Abbas - Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs
(But when Moses came unto them with Our clear tokens) the hand and the staff, (they said) O Moses: (This) which you have brought us (is naught but invented magic) a lie which you have invented. (We never heard of this) which you are saying (among our fathers of old) among our deceased forefathers.
But when Moses brought them Our clear signs (bayyinātin, a circumstantial qualifier) they said, ‘This is nothing but concocted, invented, sorcery. And we never heard of such [a thing], to have [ever] existed, in, the days of, our forefathers’.
Allah tells us how Musa and his brother Harun came before Fir`awn and his chiefs, and showed them the clear miracles and overwhelming proof that Allah had given them to confirm the truth of what they were saying about Allah being One and that His commandments were to be followed. Fir`awn and his chiefs saw that with their own eyes and realized that it was certainly from Allah, but because of their disbelief and sin they resorted to stubbornness and false arguments. This was because they were too evil and arrogant to follow the truth. They said:
مَا هَـذَآ إِلاَّ سِحْرٌ مُّفْتَرًى
(This is nothing but invented magic.) meaning, fabricated and made up. They wanted to oppose him by means of their own tricks and their position and power, but this did not work.
(Never did we hear of this among our fathers of old.) They were referring worshipping Allah Alone, with no partner or associate. They said: "We have never seen anyone among our forefathers following this religion; we have only ever seen people associating other gods in worship with Allah. Musa said in response to them:
(My Lord knows best him who came with guidance from Him,) meaning, `of me and you, and He will decide between me and you.' So he said:
وَمَن تَكُونُ لَهُ عَـقِبَةُ الدَّارِ
(and whose will be the happy end in the Hereafter. ) meaning, who will be supported and will prevail.
إِنَّهُ لاَ يُفْلِحُ الظَّـلِمُونَ
(Verily, the wrongdoers will not be successful.) refers to the idolators who associate others in worship with Allah.
Maududi - Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi - Tafhim al-Qur'an
The words of the Text mean "Fabricated or forged magic." If fabrication is taken to mean falsehood, it would mean, "The staff's turning into a serpent and the shining of the hand is not any real change in the nature of the thing itself, but a mere illusion, which this man calls a miracle in order to deceive us." And if it is taken to mean a forgery it will imply: "This person has forged something which appears to be a staff; but when it is thrown on the ground, it moves like a snake. As for the hand, he has rubbed something on it so that when he draws it out of the armpit, it shines. He himself works these magical tricks but tries to make us believe that these are miracles which God has granted him."
The reference is to the teachings which the Prophet Moses had presented while conveying this message of Tauhid. The details have been given at other places in the Qur'an. For example, according to Surah An-Naziyat: 18-19, he said to Pharaoh: "Will you mind to purify yourself, that I may guide you to your Lord so that you may have fear (of Him)?" And in Surah Ta Ha: 47-48: "We have come to you with Signs from your Lord; peace is for him who follows the Right Way. We have been informed by Revelation that there is punishment for him who rejects it and turns away." And: "We are Messengers from your Lord: so let the Israelites go with us." It was about these things that Pharaoh said, "Even our forefathers had never heard that there was a Being more powerful than Pharaoh of Egypt, Who was authorized to command him, to punish him, to send a man to his court to convey His instructions to him, and to warn the king of Egypt to fear Him. These are strange things which we are hearing today from a man like you."
That is, "You think I am a magician and a forger, but my Lord is well aware of me. He knows what sort of a man is the person whom He has appointed as a Messenger; and the final judgment rests with Him. If I am a liar, I shall meet an evil end; and if you are a liar, you should know that your end will not be good. In any case, the inevitable fact is that the unjust will not attain true success. He who is not Allah's messenger but falsely presents himself as a messenger for selfish motives, is also unjust and will not attain success. And the one who rejects a true Messenger by false accusations and suppresses the Truth by deceit and fraud, is also unjust and will never attain success."