Abbas - Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs
(They are not all alike) i.e. those who believed from among the people of the Book are not like those among them who have not. (Of the People of the Scripture there is a staunch community) He says: there are among them a group of upright people who are guided by Allah's divine Oneness: 'Abdullah Ibn Salam and his followers (who recite the revelations of Allah) the Qur'an (in the night season) in the hours of the night in their prayer, (falling prostrate (before Him)) praying to Allah.
Yet they, the People of the Scripture, are not all alike, equal; some of the People of the Scripture are a community upright, with integrity, adhering to the truth, such as ‘Abd Allāh b. Salām, may God be pleased with him and his companions, who recite God’s verses in the watches of the night, that is, during its hours, prostrating themselves, performing prayer (wa-hum yasjudūn, ‘prostrating themselves’, is a circumstantial qualifier).
Yet they are not all alike; some of the People of the Scripture are a community upright, that is, [upright] upon [the path of] God. He then describes them with [reference to] the states of those of uprightness. In other words, there are among them affirmers of Oneness and people of uprightness.
Virtues of the People of the Scriptures Who Embrace Islam
Muhammad bin Ishaq and others, including Al-Awfi who reported it from Ibn Abbas, said; "These Ayat were revealed about the clergy of the People of the Scriptures who embraced the faith. For instance, there is Abdullah bin Salam, Asad bin Ubayd, Tha`labah bin Sa`yah, Usayd bin Sa`yah, and so forth.
This Ayah means that those among the People of the Book whom Allah rebuked earlier are not at all the same as those among them who embraced Islam. Hence Allah's statement,
Not all of them are alike.'' Therefore, these two types of people are not equal, and indeed, there are believers and also criminals among the People of the Book, just as Allah said,
... مِّنْ أَهْلِ الْكِتَابِ أُمَّةٌ قَآئِمَةٌ...
a party of the People of the Scripture stand for the right, for they implement the Book of Allah, adhere to His Law and follow His Prophet Muhammad.
They believe in Allah and the Last Day; they enjoin Al-Ma`ruf and forbid Al-Munkar; and they hasten in (all) good works; and they are among the righteous. (3: 114) This is the same type of people mentioned at the end of the Surah;
And there are, certainly, among the People of the Scripture (Jews and Christians), those who believe in Allah and in that which has been revealed to you, and in that which has been revealed to them, humbling themselves before Allah. (3:199) Allah said here,
(The likeness of what they spend in this world is the likeness of a wind of Sir;) a frigid wind, as Ibn `Abbas, `Ikrimah, Sa`id bin Jubayr, Al-Hasan, Qatadah, Ad-Dahhak, Ar-Rabi` bin Anas and others have said. `Ata' said that Sir, means, `cold and snow.' Ibn `Abbas and Mujahid are also reported to have said that Sir means, `fire'. This latter meaning does not contradict the meanings we mentioned above, because extreme cold weather, especially when accompanied by snow, burns plants and produce, and has the same effect fire has on such growth.
(It struck the harvest of a people who did wrong against themselves and destroyed it) 3:117, by burning. This Ayah mentions a calamity that strikes produce that is ready to harvest, destroying it by burning and depriving its owner of it when he needs it the most. Such is the case with the disbelievers, for Allah destroys the rewards for their good deeds in this life, just as He destroyed the produce of the sinner because of his sins. Both types did not build their work on firm foundations,
(And Allah wronged them not, but they wronged themselves.)
Maududi - Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi - Tafhim al-Qur'an
In this similitude, "tillage" stands for human life, for one sows in it deeds or misdeeds which one shall have to harvest in the Next World. The "wind" refers to the superficial and hypocritical show of charity that impels the unbelievers to spend their wealth in charity and public works. And "frost" refers to the lack of faith and willingness to obey the Divine Law in its right spirit, which makes void the acts and deeds of one's life. By this similitude, Allah teaches this lesson; just as air is very useful for the growth of crops but it also destroys these if there is frost in it: in the same way charity helps nourish the harvest that is to be reaped in the Next World but it destroys the same, if it is poisoned with unbelief.
It is obvious that Allah is the Master of man as well as of the wealth that he possesses and of the kingdom in which he is acting. Now, if this slave of Allah does not acknowledge the Sovereignty of his Master or unlawfully sets up other objects of worship and does not obey His Law in his exploitation of His wealth and kingdom, he shall be guilty of a crime. Therefore, he will not be entitled to any reward for his charity, but shall be prosecuted for his unlawful exploitation. The charity of such a man maybe likened to the charity of a servant who steals a sum of money from the treasure of his master and spends it as he likes.
Yet they are not all alike; some of the people of the scripture are a community upright who recite God's verses in the watches of the night prostrating themselves. They believe in God and in the Last Day enjoining decency and forbidding indecency vying with one another in good works; those are of the righteous. Just as the difference between light and darkness is one of contradiction it has likewise been established that the states of the friends and the states of the enemies are mutually exclusive. How can illumination and darkness ẓulma certainty and suspicion tuhma communion and separation furqa distance and intimacy ulfa devotion on the carpet and turning from the door being characterized by friendship walāÌ and departing from fidelity wafāÌ be considered equalḍ How can the two possibly come togetherḍ How can they be compatible or equalḍ
(They are not all alike…) [3:113]. Ibn ‘Abbas and Muqatil said: “When ‘Abd Allah ibn Salam, Tha‘labah ibn Sa‘yah, Usayd ibn Sa‘yah, Asad ibn ‘Ubayd and other Jews embraced Islam, the Jewish rabbis said: ‘Only the evil amongst us believed in Muhammad, for had they been among our best they would not have abandoned the religion of their forefathers’. They also said to them: ‘You incurred a great loss when you have exchanged the religion of your forefathers with another religion’. Allah then revealed this verse (They are not all alike)”. Said Ibn Mas‘ud: “This was revealed regarding the nightfall prayer which is performed by the Muslims but not by the people of the Book”. Abu Sa‘id Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Ghazi informed us> Abu ‘Amr Muhammad ibn Ahmad al-Hiri> Ahmad ibn ‘Ali ibn al-Muthanna> Abu Khaythamah> Hashim ibn al-Qasim> Shayban> ‘Asim> Zirri> Ibn Mas‘ud who said: “The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, delayed the time of the nightfall prayer. When he came out to lead the prayer, he found people waiting for the prayer. He said: ‘There is no one among the adherents of other religions who is remembering Allah, exalted is He, at this hour except you’. And Allah, exalted is He, revealed these verses (They are not all alike. Of the People of the Scripture there is a staunch community who recite the revelations of Allah in the night season…) up to His saying (Allah is Aware of those who ward off (evil)) [3:115]”. Sa‘id ibn Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn Nuh informed us> Abu ‘Ali ibn Ahmad al-Faqih> Muhammad ibn al-Musayyab> Yunus ibn ‘Abd al-A‘la> ‘Abd Allah ibn Wahb> Yahya ibn Ayyub> Ibn Zahr> Sulayman> Zirr ibn Hubaysh> ‘Abd Allah ibn Mas‘ud who said: “One night, the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, did not come out. He was at one of his relatives or wives. He did not come to us to lead the night prayer until one third of the night had elapsed. When he came and found some of us lying down and some praying, he gave us the good news, saying: ‘None of the people of the book perform this prayer’. And the verse (They are not all alike. Of the People of the Scripture there is a staunch community who recite the revelations of Allah in the night season, falling prostrate (before Him)) was revealed”.