Abbas - Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs
(And when We would destroy a township We send commandment to its folk who live at ease) We send commandments to its leaders and tyrants to obey; it is also said that this means: We increase the number of its chiefs, tyrants and wealthy people; and it is also said that this means: We rouse against them their tyrants and leaders, (and afterward they commit abomination therein) they commit acts of disobedience therein, (and so the Word (of doom) hath effect for it) its destruction takes effect, (and We annihilate it with complete annihilation) We completely destroy them.
And when We desire to destroy a town We command its affluent ones, those [inhabitants] of its who enjoy the graces [of God], meaning its leaders, [We command them] to obedience, by the tongue of Our messengers; but they fall into immorality therein, rebelling against Our command, and so the Word is justified concerning it, that it should be chastised, and We destroy it utterly, We annihilate it by annihilating its inhabitants and leaving it in ruins.
And when We desire to destroy a town, to the end [of this verse]: to everything in this world there comes elimination and this elimination comes as a result of a preparedness that entails it. Just as the elimination of the body, by the elimination of moderation and the actualisation of deviance, makes a thing distant from the shadow of the Oneness, which is the cause of the subsistence and firm existence of everything, so too is the case when it comes to the destruction of a town and its elimination because of the occurrence of a deviation in it from the straight path, which is the path of God, that is, the [divine] Law that preserves [the cosmic] order. So when the time comes for the destruction of a town it will have undoubtedly become deserving of destruction, and that will be as a result of some wickedness or refusal to obey God. Thus when His will pertains to its destruction there precedes necessarily the wicked acts of its affluent inhabitants, those wealthy and comfortable folk who were arrogant and insolent with God's graces, using them in other than the way in which they ought to be [used]: that [comes] by a command of God and a determining by Him, because of a wretchedness that had adhered to their preparednesses and upon which their destruction became necessary.
The commentators differed over the meaning of this word. It was said that the phrase translated here as "Amarna those who live luxuriously. Then, they transgress therein'' means, "We send Our decree upon them'' as Allah says elsewhere:
أَتَاهَآ أَمْرُنَا لَيْلاً أَوْ نَهَارًا
(Our decree reaches it by night or by day) For Amarna cannot mean "Our command'' because Allah does not command or enjoin immorality. Or, they said it means that Allah subjugated them to commit immoral deeds, so they deserved the punishment. Or it was said that it means: "We commanded them to obey Us, but they committed immoral sins, so they deserved punishment.'' This was reported from Ibn Jurayj from Ibn `Abbas, and it is also the view of Sa`id bin Jubayr.
أَمَرْنَا مُتْرَفِيهَا فَفَسَقُواْ فِيهَا
(Amarna those who live luxuriously. Then, they transgress therein,) `Ali bin Abi Talhah reported that Ibn `Abbas said: this means "We gave power to the evil people, so they committed sin therein (in the town), and because they did that, Allah destroyed them with the punishment.'' This is similar to the Ayah:
(And when We decide to distroy a town (populaton), Amarna those who live luxuriously. Then, they transgress therein,) Al-`Awfi reported that Ibn `Abbas said, (it means) "We increase their numbers. This was also the view of `Ikrimah, Al-Hasan, Ad-Dahhak and Qatadah, and it was reported from Malik and Az-Zuhri.
Maududi - Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi - Tafhim al-Qur'an
Here a definite form of Divine procedure for the destruction of a people has been stated. When the well-to-do people of a habitation become disobedient, it is a portent that it is doomed to destruction. After their persistent and continuous transgression, the well-to-do people become so obdurate in their disobedience that they begin to discard the instinctive dictates of their conscience. The same thing has been stated in v. 16: "When We decree that a habitation should be destroyed We give Commands to its well-to-do people and they show disobedience." This is because Allah has created conscience for the guidance of man. Therefore, the dictates of conscience are really the commands of Allah. Thus it has become quite obvious that by "When We decree that a habitation should be destroyed" is not meant that Allah intends to destroy it without any reason. It is destroyed because after their disobedience "that habitation incurs Our just wrath and We totally exterminate it." The habitation deserves such a punishment because its common people follow the well-to-do people who are the factual leaders of a community and are mainly responsible for the corruption of the community. At first the well-to-do people commit acts of disobedience, wickedness, mischief, cruelty and tyranny and then the common people follow them and incur the torment of Allah. Incidentally, this is a warning for every community that it should be very discreet and prudent in choosing and electing its leaders and rulers, for if the latter are mean and wicked, they will inevitably lead the community to destruction.