Some claimed that the Ayat mentioned the stones being humble as a metaphor. However, Ar-Razi, Al-Qurtubi and other Imams said that there is no need for this explanation, because Allah creates this characteristic - humbleness - in stones. For instance, Allah said,
(Truly, We did offer Al-Amanah (the trust) to the heavens and the earth, and the mountains, but they declined to bear it and were afraid of it (i.e. afraid of Allah's torment)) (33:72),
(The seven heavens and the earth and all that is therein, glorify Him) (17:44),
(And the stars and the trees both prostrate themselves (to Allah)) (55:6),
(Have they not observed things that Allah has created: (how) their shadows incline) (16:48),
(They both said: "We come willingly.'') (41:11),
(Had We sent down this Qur'an on a mountain) (59:21), and,
(And they will say to their skins, "Why do you testify against us'' They will say: "Allah has caused us to speak.'') (41:21).
It is recorded in the Sahih that the Prophet said,
(This (Mount Uhud) is a mount that loves us and that we love.)
Similarly, the compassion of the stump of the palm tree for the Prophet as confirmed in authentic narrations. In Sahih Muslim it is recorded that the Prophet said,
(I know a stone in Makkah that used to greet me with the Salam before I was sent. I recognize this stone now.)
He said about the Black Stone that,
(On the Day of Resurrection it will testify for those who kiss it.)
There are several other texts with this meaning. The scholars of the Arabic language disagreed over the meaning of Allah's statement,
(And became as stones or even worse in hardness) after agreeing that `or' here is not being used to reflect doubt. Some scholars said that `or' here means, `and'. So the meaning becomes, "As hard as stones, and harder.'' For instance, Allah said,
(And obey not a sinner or a disbeliever among them) (76:24), and,
(To cut off all excuses or to warn) (77:6).
Some other scholars said that `or' here means, `rather'. Hence, the meaning becomes, `As hard as stones. Rather, harder.' For instance, Allah said,
(A section of them fear men as they fear Allah or even more) (4:77),
(And We sent him to a hundred thousand (people) or even more) (37:147), and,
(And was at a distance of two bows' length or (even) nearer) (53:9).
Some other scholars said that this Ayah means their hearts are only of two types, as hard as stone or harder than stone. Further, Ibn Jarir commented that this Tafsir means that some of their hearts are as hard as stone and some hearts are harder than stone. Ibn Jarir said that he favored this last Tafsir, although the others are plausible. I - Ibn Kathir - say that the last Tafsir is similar to Allah's statement,
(Their likeness is as the likeness of one who kindled a fire) (2:17), and then His statement,
(Or like a rainstorm from the sky) (2:19).
It is also similar to Allah's statement,
(As for those who disbelieved, their deeds are like a mirage in a desert) (24:39), and then His statement,
(Or (the state of a disbeliever) is like the darkness in a vast deep sea) (24:40).
This then means that some of them are like the first example, and some others are like the second example. Allah knows best.
(75. Do you (faithful believers) covet that they will believe in your religion in spite of the fact that a party of them (Jewish rabbis) used to hear the Word of Allah (the Tawrah), then they used to change it knowingly after they understood it) (76. And when they (Jews) meet those who believe (Muslims), they say, "We believe,'' but when they meet one another in private, they say, "Shall you (Jews) tell them (Muslims) what Allah has revealed to you that they (Muslims) may argue with you (Jews) about it before your Lord'' Have you (Jews) then no understanding) (77. Know they (Jews) not that Allah knows what they conceal and what they reveal)
(Do you covet) O believers,
(That they will believe in your religion) meaning, that these people would obey you. They are the deviant sect of Jews whose fathers witnessed the clear signs but their hearts became hard afterwards. Allah said next,
(In spite of the fact that a party of them (Jewish rabbis) used to hear the Word of Allah (the Tawrah), then they used to change it) meaning, distort its meaning,
(after they understood it). They understood well, yet they used to defy the truth,
(knowingly), being fully aware of their erroneous interpretations and corruption. This statement is similar to Allah's statement,
(So, because of their violation of their covenant, We cursed them and made their hearts grow hard. They change the words from their (right) places) (5:13).
Qatadah commented that Allah's statement;
(Then they used to change it knowingly after they understood it) "They are the Jews who used to hear Allah's Words and then alter them after they understood and comprehended them.'' Also, Mujahid said, "Those who used to alter it and conceal its truths; they were their scholars.'' Also, Ibn Wahb said that Ibn Zayd commented,
(used to hear the Word of Allah (the Tawrah), then they used to change it) "They altered the Tawrah that Allah revealed to them, making it say that the lawful is unlawful and the prohibited is allowed, and that what is right is false and that what is false is right. So when a person seeking the truth comes to them with a bribe, they judge his case by the Book of Allah, but when a person comes to them seeking to do evil with a bribe, they take out the other (distorted) book, in which it is stated that he is in the right. When someone comes to them who is not seeking what is right, nor offering them bribe, then they enjoin righteousness on him. This is why Allah said to them,
(Enjoin you Al-Birr (piety and righteousness and every act of obedience to Allah) on the people and you forget (to practice it) yourselves, while you recite the Scripture (the Tawrah)! Have you then no sense) (2:44)''
Allah said next,
(And when they (Jews) meet those who believe (Muslims), they say, "We believe'', but when they meet one another in private…). Muhammad bin Ishaq reported that Ibn `Abbas commented,
(And when they (Jews) meet those who believe (Muslims), they say, "We believe'') "They believe that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, `But he was only sent for you (Arabs)''' However, when they meet each other they say, "Do not convey the news about this Prophet to the Arabs, because you used to ask Allah to grant you victory over them when he came, but he was sent to them (not to you).'' Allah then revealed,
(And when they (Jews) meet those who believe (Muslims), they say, "We believe,'' but when they meet one another in private, they say, "Shall you (Jews) tell them (Muslims) what Allah has revealed to you, that they (Muslims) may argue with you (Jews) about it before your Lord'') meaning, "If you admit to them that he is a Prophet, knowing that Allah took the covenant from you to follow him, they will know that Muhammad is the Prophet that we were waiting for and whose coming we find foretold of in our Book. Therefore, do not believe in him and deny him.'' Allah said,
(Know they (Jews) not that Allah knows what they conceal and what they reveal).
Al-Hasan Al-Basri said, "When the Jews met the believers they used to say, `We believe.' When they met each other, some of them would say, `Do not talk to the companions of Muhammad about what Allah has foretold in your Book, so that the news (that Muhammad is the Final Messenger) does not become a proof for them against you with your Lord, and, thus, you will win the dispute.''' Further, Abu Al-`Aliyah said about Allah's statement,
(Know they (Jews) not that Allah knows what they conceal and what they reveal), "Meaning their secret denial and rejection of Muhammad, although they find his coming recorded in their Book.'' This is also the Tafsir of Qatadah. Al-Hasan commented on,
(That Allah knows what they conceal), "What they concealed refers to when they were alone with each other away from the Companions of Muhammad. Then they would forbid each other from conveying the news that Allah revealed to them in their Book to the Companions of Muhammad , fearing that the Companions would use this news (about the truth of Muhammad ) against them before their Lord.''
(And what they reveal) meaning, when they said to the Companions of Muhammad,
(We believe), as Abu Al-`Aliyah, Ar-Rabi` and Qatadah stated.
(78. And there are among them (Jews) `Ummyyun (unlettered) people, who know not the Book, but they trust upon Amani (false desires) and they but guess.) (79. Then woe to those who write the book with their own hands and then say, "This is from Allah,'' to purchase with it a little price! Woe to them for what their hands have written and woe to them for that they earn thereby.)
(And there are among them Ummyyun people) meaning, among the People of the Book, as Mujahid stated. Ummyyun, is plural for Ummi, that is, a person who does not write, as Abu Al-`Aliyah, Ar-Rabi`, Qatadah, Ibrahim An-Nakha`i and others said. This meaning is clarified by Allah's statement,
(Who know not the Book) meaning, are they not aware of what is in it.
Ummi was one of the descriptions of the Prophet because he was unlettered. For instance, Allah said,
(Neither did you (O Muhammad) read any book before it (this Qur'an) nor did you write any book (whatsoever) with your right hand. In that case, indeed, the followers of falsehood might have doubted) (29:48).
Also, the Prophet said,
(We are an Ummi nation, neither writing nor calculating. The (lunar) month is like this, this and this (i.e. thirty or twenty-nine days.)
This Hadith stated that Muslims do not need to rely on books, or calculations to decide the timings of their acts of worship. Allah also said,
(He it is Who sent among the Ummiyyin ones a Messenger (Muhammad) from among themselves) (62:2).
Ad-Dahhak said that Ibn `Abbas said that Allah's statement,
(But they trust upon Amani) means, "It is just a false statement that they utter with their tongues.'' It was also said that Amani means `wishes and hopes'. Mujahid commented, "Allah described the Ummiyyin as not understanding any of the Book that Allah sent down to Musa, yet they create lies and falsehood.'' Therefore, the word Amani mentioned here refers to lying and falsehood. Mujahid said that Allah's statement,
(And they but guess) means, "They lie.'' Qatadah, Abu Al-`Aliyah and Ar-Rabi` said that it means, "They have evil false ideas about Allah.''
(Then Waylun (woe) to those who write the book with their own hands and then say, "This is from Allah,'' to purchase with it a little price!).
This is another category of people among the Jews who called to misguidance with falsehood and lies about Allah, thriving on unjustly amassing people's property. `Waylun (woe)' carries meanings of destruction and perishing, and it is a well-known word in the Arabic language. Az-Zuhri said that `Ubadydullah bin `Abdullah narrated that Ibn `Abbas said, "O Muslims! How could you ask the People of the Book about anything, while the Book of Allah (Qur'an) that He revealed to His Prophet is the most recent Book from Him and you still read it fresh and young Allah told you that the People of the Book altered the Book of Allah, changed it and wrote another book with their own hands. They then said, `This book is from Allah,' so that they acquired a small profit by it. Hasn't the knowledge that came to you prohibited you from asking them By Allah! We have not seen any of them asking you about what was revealed to you.'' This Hadith was also collected by Al-Bukhari. Al-Hasan Al-Basri said, "The little amount here means this life and all that it contains.''
(Woe to them for what their hands have written and woe to them for that they earn thereby) means, "Woe to them because of what they have written with their own hands, the lies, falsehood and alterations. Woe to them because of the property that they unjustly acquired.'' Ad-Dahhak said that Ibn `Abbas commented,
(Woe to them), "Means the torment will be theirs because of the lies that they wrote with their own hands,
(And woe to them for that they earn thereby), which they unjustly acquired from people, be they commoners or otherwise.''
(80. And they (Jews) say, "The Fire shall not touch us but for a few numbered days.'' Say (O Muhammad to them): "Have you taken a covenant from Allah, so that Allah will not break His covenant Or is it that you say of Allah what you know not'')
Allah mentioned the claim of the Jews, that the Fire will only touch them for a few days, and then they will be saved from it. Allah refuted this claim by saying,
(Say (O Muhammad to them): "Have you taken a covenant from Allah'). Hence, the Ayah proclaims, `if you had a promise from Allah for that, then Allah will never break His promise. However, such promise never existed. Rather, what you say, about Allah, you have no knowledge of and you thus utter a lie about Him.' Al-`Awfi said that Ibn `Abbas said about the Ayah,
(And they (Jews) say, "The Fire shall not touch us but for a few numbered days.''). "The Jews said, `The Fire will only touch us for forty days.''' Others added that this was the period during which the Jews worshipped the calf.
(When Khaybar was conquered, a roasted poisoned sheep was presented to the Prophet as a gift (by the Jews). The Messenger of Allah ordered, `Assemble before me all the Jews who were here.' The Jews were summoned and the Prophet said (to them), `Who is your father' They replied, `So-and-so.' He said, `You have lied; your father is so-and-so.' They said, `You have uttered the truth.' He said, `Will you now tell me the truth, if I ask you about something' They replied, `Yes, O Abul-Qasim; and if we should tell a lie, you will know our lie as you have about our fathers.' On that he asked, `Who are the people of the (Hell) Fire' They said, `We shall remain in the (Hell) Fire for a short period, and after that you will replace us in it.' The Prophet said, `May you be cursed and humiliated in it! By Allah, we shall never replace you in it.' Then he asked, `Will you tell me the truth if I ask you a question' They said, `Yes, O Abul-Qasim.' He asked, `Have you poisoned this sheep' They said, `Yes.' He asked, `What made you do so' They said, `We wanted to know if you were a liar, in which case we would get rid of you, and if you were a Prophet then the poison would not harm you.') Imam Ahmad, Al-Bukhari and An-Nasa'i recorded similarly.
(81. Yes! Whosoever earns evil and his sin has surrounded him, they are dwellers of the Fire (i.e. Hell); they will dwell therein forever). (82. And those who believe and do righteous good deeds, they are dwellers of Paradise, they will dwell therein forever.)
Allah says, the matter is not as you have wished and hoped it to be. Rather, whoever does an evil deed and abides purposefully in his error, coming on the Day of Resurrection with no good deeds, only evil deeds, then he will be among the people of the Fire.
(And those who believe and do righteous good deeds) meaning, "They believe in Allah and His Messenger and perform the good deeds that conform with the Islamic Law. They shall be among the people of Paradise.'' Allah said in a similar statement,
(It will not be in accordance with your desires (Muslims), nor those of the People of the Scripture (Jews and Christians), whosoever works evil, will have the recompense thereof, and he will not find any protector or helper besides Allah. And whoever does righteous good deeds, male or female, and is a (true) believer ﴿in the Oneness of Allah (Muslim)﴾, such will enter Paradise and not the least injustice, even the size of a Naqira (speck on the back of a date stone), will be done to them) (4: 123-124).
Also, Abu Hurayrah, Abu Wa'il, `Ata', and Al-Hasan said that,
(And his sin has surrounded him) means, "His Shirk (polytheism) has surrounded him.'' Also, Al-A`mash reported from Abu Razin that Ar-Rabi` bin Khuthaym said,
(And his sin has surrounded him), "Whoever dies before repenting from his wrongs.'' As-Suddi and Abu Razin said similarly. Abu Al-`Aliyah, Mujahid, Al-Hasan, Qatadah and Ar-Rabi` bin Anas said that,
(And his sin has surrounded him) refers to major sins. All of these statements carry similar meanings, and Allah knows best.
Here we should mention the Hadith that Imam Ahmad recorded, in which `Abdullah bin Mas`ud said that the Messenger of Allah said,
(Beware of the belittled sins, because they gather on a person until they destroy him.)
He then said that the Messenger of Allah gave them an example,
(This is the example of people who set up camp on a flat land, and then their servants came. One of them collected some wood and another man collected some wood until they collected a great deal. They then started a fire and cooked what they put on it.)
Muhammad bin Ishaq reported that Ibn `Abbas said that,
(And those who believe and do righteous good deeds, they are dwellers of Paradise, they will dwell therein forever) "Whoever believes in what you (Jews) did not believe in and implements what you refrained from implementing of Muhammad's religion, shall acquire Paradise for eternity. Allah stated that the recompense for good or evil works shall remain with its people for eternity. ''
(83. And (remember) when We took a covenant from the Children of Israel, (saying): Worship none but Allah (alone) and be dutiful and good to parents, and to kindred, and to orphans and (the poor), and speak good to people and perform As-Salah and give Zakah. Then you slid back, except a few of you, while you are backsliders.)