Abbas - Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs
(When ye are greeted with a greeting) when someone greets you with a greeting, (greet ye with a better than it) this is for those of your Religion and belief by adding to the formula of greeting (or return it) or return the exact greeting, if the one who greets you happens to be of another religion. (Lo! Allah taketh count of all things) of greeting and the return of greetings, just as He is a witness and will reward all. This verse was revealed about a group of people who refrained from returning greetings.
When you are greeted with a greeting, greet with one more beautiful than it, or return it.
In this verse, the majestic compeller, the magnificent God, the lovingly kind beautiful-doer, teaches His servants the courteous acts of social intercourse and companionship, for anyone not adorned with courtesy is not worthy of companionship.
Companionship is of three sorts: the courtesy of conformity with the Real, the courtesy of sincerity with people, and the courtesy of opposition to the soul. Anyone not nurtured by these sorts of courtesy has nothing to do with the path of MuṣṬafā and has no worth in the world of No god but God. The exalted Lord first adorned MuṣṬafā with courtesy, as his come in the report: “My Lord taught me courtesy, so how beautifully I have been made courteous!” Thus on the night of the miʿrāj in that most tremendous station, he acted courteously toward the Presence, such that the exalted Lord says about him, “The eyesight did not swerve, nor did it trespass” [53:17]. He observed the courtesy of companionship with people, such that He says about him, “Surely thou hast a tremendous character” [68:4].
The principles of the courteous acts of companionship in interacting with the Real are that you put knowledge to work in every interaction, you revere the Shariah, you avoid putting into practice what your wishes command, you honor the Sunnah and its folk, you avoid innovation and its folk, you leave aside suspicion and supposition, you stay far from disquieting thoughts and the habits of eye-service, ignorance, and laziness in worshiping God, you avoid adorning yourself as a worshipful servant in other than the Sunnah, you keep supererogatory acts hidden, you not mention the name God in heedlessness, you not mix levity with seriousness, you not play with the Shariah and the religion, and you put scrupulosity to work in speaking, acting, seeing, eating, sleeping, moving, and resting. Even if you pass your days with truthfulness and limpidness, you never approve of yourself. Rather, you must always be displeased with yourself, and you must make it incumbent upon yourself to repent in every state. The Messenger said, “My heart becomes clouded, so I ask forgiveness from God one hundred times a day.”
Abū Yazīd BasṬāmī was so displeased with his own limpidness and self-purification that his glorification sometimes consisted of pointing at himself with his finger and saying, “You are the miserable man of the time.”
The Companions of MuṣṬafā were so displeased with themselves in the limpidness of their religion that it is narrated from Muʿādh that he used go to the doors of houses and say, “Come, let us have faith for an hour.”
The Pir of the Tariqah said something appropriate for this place: “O Lord, I have a heart full of pain and a spirit full of suffering. Exalted of the two worlds! What can this poor wretch do? O Lord, I am not helpless because of You, but helpless in You. Whenever I am absent, You say, 'Where are you?' When I come to the Threshold, You do not open the door!
“O Lord, since despair in the submission's outwardness is deprivation, and in the Haqiqah itself hope is no doubt a deficiency, between this and that what is my remedy? Since in the Shariah patience is a mark of being pleased, but in the Haqiqah impatience is the very command, between this and that what proof can I offer You?
“O Lord, everyone has fire in the heart, and this poor wretch in the spirit, for everyone has rhyme and reason, but my poor self has nothing at all.”
As for the principles of the courteous acts of companionship in interacting with people, these are that you never hold back good advice and tenderness from any Muslim, you consider yourself less than everyone else, you place everyone's rightful due before yourself, and you are fair to everyone with respect to yourself by way of largesse, giving comfort, and having beauty of character. You avoid opposing and confronting the brothers and lying to them. You do not make requests from them by explicit command or explicit prohibition, you do not speak harsh words to them, and you do not reply to them unpleasantly.
Yūsuf Ḥusayn Rāzī said, “I asked Dhu'l-Nūn Miṣrī with whom I should be a companion. He said, 'He who does not own, does not censure any of your states, and does not change when you change, even if the change be great, for surely the more needy you are, the more severe will be your changing.”
Dhu'l-Nūn said, “Be a companion of someone who has no property,” that is, who does not consider what he has as his own and belonging to himself, for whenever there is antagonism, it occurs because “you and I” are in the midst.
When you and I disappear from the midst, no antagonism remains.
He said, “He does not censure any of your states.” He knows that you are not without sins such that defects would have no access to you. It is absurd in friendship to censure the state of your friend. Friendship is there when no censure is in the midst. It is recounted that a man had a wife and was far gone on her. One of the woman's eyes was white, but the man was unaware of that defect because of the excess of love. When the love decreased, he said to the woman, “When did this whiteness appear?” She said, “When love for me diminished in your heart.”
He said, “Who does not change when you change, even if it is a great change.” For the more you are changing, the more you need a friend. And it may be that the meaning of these words is that you should be a companion of the Real, not the creatures who change when you change. The one who does not change when the creatures change is the Real. Hence this is to show the road of cutting off from the creatures and joining with the Real.
And when you are greeted with a greeting, as when it is said to you, ‘Peace be upon you’, greet, the one that greeted you, with better than it, by responding to him with, ‘Peace be upon you, and God’s mercy and blessings’, or return it, by saying back to him what he said; in other words, it is a duty to greet in one of these two ways, the former being the preferred one. Surely God keeps count of, He holds [you] accountable for, all things, and requites accordingly, including things such as returning a greeting. The Sunna specifies that one should not return the greeting of an disbeliever, an innovator, a wicked person, and of the one that greets a person who is in the act of relieving himself, or one in the bath, or one eating — indeed it is actually disapproved with the exception of the last. To the disbeliever [who says ‘peace be upon you’] one should simply say, ‘And upon you’.
Allah commands His servant and Messenger, Muhammad, to himself fight in Jihad and not to be concerned about those who do not join Jihad. Hence Allah's statement,
لاَ تُكَلَّفُ إِلاَّ نَفْسَكَ
(you are not tasked (held responsible except for yourself,) Ibn Abi Hatim recorded that Abu Ishaq said, "I asked Al-Bara bin `Azib about a man who meets a hundred enemies and still fights them, would he be one of those referred to in Allah's statement,
وَلاَ تُلْقُواْ بِأَيْدِيكُمْ إِلَى التَّهْلُكَةِ
(And do not throw yourselves into destruction (by not spending your wealth in the cause of Allah)) He said, `Allah said to His Prophet,
(Then fight in the cause of Allah, you are not tasked (held responsible) except for yourself, and incite the believers (to fight along with you)).'' Imam Ahmad recorded Sulayman bin Dawud saying that Abu Bakr bin `Ayyash said that Abu Ishaq said, "I asked Al-Bara', `If a man attacks the lines of the idolators, would he be throwing himself to destruction' He said, `No because Allah has sent His Messenger and commanded him,
(Then fight in the cause of Allah, you are not tasked (held responsible) except for yourself,) That Ayah is about spending in Allah's cause.''
Inciting the Believers to Fight
(and incite the believers) to fight, by encouraging them and strengthening their resolve in this regard. For instance, the Prophet said to the believers at the battle of Badr, while organizing their lines,
(Whoever believes in Allah and His Messenger, offers prayer, pays the Zakah and fasts the month of Ramadan, will rightfully be granted Paradise by Allah, no matter whether he migrates in Allah's cause or remains in the land where he is born.) The people said, `O Allah's Messenger! Shall we acquaint the people with this good news' He said,
(Paradise has one hundred grades which Allah has reserved for the Mujahidin who fight in His cause, the distance between each two grades is like the distance between the heaven and the Earth. So, when you ask Allah, ask for Al-Firdaws, which is the best and highest part of Paradise, above it is the Throne of the Most Beneficent (Allah) and from it originate the rivers of Paradise.) There are various narrations for this Hadith from `Ubadah, Mu`adh, and Abu Ad-Darda'. Abu Sa`id Al-Khudri narrated that the Messenger of Allah said,
«يَا أَبَا سَعِيدٍ مَنْ رَضِيَ بِاللهِ رَبًّا، وَبِالْإِسْلَامِ دِينًا، وَبِمُحَمَّدٍصلى الله عليه وسلّم نَبِيًّا، وَجَبَتْ لَهُ الْجَنَّـة»
(O Abu Sa`id! Whoever accepts Allah as his Lord, Islam as his religion and Muhammad as the Prophet, then he would rightfully acquire Paradise.) Abu Sa`id liked these words and said, "O Allah's Messenger! Repeat them for me.'' The Prophet repeated his words, then said,
(And (there is) another deed for which Allah raises the servant a hundred grades in Paradise, between each two grades is the distance between heaven and Earth.) Abu Sa`id said, "What is it, O Allah's Messenger '' He said,
«الْجِهَادُ فِي سَبِيلِ الله»
(Jihad in Allah's cause.) This Hadith was collected by Muslim. Allah's statement,
(it may be that Allah will restrain the evil might of the disbelievers. ) means, by your encouraging them to fight, their resolve will be strengthened to meet the enemy in battle, to defend Islam and its people and to endure and be patient against the enemy. Allah's statement,
وَاللَّهُ أَشَدُّ بَأْساً وَأَشَدُّ تَنكِيلاً
(And Allah is Stronger in might and Stronger in punishing.) means, He is able over them in this life and the Hereafter, just as He said in another Ayah,
(And whosoever intercedes for an evil cause, will have a share in its burden.) meaning, he will carry a burden due to what resulted from his intercession and intention. For instance, it is recorded in the Sahih that the Prophet said,
(Intercede and you will gain a reward of it. Yet, Allah shall decide whatever He wills by the words of His Prophet.) Mujahid bin Jabr said, "This Ayah was revealed about the intercession of people on behalf of each other.'' Allah then said,
وَكَانَ اللَّهُ عَلَى كُلِّ شَىْءٍ مُّقِيتاً
(And Allah is Ever Muqit over everything.) Ibn `Abbas, `Ata', `Atiyah, Qatadah and Matar Al-Warraq said that,
(Muqit) means, "Watcher.'' Mujahid said that Muqit means, `Witness', and in another narration, `Able to do.'
(When you are greeted with a greeting, greet in return with what is better than it, or (at least) return it equally.) meaning, if the Muslim greets you with the Salam, then return the greeting with a better Salam, or at least equal to the Salam that was given. Therefore, the better Salam is recommended, while returning it equally is an obligation. Imam Ahmad recorded that Abu Raja' Al-`Utaridi said that `Imran bin Husayn said that a man came to the Messenger of Allah and said, "As-Salamu `Alaykum''. The Prophet returned the greeting, and after the man sat down he said, "Ten.'' Another man came and said, "As-Salamu `Alaykum wa Rahmatullah, O Allah's Messenger.'' The Prophet returned the greeting, and after the man sat down he said, "Twenty.'' Then another man came and said, "As-Salamu `Alaykum wa Rahmatullah wa Barakatuh.'' The Prophet returned the greeting, and after the man sat down he said, "Thirty.'' This is the narration recorded by Abu Dawud. At-Tirmidhi, An-Nasa'i and Al-Bazzar also recorded it. At-Tirmidhi said, "Hasan Gharib''. There are several other Hadiths on this subject from Abu Sa`id, `Ali, and Sahl bin Hanif. When the Muslim is greeted with the full form of Salam, he is obliged to return the greeting equally. As for Ahl Adh-Dhimmah the Salam should not be initiated nor should the greeting be added to when returning their greeting. Rather, as recorded in the Two Sahihs their greeting is returned to them equally. Ibn `Umar narrated that the Messenger of Allah said,
(When the Jews greet you, one of them would say, `As-Samu `Alayka (death be unto you).' Therefore, say, `Wa `Alayka (and the same to you).') In his Sahih, Muslim recorded that Abu Hurayrah said that the Messenger of Allah said,
(Do not initiate greeting the Jews and Christians with the Salam, and when you pass by them on a road, force them to its narrowest path.) Abu Dawud recorded that Abu Hurayrah said that the Messenger of Allah said,
(By He in Whose Hand is my soul! You will not enter Paradise until you believe, and you will not believe until you love each other. Should I direct you to an action that would direct you to love each other Spread the Salam among yourselves.) Allah said,
اللَّهُ لاَ إِلَـهَ إِلاَّ هُوَ
(Allah! none has the right to be worshipped but He) informing that He is singled out as the sole God of all creation. Allah then said,
(Surely, He will gather you together on the Day of Resurrection about which there is no doubt.) swearing that He will gather the earlier and latter generations in one area, rewarding or punishing each person according to his or her actions. Allah said,
وَمَنْ أَصْدَقُ مِنَ اللَّهِ حَدِيثاً
(And who is truer in statement than Allah) meaning, no one utters more truthful statements than Allah, in His promise, warning, stories of the past and information of what is to come; there is no deity worthy of worship nor Lord except Him.
Maududi - Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi - Tafhim al-Qur'an
The Muslims were specially exhorted to be very civil and polite to the non-Muslims because at that time their relations were strained on account of the conflict between them. In that state of tension, they were forewarned to be on their guard against incivility and impoliteness. They were, therefore, taught to be equally civil and polite to them when they greeted them respectfully. Nay, they should be even more civil and polite than their opponents.
Harsh behavior and harsh words do no good to anyone but they are specially unsuited to the work of those missionaries of Allah's Message, who have dedicated themselves to one day invite the world to the Truth and exerted themselves to reform the ways of the people. Such ill behavior may satisfy one's vanity, but it does great harm to one's mission.
That is, "The misbehaviour of the unbelievers, atheists, polytheists and the like can do no damage to the Godhead of Allah, for they cannot alter the fact that He is the One and All-Powerful Sovereign, and that, one day He will assemble together all human beings and deal with them in accordance with their deeds and none will be able to escape from His retribution. Therefore, Allah does not stand in need of anyone to defend Him against His rebels by showing incivility and impoliteness to them.
That is the bearing of this verse on the preceding verse. But this verse also serves as an appendix to the passage that began from verse 60. In that case it means: Let any body follow any way he chooses and work in any way he likes in this world but he should not forget that one Day everyone shall have to go in the presence of Allah Who is the sole Sovereign. Then everyone shall see the result of his actions and deeds.
And when you are greeted with a greeting greet with better than it or return it. Surely God keeps count of all things. [This is] an instruction for them in amicable relations and the good manners of companionship. When someone presses some kindness on you it becomes a loan you owe him. Whether you do more than his act or not at least do not do less than what he has done.
When you are offered a greeting, respond with a better one, or [at least] return it…This means that you should surpass the greeting that issued [from that person] by acting with sincere friendship (naṣḥ) for God’s sake, Exalted is He. The Prophet said, ‘Peace (salām) is one of the names of God which He made manifest on Earth, so spread it among yourselves.’ His words, Exalted is He: