Abbas - Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs
Then Allah mentioned the murdered person, saying: (And (remember) when ye slew a man) 'Amil (and disagreed concerning it) concerning his murder (and Allah brought forth that which ye were hiding) thus demonstrating what you hid with regard to his murder.
And when you killed a living soul, and disputed thereon (iddāra’tum: the tā’ [of the root-form itdāra’tum] has been assimilated with the dāl) — and God disclosed what you were hiding (this is a parenthetical statement; the story begins here [with wa-idh qataltum nafsan, ‘and when you killed a soul’… and continues in the following]):
And when you killed a living soul, and disputed thereon, an allusion to the elucidation of the reason behind the command to sacrifice a cow, which is that a rich old man from among the Children of Israel had a son, a young man, and he was killed by two of his paternal cousins, or others as well, who coveted the inheritance he would have received from his father. They dumped him on the road somewhere between [the dwelling-places of] the [twelve] tribes of the Children of Israel and each denied his murder. The command then came to sacrifice a cow and strike him with parts of her to bring him back to life so that he might inform [them] of his murderer. The young man then is the heart and the son of the spirit who was rich through the wealth of gnoses and wisdoms; his murder was a denial to him of his true life and the removal from him of true love which was his life after being captured by the two faculties of lust and wrath, namely, his two cousins - the animal soul or the totality of its powers. For the spirit and the soul are brothers by virtue of their effusion and birth from the same father, the active intellect, referred to as the Holy Spirit, [if understood] by analogy with what the ḥadīth states: 'Be kind to your aunt, the date-palm, for it was created from the surplus of Adam's clay'. The animal soul is the aunt of the perfect vegetative soul, if this [latter] is taken to be the aunt of the human soul. They slew him because they coveted the use of the rational meanings and wisdoms - that which constituted his inheritance from his father - to actualise their demands, their perfections and their pleasures by all manner of tricks, strategem and the concocting of ideas. They dumped him on the roads of spiritual and natural powers between where they lie. Their denial to one another of his murder was [the attempt] to transfer every faculty that produces corruption and sin to the other, and [to transfer] righteousness and innocence to itself, because of the mutual struggling and contending [of these powers] with regard to their acts and their pleasures, and [because of] the fact that each of these is veiled behind what suits it and [veiled] from what suits another, as well its deeming its own as righteous while that of its counterpart as corrupt; and God disclosed what you were hiding, of the light of the heart and its life by your capture of it.
(And disagreed among yourselves as to the crime) means, "Disputed.''
This is also the Tafsir of Mujahid. `Ata' Al-Khurasani and Ad-Dahhak said, "Disputed about this matter.'' Also, Ibn Jurayj said that,
وَإِذْ قَتَلْتُمْ نَفْسًا فَادَرَأْتُمْ فِيهَا
(And (remember) when you killed a man and disagreed among yourselves as to the crime) means, some of them said, "You killed him,'' while the others said, "No you killed him.'' This is also the Tafsir of `Abdur-Rahman bin Zayd bin Aslam. Mujahid said that,
وَاللَّهُ مُخْرِجٌ مَّا كُنتُمْ تَكْتُمُونَ
(But Allah brought forth that which you were Taktumun) means, "what you were hiding.''
فَقُلْنَا اضْرِبُوهُ بِبَعْضِهَا
(So We said: "Strike him (the dead man) with a piece of it (the cow)'') meaning, "any part of the cow will produce the miracle (if they struck the dead man with it).'' We were not told which part of the cow they used, as this matter does not benefit us either in matters of life or religion. Otherwise, Allah would have made it clear for us. Instead, Allah made this matter vague, so this is why we should leave it vague. Allah's statement,
كَذَلِكَ يُحْىِ اللَّهُ الْمَوْتَى
(Thus Allah brings the dead to life) means, "They struck him with it, and he came back to life.'' This Ayah demonstrates Allah's ability in bringing the dead back to life. Allah made this incident proof against the Jews that the Resurrection shall occur, and ended their disputing and stubbornness over the dead person.
Allah mentioned His bringing the dead back to life in five instances in Surat Al-Baqarah. First Allah said,
ثُمَّ بَعَثْنَـكُم مِّن بَعْدِ مَوْتِكُمْ
(Then We raised you up after your death). He then mentioned the story about the cow. Allah also mentioned the story of those who escaped death in their land, while they were numbering in the thousands. He also mentioned the story of the Prophet who passed by a village that was destroyed, the story of Abraham and the four birds, and the land that comes back to life after it has died. All these incidents and stories alert us to the fact that bodies shall again become whole, after they were rotten. The proof of Resurrection is also reiterated in Allah's statement,
(And a sign for them is the dead land. We give it life, and We bring forth from it grains, so that they eat thereof. And We have made therein gardens of date palms and grapes, and We have caused springs of water to gush forth therein. So that they may eat of the fruit thereof ـ and their hands made it not. Will they not then give thanks) (36:33-35).
Maududi - Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi - Tafhim al-Qur'an
The wording of the Qur'an clearly shows that the murdered man came to life for a little while and told the name of his murderer. However, there is some ambiguity concerning the method applied for discovering the murderer, that is, the striking of the dead body of the murdered man with a piece of "the sacrificed cow". A method similar to this described in Deut. 21: 1-9, confirms the interpretation put forward by the ancient scholars, that is, the dead body was struck with a piece of the flesh of the sacrificed cow and it came to life. In this way, a Sign of Allah was shown and at the same time it was demonstrated that the object of their worship was so powerless that its slaughter did not cause any harm. On the contrary, its slaughter proved useful.
And when you killed a living soul and disputed thereon-and God disclosed what you were hiding One who is disloyal is afraid and out of fear that his secret will become manifest relies on concealment deception denial and evasion. His fault ʿawāruhu is inevitably discovered his secrets asrāruhu exposed and the coverings astāruhu fall because of the shame of his action. God most high said “and God disclosed what you were hiding.”
And when you killed a living soul and disputed thereon…That is, you fell into discord concerning it. Why then did you slay them, if you speak the truth? [3:183] Sahl said regarding these words:This is a reproach from God, Mighty and Majestic is He, to them [the Jews] with regard to those of their forefathers who were murderers of prophets. As you know, those who are addressed in this verse had not killed a prophet at the time of the Prophet, nor was there at that time any other Prophet but him. However, God addressed them with reference to those who came before them among their kin, as He addressed the Prophet with what was in reality directed to his nation [as a whole] with His words: O Prophet! When you [men] divorce women, divorce them by their prescribed period [65:1] The same [principle applies] to His words: About what are they questioning one another?! About the awesome tidings [78:1, 2], [by which is meant], ‘For what reason do you question the Prophet, when he is more knowledgeable concerning that’.