Abbas - Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs
(Naught hindereth Us from) We were not hindered from (sending portents) the proofs they requested (save that the folk of old denied them) except the denial of the people of old, for upon denial of these proofs, We shall destroy them just as We destroyed those before them. (And We gave Thamud the she-camel) We gave the people of Salih a pregnant she-camel (a clear portent) a clear sign for the prophethood of Salih (but they did wrong about her) they denied the sign and killed her. (We send not portents) signs (save to warn) from torment, for We destroy them if they do not believe in them.
Nothing prevented Us from sending the signs, requested by the people of Mecca, except that the ancients denied them, when We sent such [signs] and so We destroyed them: if We were to send them to these [people of Mecca], they would deny them and would thus deserve destruction. However, We have judged that they be given respite so that the mission of Muhammad (s) be completed. And We gave Thamūd the she-camel as, a sign [that was], apparent, [one that was] clear and evident, but they wronged, they disbelieved, it, and were therefore destroyed. And We do not send signs, miracles, except for deterrence, to servants, so that they might believe.
The Reason why Allah did not send Signs or Miracles
Sa`id bin Jubayr said, "The idolators said: `O Muhammad, you claim that before you there were Prophets, among whom was one to whom the wind was subjugated, and another who could bring the dead back to life. If you want us to believe in you, ask your Lord to turn As-Safa' into gold for us.' Allah conveyed to him by inspiration (Wahy): `I have heard what they have said. If you wish, I will do what they say, but if they do not believe after that, the punishment will come down upon them, because after the sign has been sent, there is no room for speculation. Or if you wish, I will be patient with your people and give them more time.' He said:
«يَارَبِّ اسْتَأْنِ بِهِم»
(O Lord, give them more time.)'' This was also narrated by Qatadah, Ibn Jurayj and others. Imam Ahmad recorded that Ibn `Abbas said, "The people of Makkah asked the Prophet to turn As-Safa' into gold for them, and to remove the mountains (from around Makkah) so that they could cultivate the land. It was said to him (by Allah): `If you wish, I will be patient and give them more time, or if you wish, I will do what they are asking, but if they then disbelieve, they will be destroyed as the nations before them were destroyed.' He said,
«لَا، بَلِ اسْتَأْنِ بِهِم»
(No, be patient and give them more time.) Then Allah revealed:
(And nothing stops Us from sending the Ayat but that the people of old denied them. ) An-Nasa'i also reported this from the Hadith of Jarir. Imam Ahmad recorded that Ibn `Abbas said: The Quraysh said to the Prophet, "Ask your Lord to turn As-Safa' into gold and we will believe in you.'' He said,
(Will you really do that) They said, "Yes.'' So he asked his Lord, and Jibril came to him and said: "Your Lord conveys His Salam to you and says, `If you wish, I will turn As-Safa' into gold for them, then whoever of them disbelieves after that, will be punished with a torment the like of which has never be seen in creation; or if you wish, I will open the gates of repentance and mercy for them.''' He said,
«بَلْ بَابُ التَّوْبَةِ وَالرَّحْمَة»
(Rather the gates of repentance and mercy.)
وَمَا نُرْسِلُ بِالاٌّيَـتِ إِلاَّ تَخْوِيفًا
(And We sent not the signs except to make them afraid (of destruction).) Qatadah said, "Allah makes people afraid with whatever signs He wills, so that they may learn a lesson and remember and return to Him. We were told that Al-Kufah was shaken at the time of Ibn Mas`ud, who said: `O people, your Lord is rebuking you, so pay heed!''' Similarly, it was reported that Al-Madinah was struck by several earthquakes at the time of `Umar bin Al-Khattab. `Umar said: "You have changed, by Allah, and if such a quake were to strike again, I will subject you to such and such.'' The Prophet said, in a Hadith whose authenticity is agreed upon:
(The sun and the moon are two of the signs of Allah, and they are not eclipsed for the death or life of anyone. Allah uses them to make His servants afraid, so if you see them, hasten to remember Him, call on Him and seek His forgiveness.) Then he said: (O Ummah of Muhammad, by Allah, no one has a greater sense of jealousy than Allah if He sees His servant, or female servant, committing Zina (illegal sexual intercourse). O Ummah of Muhammad, if you knew what I know, you would laugh little and weep much.)
Maududi - Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi - Tafhim al-Qur'an
Here "Signs" mean those visible miracles which are presented as a proof of Prophethood. The disbelievers from among the Quraish were demanding such Signs over and over again.
This is to warn the disbelievers, as if to say, "It is the mercy of Allah that He is not showing such a Sign so that you might mend your ways but in your folly you presume that such a Sign cannot be presented. You should know that a Sign is not being sent because its denial inevitably brings chastisement and the community is annihilated. You can learn from the past History that those communities which disbelieved in the open Signs were utterly destroyed, such as the people of Thamud.
That is, "Miracles are not shown for fun. These are meant to warn the people that the Prophet is being helped by the Almighty and that they should realize the terrible consequences of disobedience."
That is, "At the very beginning of your Prophethood, when the disbelievers of the Quraish had started opposition to your message, We declared that We are encircling them. They might try their worst to obstruct your Message, but they will inevitably fail in this and your Mission will succeed in the teeth of opposition. Can't they see that this declaration has come out true as a miracle, for their opposition has failed to hinder your Message, and they have not been able to do any harm to you at all ? This was a clear Sign of the fact that the Mission of the Holy Prophet was being supported by the Almighty God."
As regards the declaration that Allah is encircling the disbelievers and helping he mission of the Prophet, it occurs in several Surahs of the first stage of Prophethood at Makkah. For instance, in vv. 17-20 of LXXV, Allah says, "These disbelievers do not learn a lesson from the stories of the people of the Pharaoh and Thamud but are rejecting the Message here as Allah is encircling them on all sides."
This refers to Mi`raj (Ascension) for here word "ru'ya " does not mean "seeing things in a dream" but seeing things actually with physical eyes. It is quite obvious that if it had been a mere "dream" and the Holy Prophet had presented it as a dream to the disbelievers, there was no reason why it should have become a trial for them. Everyday people see strange dreams and relate them to the people but these dreams never become such a curious thing as to make people scoff at the dreamer and accuse him of making a false claim or of being a mad person.
This cursed tree, Az-Zaqqum " which has been mentioned in vv 43-4 of Surah XLIV, grows at the bottom of Hell and its dwellers shall have to eat it. This has been called a cursed tree because it is not given to people to eat as a mercy from Allah but as a symbol of His curse so that the accursed people should eat it and get more sore, for this will, so to speak, burn in their bellies like the boiling water.
That is, We showed you such things during the Mi'raj so that they should have the first hand knowledge of the Reality from a truthful and honest man like you and be warned by it to the Right Way. They, however, began to make fun of you, though We had already warned them through you that their evil ways would force them to eat of the Az-Zaqqum. Instead of this they began to scoff at you, saying, Just consider the logic of this man: on the one hand, he says that there an awful fire burning in Hell and, on the other, he says that trees are growing in it."
(Naught hindereth Us from sending portents…) [17:59]. Sa‘id ibn Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn Ja‘far informed us> Zahir ibn Ahmad> Abu’l-Qasim al-Baghawi> ‘Uthman ibn Abi Shaybah> Jarir ibn ‘Abd al-Hamid> al-A‘mash> Ja‘far ibn Iyas> Sa‘id ibn Jubayr> Ibn ‘Abbas who said: “The people of Mecca asked the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, to turn al-Safa hill into gold and remove the mountains [surrounding Mecca] for them so that they can engage in agriculture. It was said to him: ‘If you wish to wait for them until We may select people from them [to believe in you], or you can give them what they have asked for. But if they disbelieve after that, We will destroy them like We destroyed those before them’. He said: ‘No, I would rather wait’. And so Allah, glorious and majestic is He, revealed this verse (Naught hindereth Us from sending portents save that the folk of old denied them…)”.