Abbas - Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs
(Mankind) in the time of Abraham, and it is said in the time of Noah (were but one community) following one religion: the religion of disbelief, and so Allah sent prophets as warners and bringers of glad tidings; (then they differed) two parties emerged: believers and disbelievers; (and had it not been for a word) to delay the punishment of this nation (that had already gone forth from thy Lord) that had already been enjoined by your Lord (it had been judged between them) they would have been destroyed (about that) about religion (wherein they differ) they opposed.
Mankind was but one community, following one religion, that is submission [to the One God], from the time of Adam to the time of Noah; but it is also said [that this was the case] from the time of Abraham to that of ‘Amr b. Luhayy; then they differed, some of them remaining firmly [upon belief in One God], while others disbelieved. And had it not been for a word that had already preceded from your Lord, [to the effect] that requital would be deferred until the Day of Resurrection, it would have been decided between them, that is, [between] mankind, in this life, regarding that over which they differed, in religion, by the disbelievers being punished.
Mankind was but one community, upon the primordial nature which God created in mankind, oriented towards the unity, illumined by the light of original guidance, then they differed, by the exigencies of creation and the different constitutions and desires, habits and [social] interactions. And had it not been for a word that had already preceded from your Lord, that is, [were it not for] a decree that had preceded from pre-eternity to designate terms [of life] and provisions and that every fortunate one and every wretched one should fulfil the limits of what has been determined for him in terms of the things he does, it would have been decided between them regarding that over which they differed, imminently and the fortunate one would have been distinguished from the wretched one, as well as truth from falsehood in terms of their religions and communities. However, God's wisdom has entailed that every one of them should attain the direction to which he has turned his countenance through the deeds which he performs and to manifest what is hidden in his soul.
Allah reproaches the idolators that worshipped others beside Allah, thinking that those gods would intercede for them before Allah. Allah states that these gods do not harm or benefit. They don't have any authority over anything, nor do they own anything. These gods can never do what the idolators had claimed about them. That is why Allah said:
(Say: `Do you inform Allah of that which He knows not in the heavens and on the earth') Ibn Jarir said: "This means, `Are you telling Allah about what may not happen in the heavens and earth' Allah then announced that His Glorious Self is far above their Shirk and Kufr by saying:
سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى عَمَّا يُشْرِكُونَ
(Glorified and Exalted is He above all that which they associate as partners (with Him)!)
Shirk is New
Allah then tells us that Shirk was new among mankind. It was not in existence in the beginning. He tells us that people were believers in one religion and that religion was Islam. Ibn `Abbas said: "There were ten centuries between Adam and Nuh. They were all on Islam. Then differences among people took place. They worshipped idols and rivals. So Allah sent extensive evidence and irrefutable proof with His Messengers.''
(So that those who were to be destroyed (for rejecting the faith) might be destroyed after a clear evidence, and those who were to live might live after a clear evidence.)8:42 Allah's statement:
وَلَوْلاَ كَلِمَةٌ سَبَقَتْ مِن رَّبِّكَ
(And had not it been for a Word that went forth before from your Lord...) means that if Allah had not decreed He would not punish anyone until the evidence is established against them. And also that if He had not given creatures a respite until a defined term had passed, He would have judged among them in what they disputed. Then He would have caused the believers to be happy and delighted and the disbelievers to be miserable and wretched.
Maududi - Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi - Tafhim al-Qur'an
Please see E.N. 230 of Al-Baqarah and E.N. 24 of Al- An`am.
The "decree" that. Allah has ordained is that "the Reality" shall be kept hidden from man's senses in order to test whether he recognizes this by using his common-sense, intelligence, conscience and intuition, and if he does not, he shall be allowed to tread the wrong ways he chooses. That is why their differences about the Reality are not being resolved by uncovering it today.
This thing has been stated here to remove a common misunderstanding about the diversity of religions in the world.
At that time, there was a confusion in the minds of the people (and is even today) concerning this. They said, "Different people profess different religions, and the followers of each religion claim that their religion alone is the true one. How may then a seeker after truth judge which one of these is the true religion?" The answer is: "In the beginning all mankind had one religion only, and that was the true religion. Then people strayed away from it and invented different religions of their own with different creeds and ways. Now if you desire that Allah Himself should uncover the Truth and present it to you to enable you to decide which religion is the true one, you should know that this will not be done in this life, because you arc required to decide this by using your commonsense and intelligence. This worldly lift is a trial to sec whether or not you yourselves recognize the Truth by using your common-sense and intelligence."