Abbas - Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs
(And they say) i.e. the Jews: (Hellfire will not touch us save for a certain number of days) only for 40 days, the number of days in which our forefathers worshipped the calf. (Say) O Muhammad: (Have ye received a covenant from Allah) for what you are saying-(truly Allah will not break His covenant) if indeed you have a covenant with Allah-(or tell ye) or do you indeed tell (concerning Allah that which ye know not?) that which you know does not exist in your Book?
And they say, when the Prophet promised them the Fire, ‘the Fire shall not touch us, that is, afflict us, save a number of days’, only a short time of forty days: the same length of time their forefathers worshipped the calf, after which time it [the Fire] will cease. Say, to them Muhammad (s): ‘Have you taken with God a covenant?, a pledge from Him to this? God will not fail in His covenant, in this matter, or — nay — say you against God what you do not know? (a’ttakhadhtum: the conjunctive hamza has been omitted on account of the interrogative hamza sufficing).
And they say, 'the Fire shall not touch us, to the end [of the verse: save a number of days'. Say: 'Have you taken with God a covenantḍ God will not fail in His covenant, or say you against God what you do not knowḍ] They believed that the duration of punishment was commensurate with the duration in which the sin was being committed, not knowing that if the sin constituted a corrupt belief fixed within the soul and a condition deeply-rooted in it so that it becomes a natural disposition, a form of its essence, then it [the sin] becomes a cause for eternal punishment, which is the very meaning of His statement:
The Jews hope They will only remain in the Fire for a Few Days
Allah mentioned the claim of the Jews, that the Fire will only touch them for a few days, and then they will be saved from it. Allah refuted this claim by saying,
قُلْ أَتَّخَذْتُمْ عِندَ اللَّهِ عَهْدًا
(Say (O Muhammad to them): "Have you taken a covenant from Allah'). Hence, the Ayah proclaims, `if you had a promise from Allah for that, then Allah will never break His promise. However, such promise never existed. Rather, what you say, about Allah, you have no knowledge of and you thus utter a lie about Him.' Al-`Awfi said that Ibn `Abbas said about the Ayah,
(And they (Jews) say, "The Fire shall not touch us but for a few numbered days.''). "The Jews said, `The Fire will only touch us for forty days.''' Others added that this was the period during which the Jews worshipped the calf.
(When Khaybar was conquered, a roasted poisoned sheep was presented to the Prophet as a gift (by the Jews). The Messenger of Allah ordered, `Assemble before me all the Jews who were here.' The Jews were summoned and the Prophet said (to them), `Who is your father' They replied, `So-and-so.' He said, `You have lied; your father is so-and-so.' They said, `You have uttered the truth.' He said, `Will you now tell me the truth, if I ask you about something' They replied, `Yes, O Abul-Qasim; and if we should tell a lie, you will know our lie as you have about our fathers.' On that he asked, `Who are the people of the (Hell) Fire' They said, `We shall remain in the (Hell) Fire for a short period, and after that you will replace us in it.' The Prophet said, `May you be cursed and humiliated in it! By Allah, we shall never replace you in it.' Then he asked, `Will you tell me the truth if I ask you a question' They said, `Yes, O Abul-Qasim.' He asked, `Have you poisoned this sheep' They said, `Yes.' He asked, `What made you do so' They said, `We wanted to know if you were a liar, in which case we would get rid of you, and if you were a Prophet then the poison would not harm you.') Imam Ahmad, Al-Bukhari and An-Nasa'i recorded similarly.
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 they say “the fire shall not touch us save a number of days.” Say: “Have you taken a covenant with Godḍ God will not fail in His covenant or say you against God what you do not knowḍ This verse alludes to those whose hearts are filled with false claims. Their conjecture has gotten the better of them for out of extreme foolishness they judge themselves to be among the people of the story ahl al-qiṣṣa. Such a person abides yakhlud with the murmurings of his lower desires. He judges the unseen by what he has himself neglected having forgotten the ugliness of what he has done and remembering [only] the errors of his false thinking. He is a servant of his lower self whose good opinion of himself has gotten the better of him. In reality the results of his neglect and deceit possess him. God most high said “And that supposition of yours which you supposed of your Lord has ruined you. So you have become among the losers” [41:23].
(And they say: The Fire (of punishment) will not touch us save for a certain number of days…) [2:80]. Isma'il ibn Abi al-Qasim al-Sufi informed us> Abu'l-Husayn Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn Hamid al-'Attar> Ahmad ibn al-Hasan ibn 'Abd al-Jabbar> Abu'l-Qasim 'Abd Allah ibn Sa'd al-Zuhri> his father and paternal uncle> their father> Ibn Ishaq> Muhammad ibn Abi Muhammad> 'Ikrima> Ibn 'Abbas who said: “Allah's Messenger, Allah bless him and give him peace, came to Medina and found the Jews saying: 'This worldly life will last seven thousand years. And for every one thousand years of the days of this worldly life people will be tormented in hell fire for one day of the days of the Afterlife. Thus, the torment will last for only seven days'. Allah, exalted is He, revealed concerning this saying: (And they say: The Fire (of punishment) will not touch us save for a certain number of days)”. Abu Bakr Ahmad ibn Muhammad al-Tamimi informed us> 'Abd Allah ibn Muhammad ibn Hayyan> Muhammad ibn 'Abd al-Rahman al-Razi> Sahl ibn 'Uthman> Marwan ibn Mu'awiyah> Juwaybir> al-Dahhak> Ibn 'Abbas said concerning the verse (And they say: The Fire (of punishment) will not touch us save for a certain number of days): “The people of the Book found out that from one end of hell fire to the other a journey of forty years was needed, and, therefore, they said: 'We shall not be tormented in hell fire except for the period of time specified in the Torah'. And so they proceeded in their torment until they reached Saqar wherein is the tree of Zaqqum until the certain number of days which they mentioned came to an end. The denizens of hell fire then said to them: 'you claimed you will not be tormented in hell fire except for a certain number of days. Well, those certain number of days has elapsed, but eternity remains' ”.