Abbas - Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs
(And when We exacted a covenant from the Prophets) to honour their pledges and that they should convey the message to one another, (and from thee (O Muhammad)) and We exacted from you that you should convey to your people the events of the messengers and Scriptures before you and that you should command them to believe in it (and from Noah) and We exacted from Noah [the same] (and Abraham) and exacted from Abraham [the same] (and Moses) and exacted from Moses [the same] (and Jesus son of Mary) and exacted from Jesus of Mary [the same]. (We took from them a solemn covenant) that they should convey the message, the first to the last and that the last should believe in the first, and also command their respective people to believe in it;
And, mention, when We took a pledge from the prophets, at the point when they were brought forth from the loins of Adam, the size of atoms, and from you, and from Noah and Abraham and Moses and Jesus son of Mary, that they worship [only] God and call others to worship Him (the mention of the five [names] is an instance of supplementing the specific to the general). And We took from them a solemn pledge, a solid [one], that they fulfil what they have been charged with, and this was [effected] by [swearing] an oath to God, after which the pledge was consummated;
Allah tells us about the five Mighty Messengers with strong resolve and the other Prophets, how He took a covenant from them to establish the religion of Allah and convey His Message, and to cooperate and support one another, as Allah says:
(And when Allah took the covenant of the Prophets, saying: "Take whatever I gave you from the Book and Hikmah, and afterwards there will come to you a Messenger confirming what is with you; you must, then, believe in him and help him.'' Allah said: "Do you agree, and will you take up My covenant'' They said: "We agree.'' He said: "Then bear witness; and I am with you among the witnesses.'') (3:81) This covenant was taken from them after their missions started. Elsewhere in the Qur'an, Allah mentions five by name, and these are the Mighty Messengers with strong resolve. They are also mentioned by name in this Ayah and in the Ayah:
(He (Allah) has ordained for you the same religion which He ordained for Nuh, and that which We have revealed to you, and that which We ordained for Ibrahim, Musa and `Isa saying you should establish religion and make no divisions in it.) (42:13) This is the covenant which Allah took from them, as He says:
(And when We took from the Prophets their covenant, and from you, and from Nuh, Ibrahim, Musa, and `Isa son of Maryam.) This Ayah begins with the last Prophet, as a token of respect, may the blessings of Allah be upon him, then the names of the other Prophets are given in order, may the blessings of Allah be upon them. Ibn `Abbas said: "The strong covenant is Al-`Ahd (the covenant).
لِّيَسْأَلَ الصَّـدِقِينَ عَن صِدْقِهِمْ
(That He may ask the truthful about their truth.) Mujahid said: "This refers to, those who convey the Message from the Messengers.''
(And He has prepared for the disbelievers) i.e., among their nations,
(a painful torment.) i.e., agonizing. We bear witness that the Messengers did indeed convey the Message of their Lord and advised their nations, and that they clearly showed them the truth in which there is no confusion, doubt or ambiguity, even though they were rejected by the ignorant, stubborn and rebellious wrongdoers. What the Messengers brought is the truth, and whoever opposes them is misguided. As the people of Paradise will say:
لَقَدْ جَآءَتْ رُسُلُ رَبِّنَا بِالْحَقِّ
(Indeed, the Messengers of our Lord did come with the truth.) (7:43)
Maududi - Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi - Tafhim al-Qur'an
Allah in this verse has reminded the Holy Prophet that, like all other Prophets, He has taken from him too a solemn covenant which he should abide by strictly. A study of the preceding verse shows that the Covenant implies: "The Prophet will first himself obey and follow every Command received from Allah, and then make others also to obey and follow it: he will convey Allah's Commands intact to others and will show no laxity in the struggle to enforce them practically." This Covenant has been mentioned at several other places in the Quran, e.g.
(1)"He has appointed for you the same way of life whim he appointed for Noah and which (O Muhammad,) We have now revealed to you, and which We had already enjoined on Abraham and Moses and Jesus, stressing : `Establish this Way and be not divided in it." (Ash-Shura:13).
(2) "And remember that Allah had made the Covenant with the people who had been given the Scripture, and enjoined: `You shall spread the teachings of the Book among the people and shall not conceal them. " (Al`Imran: 187).
(3)"Remember that We made a solemn Covenant with the children of Israel to the effect: `Worship (and submit to) none save Allah." (AI-Baqarah: 83).
(4) "Has not the Covenant of the Book been taken from them...: `Hold fast the Book We have given you, and keep in mind what it contains: it is expected that you will refrain from wrong ways." (Al-A'raf: 169-171).
(5) "Keep in mind the blessing Allah has bestowed on you and do not forget the solemn Covenant which He made with you, when you said, `We have heard and submitted.' " (A1-Ma`idah: 7)
The reason why Allah is reminding of this Covenant in this context is that the Holy Prophet was feeling hesitant to break the custom of ignorance in respect of the adopted relations due to the apprehension that the enemies of Islam would put him to a disadvantage. He was feeling shy time and again at the thought: The question is of marrying a woman. I may take this initiative with the purest intention only for the sake of a social reform, but the enemies will certainly say that I have done so for the purpose of satisfying my sensual desires, and I am in fact trying to deceive others under the guise of a reformer. That is why Allah assures him, saying: "You arc a Prophet appointed by Us. Like all other Prophets, you also are bound in the Covenant that you will carry out whatever Command We give yourself and command others to follow it. Therefore, you should not bother at all about taunts and derision by others, do dot be afraid and fight shy of others, and carry out without hesitation the service that We want to take from you."
A section of the people think that this Covenant is the covenant that was taken from all the Prophets and their communities, who came before the Holy Prophet, to the effect that they would believe in the Prophet who came afterwards and cooperate with him. On the basis of this interpretation they claim that the door to Prophethood is still open after the Holy Prophet and this covenant has been taken from the Holy Prophet too, that his followers will believe in the prophet who will come after him. But the context in which the verse occurs is explicit that this interpretation is absolutely wrong, There is no occasion whatever in the context to indicate that other prophets will come also after the Holy Prophet and his followers should believe in them. If the verse is read in this sense, it becomes irrelevant and incoherent. Moreover, there is no indication in the words of the verse to show which covenant is implied here. Therefore, to find out the nature of the covenant, we shall have to turn to other verses of the Qur'an in which mention has been made of the covenants taken from the Prophets. Now, if only one sort of the covenants had been mentioned in the entire Qur'an, i.e., the covenant that the people shall believe in the prophets coming afterwards, it would be correct to think that here also the covenant implied the same covenant. But anyone who has studied the Qur'an with an open mind knows that it has mentioned many covenants, which were taken from the Prophets and their followers. Therefore, only that covenant from among the different covenant would be implied here, which fitted in with the context here, and not the one which was altogether irrelevant. Such wrong interpretations reveal the mentality of the people who wish to draw no guidance from the Qur'an but want to reinterpret it instead.
That is, "Allah has not just taken the covenant but will also question as to how far it has been kept. Then only those who will have kept Allah's Covenant faithfully, will be declared to be the truthful. "
To understand the theme of vv. 1-8 well these should be read together with vv. 36-41 of this Surah.