Abbas - Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs
Then the people who had infirmities and chronic illnesses came to the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) and said: “O Messenger of Allah! Allah has threatened to punish whoever stays behind and does not take part in fighting with a painful doom. How can we go out in military expedition when we are physically unable to do so?” And so Allah said: (There is no blame for the blind) if he does not go out in military conquests, (nor is there blame for the lame) if he does not go out in military conquests, (nor is there blame for the sick (that they go not forth to war). And whoso obeyeth Allah and His messenger) openly and privately and answers him by going out to fight the enemy, (He will make him enter Gardens beneath which) beneath whose houses, rooms and trees (rivers) of wine, water, honey, and milk (flow; and whoso turneth back) from the obedience of Allah and His Messenger and refuses to comply, (him will He punish with a painful doom).
There is no blame on the blind, nor [is there] blame on the lame, nor [is there] blame on the sick, to refrain from [participating in] the struggle. And whoever obeys God and His Messenger, He will admit him (read yudkhilhu, or nudkhilhu, ‘We will admit him’) into gardens underneath which rivers flow; and whoever turns away, him He will chastise (read yu‘adhdhibhu, or nu‘adhdhibhu, ‘him We will chastise’) with a painful chastisement.
Allah conveys the News that there will be Many Cases of Jihad, and that Jihad distinguishes the Ranks of the Believers and exposes the Hypocrite
Scholars of Tafsir differ over who the people mentioned here are. They are people experienced at warfare who will be called to fight. There are many opinions, first, they are the tribe of Hawazin, as Shu`bah narrated from Abu Bishr from Sa`id bin Jubayr, or `Ikrimah, or both of them. Hushaym narrated this explanation from Abu Bishr, from both Sa`id bin Jubayr and `Ikrimah. Qatadah, as narrated from him in one version, held the same view. The second view is that these people are the tribe of Thaqif, according to Ad-Dahhak. The third view is that they are Banu Hanifah, according to Juwaybir and Az-Zuhri, as Muhammad bin Ishaq narrated from him. Similar was narrated from Sa`id bin Jubayr and `Ikrimah. The fourth opinion is that they are the Persians, according to `Ali bin Abi Talhah who reported that from `Abdullah bin `Abbas. This is also the view of `Ata', Mujahid, and `Ikrimah. Ka`b Al-Ahbar said that they are the Romans, while Ibn Abi Layla, `Ata, Al-Hasan and Qatadah -- in a different narration from him, said that they are the Persians and Romans. Mujahid also said that they are the idolators. In another narration Mujahid said, "They are men given to great warfare,'' and did not specify any particular people. This last explanation is the view preferred by Ibn Jurayj and Ibn Jarir. Allah's statement,
تُقَـتِلُونَهُمْ أَوْ يُسْلِمُونَ
(Then you shall fight them, or they shall surrender.) means, `you are called to fight them in Jihad, through constant warfare, until you become victorious over them or they surrender. Or, they will embrace your religion without a fight, but with their full consent.' Allah the Exalted and Most Honored said next,
(Then if you obey,) `if you accept the call to Jihad and prepare for it and fulfill your duty in this regard,'
(Allah will give you a fair reward; but if you turn away as you turned away before,) `on the day of Al-Hudaybiyyah, when you were called to Jihad, yet lagged behind,'
يُعَذِّبْكُمْ عَذَاباً أَلِيماً
(He will punish you with a painful torment.)
Acceptable Reasons for not joining Jihad
Allah then mentions the legal reasons that allow one to be excused from joining the Jihad, such as blindness and being lame, and various illnesses that strike one and are remedied in few days. When one is ill, he is allowed to remain behind and will have a valid excuse to do so, until his illness ends. Allah the Exalted and Most honored then said, while ordaining joining the Jihad and obeying Allah and His Messenger,
(And whosoever obeys Allah and His Messenger, He will admit him to Gardens beneath which rivers flow; and whosoever turns back,) from joining the Jihad and busies himself in his livelihood,
يُعَذِّبْهُ عَذَاباً أَلِيماً
(He will punish him with a painful torment.) in this life with humiliation and in the Hereafter with the Fire. Allah the Exalted has the best knowledge.
Maududi - Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi - Tafhim al-Qur'an
That is, `The time is approaching when these very people who were shirking accompanying you on the dangerous journey, would see you going on an expedition in which there would be the possibility of attaining easy victory and much booty. Then they would come running and request you to take them also along." Such a time came just three months after the truce of Hudaibiyah, when the Holy Prophet invaded Khaiber and took it easily. At that time everyone could see that after the truce with the Quraish not only Khaiber but the Jewish settlements of Taima, Fadak, Wadi-al-Qura' and others also of northern Arabia would not be able to withstand the might of the Muslims and would easily fall to the Islamic State. Therefore, Allah in these verses forewarned the Holy Prophet that the opportunists of the suburbs of Madinah would come up to take part in and receive their share when they would see easy victories being attained, and that he should tell them plainly: "You will never be allowed to take part in these, because only those who had gone forth to offer their lives in the conflict at Hudaibiyah regardless of every danger would be entitled o them. "
"Allah's decree" implies the decree that only those people would be allowed to accompany the Holy Prophet in the expedition to Khaiber, who had taken part in the expedition to Hudaibiyah and sworn the pledge there for Allah has reserved the spoils of Khaiber exclusively for them; as has been stated clearly in verse 18 blow.
The words "Allah has already said this before" caused the people the misunderstanding that this refers to some other command bearing upon the same subject that might have been sent down before this verse, and since no such command is found in this Surah before this verse, they started looking for it at other places in the Qur'an till they found verse 84 of Surah At-Taubah, in which this very subject has been dealt with for another occasion. But that verse, in fact, does not apply to this, for it was sent down in connection with the Battle of Tabuk, and its period of revelation is three years after the period of revelation of Surah AI-Fat-h. The fact of the matter is that this verse refers to vv. 18-19 of this Surah itself, and Allah's already having said this does not mean its having been said before this verse but its having boon said to the laggards before this conversation. This conversation with the laggards about which advance instructions are being given to the Holy Prophet was to take place at the time of the expedition to Khaiber, and this whole Surah, including vv. 18-19, had been sent down three months earlier on return from Hudaibiyah on the way. A careful study of the context shows that Allah here is giving this instruction to His Messenger: "When after your return at Madinah the laggards come to you with their excuses, you should give them this reply, and when they express their desire to accompany you in the expedition to Khaiber, you should tell them this. "
The words au yuslimun in the original can have two meanings and both are implied:
(1) 'That they should accept Islam"; and
(2) 'that they should submit to the Islamic rule."
That is, the one who has a genuine excuse for not joining Jihad is not accountable, but if the able-bodied, strong people make excuses for not joining it, they cannot be regarded as sincere with regard to Allah and His Religion, and they cannot be given the opportunity to take advantage of the gains as members of the Muslim community, but when time comes for making sacrifices for Islam, they should lag behind and seek the safety of their lives and properties."
Here, one should know that two kinds of the people have been exempted from Jihad duty by the Shari ah:
(1) Those who are not physically fit for Jihad. e.g. young boys, women, the insane, the blind and such patients as cannot perform military duties, and such disabled people as cannot take part in war; and
(2) those for whom it may be difficult to join Jihad for other sound reasons, e.g. the slaves, or those persons who may be ready for Jihad but may not afford weapons of war and other necessary equipment, or such debtors who may have to pay their debts at the earliest opportunity and the creditors may not be willing to allow them more time, or such people whose parents (or a parent) might be alive, who stand in need of the children's help.
In this regard, it should also be known that the children should not join Jihad without the permission of their parents if they are Muslims, but if they are non-Muslims it is not permissible for a person to stay away from Jihad in case they refuse permission. "