Abbas - Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs
(And how many a township) and how many a population of township (did I suffer long) I gave a reprieve from chastisement (though it was sinful!) though its population were idolaters and disbelievers. (Then I grasped it) I punished them in the life of this world. (Unto Me is the return) in the Hereafter.
(And if they deny you, so did deny before them the people of Nuh) until His saying,
(and denied was Musa.) means, despite all the clear signs and evidence that they brought.
(But I granted respite to the disbelievers for a while,) means, `I delayed and postponed.'
ثُمَّ أَخَذْتُهُمْ فَكَيْفَ كَانَ نَكِيرِ
(then I seized them, and how (terrible) was My punishment!) means, `how great was My vengeance against them and My punishment of them!' In the Two Sahihs it is reported from Abu Musa that the Prophet said:
(Such is the punishment of your Lord when He seizes the towns while they are doing wrong. Verily, His punishment is painful (and) severe.) 11:102 Then Allah says:
فَكَأَيِّن مِّن قَرْيَةٍ أَهْلَكْنَـهَا
(And many a township did We destroy)
(while they were given wrongdoing,) meaning, they were rejecting their Messengers.
فَهِىَ خَاوِيَةٌ عَلَى عُرُوشِهَا
(so that it lie in ruins,) Ad-Dahhak said, "Leveled to their roofs,'' i.e., their houses and cities were destroyed.
(and (many) a deserted well) means, they draw no water from it, and no one comes to it, after it had been frequented often by crowds of people.
(and a castle Mashid!) `Ikrimah said, "This means whitened with plaster.'' Something similar was narrated from `Ali bin Abi Talib, Mujahid, `Ata', Sa`id bin Jubayr, Abu Al-Mulayh and Ad-Dahhak. Others said that it means high and impenetrable fortresses. All of these suggestions are close in meaning and do not contradict one another, for this sturdy construction and great height did not help their occupants or afford them any protection when the punishment of Allah came upon them, as He says:
("Wheresoever you may be, death will overtake you even if you are in Buruj Mushayyadah!'') 4:78
أَفَلَمْ يَسِيرُواْ فِى الاٌّرْضِ
(Have they not traveled through the land,) means, have they not traveled in the physical sense and also used their minds to ponder That is sufficient, as Ibn Abi Ad-Dunya said in his book At-Tafakkur wal-I`tibar, "Some of the wise people said, `Give life to your heart with lessons, illuminate it with thought, kill it with asceticism, strengthen it with certain faith, remind it of its mortality, make it aware of the calamities of this world, warn it of the disasters that life may bring, show it how things may suddenly change with the passing of days, tell it the stories of the people of the past, and remind it what happened to those who came before.''' Walk through their ruins, see what they did and what became of them, meaning, look at the punishments and divine wrath that struck the nations of the past who belied,
(Verily, it is not the eyes that grow blind, but it is the hearts which are in the breasts that grow blind.) means, the blind person is not the one whose eyes cannot see, but rather the one who has no insight. Even if the physical eyes are sound, they still cannot learn the lesson.
(47. And they ask you to hasten on the torment! And Allah fails not His promise. And verily a day with your Lord is as a thousand years of what you reckon.) (48. And many a township did I give respite while it was given to wrongdoing. Then I seized it (with punishment). And to Me is the (final) return (of all).)
The Disbelievers Demand for the Punishment
Allah tells His Prophet :
(And they ask you to hasten on the torment!) meaning, these disbelievers who disbelieve in Allah and His Book and His Messenger and the Last Day. This is like the Ayat:
(And verily a day with your Lord is as a thousand years of what you reckon. ) means, He does not hasten, for what is counted as a thousand years with His creation is as one day with Him, and He knows that He is able to exact revenge and that He will not miss a thing, even if He delays and waits and postpones. Hence He then says:
(And many a township did I give respite while it was given to wrongdoing. Then I seized it (with punishment). And to Me is the (final) return (of all).) Ibn Abi Hatim recorded from Abu Hurayrah that the Messenger of Allah said:
(The poor among the Muslims will enter Paradise half a day before the rich -- five hundred years.) This was recorded by At-Tirmidhi and An-Nasa'i from the Hadith of Ath-Thawri from Muhammad bin `Amr. At-Tirmidhi said, "Hasan Sahih.'' Abu Dawud recorded at the end of Book of Al-Malahim in his Sunan from Sa`d bin Abi Waqqas that the Prophet said:
(I hope that it will not be too much for my Ummah if Allah delays them for half a day.) It was said to Sa`d, "What does half a day mean'' He said, "Five hundred years.''
Maududi - Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi - Tafhim al-Qur'an
This refers to the oft-repeated challenge by the disbelievers: "Well, if you are a true prophet, why does not that chastisement come with which you have been threatening us, for we have been rejecting your claim of being a true Prophet of Allah?"
That is, "The decisions of Allah do not follow your time and calendar, nor do the consequences of your wrong attitudes appear immediately after the deeds". Therefore it will be very foolish for the part of a people to argue that the threat of punishment was empty just because a decade or a century had passed since they had adopted a wicked attitude and conduct with impurity.