Abbas - Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs
(And of mankind) the reference here is to al-Nadr Ibn al-Harith (is he who payeth for mere pastime of discourse) discourse of falsehood, books on legends, on the sun, the stars, mathematics and singing; it is also said this means: associating partners with Allah, (that he may mislead) by means of it (from Allah's way) from Allah's religion and obedience (without knowledge) or proof, (and maketh it the butt of mockery. For such there is a shameful doom) for these, there is a severe chastisement.
And among people there is he who purchases idle talk, in other words, that [part of it] which diverts [people] from its [true] significance, that he may lead [people] astray (read li-yadilla; or li-yudilla) from the way of God, the religion of Islam, without knowledge and take it (read [subjunctive] wa-yattakhidhahā as a supplement to yudilla, ‘that he may lead astray’; or [indicative] wa-yattakhidhuhā as a supplement to yashtarī, ‘who buys’) in mockery, as something to be mocked. For such there will be a humiliating chastisement, one of abasement.
(Allah has sent down the Best Statement, a Book, its parts resembling each other (and) oft-repeated. The skins of those who fear their Lord shiver from it. Then their skin and their heart soften to the remembrance of Allah) (39:23). He connect that with mention of the doomed, those who turn away from the Qur'an and do not benefit from hearing the Words of Allah. Instead, they turn to listening to flutes and singing accompanied by musical instruments. As Ibn Mas`ud commented about the Ayah:
(And of mankind is he who purchases Lahw Al-Hadith to mislead (men) from the path of Allah without knowledge, ) Qatadah said: "By Allah, he may not spend money on it, but his purchasing it means he likes it, and the more misguided he is, the more he likes it and the more he prefers falsehood to the truth and harmful things over beneficial things.'' It was said that what is meant by the words
يَشْتَرِى لَهْوَ الْحَدِيثِ
(purchases idle talks) is buying singing servant girls. Ibn Jarir said that it means all speech that hinders people from seeing the signs of Allah and following His path. His saying:
لِيُضِلَّ عَن سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ
(to mislead (men) from the path of Allah) means, he does this to oppose Islam and its followers.
(and takes it by way of mockery.) Mujahid said, "This means mocking the path of Allah and making fun of it.''
أُوْلَـئِكَ لَهُمْ عَذَابٌ مُّهِينٌ
(For such there will be a humiliating torment.) Just as they showed no respect to the signs and path of Allah, so they will be shown no respect on the Day of Resurrection, and they will be subjected to a painful, ongoing torment. Then Allah says:
(And when Our Ayat are recited to such a one, he turns away in pride, as if he heard them not -- as if there were deafness in his ear.) means, when these Qur'anic verses are recited to one who is fond of idleness and play, he turns away from them and does not want to hear them. He turns a deaf ear to them as if he can hear nothing, because it annoys him to hear them since he gains no benefit from them and has no interest in them.
فَبَشِّرْهُ بِعَذَابٍ أَلِيمٍ
(So announce to him a painful torment.) i.e., on the Day of Resurrection, which will hurt him just as much as listening to the Book of Allah and its verses hurt him.
Maududi - Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi - Tafhim al-Qur'an
That is, "On the one hand, there is this Mercy and Guidance sent down by Allah, of which some people arc taking full advantage, and on the other, there are also some unfortunate people living side by side with the fortunate ones, who are adopting this sort of attitude as against the Revelations of Allah. "
The words lahv al-hadith in the Text imply such a thing as may allure and absorb a listener completely and make him heedless of everything else around him. Lexically, there is nothing derogatory in these words, but in custom and usage they apply to evil and useless and vain things, such as gossip, nonsensical talk, joking and jesting, legends and tales, singing and merry-making, etc.
"To buy" alluring tales may also mean that the person concerned adopts falsehood instead of the Truth, turns away from the guidance and turns to those things which can neither benefit him in the world nor in the Hereafter. But this is the metaphorical meaning. The real meaning of the sentence is that a person should purchase an absurd and useless thing for his money, and this is supported by many traditions. Ibn Hisham has related on the authority of Ibn Ishaq that when the disbelievers of Makkah could not stop the message of the Holy Prophet from spreading in spite of their best efforts, Nadr bin Harith said to the people of Quraish: "The way you are counteracting this man will avail you nothing. He has lived a lifetime among you. Until now he was the best of your men morally: he was the most truthful and the most trustworthy person among you. Now you say that he is a sorcerer and enchanter and a poet and a madman. Who will believe all this? Don't the people know the way the sorcerers talk? Don't they know the enchanters and the way they conduct their business? Are they unaware of poetry and of. the states of madness? Which of these accusations sticks to Muhammad (upon whom be Allah's peace) by exploiting which you would turn the people's attention away from him? Look! I will tell you how to deal with him." Then he left Makkah for Iraq and managed to get from there legends and tales about the kings of Iran and Rustam and Isfandyar and started to arrange tale-telling parties to distract the people from the Qur'an and to absorb them in the tales. (Ibn Hisham. vol. I, pp. 320-321). The same tradition has been cited by Vahidi in Asbab un Nazul on the authority of Kalbi and Muqatil. And according to Ibn 'Abbas, Nadr had bough singing girls also for the purpose. Whenever he heard that someone was coming under the Holy Prophet's influence, he would impose a singing girl an him with the instruction: "Feed him and entertain him with your songs so that he is absorbed in you and distracted from the other side." This was the same device which the arch-criminals of the nations have been employing in every age. They try to get the common people so absorbed in fun and sport and musical entertainment's in the name of culture that they are left with no time and sense to attend to the serious problems of life, and in their heedlessness they do not even feel what destruction they are being driven to.
The same commentary of lahv al-hadith has been reported from a large number of the Companions and their immediate followers. 'Abdullah bin Mas'ud was asked, 'What does lahv al-hadith mean in this verse ?" He said thrice emphatically. 'By God! it means singing." (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Abi Shaibah. Hakim, Baihaqi). Similar traditions have been reported from scholars like 'Abdullah bin' Abbas, Jabir bin 'Abdullah, Mujahid, 'Ikrimah, Said bin Jubair, Hasan Basri: and Makhul. Ibn Jarir, Ibn Abi Hatim and Tirmidhi have related on the authority of Hadrat Abu Umamah Baheli that the Holy Prophet said, "It is not lawful to buy and sell and trade in singing girls nor is it lawful to take their price." In another tradition, the last sentence is to the effect:... it is unlawful to eat their price". Yet another tradition from Abu Umamah is to the effect: To teach music to slave-girls and to trade in them is not lawful and their price is forbidden." AII these Ahadith also elucidate that the verse containing lahv al-hadith was sent down in this very connection. Qadi Abu Bakr Ibn al-'Arabi has related in the Ahkam alQur'an a Hadith from Hadrat 'Abdullah bin Mubarak and Imam Malik on the authority of Hadrat Anas, saying, that the Holy Prophet said: 'He who hears the song of a singing-girl in a musical concert, will have molten lead poured into his ear on the Day of Judgment" (In this connection, one should also note that the culture" of music in those days flourished almost entirely through the slave-girls: Free women had not yet become "artists". That is why the Holy Prophet spoke about trading in slave-girls, and described their wages and earnings as their price. and used the word qaynah for the singing-girl, which is specifically used for a slave-girl in Arabic).
"Without any knowledge" may be connected with "buys" and also "lead...astray". In the first case, it would mean: 'The ignorant foolish person buys this alluring thing and does not know that he is buying a ruinous thing at the cost of a highly valuable thing. On the one hand, there are the Divine verses which are full of wisdom and guidance, which he can obtain without any cost, but he turns away from them. On the other, there are these absurd things, which are disastrous for his morals and he is expending his wealth to obtain them. " In the second case, it would mean: "He has come out to guide the people without any knowledge: he does not know what burden of sin he is taking on himself by trying to lead the people astray from Allah's Way."
That is, This person wants to make fun of the Divine Revelations by alluring and absorbing the people in legends and tales and music. He intends that the invitation of the Qur'an should be derided and ridiculed and laughed away. He plans to fight the Religion of God with the strategy that as soon as Muhammad (upon whom be Allah's peace) should come out to recite Revelations of God to the people, there should be a charming, sweet-voiced damsel giving her performance in a musical concert. on the one hand, and a glib-tongued story teller telling tales and legends of Iran, on the other, and the people should become so absorbed in these cultural activities" that they may not be in a mood to hear anything about God and the morals and the Hereafter."
This punishment will be in accordance with their crime. They want to debase and disgrace God's Religion, His Revelations and His Messenger; God will rake His vengeance on them by giving them a disgraceful torment.
Instead of saying 'There are blessings of Paradise (Gardens) for them," it has been said, there are blissful Gardens for them." In the first case, it would have meant this: "They will enjoy the blessings but the Gardens will not belong to them." In the second case, it automatically becomes evident that the whole Gardens will be handed over to them, and they will take advantage of their blessings as an owner does of his own possession, and not like the one who is allowed to use something without giving him ownership rights over it."
That is, "Nothing can withhold Him from fulfilling His promise, and whatever He does, He does strictly according to the demands of wisdom and justice. The object of mentioning these two attributes of Allah after saying: This 'is a true promise of Allah", is to stress that Allah neither violates His promise willfully nor is there in this universe any such power as can prevent Him from fulfilling His promise. Therefore, there can be no chance that one may not receive what Allah has promised to give as a reward for faith and righteous deeds. Moreover, Allah's open promise to bestow this reward is wholly based on His wisdom and His justice. He does not misjudge: it cannot be that He may deprive a deserving person of his reward, and reward a non-deserving one instead. The people characterized by taste faith and righteous deeds indeed deserve this reward and Allah will bestow this on them only."
(And of mankind is he who payeth for mere pastime of discourse…) [31:6]. Al-Kalbi and Muqatil said: “This verse was revealed about al-Nadr ibn al-Harith. He used to travel to Persia for trade. He bought the events of non-Arabs and related them to the Quraysh, saying: ‘Muhammad relates to you the events of ‘Ad and Thamud, and I relate to you the events of Rustum and Isfindiyar and the Chosroes’. They found his tales more entertaining and they shunned listening to the Qur’an, and so this verse was revealed”. Mujahid said: “This verse was revealed about the buying of slave-girls and songstresses”. Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Ibrahim al-Muqri’ informed us> Muhammad ibn al-Fadl ibn Muhammad ibn Ishaq ibn Khuzaymah> his grandfather> ‘Ali ibn Hujr> Mishma‘ill ibn Milhan al-Ta’i> Muttarih ibn Yazid> ‘Ubayd Allah ibn Zahr> ‘Ali ibn Yazid> al-Qasim> Abu Umamah who reported that the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, said: “It is forbidden to teach songstresses [to sing] or to sell songstresses, and the price gotten from selling them is unlawful. It is about the like of this that this verse was revealed (And of mankind is he who payeth for mere pastime of discourse, that he may mislead from Allah’s way without knowledge…) up to the end of the verse. No man raises his voice to sing except that Allah, exalted is He, sends him two devils, one on each side, who will keep banging with their feet until it is him who keeps quiet”. Thuwayr ibn Abi Fakhitah reported from his father that Ibn ‘Abbas said: “This verse was revealed about a man who bought a slave-girl who sang to him day and night”.