Abbas - Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs
(It may be) and “may be” when used in connection with Allah denotes necessity (that our Lord will give us) in the Hereafter in exchange (better than this in place thereof) better than this garden. (Lo! we beseech our Lord) our desire is with Allah.
It may be that our Lord will give us in its place (read yubaddilanā or yubdilanā) one that is better than it. Truly we turn humbly to our Lord’, that He might accept our repentance and give us back [a garden that is] better than our garden — it is reported that they were indeed given a better one in its place.
A Parable of the Removal of the Earnings of the Disbelievers
This is a parable that Allah made of the behavior of the Quraysh disbelievers with the great mercy, and tremendous favors He granted them. The mercy and favor of sending of Muhammad to them. But they met him with denial, rejection and opposition. Therefore Allah says,
(Verily, We have tried them) meaning, `We have tested them.'
كَمَا بَلَوْنَآ أَصْحَـبَ الْجَنَّةِ
(as We tried the People of the Garden,) This refers to a garden containing different types of fruits and vegetation.
إِذْ أَقْسَمُواْ لَيَصْرِمُنَّهَا مُصْبِحِينَ
(when they swore to pluck the fruits of the (garden) in the morning,) meaning, they vowed between themselves during the night that they would pluck the fruit of the garden in the morning so that poor and the beggars would not know what they were doing. In this way they would be able to keep its fruit for themselves and not give any of it in charity.
(Without (saying: "If Allah wills.'')) meaning their vow that they made. Therefore, Allah broke their vow. He then said,
(Then there passed over it a Ta'if from your Lord while they were asleep. ) meaning, it was afflicted with some heavenly destruction.
(So by the morning it became like As-Sarim.) Ibn `Abbas said, "Like the dark night.'' Ath-Thawri and As-Suddi both said, "Like the crop when it is harvested withered and dry.''
(Then they called out (one to another as soon) as the morning broke.) meaning, when it was (early) morning time they called each other so that they could go together to pick the harvest or cut it (its fruits). Then Allah said,
((Saying:) "Go to your tilth in the morning, if you would pluck (the fruits).'') meaning, `if you want to pluck your harvest fruit.'
فَانطَلَقُواْ وَهُمْ يَتَخَـفَتُونَ
(So they departed, and they were whispering:) meaning, they spoke privately about what they were doing so that no one could hear what they were saying. Then Allah, the All-Knower of secrets and private discussions, explained what they were saying in private. He said,
(So they departed, and they were whispering: "No poor person shall enter upon you into it today.'') meaning, some of them said to others, "Do not allow any poor person to enter upon you in it (the garden) today.'' Allah then said,
وَغَدَوْاْ عَلَى حَرْدٍ
(And they went in the morning with Hard) meaning, with strength and power.
(Qadirin) meaning, they thought they had power to do what they claimed and what they were desiring.
فَلَمَّا رَأَوْهَا قَالُواْ إِنَّا لَضَآلُّونَ
(But when they saw it, they said: "Verily, we have gone astray.'') meaning, when they arrived at it and came upon it, and it was in the condition which Allah changed from that luster, brilliance and abundance of fruit, to being black, gloomy and void of any benefit. They believed that they had been mistaken in the path they took in walking to it. This is why they said,
(Verily, we have gone astray.) meaning, `we have walked down a path other than the one we were seeking to reach it.' This was said by Ibn `Abbas and others. Then they changed their minds and realized with certainty that it was actually the correct path. Then they said,
بَلْ نَحْنُ مَحْرُومُونَ
(Nay! Indeed we are deprived (of the fruits)!) meaning, `nay, this is it, but we have no portion and no share (of harvest).'
(The Awsat among them said,) Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid, Sa`id bin Jubayr, `Ikrimah, Muhammad bin Ka`b, Ar-Rabi` bin Anas, Ad-Dahhak and Qatadah all said, "This means the most just of them and the best of them.''
أَلَمْ أَقُلْ لَّكُمْ لَوْلاَ تُسَبِّحُونَ
(Did I not tell you, `Why do you not Tusabbihun') Mujahid, As-Suddi and Ibn Jurayj all said that,
(Why do you not Tusabbihun) this means "why do you not say, `If Allah wills''' As-Suddi said, "Their making exception due to the will of Allah in that time was by glorifying Allah (Tasbih).'' Ibn Jarir said, "It is a person's saying, `If Allah wills.''' It has also been said that it means that the best of them said to them, "Did I not tell you, why don't you glorify Allah and thank Him for what He has given you and favored you with''
(They said: "Glory to Our Lord! Verily, we have been wrongdoers.'') They became obedient when it was of no benefit to them, and they were remorseful and confessed when it was not of any use. Then they said,
("...Verily, we have been wrongdoers.'' Then they turned one against another, blaming.) meaning, they started blaming each other for what they had resolved to do, preventing the poor people from receiving their right of the harvested fruit. Thus, their response to each other was only to confess their error and sin.
قَالُواْ يوَيْلَنَآ إِنَّا كُنَّا طَـغِينَ
(They said: "Woe to us! Verily, we were Taghin.'') meaning, `we have transgressed, trespassed, violated and exceeded the bounds until what this happened to us.'
(We hope that our Lord will give us in exchange better than it. Truly, we hope in our Lord.) It has been said, "They were hoping for something better in exchange in this life.'' It has also been said, "They were hoping for its reward in the abode of the Hereafter.'' And Allah knows best. Some of the Salaf mentioned that these people were from Yemen. Sa`id bin Jubayr said, "They were from a village that was called Darawan which was six miles from San`a' (in Yemen). '' It has also been said, "They were from the people of Ethiopia whose father had left them this garden, and they were from the People of the Book. Their father used to handle the garden in a good way. Whatever he reaped from it he would put it back into the garden as it needed, and he would save some of it as food for his dependants for the year, and he would give away the excess in charity. Then, when he died, and his children inherited the garden they said, `Verily, our father was foolish for giving some of this garden's harvest to the poor. If we prevent them from it, then we will have more.' So when they made up their minds to do this they were punished with what was contrary to their plan. Allah took away all of what they possessed of wealth, gain and charity. Nothing remained for them.'' Allah then says,
(Such is the punishment,) meaning, such is the punishment of whoever opposes the command of Allah, is stingy with what Allah has given him and favored him with, withholds the right of the poor and needy, and responds to Allah's blessings upon him with ungratefulness (or disbelief).
(but truly, the punishment of the Hereafter is greater if they but knew.) meaning, this is the punishment in this life, as you have heard, and the punishment of the Hereafter is even harder.
Maududi - Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi - Tafhim al-Qur'an
Here, one should also keep Al-Kahf: 32-44 in view, in which the parable of the owners of two gardens has been cited for teaching a lesson.
That is, "They were so sure and confident of their power and authority that they swore they would surely pluck the fruit of their garden next morning, without feeling any need to say, "We shall do so if Allah so willed."
The word tilth probably has been used because in the garden there were fields of crops also in between the trees.
The word hard in Arabic is used for hindering and withholding, for a purpose and resolution, and for making haste; hence, the composite rendering adopted by us.
That is, on seeing the garden they didn't believe it was their own garden, and they said: "Perhaps we have lost our way and come to another place." But, when they considered it seriously and found it was their own garden, they cried out: "Alas we are undone!"
This means that when they were saying on oath: "We shall surely pluck the fruit of our garden tomorrow," this person had warned them at that time, saying: "Have you forgotten God? Why don't you say: If Allah so wills?" But they did not listen to him. Then, while they were making up their mind not to give away anything to the needy. he again advised them to remember Allah and to desist from their evil intention, but they persisted in what they had resolved.
That is, each reproached and blamed the other that because of his wrong counsel they had forgotten God and resolved upon an evil course.