Abbas - Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs
(They ask thee (O Muhammad), of new moons) they ask you about the increase and decrease of the moon. (Say) O Muhammad! (They are fixed seasons for mankind) they are signs for people so that they pay back their debts and know the waiting periods of their women and the timing of their fast and the breaking of their fast (and for the pilgrimage) and for the timing of pilgrimage. This verse was revealed about Mu'adh Ibn Jabal when he asked the Prophet (pbuh) about the timing of the pilgrimage. (It is not righteousness) it is not an act of obedience or God-fearing (that ye go to houses by the backs thereof) during ritual consecration (ihram), (but the righteous man) the obedient person during the time of ritual consecration (is he who wardeth off (evil)) hunting and other things. (So go to the houses) enter the houses (by the gates thereof) by the gates you used to enter, (and observe your duty to Allah) fear Allah during the time of ritual consecration, (that ye may be successful) so that you will be spared Allah's wrath and punishment. This verse was revealed about a group of Companions of the Prophet (pbuh) from the tribes of Kinanah and Khuza'ah, who used to enter their houses, during the time of ritual consecration, from the back or from the roof, as was the habit during the pre-Islamic era.
The waxing and waning of the moon and its increase and decrease are allusions to the contraction and expansion of the recognizers and the awe and intimacy of the lovers. The contraction and expansion of the elect are like the fear and hope of the common people. Contraction and expansion are higher than fear and hope, and so also awe and intimacy are higher than contraction and expansion. Fear and hope belong to the common people, contraction and expansion to the elect, and awe and intimacy to the elect of the elect.
First is the station of the wrongdoers, next the station of the moderate, and third the station of the preceders.14 The furthest limit of all is the intimacy of the lovers. In the state of intimacy, a man reaches a point where, if he enters fire, he is unaware of it and its heat leaves no trace in the repose of his intimacy. Thus Abū Ḥafṣ Ḥaddād was a blacksmith. He had lit up an exceedingly hot fire and placed iron within it, as is the custom of blacksmiths. Someone was passing by and reciting a verse of the Qur'an. The shaykh became happy at that verse and the state of intimacy overcame him. He put his hand into the furnace and pulled out the hot iron. He held it until his apprentice looked at him and said, “O Shaykh! How is that you are holding the hot iron in your hand?!” The shaykh put it aside, and then he left his profession. He said, “I have left this profession many times and then come back to it. This time, the profession left me.”
They will ask you, O Muhammad (s), about the new moons (ahilla, plural of hilāl): ‘Why do they seem very thin, and then wax until they are full of light, and then wane again as at the first, and are not always the same, in the way that the sun is?’ Say, to them: ‘They are appointed times (mawāqīt is the plural of mīqāt) for the people, for them to know the times for sowing the land, for business, for their women’s waiting periods, their fast and their breaking it, and the Pilgrimage’ (wa’l-hajji and the Pilgrimage’, is a supplement to li’l-nāsi, ‘for the people’), that is to say, [appointed times] by which its season is known, for if they [the new moons] always looked the same, none of these things could be known. It is not piety to come to the houses from their backs, in [your] state of pilgrimage inviolability (ihrām), when you would bore holes in them to enter them and then exit, disregarding their doors; they used to do this and claim that it was out of piety; but piety is to fear, God by not contravening His commands; so come to the houses by their doors, when in a state of pilgrimage inviolability, and fear God, that you may prosper, [that you may] triumph.
They will ask you about the new moons, that is, about the risings of the heart upon the radiation on them of the light of the spirit. Say, 'They are appointed times for the people [and the Pilgrimage'], that is, [they are] the moments in which transactions must be carried out for the cause of God, as well as the resolve for wayfaring, the circumambulation of the House of the heart and the standing at the station of gnosis. It is not piety to come to the houses, of your hearts, from their backs, by way of your senses and the knowledge that you have acquired that derives from corporeal feelings, for the back of the heart is the aspect that is adjacent to the body; but piety is, the piety of, the one who guards himself, against the distractions of the senses and the murmurings of the imagination and the whisperings of the soul; so come to the houses by their, inner, doors, those that lie adjacent to the spirit and the truth, for the door of the heart is the path by which it is opened unto to the truth; and fear God, if you are distracted by what distracts you from Him, that you may prosper.
(They ask you (O Muhammad) about the crescents. Say, "These are signs to mark fixed periods of time for mankind...) so that they mark their acts of worship, the `Iddah (the period of time a divorced woman or a widow is required to wait before remarrying) of their women and the time of their Hajj (pilgrimage to Makkah).'' `Abdur-Razzaq reported that Ibn `Umar narrated that Allah's Messenger said:
(Allah has made the crescents signs to mark fixed periods of time for mankind. Hence, fast on seeing it (the crescent for Ramadan) and break the fast on seeing it (the crescent for Shawwal). If it (the crescent) was obscure to you then count thirty days (mark that month as thirty days).) WThis Hadith was also collected by Al-Hakim in his Mustadrak, and he said, "The chain is Sahih, and they (Al-Bukhari and Muslim) did not recorded it."
(It is not Al-Birr (piety, righteousness, etc.) that you enter the houses from the back but Al-Birr is from Taqwa. So enter houses through their proper doors.)
Abu Dawud At-Tayalisi recorded the same Hadith from Al-Bara' but with the wording; "The Ansar used to enter their houses from the back when returning from a journey. Thereafter, this Ayah (2:189 above) was revealed...''
Al-Hasan said, "When some people during the time of Jahiliyyah would leave home to travel, and then decide not to travel, they would not enter the house from its door. Rather, they would climb over the back wall. Allah the Exalted said:
(It is not Al-Birr (piety, righteousness) that you enter the houses from the back,).''
وَاتَّقُواْ اللَّهَ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُفْلِحُونَ
(...and have Taqwa of Allah that you may be successful.) Have Taqwa of Allah, means to do what He has commanded you and refrain from what He has forbidden for you,
(that you may be successful.) tomorrow when you stand before Him and He thus rewards you perfectly.
Maududi - Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi - Tafhim al-Qur'an
The phases of the moon have attracted the attention of mankind in every age, and different kinds of rites and superstitions have been connected with these in every country. The Arabs also had some superstitions connected with these. They took omens from them for journeys, marriage ceremonies, business, etc., and performed some superstitious practices, for they believed that the phases and the eclipse of the moon affected their fortunes. Therefore they questioned the Holy Prophet concerning this. Allah answered their question and informed them that the phases of the moon were nothing but uatural calendar in the sky to indicate dates of the month to the people simultaneously throughout the world. Hajj has been specially mentioned in this connection because of its religious, cultural and economic importance to the Arabs. Four months of the year were fixed for Hajj and 'Umrah during which war was suspended and the routes were made safe, and business flourished on account of peace.
This was one of their superstitious customs. As soon as they put on the Ihram, the ceremonial dress for Hajj, they would not enter their houses by the front doors, but would enter them by jumping over the walls or through windows in the rear of their houses. In this verse, Allah has not only refuted this superstitious custom but also warned that virtue has nothing to do with the superstitious rites and customs which were being practised merely in blind imitation of their forefathers, for they did not affect the fortune of man in any way.
They will ask you about the new moons. Say “They are appointed times for the people and the pilgrimage.” The “moons” ahilla-the plural of a “moon” hilāl-are appointed times for the people for their activities and calculations. For the people of the story ahl al-qiṣṣa they are appointed times for their various states aḥwāl. For the ascetics [they are] appointed times for their litanies awrād. For the elect they are appointed times for their moments ḥālāt. The one who spoke for them said: I count the nights one after another. In the days of old I never really counted them. Another said: Eight days have passed without meeting. I do not have the patience to wait more than eight. Another said: Months pass we have not noticed their midpoints nor their ends. It is not piety to come to the houses from their backs ẓuhūr but piety is to fear; so come to the houses by their doors and fear God that you may prosper. It means that piety is not guarding external affairs al-umūr al-ẓāhira but rather piety is purifying the inner secrets taṣfiyat al-sarāÌir and cleaning the recesses of hearts tanqiyat al-ḌamāÌir.
(They ask thee, (O Muhammad), of new moons…) [2:189]. Said Mu‘adh ibn Jabal: “O Messenger of Allah! The Jews come to us and ask us excessively about new moons”. And so Allah, exalted is He, revealed this verse. Said Qatadah: “It was mentioned to us that the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, was asked about the reason why these new moons were created. And so Allah, exalted is He, revealed (…They are fixed seasons for mankind…)”. Said al-Kalbi: “This was revealed about Mu‘adh ibn Jabal and Tha‘labah ibn ‘Anmah, both of whom were of the Ansar. These two men said: ‘O Messenger of Allah! How is it that the moon first looks fine like a thread, then it grows until it becomes full and round, but then it starts to decrease and become fine again as it initially was. It never stays in one form?’ And as a response, Allah revealed this verse”. (It is not righteousness that ye go to houses by the backs thereof…) [2:189]. Muhammad ibn Ibrahim al-Muzakki informed us> Abu ‘Amr ibn Matar> Abu Khalifa> Abu’l-Walid and al-Hawdi who said: Shu‘bah informed us> Abu Ishaq> al-Bara’ ibn ‘Azib who said: “Upon returning from the pilgrimage, the Helpers used to avoid entering their houses through their front doors and instead use the back doors. One of the men entered the house through his front door and, because of this, he was insulted. This verse was revealed because of this incident”. This report was narrated by Bukhari from the report of Abu’l-Walid, and also by Muslim from the report of Bundar> Ghundar> Shu‘bah. Abu Bakr al-Tamimi informed us> Abu’l-Shaykh> Abu Yahya al-Razi> Sahl ibn ‘Ubayd> ‘Ubayda> al-A‘mash> Abu Sufyan> Jabir who said: “The tribe of Quraysh used to be called al-Humus. Their members used to enter through doors while in ritual consecration. Once, the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, was in a walled field [while in a state of consecration]. When he left this field, he used the door. Qutbah ibn ‘Amir al-Ansari who was with him went out right behind him. People said: ‘O Messenger of Allah! Qutbah ibn ‘Amir al-Ansari is an impious person. He went out after you, using the door’. The Prophet then asked him: ‘Why did you do it?’ Qutbah said: ‘I saw you doing it and I followed your example’. The Prophet said: ‘But I am Ahmasi [i.e. from al-Humus]’. Qutbah replied: ‘But your religion is my religion’. And because of this Allah revealed (It is not righteousness that ye go to houses by the backs thereof…)”. The commentators of the Qur’an said: “In the pre-Islamic period and beginning of the Islamic period, a man did not enter a walled field, room or house from its door once he was in ritual consecration. If the man happened to be a city dweller, he would dig a hole at the back of his house and use it to come in and go out; or alternately use a ladder to get to his house from the top. If the man was a nomad, he would use the back of his tent. He would never enter from the door until the end of his ritual consecration. People considered this as part of the religion, and this applied to all unless one was of al-Humus who include: Quraysh, Kinanah, Khuza‘ah, Thaqif, Khath‘am, Banu ‘Amir ibn Sa‘sa‘ah and Banu’l-Nadr ibn Mu‘awiyah. These were called al-Humus because of their intense adherence to their religion. It so happened that one day the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, entered a house which belonged to one of the Helpers. One man of the Helpers, who happened to be in ritual consecration, followed him through the door. People censored him for doing so, and the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, asked him: ‘Why did you go through the door while in ritual consecration?' The man said: ‘I saw you entering through the door and I followed you’. The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, said: ‘But I am Ahmasi [i.e. of al-Humus]!’ The man said: ‘If you are Ahmasi, then so am I: our religion is one; I have accepted your guidance, way and religion’. As a result, Allah, exalted is He, revealed this verse”.