Muhammad bin Ishaq reported that Ibn `Abbas said that Rafi` bin Huraymilah said to the Messenger of Allah, "O Muhammad! If you were truly a Messenger from Allah, as you claim, then ask Allah to speak to us directly, so that we hear His Speech.'' So Allah revealed,
وَقَالَ الَّذِينَ لاَ يَعْلَمُونَ لَوْلاَ يُكَلِّمُنَا اللَّهُ أَوْ تَأْتِينَآ ءَايَةٌ
(And those who have no knowledge say: "Why does not Allah speak to us (face to face) or why does not a sign come to us'')
Abu Al-`Aliyah, Ar-Rabi` bin Anas, Qatadah and As-Suddi said that it was actually the statement of the Arab disbelievers:
كَذَلِكَ قَالَ الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِهِم مِّثْلَ قَوْلِهِمْ
(So said the people before them words of similar import. ) He said, "These are the Jews and the Christians.''
What further proves that the Arab idolators said the statement mentioned in the Ayah is that Allah said,
وَإِذَا جَآءَتْهُمْ ءَايَةٌ قَالُواْ لَن نُّؤْمِنَ حَتَّى نُؤْتَى مِثْلَ مَآ أُوتِىَ رُسُلُ اللَّهِ اللَّهُ أَعْلَمُ حَيْثُ يَجْعَلُ رِسَالَتَهُ سَيُصِيبُ الَّذِينَ أَجْرَمُواْ صَغَارٌ عِندَ اللَّهِ وَعَذَابٌ شَدِيدٌ بِمَا كَانُواْ يَمْكُرُونَ
(And when there comes to them a sign (from Allah) they say: "We shall not believe until we receive the like of that which the Messengers of Allah had received.'' Allah knows best with whom to place His Message. Humiliation and disgrace from Allah and a severe torment will overtake the criminals (polytheists and sinners) for that which they used to plot.) (6:124) and
وَقَالُواْ لَن نُّؤْمِنَ لَكَ حَتَّى تَفْجُرَ لَنَا مِنَ الاٌّرْضِ يَنْبُوعًا
(And they say: "We shall not believe in you (O Muhammad ), until you cause a spring to gush forth from the earth for us) until,
قُلْ سُبْحَـنَ رَبِّى هَلْ كُنتُ إَلاَّ بَشَرًا رَّسُولاً
(Say (O Muhammad ): "Glorified (and Exalted) be my Lord (Allah) above all that evil they (polytheists) associate with Him! Am I anything but a man, sent as a Messenger'') (17:90-93) and,
وَقَالَ الَّذِينَ لاَ يَرْجُونَ لِقَآءَنَا لَوْلاَ أُنزِلَ عَلَيْنَا الْمَلَـئِكَةُ أَوْ نَرَى رَبَّنَا
(And those who expect not a meeting with Us (i. e. those who deny the Day of Resurrection and the life of the Hereafter) said: "Why are not the angels sent down to us, or why do we not see our Lord'') (25:21) and,
بَلْ يُرِيدُ كُلُّ امْرِىءٍ مِّنْهُمْ أَن يُؤْتَى صُحُفاً مُّنَشَّرَةً
(Nay, everyone of them desires that he should be given pages spread out) (74:52).
There are many other Ayat that testify to the disbelief of the Arab idolators, their transgression, stubbornness, and that they asked unnecessary questions out of disbelief and arrogance. The statements of the Arab idolators followed the statements of the nations of the People of the Two Scriptures and other religions before them. Allah said,
يَسْأَلُكَ أَهْلُ الْكِتَـبِ أَن تُنَزِّلَ عَلَيْهِمْ كِتَـباً مِّنَ السَّمَآءِ فَقَدْ سَأَلُواْ مُوسَى أَكْبَرَ مِن ذلِكَ فَقَالُواْ أَرِنَا اللَّهِ جَهْرَةً
(The People of the Scripture (Jews) ask you to cause a book to descend upon them from heaven. Indeed, they asked Musa (Moses) for even greater than that, when they said: "Show us Allah in public,'') (4:153) and,
وَإِذْ قُلْتُمْ يَـمُوسَى لَن نُّؤْمِنَ لَكَ حَتَّى نَرَى اللَّهَ جَهْرَةً
(And (remember) when you said: "O Musa! We shall never believe in you until we see Allah plainly.'') (2:55).
(Their hearts are alike. ) means, the hearts of the Arab idolators are just like the hearts of those before them, containing disbelief, stubbornness and injustice. Similarly, Allah said,
كَذَلِكَ مَآ أَتَى الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِهِمْ مِّن رَّسُولٍ إِلاَّ قَالُواْ سَـحِرٌ أَوْ مَجْنُونٌ أَتَوَاصَوْاْ بِهِ
(Likewise, no Messenger came to those before them but they said: "A sorcerer or a madman!'' Have they (the people of the past) transmitted this saying to these (Quraysh pagans)) (51:52-53).
Allah said next,
قَدْ بَيَّنَّا الآيَـتِ لِقَوْمٍ يُوقِنُونَ
(We have indeed made plain the signs for people who believe with certainty.) meaning, We made the arguments clear, prooving the truth of the Messengers, with no need of more questions or proofs for those who believe, follow the Messengers and comprehend what Allah sent them with. As for those whose hearts and hearing Allah has stamped and whose eyes have been sealed, Allah described them:
إِنَّ الَّذِينَ حَقَّتْ عَلَيْهِمْ كَلِمَةُ رَبِّكَ لاَ يُؤْمِنُونَ - وَلَوْ جَآءَتْهُمْ كُلُّ ءايَةٍ حَتَّى يَرَوُاْ الْعَذَابَ الاٌّلِيمَ
(Truly, those, against whom the Word (wrath) of your Lord has been justified, will not believe. Even if every sign should come to them, until they see the painful torment) (10:96-97).