Abbas - Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs
(And when We said: Go into this township) the village of Jericho (Ariha) (and eat freely of that which is therein) whenever you will, (and enter the gate prostrate, and say: " Repentance ".) i.e. say: " forgive our sins " ; as it is also said that this means: say: " there is no god save Allah " ; (We will forgive your sins and increase for the right-doers) increase their good deeds.
And when We said, to them, after they came out of the wilderness, ‘Enter this city, either the Holy House [of Jerusalem] (Bayt al-Maqdis) or Jericho (Arīhā), and eat freely therein wherever you will, plentifully and without any restrictions, and enter it at the gate, its gate, prostrating, bowing, and say, ‘our request is for [an] exoneration’, that is, ‘That we be exonerated from our transgressions’, and We shall forgive (naghfir: a variant reading has one of the two passive forms yughfar or tughfar, ‘[they] will be forgiven’) you your transgressions and We shall give more to those who are virtuous’ — through obedience — in terms of reward.
And when We said, 'Enter this city, that is, the lush garden of the sanctified spirit which is the station of the witnessing, [and eat freely therein wherever you will,] and enter it at the gate, of satisfaction, as cited by the ḥadīth - satisfaction with God's decree is the greatest gate to God - prostrating, bent down, submissive to what rushes upon you of the self-disclosures of the descriptions, the acts and the bearing [ḍ]. As for His saying: and say, 'exoneration', that is, ask that God exonerate the sins of your attributes, character traits and acts, and We shall forgive you your transgressions, your variegations and the sins issuing from your states, and We shall give more to those who are virtuous', that is the witnessers - on account of his [the Prophet's] statement: 'Virtuousness is to worship God as though you could see Him; [We shall increase them in] the reward of their virtuousness, which is the unveiling of the Essence, or their virtuousness by wayfaring towards God.
The Jews were Rebellious instead of Appreciative when They gained Victory
Allah admonished the Jews for avoiding Jihad and not entering the holy land as they had been ordered to do when they came from Egypt with Musa. They were also commanded to fight the disbelieving `Amaliq (Canaanites) dwelling in the holy land at that time. But they did not want to fight, because they were weak and exhausted. Allah punished them by causing them to become lost, and to continue wandering, as Allah has stated in Surat Al-Ma'idah (5). The correct opinion about the meaning of, `the holy land' mentioned here is that it was Bayt Al-Maqdis (Jerusalem), as As-Suddi, Ar-Rabi` bin Anas, Qatadah and Abu Muslim Al-Asfahani, as well as others have stated. Musa said,
(O people! Enter the holy land which Allah has assigned to you and turn not back (in flight).) (5:21)
However, some scholars said that the holy land is Jericho, (Ariha') and this opinion was mentioned from Ibn `Abbas and `Abdur-Rahman bin Zayd.
After the years of wandering ended forty years later, in the company of Yuwsha` (Joshua) bin Nun, Allah allowed the Children of Israel to conquer the holy land on the eve of a Friday. On that day, the sun was kept from setting for a little more time, until victory was achieved. When the Children of Israel conquered the holy land, they were commanded to enter its gate while,
(prostrating) in appreciation to Allah for making them victorious, triumphant, returning them to their land and saving them from being lost and wandering. Al-`Awfi said that Ibn `Abbas said that,
وَادْخُلُواْ الْبَابَ سُجَّدًا
(and enter the gate Sujjadan) means, "While bowing''. Ibn Jarir reported Ibn `Abbas saying,
وَادْخُلُواْ الْبَابَ سُجَّدًا
(and enter the gate in prostration) means, "Through a small door while bowing.'' Al-Hakim narrated it, and Ibn Abi Hatim added, "And they went through the door backwards!'' Al-Hasan Al-Basri said that they were ordered to prostrate on their faces when they entered the city, but Ar-Razi discounted this explanation. It was also said that the Sujud mentioned here means, `submissiveness', for actually entering while prostrating is not possible.
Khasif said that `Ikrimah said that Ibn `Abbas said, "The door mentioned here was facing the Qiblah.'' Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid, As-Suddi, Qatadah and Ad-Dahhak said that the door is the door of Hittah in Iylya', which is Jerusalem. Ar-Razi also reported that some of them said that it was a door in the direction of the Qiblah''. Khasif said that `Ikrimah said that Ibn `Abbas said that the Children of Israel entered the door sideways. As-Suddi said that Abu Sa`id Al-Azdy said that Abu Al-Kanud said that `Abdullah bin Mas`ud said that they were commanded to, u
وَادْخُلُواْ الْبَابَ سُجَّدًا
(enter the gate in prostration (or bowing with humility)) but instead, they entered while their heads were raised in defiance.
Allah said next,
(and say: `Hittah'). Ibn `Abbas commented, "Seek Allah's forgiveness.'' Al-Hasan and Qatadah said that it means, "Say, `Relieve us from our errors.''
(and We shall forgive you your sins and shall increase (reward) for the good-doers) Here is the reward for fulfilling Allah's commandment. This Ayah means, "If you implement what We commanded you, We will forgive your sins and multiply your good deeds.'' In summary, upon achieving victory, the Children of Israel were commanded to submit to Allah in tongue and deed and, to admit to their sins and seek forgiveness for them, to be grateful to Allah for the blessings He gave them, hastening to do the deeds that Allah loves, as He said,
(When there comes the help of Allah (to you, O Muhammad against your enemies) and the conquest (of Makkah). And you see that the people enter Allah's religion (Islam) in crowds. So glorify the praises of your Lord, and ask His forgiveness. Verily, He is the One Who accepts the repentance.) (110).
(The Children of Israel were commanded to enter the door while bowing and to say `Hittah'. Yet, they entered the door on their behinds, distorting the words. They said; `Habbah (seed), in Sha`rah (a hair).')
An-Nasa'i recorded this part of it from Abu Hurayrah only, but he has a chain from the Prophet, explaining Allah's statement,
(`Hittah'), saying, "So they deviated and said `Habbah.'' Similar was recorded by `Abdur-Razzaq, and his route was also collected by Al-Bukhari. Muslim and At-Tirmidhi narrated similar versions of this Hadith, At-Tirmidhi said, "Hasan Sahih.''
The summary of what the scholars have said about this subject is that the Children of Israel distorted Allah's command to them to submit to Him in tongue and deed. They were commanded to enter the city while bowing down, but they entered while sliding on their rear ends and raising their heads! They were commanded to say, `Hittah' meaning, "Relieve us from our errors and sins.'' However, they mocked this command and said, "Hintah (grain seed) in Sha`irah (barley).'' This demonstrates the worst type of rebellion and disobedience, and it is why Allah released His anger and punishment upon them, all because of their sinning and defying His commands. Allah said,
(So We sent upon the wrongdoers Rijz (a punishment) from the heaven because of their rebellion.)
Ad-Dahhak said that Ibn `Abbas said, "Every word in Allah's Book that says Rijz means, `a punishment.''' Mujahid, Abu Malik, As-Suddi, Al-Hasan and Qatadah were reported to have said that Rijz means `Torment.' Ibn Abi Hatim narrated that Sa`d bin Malik, Usamah bin Zayd and Khuzaymah bin Thabit said that the Messenger of Allah said,
(This calamity and sickness (i.e. the plague) is a Rijz, a punishment with which some nations who were before you were punished.)
The basis of this Hadith was also collected in the Two Sahihs.
Maududi - Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi - Tafhim al-Qur'an
The identity of the town has not so far been determined. As this incident took place when the Israelites were still wandering in the Sinai Peninsula, most probably it was situated somewhere there. But it is also possible that it might have been Shittim which was situated on the eastern bank of the Jordan, opposite to Jericho. According to the Bible, the Israelites conquered this city during the last years of Moses and committed debaucheries. Consequently, Allah inflicted a terrible punishment on them in the form of an epidemic which killed twenty-four thousand of them. (Numbers, 25: 1-9).
They were told not to enter the town like cruel and ruthless tyrants but to go in meekly and with humility like God-fearing people, just as the Prophet Muhammad (Allah's peace be upon him) did at the conquest of Makkah. "Hittatun" can have two meanings: "You should enter the town, (1) begging Allah's forgiveness for sins, and (2) granting general amnesty and refraining from plundering and murdering the inhabitants."
And when We said “Enter this city and eat freely therein wherever you will and enter it at the gate prostrating and say “exoneration” and We shall forgive you your transgressions and We shall give more to those who are virtuous.” The children of Israel persisted in neglecting that which they were commanded to do to the point that they were entrusted to preserve [their] speech but they altered it and they were commanded [to take] a position of prostration upon entering [the city] but they did not. They exposed themselves to the arrows of the unseen and then were not able to withstand the injury of their strikes lam yuṬīqū l-iṣābata bi-qarʿihā. They were exposed to unexpected punishments and could not hold up to the blows of their impact fa-lam yathbutū ʿinda ṣadamāt waqʿihā.