Abbas - Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs
(Had Allah willed He could have made you (all) one nation) He could have made you followers of one religion: the religion of Islam, (but He sendeth whom He will astray) from His religion; he who is not deserving of it (and guideth whom He will) to His religion; he who is deserving of it, (and ye will indeed be asked) on the Day of Judgement (of what ye used to do) of good or evil in your states of disbelief or faith; it is also said that this means: of what you used to do in terms of honouring or breaking your pledges.
For if God had willed, He could have made you one community, people of a single religion, but He leads astray whom He will and guides whom He will, and you will surely be questioned, on the Day of Resurrection, a questioning of rebuke, about what you used to do, so that you might be requited for it.
(And had your Lord willed, all of those on earth would have believed together.) 10:99, meaning, He could have created harmony among them, and there would not be any differences, conflicts or hatred between them.
(And if your Lord had so willed, He would surely, have made mankind one Ummah nation or community, but they will not cease to disagree. Except him on whom your Lord has bestowed His mercy, and for that did He create them.) (11:118-119) Similarly, Allah says here:
وَلـكِن يُضِلُّ مَن يَشَآءُ وَيَهْدِى مَن يَشَآءُ
(but He allows whom He wills to stray and He guides whom He wills. ) Then on the Day of Resurrection, He will ask them all about their deeds, and will reward or punish them even equal to a scalish thread in the long slit of a date stone or the size of a speck on the back of a date stone, or even a thin membrane of the date stone.
The Prohibition on taking an Oath for Purposes of Treachery
Then Allah warns His servant against taking oaths as means of deception, i.e., using them for treacherous purposes, lest a foot should slip after being firmly planted. This is an analogy describing one who was on the right path but then deviated and slipped from the path of guidance because of an unfulfilled oath that involved hindering people from the path of Allah. This is because if a disbeliever were to find that after having agreed to a covenant, then the believer betrayed him, then the believer will have hindered him from entering Islam. Thus Allah says:
(And do not use an oath by Allah for the purchase of little value.) meaning, do not neglect an oath sworn in the Name of Allah for the sake of this world and its attractions, for they are few, and even if the son of Adam were to gain this world and all that is in it, that which is with Allah is better for him, i.e., the reward of Allah is better for the one who puts his hope in Him, believes in Him, seeks Him and fulfills his oaths in the hope of that which Allah has promised. This is why Allah says:
إِن كُنتُمْ تَعْلَمُونَمَا عِندَكُمْ يَنفَدُ
(if you only knew. Whatever you have will be exhausted,) meaning, it will come to an end and will vanish, because it is only there for a certain, limited time.
وَمَا عِندَ اللَّهِ بَاقٍ
(and what is with Allah will remain.) meaning, His reward for you in Paradise will remain, without interruption or end, because it is eternal and will never change nor disappear.
(And to those who are patient, We will certainly grant them their rewards in proportion to the best of what they used to do. ) Here the Lord swears, with the Lam of affirmation, that He will reward the patient for the best of their deeds, i.e., He will forgive them for their bad deeds.
Maududi - Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi - Tafhim al-Qur'an
In this brief sentence Allah has enjoined three most important things on which alone depends the establishment of a sound and healthy society:
The first of these is justice which has two aspects.
To make such arrangements as may enable everyone to get one's due rights without stint. Justice does not, however, mean equal distribution of rights, for that would be absolutely unnatural. In fact, justice means equitable dispensation of rights which in certain cases may mean equality. For example, all citizens should have equal rights of citizenship but in other cases equality in rights would be injustice. For instance, equality in social status and rights between parents and their children will obviously be wrong. Likewise those who render services of superior and inferior types cannot be equal in regard to wages and salaries. What Allah enjoins is that the full rights of everyone should be honestly rendered whether those be moral, social, economic legal or political in accordance with what one justly deserves.
The second thing enjoined is "ihsan" which has no equivalent in English. This means to be good, generous, sympathetic, tolerant, forgiving, polite, cooperative, selfless, etc. In collective life this is even more important than justice; for justice is the foundation of a sound society but ihsan is its perfection. On the one hand, justice protects society from bitterness and violation of rights: on the other, ihsan makes it sweet and joyful and worth living. It is obvious that no society can flourish if every individual insists on exacting his pound of flesh. At best such a society might be free from conflict but there cannot be love, gratitude, generosity, sacrifice, sincerity, sympathy and such humane qualities as produce sweetness in life and develop high values.
The third thing which has been enjoined is good treatment towards one's relatives which in fact is a specific form of ihsan. It means that one should not only treat one's relatives well, share their sorrows and pleasures and help them within lawful limits but should also share one's wealth with them according to one's means and the need of each relative. This enjoins on everyone who possesses ample means to acknowledge the share of one's deserving relatives along with the rights of one's own person and family. The Divine Law holds every well-to-do person in a family to be responsible for fulfilling the needs of all his needy kith and kin. The Law considers it a great evil that one person should enjoy the pleasures of life while his own kith and kin are starving. As it considers the family to be an important part of society, it lays down that the first right of needy individuals is on its well-to-do members and then on the others. Likewise it is the first duty of the well-to-do members of the family to fulfill the needs of their own near relatives and then those of others. The Holy Prophet has emphasized this fact in many Traditions, according to which a person owes rights to his parents, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters, other relatives, etc., in accordance with the nearness of their relationships. On the basis of this fundamental principle, Caliph Umar made it obligatory on the first cousins of an orphan to support him. In the case of another orphan he declared that if he had no first cousins he would have made it obligatory on distant cousins to support him. Just imagine the happy condition of the society every unit of which supports its every needy individual in this way-most surely that society will become high and pure economically, socially, and morally.
In contrast to the above-mentioned three virtues, Allah prohibits three vices which ruin individuals and the society as a whole:
(1) The Arabic word fahsha applies to all those things that are immodest, immoral or obscene or nasty or dirty or vulgar, not fit to be seen or heard, because they offend against recognized standards of propriety or good taste, e.g., adultery, fornication, homo-sexuality, nakedness, nudity, theft, robbery, drinking, gambling, begging, abusive language and the like. Likewise it is indecent to indulge in giving publicity to any of these evils and to spread them, e.g., false propaganda, calumny, publicity of crimes, indecent stories, dramas, films, naked pictures, public appearance of womenfolk with indecent make-ups, free mixing of sexes, dancing and the like.
(2) Munkar applies to all those evils which have always been universally regarded as evils and have been forbidden by all divine systems of law.
(3) Baghy applies to those vices that transgress the proper limits of decency and violate the rights of others, whether those of the Creator or His Creation.
In this verse, Allah has enjoined three kinds of Covenants which have been mentioned in the order of their importance. The first of these Covenants is the one between man and his Allah which is the most important of all. The second in importance is the Covenant between one man or one group of men and another man or another group of men, which is taken with Allah as a witness or in which the name of God has been used. The third Covenant is that which has been made without using Allah's name. Though this is third in importance, its fulfillment is as important as that of the first two and the violation of any of these has been prohibited.
In this connection it should be noted that Allah has rebuked the people for the worst form of violation of treaties which has been creating the greatest disorder in the world. It is a pity that even "big" people consider it to be a virtue to violate treaties in order to gain advantages for their people in political, economic and religious conflicts. At one time the leader of one nation enters into a treaty with another nation for the interest of his own people but at another time the same leader publicly breaks the very same treaty for the interest of his people, or secretly violates it. It is an irony that such violations are made even by those people who are honest in their private lives. Moreover, it is regrettable that their own people do not protest against them; nay, they eulogize them for such shameful feats of diplomacy. Therefore, Allah warns that every such treaty is a test of the character of those who enter into it, and of their nations. They might gain some apparent advantage for their people in this way, but they will not escape their consequences on the Day of Judgment.
This is to warn that decision about differences and disputes that lead to conflict, will be made on the Day of Judgment. Therefore, these should not be made an excuse to break agreements and treaties. Even if one is wholly in the right and the opponent is wholly in the wrong, it is not right for the former to break treaties or make false propaganda or employ other deceitful methods to defeat the other. If one does so, it will go against him on that Day because righteousness demands that one should not only be right in one's theories and aims but should also use right methods and employ right means. This warning has especially been given to those religious groups and sects who always suffer from this misunderstanding that they have a right to defeat their opponents because they are on the side of God and their opponents are rebels against Allah: therefore, there is no obligation on them to stick to their treaties with their opponents. This was what the Arab Jews practiced, declaring, "There is no moral obligation on us in regard to the pagan Arabs, and we are rightly entitled to practice dishonesty and deceit that might be of advantage to us and harmful to the disbelievers."
This further supports the previous warning. It means that it would be wrong for any champion of Allah's religion to arrogate to himself the use of every sort of method and means irrespective of whether they are right or wrong to propagate his own religion (considering it to be Allah's Religion) and try to destroy opposite religions. For this would be utterly against the will of Allah: if Allah had willed that there should be no religious differences, He could have deprived mankind of the freedom of choice. In that case, there would have been no need for Allah to get help of any such up-holder of His Religion, who uses disgraceful means for this purpose. Allah could have created all mankind to be inherent believers and obedient servants by depriving them of the power and option of disbelief and sin. Then there would have been none who could have dared to deviate from belief and obedience.
This is to show that Allah Himself has given man the power and freedom to follow any out of the many ways. That is why Allah makes arrangements for the guidance of the one who intends to follow the right way, and lets go astray the one who desires to deviate.