Abbas - Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs
Allah then gave a similitude regarding the unbelievers vis-à-vis Muhammad (pbuh) saying: (The likeness of those who disbelieve) vis-à-vis Muhammad (pbuh) (is as the likeness of one who calleth unto that which heareth nothing) just like camels and sheep with their shepherd: his speech is unintelligible to them when he says to them, for example, eat or drink (except a shout and a cry. Deaf) concerning the Truth, (dumb) regarding the Truth, (blind) to guidance; i.e. they pretend to be deaf, dumb and blind when it comes to the Truth and guidance, (therefore they have no sense) they do not understand Allah's command and the call of the Prophet (pbuh) just as camels and cattle do not comprehend the words of their shepherd.
The likeness, the attribute, of those who disbelieve, and the one who calls them to guidance, is as the likeness of one who shouts to that which hears nothing, save a call and a cry, only a sound, not understanding its meaning: when they listen to an admonition they are like cattle that hear the cry of their shepherd but do not understand what he is saying; they are deaf, dumb, blind — they do not comprehend, any admonition.
The likeness of those who disbelieve, the likeness of the one who calls on the rejected disbelievers, is as the likeness of [one who shouts to that which hears nothing, save a call and a cry; deaf, dumb, blind - they do not comprehend], [as the likeness of] one who shouts to beasts who cannot hear anything but sounds and do not understand the meaning: thus is their predicament.
Allah states that if the disbelievers and polytheists are called to follow what Allah has revealed to His Messenger and abandon the practices of misguidance and ignorance that they indulge in, they will say, "Rather. We shall follow what we found our fathers following,'' meaning, worshipping the idols and the false deities. Allah criticized their reasoning:
أَوَلَوْ كَانَ ءَابَاؤُهُمْ
((Would they do that!) even though their fathers), meaning, those whom they follow and whose practices they imitate, and:
لاَ يَعْقِلُونَ شَيْئًا وَلاَ يَهْتَدُونَ
(...did not understand anything nor were they guided) meaning, they had no sound understanding or guidance. Ibn Ishaq reported that Ibn `Abbas said that this was revealed about a group of Jews whom Allah's Messenger called to Islam, but they refused, saying, "Rather, we shall follow what we found our forefathers following.'' So Allah revealed this Ayah (2:170) above."
The Disbeliever is just like an Animal
Allah then made a parable of the disbelievers, just as He said in another Ayah:
(For those who believe not in the Hereafter is an evil description.) (16:60)
Similarly, Allah said here (2:171 above)
وَمَثَلُ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُواْ
(And the example of those who disbelieve...) meaning, in their injustice, misguidance and ignorance, they are just like wandering animals, not understanding what they are told; if the shepherd heralds them or calls them to what benefits them, they would not understand what is actually being said to them, for they only hear unintelligible sounds. This is what is reported from Ibn `Abbas, Abu Al-`Aliyah, Mujahid, `Ikrimah, `Ata', Al-Hasan, Qatadah, `Ata' Al-Khurasani and Ar-Rabi` bin Anas.
صُمٌّ بُكْمٌ عُمْىٌ
(They are deaf, dumb, and blind.) means, they are deaf, as they do not hear the truth; mute, as they do not utter it; and blind, as they do not see or recognize its path and way.
فَهُمْ لاَ يَعْقِلُونَ
(So they do not understand.) means, they do not comprehend or understand anything.
Maududi - Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi - Tafhim al-Qur'an
The only authority they have for their superstitious practices is that these have been the customs of their forefathers, and the foolish followers consider this a good authority.
This parable has two aspects:
(1) That these people are like those herds of cattle which merely hear the call and cry of the drovers and move about at the sound of their call without understanding the meaning of their words.
(2) That preaching before them is like preaching to the cattle which only hear the sounds but do not comprehend the meaning and the implication of the words that are spoken to them. The words used are comprehensive and cover both the aspects.
The likeness of those who disbelieve is as the likeness of one who shouts to that which hears nothing save a call and a cry; deaf dumb blind-they do not comprehend. Without the ears of comprehension and acceptance their bodily hearing did not benefit them. They descended to the status of animals incapable of actualization taḥṣīl. Whoever is content to be like an animal man raḌiya an yakūn ka-l-bahīma does not have much worth lam yaqaʿu ʿalayhi kathīr al-qīma.