he outweighed them all. The angels said, "If he were weighed against the whole world, he would not be found wanting". To understand this in the sense of the words as they stand would be as absurd as imagining God to be bigger and heavier than an elephant ! There is an expression that a certain person carries great weight in society, which does not mean that he is heavier than all present. This tradition means that the cleansing caused him to outweigh the hearts of the selfish world and made him infinitely greater than an average man; that his word, his presence had a weight over one, over ten, over a hundred, so to say : over the whole world. If every man had this cleansing there would be no need for religion, everybody would think and act aright.




Retour au texte en français


Présentation La Musique du Message Accueil Textes et Conférences Lexique