Abbas - Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs
(Ye are the best community that has been raised up for mankind) that ever was for mankind. Allah then showed how they were the best community that has been raised for mankind saying: (Ye enjoin right conduct) you enjoin the divine Oneness of Allah and the following of Muhammad (and forbid indecency) you forbid disbelief, idolatry and the opposition of the Messenger; (and ye believe in Allah) as well as in all revealed scriptures and messengers. (And if the People of the Scripture) i.e. the Jews and Christians (had believed it had been better for them) than what they are in now. (Some of them are believers) 'Abdullah Ibn Salam and his followers; (but most of them are evil-livers) unbelievers who break their pledges.
You, O community of Muhammad (s), are the best community brought forth, manifested, to men, according to God’s knowledge, enjoining decency, and forbidding indecency, and believing in God. Had the People of the Scripture believed, it, their belief, would have been better for them; some of them are believers, such as ‘Abd Allāh b. Salām, may God be pleased with him and his companions; but most of them, the disbelievers, are wicked.
You are the best community [brought forth to men], by virtue of being affirmers of the Oneness and upholders of justice, which is His shadow, enjoining decency and forbidding indecency, since none but the just one who is an affirmer of the Oneness is able to do that, since he knows what is decent and what is indecent, as has been mentioned already in the interpretation of His words Thus We appointed you a midmost community [Q. 2:143]. The Commander of the Believers [ʿAlī], peace be upon him, said, 'We are the midmost saddle, with whom the [ultimate] interpretation ends and to whom the zealous extremist refers”. Thus upon the one who has fallen short [in his behaviour] they enjoin the decency that will help him attain the station of Oneness; and they forbid the zealous extremist veiled by the union from [the level of] differentiation and by the Oneness from [the level of] multiplicity; and believing in God, that is, you stand firm at the station of the Oneness which is the midmost. Such [you are] in every act of excess, immoderation and moderation in matters of character traits. Had the People of the Scripture believed, they would have been like you.
Virtues of the Ummah of Muhammad, the Best Nation Ever
Allah states that the Ummah of Muhammad is the best nation ever,
كُنتُمْ خَيْرَ أُمَّةٍ أُخْرِجَتْ لِلنَّاسِ
(You are the best of peoples ever raised up for mankind) 3:110.
Al-Bukhari recorded that Abu Hurayrah commented on this Ayah, "(You, Muslims, are) the best nation of people for the people, you bring them tied in chains on their necks (capture them in war) and they later embrace Islam.'' Similar was said by Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid, `Atiyah Al-`Awfi, `Ikrimah, `Ata' and Ar-Rabi` bin Anas that,
كُنتُمْ خَيْرَ أُمَّةٍ أُخْرِجَتْ لِلنَّاسِ
(You are the best of peoples ever raised up for mankind;) means, the best of peoples for the people.
The meaning of the Ayah is that the Ummah of Muhammad is the most righteous and beneficial nation for mankind. Hence Allah's description of them,
(You are the final of seventy nations, you are the best and most honored among them to Allah.)
This is a well-known Hadith about which At-Tirmidhi said, "Hasan'', and which is also narrated from Mu`adh bin Jabal and Abu Sa`id. The Ummah of Muhammad achieved this virtue because of its Prophet, Muhammad, peace be upon him, the most regarded of Allah's creation and the most honored Messenger with Allah. Allah sent Muhammad with the perfect and complete Law that was never given to any Prophet or Messenger before him. In Muhammad's Law, few deeds take the place of the many deeds that other nations performed. For instance, Imam Ahmad recorded that `Ali bin Abi Talib said, "The Messenger of Allah said,
(I was given victory by fear, I was given the keys of the earth, I was called Ahmad, the earth was made a clean place for me (to pray and perform Tayammum with it) and my Ummah was made the best Ummah.).''
The chain of narration for this Hadith is Hasan. There are several Hadiths that we should mention here.
The Two Sahihs recorded that Az-Zuhri said that, Sa`id bin Al-Musayyib said that Abu Hurayrah narrated to him, "I heard the Messenger of Allah saying,
فقال أبو هريرة: فقام عكاشة بن محصن الأسدي يرفع نمرة عليه، فقال: يا رسول الله، ادع الله أن يجعلني منهم، فقال رسول اللهصلى الله عليه وسلّم:
«اللَّهُمَّ اجْعَلْهُ مِنْهُم»
ثم قام رجل من الأنصار فقال: يا رسول الله ادع الله أن يجعلني منهم، فقال:
«سَبقَكَ بِهَا عُكَّاشَة»
(A group of seventy thousand from my Ummah will enter Paradise, while their faces are radiating, just like the moon when it is full.'`Ukkashah bin Mihsan Al-Asadi stood up, saying, `O Messenger of Allah! Supplicate to Allah that I am one of them.' The Messenger of Allah said, `O Allah! Make him one of them.' A man from the Ansar also stood and said, `O Messenger of Allah! Supplicate to Allah that I am one of them.' The Messenger said, `Ukkashah has beaten you to it.')
Another Hadith that Establishes the Virtues of the Ummah of Muhammad in this Life and the Hereafter
Imam Ahmad recorded that Jabir said, "I heard the Messenger of Allah saying,
(`I hope that those who follow me will be one-fourth of the residents of Paradise on the Day of Resurrection.' We said, `Allahu Akbar'. He then said, `I hope that they will be one-third of the people.' We said, `Allahu Akbar'. He then said, `I hope that you will be one-half.')''
Imam Ahmad recorded the same Hadith with another chain of narration, and this Hadith meets the criteria of Muslim in his Sahih. In the Two Sahihs, it is recorded that `Abdullah bin Mas`ud said, "The Messenger of Allah said to us,
(The people of Paradise are one hundred and twenty rows, this Ummah takes up eighty of them.)
Imam Ahmad also collected this Hadith through another chain of narration. At-Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah also collected this Hadith, and At-Tirmidhi said, `This Hadith is Hasan. `Abdur-Razzaq recorded that Abu Hurayrah said that, the Prophet said,
(We (Muslims) are the last to come, but the foremost on the Day of Resurrection, and the first people to enter Paradise, although the former nations were given the Scriptures before us and we after them. Allah gave us the guidance of truth that they have been disputing about. This (Friday) is the Day that they have been disputing about, and all the other people are behind us in this matter: the Jews' (day of congregation is) tomorrow (Saturday) and the Christians' is the day after tomorrow (Sunday). )
Al-Bukhari and Muslim collected this Hadith. Muslim recorded Abu Hurayrah saying that the Messenger of Allah said,
(You are the best of peoples ever raised up for mankind; you enjoin Al-Ma`ruf (all that Islam has ordained) and forbid Al-Munkar (all that Islam has forbidden), and you believe in Allah).
Therefore, whoever among this Ummah acquires these qualities, will have a share in this praise. Qatadah said, "We were told that `Umar bin Al-Khattab recited this Ayah 3:110 during a Hajj that he performed, when he saw that the people were rushing. He then said, `Whoever likes to be among this praised Ummah, let him fulfill the condition that Allah set in this Ayah.
Ibn Jarir recorded this. Those from this Ummah who do not acquire these qualities will be just like the People of the Scriptures whom Allah criticized, when He said,
كَانُواْ لاَ يَتَنَـهَوْنَ عَن مُّنكَرٍ فَعَلُوهُ
(They did not forbid one another from the Munkar which they committed...)
This is the reason why, after Allah praised the Muslim Ummah with the qualities that He mentioned, He criticized the People of the Scriptures and chastised them, saying,
وَلَوْ ءَامَنَ أَهْلُ الْكِتَـبِ
(And had the People of the Scripture (Jews and Christians) believed)
(They will do you no harm, barring a trifling annoyance; and if they fight against you, they will show you their backs, and they will not be helped.) 3:111
This is what occurred, for at the battle of Khaybar, Allah brought humiliation and disgrace to the Jews. Before that, the Jews in Al-Madinah, the tribes of Qaynuqa`, Nadir and Qurayzah, were also humiliated by Allah. Such was the case with the Christians in the area of Ash-Sham later on, when the Companions defeated them in many battles and took over the leadership of Ash-Sham forever. There shall always be a group of Muslims in Ash-Sham area until `Isa, son of Maryam, descends while they are like this on the truth, apparent and victorious. `Isa will at that time rule according to the Law of Muhammad, break the cross, kill the swine, banish the Jizyah and only accept Islam from the people.
(Indignity is put over them wherever they may be, except when under a covenant (of protection) from Allah, and a covenant from men;) meaning, Allah has placed humiliation and disgrace on them wherever they may be, and they will never be safe,
إِلاَّ بِحَبْلٍ مِّنْ اللَّهِ
(except when under a covenant from Allah,) under the Dhimmah (covenant of protection) from Allah that requires them to pay the Jizyah (tax, to Muslims,) and makes them subservient to Islamic Law.
وَحَبْلٍ مِّنَ النَّاسِ
(and a covenant from men;) meaning, covenant from men, such as pledges of protection and safety offered to them by Muslim men and women, and even a slave, according to one of the sayings of the scholars. Ibn `Abbas said that,
(except when under a covenant from Allah, and a covenant from men;) refers to a covenant of protection from Allah and a pledge of safety from people. Similar was said by Mujahid, `Ikrimah, `Ata', Ad-Dahhak, Al-Hasan, Qatadah, As-Suddi and Ar-Rabi` bin Anas. Allah's statement,
وَبَآءُوا بِغَضَبٍ مِّنَ اللَّهِ
(they have drawn on themselves the wrath of Allah,) means, they earned Allah's anger, which they deserved,
وَضُرِبَتْ عَلَيْهِمُ الْمَسْكَنَةُ
(and destitution is put over them), meaning they deserve it by decree and legislatively.
(This is because they disbelieved in the Ayat of Allah and killed the Prophets without right.) meaning, what drove them to this was their arrogance, transgression and envy, earning them humiliation, degradation and disgrace throughout this life and the Hereafter. Allah said,
ذلِكَ بِمَا عَصَواْ وَّكَانُواْ يَعْتَدُونَ
(This is because they disobeyed and used to transgress (the limits set by Allah).) meaning, what lured them to disbelieve in Allah's Ayat and kill His Messengers, is the fact that they often disobeyed Allah's commands, committed His prohibitions and transgressed His set limits. We seek refuge from this behavior, and Allah Alone is sought for each and every type of help.
Maududi - Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi - Tafhim al-Qur'an
This is the same declaration that has been' made in Al-Baqarah (v. 143). The followers of the Holy Prophet are being reminded that they have been appointed to the leadership of the world from which the children of Israel had been deposed on account of their incompetence. The Muslims have been appointed to that office because they possess those moral qualities which are essential for just leadership. These are to establish virtue and to eradicate evil practically and believe that there is no god other than Allah to put into practice the implication of this belief. They should, therefore, understand the responsibilities of the work which had been entrusted to them and avoid the errors into which their predecessors had fallen. (Please refer also to E. N. 123-144 of Al-Baqarah).
Here the Jews are "The people of the Book. "
That is, "The little security that they enjoy anywhere in the world has not been won by themselves but has been the result of the help and kindness of others. They have been getting this either from some Muslim states in the name of Allah or from some non-Muslim states for other reasons." And if sometimes they have succeeded in gaining even some political power, they have not accomplished this through their own efforts but have owed it to others.
You are the best community khayra ummatin brought forth to men enjoining decency and forbidding indecency and believing in God. Because MuṣṬafā ﷺ is the most honored of the prophets his community is the best of communities. Because they are the best of communities they are the most desiring ashwāq of communities. Because they are the most desiring of communities their lives are the shortest of lives. He created them as the last of created beings so that their stay beneath the earth would not be long [before the resurrection]. Their goodness khayriyya has been obtained not by the abundance of their prayers and devotional acts but by the intensity with which He has drawn them near and selected them. Surely the standing of the earlier ones at the door has been long but when the permission comes to enter the later ones will go first. How many reach out to connect to us [yet] their palms receive no share. Enjoining decency and forbidding indecency: Decency is service to the Real and indecency is keeping company with the lower self. Decency is to prefer what is due to the Real ḥaqq al-ḥaqq and indecency is to choose the worldly concerns of the lower self ḥaẓẓ al-nafs. Decency is what brings you close to Him and indecency is what veils you from Him. In the command to decency you are bound to be characterized by decency and in forbidding indecency you are required to turn away from it. Had the people of the scripture believed it would have been better for them; some of them are believers; but most of them are wicked. If everyone had been included under Our command they would have attained true glory in this world and the hereafter but they were kept away from acceptance in the choice already made-most of them were branded with associating partners with God shirk.
(Ye are the best community that hath been raised up for mankind…) [3:110]. ‘Ikrimah and Muqatil said: “This was revealed about [‘Abd Allah] Ibn Mas‘ud, Ubayy ibn Ka‘b, Mu‘adh ibn Jabal and Salim, the client of Abu Hudhayfah. Malik ibn al-Dayf and Wahb ibn Yahudha, both of them Jews, had said to them: ‘Our religion is better than that to which you call us; and we are also more virtuous and better than you’. And Allah, exalted is He, revealed this verse as a response to them”.