Abbas - Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs
Then Allah mentioned the hypocrites of the people of the Book, and it is also said that the reference here is to the lowly from among the people of the Book, saying: (And when they fall with those who believe) Abu Bakr and his companions, (they say: We believe) in your Prophet, and his description and traits are mentioned in our Book. (But when they go apart one with another) when these lowly people return to their leaders (they say) the leaders say to the lowly: (Prate ye to them) i.e. Muhammad and his Companions (of that which Allah hath disclosed to you) about that which Allah has shown you regarding the description and traits of Muhammad in your Book (so that they may contend with you) argue against you (before your Lord concerning it? Have ye then no sense?) do you not have any common sense?
And when they, the hypocrites from among the Jews, meet those who believe, they say, ‘We believe’, that Muhammad (s) is a prophet and that he is the one of whom we have been given good tidings in our Book; but when they go in private one to another, they, their leaders the ones not involved in the hypocrisy, say, to those hypocrites: ‘Do you speak to them, the believers, of what God has disclosed to you, that is, what He has made known to you of Muhammad’s (s) description in the Torah, so that they may thereby dispute (the lām of li-yuhājjūkum, ‘that they may dispute with you’, is the lām of ‘becoming’) with you before your Lord?, in the Hereafter and hold the proof against you for not following him [Muhammad (s)], despite your knowledge of his sincerity? Have you no understanding?’ of the fact that they will contend with you if you speak to them in this way? So beware.
But when they encounter you upon directing themselves to you and receiving your objects of perception at the moment of your presence and when these [meanings] stand by your side or are ascending, they yield and accept the truth. [And when they meet those who believe, they say, 'We believe']
but when they go in private one to another, at moments of forgetfulness they prevent one another from casting [onto others] what God has disclosed to them in the way of objects of perception that may be sensory, imaginal or estimative, so that they might compose therefrom arguments and dispute with them thereby in the Spiritual Presence before their Lord; [they say: 'Do you speak to them of what God has disclosed to you, so that they may thereby dispute with you before your Lordḍ Have you no understandingḍ'].
There was little Hope that the Jews Who lived during the Time of the Prophet could have believed
(Do you covet) O believers,
أَن يُؤْمِنُواْ لَكُمْ
(That they will believe in your religion) meaning, that these people would obey you They are the deviant sect of Jews whose fathers witnessed the clear signs but their hearts became hard afterwards. Allah said next,
(Then they used to change it knowingly after they understood it) "They are the Jews who used to hear Allah's Words and then alter them after they understood and comprehended them.'' Also, Mujahid said, "Those who used to alter it and conceal its truths; they were their scholars.'' Also, Ibn Wahb said that Ibn Zayd commented,
يَسْمَعُونَ كَلَـمَ اللَّهِ ثُمَّ يُحَرِّفُونَهُ
(used to hear the Word of Allah (the Tawrah), then they used to change it) "They altered the Tawrah that Allah revealed to them, making it say that the lawful is unlawful and the prohibited is allowed, and that what is right is false and that what is false is right. So when a person seeking the truth comes to them with a bribe, they judge his case by the Book of Allah, but when a person comes to them seeking to do evil with a bribe, they take out the other (distorted) book, in which it is stated that he is in the right. When someone comes to them who is not seeking what is right, nor offering them bribe, then they enjoin righteousness on him. This is why Allah said to them,
(Enjoin you Al-Birr (piety and righteousness and every act of obedience to Allah) on the people and you forget (to practise it) yourselves, while you recite the Scripture (the Tawrah)! Have you then no sense) (2:44)''
The Jews knew the Truth of the Prophet, but disbelieved in Him
(And when they (Jews) meet those who believe (Muslims), they say, "We believe'') "They believe that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, `But he was only sent for you (Arabs)''' However, when they meet each other they say, "Do not convey the news about this Prophet to the Arabs, because you used to ask Allah to grant you victory over them when he came, but he was sent to them (not to you).'' Allah then revealed,
(And when they (Jews) meet those who believe (Muslims), they say, "We believe,'' but when they meet one another in private, they say, "Shall you (Jews) tell them (Muslims) what Allah has revealed to you, that they (Muslims) may argue with you (Jews) about it before your Lord'') meaning, "If you admit to them that he is a Prophet, knowing that Allah took the covenant from you to follow him, they will know that Muhammad is the Prophet that we were waiting for and whose coming we find foretold of in our Book. Therefore, do not believe in him and deny him.'' Allah said,
(Know they (Jews) not that Allah knows what they conceal and what they reveal).
Al-Hasan Al-Basri said, "When the Jews met the believers they used to say, `We believe.' When they met each other, some of them would say, `Do not talk to the companions of Muhammad about what Allah has foretold in your Book, so that the news (that Muhammad is the Final Messenger) does not become a proof for them against you with your Lord, and, thus, you will win the dispute.''' Further, Abu Al-`Aliyah said about Allah's statement,
(Know they (Jews) not that Allah knows what they conceal and what they reveal), "Meaning their secret denial and rejection of Muhammad, although they find his coming recorded in their Book.'' This is also the Tafsir of Qatadah. Al-Hasan commented on,
أَنَّ اللَّهَ يَعْلَمُ مَا يُسِرُّونَ
(That Allah knows what they conceal), "What they concealed refers to when they were alone with each other away from the Companions of Muhammad. Then they would forbid each other from conveying the news that Allah revealed to them in their Book to the Companions of Muhammad, fearing that the Companions would use this news (about the truth of Muhammad ) against them before their Lord.''
(And what they reveal) meaning, when they said to the Companions of Muhammad,
(We believe), as Abu Al-`Aliyah, Ar-Rabi` and Qatadah stated.
Maududi - Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi - Tafhim al-Qur'an
Here the addressees are the new converts of Madinah, who had embraced Islam only recently. They had become interested in the Holy Prophet because they had often heard from the neighbouring Jews about Prophethood, Revelation, Angels, Divine Law, etc. They had also heard from them that they were expecting a new Prophet whose followers would prevail over the whole world. That is why the people of Madinah turned to the Holy Prophet when they heard of him and entered into the fold of Islam in large numbers. Naturally, they expected that the Jews, who possessed revealed Scriptures and who themselves had foretold the coming of a Prophet, would be the first to welcome Muhammad (Allah's peace be upon him) as a Prophet and would be in the forefront of his supporters. When, contrary to their expectations, the Jews did not come forward, the new Muslims themselves went to them and invited them to accept Islam, but they failed to persuade them. The hypocrites and the opponents of Islam used this rejection as an argument against Islam itself. They argued like this: there must be something suspicious about it: had Muhammad (Allah's peace be upon him) really been a Prophet, these pious and learned followes of the earlier scriptures, would nothave rejected him Knowingly, and ruined their Hereafter. In order to counteract the mischief caused by this fallacy, the past history of the Jews has been related to show that nothing better could be expected of them. This also cautioned the simple Muslims against cherishing any hope that the Jews of their city would in a body welcome Muhammad (Allah's peace be upon him) as the Prophet about whom prophecies has been made in their own Books. They have been warned that they should not entertain such expectations from the people whose history has been so and so. This was necessary because they were liable to become disheartened because of the rejection of Islam by them. As to the Jews, they had become so degenerate and hard-hearted that they were not moved even by those verses which melted the hearts of the pagans who formerly used to kill their own daughters. Not only this, these hard-hearted Jews made fun of those very verses also. Therefore, the zealous Muslims were warned that they should understand the real condition of the Jews, who had corrupted the Truth to suit their own desires and then had the audacity to have their hopes centred on the religion which they had themselves perverted. it was wrong to entertain any vain hopes that such people would accept the Truth as soon as it was presented before them.
"Some among them": their rabbis and jurists. "Word of God": the Torah, Psalms and other Books which they had received through their Prophets. The Jewish scholars not only twisted, distorted and misinterpreted the revealed scriptures, and read into them the meaning they wanted to read, but they also tampered with the actual words of the text.
When they met secretly, they warned each other not to disclose to the Muslims those passages of the Torah and other Scriptures which contained prophecies about the Holy Prophet. They also warned each other not to inform the Muslims about those verses and teachings of their holy books which, they feared, would expose to objection their own present condition and attitude for they were afraid that the Muslims would present these as arguments against them on the Day of Judgement. This is an instance of the kind of belief they held about Allah's knowledge. They were under the delusion that if they succeeded in hiding the Truth and their corruption of the Scriptures in this world, there would be no possibility of bringing a case against them in the Next World. That is why in the parenthetical clause that follows they have been asked whether they really believed Allah to be unaware of the affairs of the people.
This refers to the common people of the Jews, who were totally ignorant of the teachings of their own Scriptures. They had neither any knowledge of the fundamentals of religion, nor of the regulations concerning morality and rules of everyday life, nor of the principles leading to ultimate success or failure. And the pity is that they had formed their own notions about religion without this knowledge and were living on false hopes.
This refers to what their learned people did. They not only perverted their Scriptures to suit their desires and vanities, but also blended with the Text of the Bible their own interpretations, their national history, their superstitions, their self-made theories, philosophies and laws. Then they presented all this mixture before the people as if it were actually from God. Every historical fiction, every interpretation, every man-made creed, and every bye law that had somehow entered into the Holy Book, became the "Word of God," and it was absolutely obligatory for every Jew to believe in all these things and, if one did not, he was declared to be a renegade or a heretic.
There was a general belief among the common Jews and their religious leaders that they would not be seat to Hell in spite of their wrong beliefs and evil deeds just because they were Jews. They thought that even if any punishment was imposed on them, it would be for a few days only after which they would be sent to Paradise.
And when they meet those who believe they say “We believe”; but when they go in private one to another they say: “Do you speak to them of what God has disclosed to you so that they may thereby dispute with you before your Lordḍ Have you no understandingḍ” Do they not know that God knows what they keep secret and what they proclaimḍ They encouraged one another among themselves to reject the Real and to hide the situation from the Muslims. But they did not know that God was informing His Messenger عليه السلام of their secrets and that a light the Real makes manifest cannot be extinguished by the efforts of anyone other than Him. When the tongue agrees but the mind objects it only increases separation.