Abbas - Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs
(Say: Can ye see yourselves) what you are saying, O people of Mecca, (if the punishment of Allah come upon you) such was the case on the Day of Badr, Uhud or the Confederates (or the Hour come upon you) or if torment comes upon you on the Day of Judgement, (calling upon other than Allah? Do ye then call (for help) to any other than Allah) to lift the torment from you? ((Answer that) if ye are truthful) that the idols are His partners.
Say: “Do you see: Were God's chastisement to come to you or were the Hour to come to you, would you supplicate other than God, if you are truthful?”
If harm touches you, whom will you want to remove it? If an affair turns against you, from whom will you hope for gentleness in it?
The poor child of Adam who does not know the worth of this gentleness and does not recognize the danger of this exaltedness! This verse is both a manifestation of His exaltedness, majesty, and unneediness toward the servants, and a preparation for His gentleness, bounteousness, and largesse of mercy toward them. He is saying, “If in My lordhood I should assault these creatures because of justice, who is it that will hold that assault back from them and come to their aid? Were I suddenly to bring forth the banner of the resurrection from the ambush of the Unseen, where will these servants flee? Whose hand will they grasp? Whom will they call?” Then, with His own generosity, he answers:
Say, O Muhammad (s), to the Meccans: ‘Do you see yourselves, [that is] inform me, if God’s chastisement comes upon you, in this world, or the Hour, the Resurrection, which includes this [chastisement], comes upon you, suddenly, will ye call upon any other than God? No! If you speak truly!’, that the idols can benefit you, then call upon them.
Say, 'Do you see yourselves, to the end [of the verse]: in other words, every committer of idolatrous association when he ends up in the chastisement or at the moment of death - if we interpret 'the Hour' as meaning the minor resurrection - or [when] the veil is removed as a result of being guided by the Truth to the true affirmation of Oneness - if we interpret it as meaning the major resurrection - [that idolater] he will dissociate from [claims made of] the power and strength of that which he associated with God and will ascertain that there is no power or strength except in God. And he will call only upon God and will forget all the agents to whom he was attached and whom he associated with God, which is why it is said that affliction is one of God's scourges by which He drives His servants. Do you not see how He follows these words of His by comparing them to the seizing with misery and hardship after the sending of messengers, that perhaps the doubling of the causes of graciousness such as the leadership of prophets and the driving [of them] through punishment might stir them from the established abodes of their souls and break their vehemence and the severity of their contemptuousness, that such a person might become obedient and emerge from the veil, and that they might then comply humbly upon the self-disclosure of the attribute of vanquishing and its impact upon them. Then He makes it clear that the reason why they did not humble themselves is because of the hardness of their hearts as a result of the density of their veil and being overpowered by the deceit of caprice and the love of this world and the inclination to corporeal pleasures.
The Idolators Call On Allah Alone During Torment and Distress
Allah states that He does what He wills with His creatures and none can resist His decision or avert what He decrees for them. He is the One Who has no partners, Who accepts the supplication from whomever He wills. Allah said,
(Say: "Tell me if Allah's torment comes upon you, or the Hour comes upon you, would you then call upon any one other than Allah (Reply) if you are truthful!'') This means, you -- disbelievers -- will not call other than Allah in this case, because you know that none except He is able to remove the affliction. Allah said,
(Nay! To Him alone you call, and, if He willed, He would remove that (distress) for which you call upon Him, and you forget at that time whatever partners you joined with Him (in worship)!) for in times of necessity, you only call on Allah and forget your idols and false deities. In another Ayah, Allah said;
(and Shaytan made fair-seeming to them that which they used to do. ) That is, Shirk, defiance and rebellion.
فَلَمَّا نَسُواْ مَا ذُكِّرُواْ بِهِ
(So, when they forgot (the warning) with which they had been reminded,) by ignoring and turning away from it,
فَتَحْنَا عَلَيْهِمْ أَبْوَابَ كُلِّ شَىْءٍ
(We opened to them the gates of everything,) Meaning: `We opened the gates of provisions for them from wherever they wished, so that We deceive them.' We seek refuge with Allah from such an end. This is why Allah said,
حَتَّى إِذَا فَرِحُواْ بِمَآ أُوتُواْ
f(until in the midst of their enjoyment in that which they were given,) such as wealth, children and provisions,
أَخَذْنَـهُمْ بَغْتَةً فَإِذَا هُمْ مُّبْلِسُونَ
(all of a sudden, We took them to punishment and lo! They were plunged into destruction with deep regrets and sorrows.) They have no hope for any type of good thing. Al-Hasan Al-Basri said, "Whomever Allah gives provision and he thinks that Allah is not testing him, has no wisdom. Whomever has little provision and thinks that Allah will not look at (provide for) him, has no wisdom.'' He then recited the Ayah,
(So, when they forgot (the warning) with which they had been reminded, We opened to them the gates of every (pleasant) thing, until in the midst of their enjoyment in that which they were given, all of a sudden, We took them to punishment, and lo! They were plunged into destruction with deep regrets and sorrows.) He added, "By the Lord of the Ka`bah! Allah deceived these people, when He gave them what they wished, and then they were punished.'' Ibn Abi Hatim recorded this statement.
Maududi - Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi - Tafhim al-Qur'an
''Sign" means a tangible miracle. Allah says that the reason why he is not showing a Sign is not that He is unable to do so but for another reason whose wisdom they do not understand. (See E.N. 6).
That is, "If you are really serious in your demand of seeing a Sign in order to judge whether the Message of this Prophet is true or false, you should see and ponder over the innumerable Signs that are found in abundance all around you. For instance, if you consider animal life, you will see that the structure of the bodies of each species of birds and beasts suits its functions immensely well; the qualities and characteristics that have been ingrained in its nature help to fulfill all its needs; the provision of its nourishment has been arranged in a wonderful way; and the course of its life has been so predetermined that it cannot transgress its limits in any way whatever. Allah also sees that each and every animal, nay, even the smallest insect, is being looked after, protected and guided, wherever it be, for the performance of the functions pre-destined for it. In short, you will find that its structure suits it well; it has been given inherent powers that help provide its needs: excellent provisions have been made for its food. The process of its birth, procreation and death has been going on according to a regulated fixed scheme. If you give a careful consideration to this Sign alone, you will realize that the teachings of this Prophet about the Oneness of God and His attributes and the way of life based on these to which he invites you are absolutely we. Yet you neither try to see with open eyes these Signs nor listen to the Message this Prophet is conveying to you. As a result, you have been involved in ignorance and, therefore, desire to see some wonderful miracle for mere pastime. "
This is how Allah lets them go astray: (1) He holds back the opportunity for observing His Signs from the one who chooses to remain in ignorance; (2) He keeps hidden the pointers to the Reality from the one who is a victim of prejudices, even though he should see His Signs, and lets him remain involved in misunderstandings and move farther and farther away from the Reality. On the contrary, He guides the seeker after truth to the Right Way by affording him the opportunity to make use of his knowledge for the purpose of discovering the Reality, and showing him the signs guiding towards it. We daily notice instances of these types. There are millions of people before whose eyes countless Signs are spread in their own persons and in the universe, but they see them like animals and do not learn any lessons from them. Then there are the physicists, chemists, zoologists, botanists, biologists, geologists, astronomers, physiologist, anatomists, historians, archaeologists, social scientists, etc., who observe such Signs as may enlighten the minds and the hearts with Faith, but they seem to see no "Sign" to lead them to the Reality, just because they begin their study with prejudiced minds, merely for the sake of material gains. Not only this, but every Sign leads them to atheism, disbelief, materialism and nature worship. In contrast to them, there are those, who observe the wonders of the universe and the phenomena of Nature with open eyes and open hearts, and find the Signs of God all round them: SO much so that they can see His Sign in each and every green leaf.
In answer to the demand of the disbelievers for a Sign, they were told that there was not one Sign, but innumerable Signs scattered all around them and their attention has been drawn in v. 38 to study the mystery of the life of any bird or beast and they would find Sign of God. Now in v. 40-42, they have been directed to another Sign that they can fmd in their own selves. When some affliction befalls a man or death confronts him with all its dreads, then he sees no refuge in any other than Allah. On such occasions even the most confirmed polytheists forget their gods and invoke Allah's help. Likewise the most obdurate atheists, in their utter helplessness, involuntary pray to Allah for rescue, this Sign-man's own state of mind is being presented here as a pointer to the Reality, for this is a clear proof of the existence of One God, and of the urge of God-worship that has been embedded deep in the heart of every human being. Though it might have been kept suppressed by negligence and ignorance, sometimes it comes to the surface under the stimulus of some misfortune.
Ikrimah, son of Abu Jahl, who was an arch enemy of Islam, was led towards Islam by witnessing such a Sign. When the Holy Prophet conquered Makkah, 'Ikrimah fled to Jaddah and sailed for Abyssinia. During the voyage, there came a furious storm which threatened to sink the boat. At first the passengers began to invoke their gods and goddesses for help. But when the storm became so violent that they feared that the boat was going to sink. they all cried out, "This is not the time to call any open except Allah, because He alone can save us. " This opened the eyes of `Ikrimah and the locked doors of his heart: "If there is none here except Allah to help us, how can there be any to help us in any other place? This is what Muhammad (Allah's peace be upon him) has been teaching us for the last twenty years any we have been fighting it out with him". That as the most decisive moment in the life of `Ikrimah. He made a solemn pledge with Allah to this effect: "If I escape from this storm, I will directly go to Prophet Muhammad Allah's peace be upon him) to become a follower of his." Allah rescued him from that storm and he fulfilled his pledge. He not only became a Muslim, but spent the rest of his life in the service of Islam by performing Jihad.