Abbas - Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs
(will ye not fight a folk) why is it that you do not fight a people, i.e. the people of mecca (who broke their solemn pledges) which are between them and you, (and purposed to drive out the messenger) and wanted to kill the messenger when they entered dar al-nadwah (and did attack you first) by breaking their pledge when they helped the banu bakr, their allies, against the banu khuza'ah, the allies of the prophet (pbuh)? (what! fear ye them?) o believers, do you fear fighting them? (now allah hath more right that you should fear him) because of leaving his command, (if ye are believers).
will you not (a-lā, ‘will not’ or ‘is not’, denotes incitement) fight a people who broke, violated, their oaths, their pacts, and intended to expel the messenger, from mecca — for they discussed this between them in their council assembly — initiating, combat, against you first?, when they fought alongside banū bakr against khuzā‘a, your allies? so what is stopping you from fighting them? are you afraid of them? god is more worthy of your fear, when you fail to fight them, if you are believers.
(and (remember) when the disbelievers plotted against you to imprison you, or to kill you, or to expell you; they were plotting and allah too was plotting; and allah is the best of those who plot.) 8:30,
(and verily, they were about to frighten you so much as to drive you out from the land.) 17:76 allah's statement,
وَهُم بَدَءُوكُمْ أَوَّلَ مَرَّةٍ
(while they did attack you first), refers to the battle of badr when the idolators marched to protect their caravan. when they knew that their caravan escaped safely, they still went ahead with their intent to fight muslims out of arrogance, as we mentioned before. it was also said that these ayat refer to the idolators breaking the peace agreement with muslims and aiding bani bakr, their allies, against khuza`ah, the ally of the messenger of allah. this is why the messenger of allah marched to makkah in the year of the victory, thus conquering it, all thanks and praise is due to allah. allah said,
(do you fear them allah has more right that you should fear him if you are believers.) allah says here, `do not fear idolators, but fear me instead, for i am worthy of being feared by the servants due to my might and punishment. in my hand lies the matter; whatever i will occurs, and whatever i do not will does not occur.' allah next said, while ordering the believers and explaining the wisdom of ordaining jihad against them, all the while able to destroy their enemies with a command from him,
(fight against them so that allah will punish them by your hands, and disgrace them and give you victory over them, and heal the breasts of a believing people.) this ayah includes all believers, even though mujahid, `ikrimah and as-suddi said that it refers to khuza`ah. concerning the believers, allah said;
وَيُذْهِبْ غَيْظَ قُلُوبِهِمْ
(and remove the anger of their hearts), then
وَيَتُوبُ اللَّهُ عَلَى مَن يَشَآءُ
(allah accepts the repentance of whom he wills), from his servants,
(allah is all-knowing), in what benefits his servants,
(all-wise), in his actions and statements, whether narrative or legislative. allah does what he wills, decides what he wills, and he is the just who never wrongs any. not even the weight of an atom of good or evil is ever neglected with him, but rather, he compensates for it in this life and the hereafter.
Maududi - Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi - Tafhim al-Qur'an
in this passage the addressees are the muslims. they have been urged to fight perseveringly in the way of allah, without paying the least heed to their ties of blood and relationship and to their worldly interests. in order to understand fully the spirit of this passage, the reader should keep in view the state of affairs at the time, when the abrogation of the treaties was declared. though islam was reigning supreme in the greater part of arabia and there was no greater power to challenge its supremacy, still superficial observers saw a number of dangers in the extreme step which was being taken at that time.
first, it was feared that the abrogating of the treaties with all the mushrik clans at one and the same time, and debarring them from haj and changing the guardianship of the ka`abah and abolishing all the rituals of `ignorance', would so incite the mushriks and the hypocrites and kindle such fire of enmity that they would be ready to shed the last drop of their blood for safeguarding their interests and prejudices.
secondly, it was feared that the mushriks would be greatly enraged by this declaration which granted freedom of movement to the muslims to perform haj, whereas it forbade the non-muslims. obviously this would also affect adversely their economic condition, for haj played a very important part in the economic life of arabia during that period of her history.
lastly, it was feared that this would put to a hard trial those people who had embraced islam recently after the peace treaty of hudaibiyah and the conquest of makkah. for many of their kith and kin were still mushriks, some of whom had their interests closely bound up with those offices of `ignorance' which were abolished. now it was obvious that the total war against the mushriks demanded that these new muslims should not only kill their own near and dear ones but should also themselves abolish those ancient offices and distinctions which they had enjoyed for centuries.
though it is true that none of these dangers took any practical shape, there were good reasons for these apprehensions, for none could foresee the trends of events at the time of the abrogation of the treaties. and the dangers were averted because these commandments had prepared them beforehand to meet them. more than that: this preparedness produced other good results. the delegates from the remnants of the mushriks, their chiefs and rulers began to visit al-madinah and take the oath of allegiance to islam and obedience to the holy prophet, who let them retain their old positions and offices. these things proved that if the muslims had not been in a state of readiness to take immediate action for enforcing the terms of the "declaration" with the sword, the events which followed might have taken a different direction. therefore it was the need of the hour that the muslims should have been vehemently urged for jihad, and their apprehensions removed. that is why it was being enjoined that they should not let anything hinder them from doing the will of allah. and this is the theme of this discourse.
this was a subtle reference to the possibility of what actually was going to happen afterwards. "and he may remove......... repentance": this was to remove the misunderstandings of the muslims who apprehended a bloody war as a result of the declaration. they were told that it was also possible that some of the enemies might repent and embrace islam. this was not made quite plain lest it should slacken the war preparations of the muslims on one side and weaken the force of the warning to the mushriks on the other. the latter thing might have hindered the mushriks from giving a serious thought to the critical position they were in that finally led them to embrace islam.
the addressees in v. 16 were those muslims who had recently embraced islam. it means to tell them plainly: "now that you have embraced islam, you shall ave to give a genuine proof by a trial that you have accepted it because you believe in its truth and not because it has become supreme in the country by the exertions of the true believers. the trial is that you shall have to sacrifice your lives, wealths and your near and dear ones for the sake of allah and his way. then and only then, you will be regarded as true believers."