Abbas - Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs
(Listeners) and ones who utter words (for the sake of falsehood! Greedy for illicit gain!) bribery and that which is unlawful by changing the rulings of Allah. (If then they) i.e. the Banu Qurayzah and the Banu'l-Nadir (have recourse unto thee) O Muhammad (judge between them) between the Banu Qurayzah and the Banu'l-Nadir; and it is also said: between the people of Khaybar (or disclaim jurisdiction) by choice. (If thou disclaimest jurisdiction) and do not judge between them, (then they cannot harm thee at all) they cannot take away anything from you. (But if thou judgest) between the Banu Qurayzah and the Banu'l-Nadir; and it is also said: between the people of Khaybar, (judge between them with equity) with stoning [married people who commit adultery]. (Lo! Allah loveth the equitable) who are fair when they judge with the Book of Allah and who apply the legal ruling of stoning.
They are, listeners to calumny and consumers of unlawful gain (read suhut or suht), that which is illicit, such as bribes. If they come to you, to judge between them, then judge between them or turn away from them: the [second] option given here was abrogated by His saying, So judge between them [to the end of] the verse [Q. 5:48]. Therefore, we [Muslims] are obliged to judge between them if they request arbitration before us — and this is the more sound of al-Shāfi‘ī’s two opinions. If their request for arbitration involves a Muslim, however, then we are obliged to judge according to the consensus [of legal scholars and not just al-Shāfi‘ī]); if you turn away from them, they cannot harm you at all; and if you judge, between them, then judge justly between them; God loves the just, those that judge fairly, meaning that He will reward them.
(of such who say, "We believe'' with their mouths but their hearts have no faith.) These people pretend to be faithful with their words, but their hearts are empty from faith, and they are the hypocrites.
مِّنَ الَّذِينَ هَادُواْ
(And of the Jews...) the enemies of Islam and its people, they and the hypocrites all,
(listen much and eagerly to lies...) and they accept and react to it positively,
سَمَّـعُونَ لِقَوْمٍ ءَاخَرِينَ لَمْ يَأْتُوكَ
(listening to others who have not come to you,) meaning, they listen to some people who do not attend your meetings, O Muhammad. Or, the Ayah might mean, they listen to what you say and convey it to your enemies who do not attend your audience.
The Jews Alter and Change the Law, Such As Stoning the Adulterer
يُحَرِّفُونَ الْكَلِمَ مِن بَعْدِ مَوَضِعِهِ
(They change the words from their places:) by altering their meanings and knowingly distorting them after they comprehended them,
(they say, "If you are given this, take it, but if you are not given this, then beware!") It was reported that this part of the Ayah was revealed about some Jews who committed murder and who said to each other, "Let us ask Muhammad to judge between us, and if he decides that we pay the Diyah, accept his judgement. If he decides on capital punishment, do not accept his judgement.'' The correct opinion is that this Ayah was revealed about the two Jews who committed adultery. The Jews changed the law they had in their Book from Allah on the matter of punishment for adultery, from stoning to death, to a hundred flogs and making the offenders ride a donkey facing the back of the donkey. When this incident of adultery occurred after the Hijrah, they said to each other, "Let us go to Muhammad and seek his judgement. If he gives a ruling of flogging, then implement his decision and make it a proof for you with Allah. This way, one of Allah's Prophets will have upheld this ruling amongst you. But if he decides that the punishment should be stoning to death, then do not accept his decision.'' There are several Hadiths mentioning this story. Malik reported that Nafi` said that `Abdullah bin `Umar said, "The Jews came to Allah's Messenger and mentioned that a man and a woman from them committed adultery. Allah's Messenger said to them,
(What do find of the ruling about stoning in the Tawrah) They said, `We only find that they should be exposed and flogged.' `Abdullah bin Salam said, `You lie. The Tawrah mentions stoning, so bring the Tawrah.' They brought the Tawrah and opened it but one of them hid the verse about stoning with his hand and recited what is before and after that verse. `Abdullah bin Salam said to him, `Remove your hand,' and he removed it, thus uncovering the verse about stoning. So they said, He (`Abdullah bin Salam) has said the truth, O Muhammad! It is the verse about stoning.' The Messenger of Allah decided that the adulterers be stoned to death and his command was carried out. I saw that man shading the woman from the stones with his body.'' Al-Bukhari and Muslim also collected this Hadith and this is the wording collected by Al-Bukhari. In another narration by Al-Bukhari, the Prophet said to the Jews,
«مَا تَصْنَعُون بِهِمَا؟»
(What would you do in this case) They said, "We would humiliate and expose them.'' The Prophet recited,
(Bring here the Tawrah and recite it, if you are truthful.) So they brought a man who was blind in one eye and who was respected among them and said to him, "Read (from the Tawrah).'' So he read until he reached a certain verse and then covered it with his hand. He was told, "Remove your hand,'' and it was the verse about stoning. So that man said, "O Muhammad! This is the verse about stoning, and we had hid its knowledge among us.'' So the Messenger ordered that the two adulterers be stoned, and they were stoned. Muslim recorded that a Jewish man and a Jewish woman were brought before Allah's Messenger because they committed adultery. The Messenger of Allah went to the Jews and asked them,
«مَا تَجِدُونَ فِي التَّوْرَاةِ عَلى مَنْ زَنَى؟»
(What is the ruling that you find in the Tawrah for adultery) hThey said, "We expose them, carry them (on donkeys) backwards and parade them in public.'' The Prophet recited;
(Bring here the Tawrah and recite it, if you are truthful.) So they brought the Tawrah and read from it until the reader reached the verse about stoning. Then he placed his hand on that verse and read what was before and after it. `Abdullah bin Salam, who was with the Messenger of Allah, said, "Order him to remove his hand,'' and he removed his hand and under it was the verse about stoning. So the Messenger of Allah commanded that the adulterers be stoned, and they were stoned. `Abdullah bin `Umar said, "I was among those who stoned them and I saw the man shading the woman from the stones with his body.'' Abu Dawud recorded that Ibn `Umar said, "Some Jews came to the Messenger of Allah and invited him to go to the Quff area. So he went to the house of Al-Midras and they said, `O Abu Al-Qasim! A man from us committed adultery with a woman, so decide on their matter.' They arranged a pillow for the Messenger of Allah and he sat on it and said,
(Bring the Tawrah to me.) He was brought the Tawrah and he removed the pillow from under him and placed the Tawrah on it, saying,
«آمَنْتُ بِكِ وَبِمَنْ أَنْزَلَك»
(I trust you and He Who revealed it to you.) He then said,
(Bring me your most knowledgeable person.) So he was brought a young man... '' and then he mentioned the rest of the story that Malik narrated from Nafi`. These Hadiths state that the Messenger of Allah issued a decision that conforms with the ruling in the Tawrah, not to honor the Jews in what they believe in, for the Jews were commanded to follow the Law of Muhammad only. Rather, the Prophet did this because Allah commanded him to do so. He asked them about the ruling of stoning in the Tawrah to make them admit to what the Tawrah contains and what they collaborated to hide, deny and exclude from implementing for all that time. They had to admit to what they did, although they did it while having knowledge of the correct ruling. What made them go to the Prophet for judgement in this matter was their lusts and desires, hoping that the Prophet would agree with their opinion, not that they believed in the correctness of his judgment. This is why they said,
إِنْ أُوتِيتُمْ هَـذَا
(If you are given this,) referring to flogging, then take it,
وَإِن لَّمْ تُؤْتَوْهُ فَاحْذَرُواْ
(but if you are not given this, then beware!) and do not accept or implement it. Allah said next,
(And whomsoever Allah wants to put in Fitnah, you can do nothing for him against Allah. Those are the ones whose hearts Allah does not want to purify; for them there is a disgrace in this world, and in the Hereafter a great torment. They (like to) listen to falsehood, to devour Suht) `Suht' refers to bribes, as Ibn Mas`ud and others stated. The Ayah states that if one is like this, how can Allah cleanse his heart and accept his supplication Allah said to His Prophet,
(So if they come to you...) so that you judge between them,
(either judge between them, or turn away from them. If you turn away from them, they cannot hurt you in the least.) meaning, there is no harm if you do not judge between them. This is because when they came to you to judge between them, they did not seek to follow the truth, but only what conformed to their lusts. We should mention here that Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid, `Ikrimah, Al-Hasan, Qatadah, As-Suddi, Zayd bin Aslam, `Ata' Al-Khurasani, and several others said that this part of the Ayah was abrogated by Allah's statement,
وَأَنِ احْكُم بَيْنَهُمْ بِمَآ أَنزَلَ اللَّهُ
(And so judge among them by what Allah has revealed.)
وَإِنْ حَكَمْتَ فَاحْكُم بَيْنَهُم بِالْقِسْطِ
(And if you judge, judge with justice between them.) and with fairness, even if the Jews were unjust and outcasts from the path of fairness,
إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُحِبُّ الْمُقْسِطِينَ
(Verily, Allah loves those who act justly.)
Chastising the Jews for Their Evil Lusts and Desires, While Praising the Tawrah
Allah then chastises the Jews for their false ideas and deviant desires to abandon what they believe is true in their Book, and which they claim is their eternal Law that they are always commanded to adhere to. Yet, they do not adhere to the Tawrah, but they prefer other laws over it, although they believe that these other laws are not correct and do not apply to them. Allah said,
(But how do they come to you for decision while they have the Tawrah, in which is the decision of Allah; yet even after that they turn away. For they are not believers.) Allah next praises the Tawrah that He sent down to His servant and Messenger Musa, son of `Imran,
(Verily, We did send down the Tawrah to Musa, therein was guidance and light, by which the Prophets who submitted themselves to Allah's will, judged the Jews.) and these Prophets did not deviate from the law of the Tawrah, change or alter it,
(And (also) the Rabbaniyyun and the Ahbar...) wherein Rabbaniyyun refers to the worshippers who are learned and religious, and Ahbar refers to the scholars,
بِمَا اسْتُحْفِظُواْ مِن كِتَـبِ اللَّهِ
(for to them was entrusted the protection of Allah's Book,) meaning, they were entrusted with the Book of Allah, and they were commanded to adhere to it and not hide any part of,
(and they were witnesses thereto. Therefore fear not men but fear Me and sell not My verses for a miserable price. And whosoever does not judge by what Allah has revealed, such are the disbelievers.) There are two ways to explain this Ayah and we will mention the later.
Another Reason Behind Revealing these Honorable Ayat
Imam Ahmad recorded that Ibn `Abbas said, "Allah sent down the Ayat,
(And whosoever does not judge by what Allah has revealed, such are the disbelievers,)
فَأُوْلَـئِكَ هُمُ الظَّـلِمُونَ
(Such are the unjust,) and,
فَأُوْلَـئِكَ هُمُ الْفَـسِقُونَ
(Such are the rebellious.) about two groups among the Jews. During the time of Jahiliyyah, one of them had defeated the other. As a result, they made a treaty that they would pay blood money totaling fifty Wasaq of gold (each Wasaq approx. 3 kg) for every dead person from the defeated group killed by the victors, and a hundred Wasaq for every dead person the defeated group killed from the victors. This treaty remained in effect until the Prophet came to Al-Madinah and both of these groups became subservient under the Prophet. Yet, when the mighty group once suffered a casualty at the hands of the weaker group, the mighty group sent a delegation demanding the hundred Wasaq. The weaker group said, `How can two groups who have the same religion, one ancestral lineage and a common land, have a Diyah that for some of them is half of that of the others We only agreed to this because you oppressed us and because we feared you. Now that Muhammad has come, we will not give you what you asked.' So war was almost rekindled between them, but they agreed to seek Muhammad's judgement in their dispute. The mighty group among them said among themselves, `By Allah! Muhammad will never give you double the Diyah that you pay to them compared to what they pay to you. They have said the truth anyway, for they only gave us this amount because we oppressed and overpowered them. Therefore, send someone to Muhammad who will sense what his judgement will be. If he agrees to give you what you demand, accept his judgment, and if he does not give you what you seek, do not refer to him for judgement.' So they sent some hypocrites to the Messenger of Allah to try and find out the Messenger's judgement. When they came to the Messenger, Allah informed him of their matter and of their plot. Allah sent down,
(O Messenger! Let not those who hurry to fall into disbelief grieve you,) until,
(Such are the rebellious.) By Allah! It is because of their problem that Allah sent down these verses and it is they whom Allah meant.'' Abu Dawud collected a similar narration for this Hadith. Abu Ja`far Ibn Jarir recorded that Ibn `Abbas said that the Ayah in Surat Al-Ma'idah,
فَاحْكُمْ بَيْنَهُمْ أَوْ أَعْرِضْ عَنْهُمْ
(either judge between them, or turn away from them...) until,
(Those who act justly.) was revealed concerning the problem of blood money between Bani An-Nadir and Bani Qurayzah. The dead of Bani An-Nadir were being honored more and they received the full amount of Diyah, while Qurayzah received half the Diyah for their dead. So they referred to the Messenger of Allah for judgement and Allah sent down these verses about them. The Messenger of Allah compelled them to adhere to the true judgement in this matter and made the Diyah the same for both groups and Allah knows best about that matter.'' Ahmad, Abu Dawud and An-Nasa'i also recorded this Hadith from Abu Ishaq. Al-`Awfi and `Ali bin Abi Talhah reported that Ibn `Abbas said that these Ayat were revealed about the two Jews who committed adultery, and we mentioned the Hadiths about this story before. It appears that both of these were the reasons behind revealing these Ayat, and Allah knows best. This is why Allah said afterwards,
(And We ordained therein for them: Life for life, eye for eye) until the end of the Ayah, which strengthens the opinion that the story of the Diyah was behind revealing the Ayat as we explained above. Allah knows best. Allah said,
(And whosoever does not judge by what Allah has revealed, such are the disbelievers.) Al-Bara' bin `Azib, Hudhayfah bin Al-Yaman, Ibn `Abbas, Abu Mijlaz, Abu Raja' Al-`Utaridi, `Ikrimah, `Ubaydullah bin `Abdullah, Al-Hasan Al-Basri and others said that this Ayah was revealed about the People of the Book. Al-Hasan Al-Basri added that this Ayah also applies to us. `Abdur-Razzaq said that Ath-Thawri said that Mansur said that Ibrahim said that these Ayat, "Were revealed about the Children of Israel, and Allah accepted them for this Ummah.'' Ibn Jarir recorded this statement. `Ali bin Abi Talhah also stated that Ibn `Abbas commented on Allah's statement,
(And whosoever does not judge by what Allah has revealed, such are the disbelievers,) "Whoever rejects what Allah has revealed, will have committed Kufr, and whoever accepts what Allah has revealed, but did not rule by it, is a Zalim (unjust) and a Fasiq (rebellious) and a sinner.'' Ibn Jarir recorded this statement. `Abdur-Razzaq said, "Ma`mar narrated to us that Tawus said that Ibn `Abbas was asked about Allah's statement,
وَمَن لَّمْ يَحْكُم
(And whosoever does not judge...) He said, `It is an act of Kufr.' Ibn Tawus added, `It is not like those who disbelieve in Allah, His angels, His Books and His Messengers.' Ath-Thawri narrated that Ibn Jurayj said that `Ata' said, `There is Kufr and Kufr less than Kufr, Zulm and Zulm less than Zulm, Fisq and Fisq less than Fisq.''' Waki` said that Sa`id Al-Makki said that Tawus said that,
(And whosoever does not judge by what Allah has revealed, such are the disbelievers,) "This is not the Kufr that annuls one's religion.''
Maududi - Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi - Tafhim al-Qur'an
This particularly refers to their jurists and judges who accepted false evidence and unjustly decided cases in favor of those from whom they took bribes or from whom they expected unlawful gains.
At that time the Jews had freedom in their internal affairs and their cases were decided by their own judges according to their own law, for they had not as yet become subjects of the Islamic State, but had only entered into treaties with it. Therefore they were not bound to bring their cases to the Holy Prophet or to the judges appointed by him. Nevertheless, sometimes, when their own law did not suit them, they would take their cases to the Holy Prophet in the hope that they might obtain a more favorable decree from him than they could from their own law.
Here it refers to a case of illicit relationship between a man and a woman who belonged to respectable families of the Jews of Khaibar. According to the Torah (Deut. 22 : 23-24), their punishment was that both of them should be stoned to death. As the Jews did not want to inflict this punishment, they decided that the case should be taken to the Holy Prophet and that they would accept his decision only if it was other than stoning to death. When the Holy Prophet had heard the case he decreed that they should be stoned to death, but the Jews rejected it. Then the Holy Prophet asked them what the punishment was according to the Torah. They replied that it was to flog the culprits and to blacken their faces and to mount them on a donkey. The Holy Prophet asked their rabbis to declare on oath whether that was the punishment for adultery committed by a married couple. They all but one answered that it was so. The one who had kept quiet was Ibn surya, who was considered to be the greatest scholar of the Torah by the Jews themselves. The Holy Prophet pointedly addressed him and asked, "I want you to swear by that God Who saved your people from the Pharaoh and gave you the Law on the Tur and answer whether it is this same punishment for adultery in the Torah that these people tell." He said, "I would never have confessed that the punishment for adultery is stoning the culprits to death, if you had not laid upon me such a heavy oath. The fact is that when adultery became common among us, the judges would let the offenders go, if they happened to be big people. But as this differentiation caused a great discontent among the common people, we made a change in the Law that instead of stoning the culprits to death they should be flogged and mounted on a donkey with blackened faces." After this, no other course was left for the Jews and the culprits were stoned to death by the order of the Holy Prophet.
In this verse Allah has fully exposed the dishonesty of these "religious people" who had established their authority for piety and knowledge of the Book throughout Arabia. The very fact that they had discarded the Book they themselves believed to be the Book of Allah and brought their case to the Holy Prophet whom they did not believe to be a Prophet, showed that their claim of belief in the Book was hollow. This also showed that they did not sincerely believe in anything but their lusts. They discarded the Book which they believed to be the Book of God, just because its decree was against their lusts and they went to the one whom they considered to be a false prophet in the hope that they might get a decree that might suit their lusts.
(O Messenger! Let not them grieve thee who vie one with another in the race to disbelief…) [5:41-47]. Abu Bakr Ahmad ibn al-Hasan al-Hiri informed us by dictation> Abu Muhammad, the chamberlain of Ibn Ahmad al-Tusi> Muhammad ibn Hammad al-Abiwardi> Abu Mu'awiyah> al-A'mash> 'Abd Allah ibn Murrah> al-Bara' ibn 'Azib who said: “One day, the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, passed by a Jewish man who had just been flogged and had his face darkened with coal. He summoned the Jews and asked them: 'Is this what your Scripture decrees as punishment for the adulterer?' 'Yes!' they replied. He then summoned one of their doctors and asked him: 'I implore you by Allah who has sent the Torah to Moses, is this what your Scripture decrees as punishment for the adulterer'. He said: 'No! And if you had not implored me by Allah, I would not tell you. Our Scripture rules that the punishment of the adulterer is stoning. But it became widespread among our notables. Initially, when one of the notables committed adultery, we left him unpunished while we applied stoning on the communality in cases of adultery. Then we decided to look for a punishment that was applied on both the notables and communality of people. And so we agreed on darkening the face with coal and flogging to replace stoning'. The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, said: 'O Allah! I am the first to reapply your command after they had suspended it'. And he ordered that the Jewish man be stoned. Allah, exalted is He, then revealed (O Messenger! Let not them grieve thee who vie one with another in the race to disbelief) up to His words (If this be given unto you, receive it…), they said: 'Go to Muhammad; if he directs you to flog the adulterer and darken his face with coal and apply flogging, then follow him. But do not follow him if he directs you to apply stoning on him'. Up to His words (Whoso judgeth not by that which Allah hath revealed: such are disbelievers) [5:44]. He said: 'This relates to the Jews'. Up to His words (Whoso judgeth not by that which Allah hath revealed: such are wrong-doers) [5:45]. He said: 'This relates to the Christians'. Up to His words (Whoso judgeth not by that which Allah hath revealed: such are evil-livers) [5:47]. He said: 'This relates to all disbelievers'. Narrated by Muslim from Yahya ibn Yahya from Abu Mu'awiyah”. Abu 'Abd Allah ibn Abi Ishaq informed us> Abu'l-Haytham Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Ghawth al-Kindi> Muhammad ibn 'Abd Allah ibn Sulayman al-Hadrami> Abu Bakr ibn Abi Shaybah> Abu Mu'awiyah> al-A'mash> 'Abd Allah ibn Murrah> al-Bara' ibn 'Azib who related that the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, stoned a Jewish man and a Jewish woman and said afterwards: “(Whoso judgeth not by that which Allah hath revealed: such are disbelievers) [5:44], (Whoso judgeth not by that which Allah hath revealed: such are wrong-doers) [5:45], (Whoso judgeth not by that which Allah hath revealed: such are evil-livers) [5:47]. All these three verses were revealed about the disbelievers”. This was narrated by Muslim from Abu Bakr ibn Abi Shaybah.