Abbas - Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs
(Or lest ye should say) and so that you do not say: ((It is) only (that) our fathers ascribed partners to Allah of old) before us, and it is them who broke the covenant and pledge before us (and we were (their) seed) small and weak (after them) and we just emulated them. (Wilt Thou destroy us) will you punish us (on account of that which those who follow falsehood did?) on account of what the idolaters did before us in terms of breaking the covenant?
Or lest you should say, ‘It is merely that our fathers were idolaters before, that is, before our time, and we were descendants of theirs, and so we followed their example. Will You then destroy us, chastise us, for that which those who follow falsehood did?’, from among our forefathers, by [their] establishing idolatry? The meaning is: they cannot use such arguments when they have been made to testify before their very selves to God’s Oneness. To effect this reminder by the tongue of the bearer of the miracle [Muhammad (s)] equally serves [as a reminder] for every soul to remember this within itself.
Allah stated that He brought the descendants of Adam out of their fathers' loins, and they testified against themselves that Allah is their Lord and King and that there is no deity worthy of worship except Him. Allah created them on this Fitrah, or way, just as He said,
(So set you (O Muhammad) your face truly towards the religion, Hanifan. Allah's Fitrah with which He has created mankind. No change let there be in Khalqillah.) 30:30 And it is recorded in the Two Sahihs from Abu Hurayrah who said that the Messenger of Allah said,
(Every child is born upon the Fitrah, it is only his parents who turn him into a Jew, a Christian or a Zoroastrian. Just as animals are born having full bodies, do you see any of them having a cutoff nose (when they are born)). Muslim recorded that `Iyad bin `Himar said that the Messenger of Allah said;
(Allah said, `I created My servants Hunafa' (monotheists), but the devils came to them and deviated them from their religion, prohibiting what I allowed.) There are Hadiths that mention that Allah took Adam's offspring from his loins and divided them into those on the right and those on the left. Imam Ahmad recorded that Anas bin Malik said that the Prophet said,
(It will be said to a man from the people of the Fire on the Day of Resurrection, `If you owned all that is on the earth, would you pay it as ransom' He will reply, `Yes.' Allah will say, `I ordered you with what is less than that, when you were still in Adam's loins, that is, associate none with Me (in worship). You insisted that you associate with Me (in worship).') This was recorded in the Two Sahihs Commenting on this Ayah (7:172), At-Tirmidhi recorded that Abu Hurayrah said that the Messenger of Allah said,
(When Allah created Adam, He wiped Adam's back and every person that He will create from him until the Day of Resurrection fell out from his back. Allah placed a glimmering light between the eyes of each one of them. Allah showed them to Adam and Adam asked, `O Lord! Who are they' Allah said, `These are your offspring.' Adam saw a man from among them whose light he liked. He asked, `O Lord! Who is this man' Allah said, `This is a man from the latter generations of your offspring. His name is Dawud.' Adam said, `O Lord! How many years would he live' Allah said, `Sixty years.' Adam said, `O Lord! I have forfeited forty years from my life for him.' When Adam's life came to an end, the angel of death came to him (to take his soul). Adam said, `I still have forty years from my life term, don't I' He said, `Have you not given it to your son Dawud' So Adam denied that and his offspring followed suit (denying Allah's covenant), Adam forgot and his offspring forgot, Adam made a mistake and his offspring made mistakes.) At-Tirmidhi said, "This Hadith is Hasan Sahih, and it was reported from various chains of narration through Abu Hurayrah from the Prophet ''. Al-Hakim also recorded it in his Mustadrak, and said; "Sahih according to the criteria of Muslim, and they did not record it.'' These and similar Hadiths testify that Allah, the Exalted and Most Honored, brought forth Adam's offspring from his loins and separated between the inhabitants of Paradise and those of the Fire. Allah then said,
(and made them testify as to themselves (saying): "Am I not your Lord'' They said: "Yes!'') Therefore, Allah made them testify with themselves by circumstance and words. Testimony is sometimes given in words, such as,
قَالُواْ شَهِدْنَا عَلَى أَنْفُسِنَا
(They will say: "We bear witness against ourselves.'') 6:130 At other times, testimony is given by the people themselves, such as Allah's statement,
(It is not for the Mushrikin, (polytheists) to maintain the mosques of Allah, while they testify against their own selves of disbelief.) 9:17 This Ayah means that their disbelief testifies against them, not that they actually testify against themselves here. Another Ayah of this type is Allah's statement,
وَإِنَّهُ عَلَى ذَلِكَ لَشَهِيدٌ
(And to that he bears witness (by his deeds). ) 100:7 The same is the case with asking, sometimes takes the form of words and sometimes a situation or circumstance. For instance, Allah said,
وَآتَاكُم مِّن كُلِّ مَا سَأَلْتُمُوهُ
(And He gave you of all that you asked for.) 14:34 Allah said here,
(unaware. Or lest you should say: "It was only our fathers aforetime who took others as partners in worship along with Allah,'') 7:172-173
Maududi - Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi - Tafhim al-Qur'an
The previous theme ended with this that God took a Covenant from the children of Israel to the effect that they should surrender to and obey their Lord. From here the address is being directed to the whole of mankind, which is being reminded that all the people, and not the Israelites alone, are bound by a.Covenant. Therefore they shall be called upon to render individually an account as to how far they had observed it.
We team from several traditions that. this thing happened on the occasion of the creation of Adam. At that time the angels were gathered together and commanded to bow down before him and man's appointment as Allah's vicegerent was proclaimed; likewise the whole of mankind that was to be born up to the Day of Resurrection was brought into existence at one and the same time and imbued with common-sense and brought forth in His presence and asked to testify that Allah is their Lord.
A tradition of Hadrat Ubayy-bin-Ka`ab which is most probably based on the knowledge he received from the Holy Prophet, is the best commentary or this verse. He says:
"Allah gathered the whole of mankind and arranged it into separate groups according to their kinds or periods and gave them human shape and power of speech. Then He took a Covenant from them and made them witnesses concerning themselves and asked, `Am I not your Lord?' They answered, 'Most certainly, You alone are our Lord.' Then Allah said, `I ask the earth and the heavens and your father Adam to bear witness to this effect lest you should say on the Day of Resurrection that you had no knowledge of this. So note it well that none other than I is worthy of worship and that there is no other Lord than I. You should not set up any partner with Me. I will send to you My Messengers, who will remind you of this Covenant that you are Making with Me; I will also send My Book to you. At this the whole of mankind replied, "We bear witness to this: You alone are our Lord and our Deity: we have no other lord or deity than You."
Some people take vv.172-173 as a symbolic narration: They are of the opinion that in this way the Qur'an intends merely to impress the fact that Allah's Divinity is implanted in the human nature and relates it in a way as if it had happened as a tangible event. But we do not consider this interpretation as correct because the Qur'an and the Hadith describe it as an event which actually took place. More than that it has been asserted that on the Day of Judgment the event of the Covenant will be brought forward as an authentic proof against mankind. Therefore there is no reason why we should regard this event as a symbolic narration. We believe that this event actually took place in the physical world. The All-Powerful Allah did actually bring into existence and gave understanding and power of speech to each and every individual in the posterity of Adam whom He intended to create up to the Day of Resurrection and assembled before Himself at one and the same time and took the Covenant from all of them to the effect that they had no other lord or god than Himself and that they had no other right way of life than Islam (surrender and submission to Allah).
Those who consider such an assemblage as impossible are in fact skeptical of the limitless powers of Allah: otherwise they would not have entertained any doubts about it because this is as easy for Allah as the gradual birth of mankind. The All-Powerful Allah, Who is bringing human beings into existence in the way he is doing now, has also the power to assemble all mankind before its birth and after its death. It meals to reason that Allah let all mankind know that He was going to make His vicegerents after giving them wisdom and understanding and authority and the right to exploit the resources of the earth, and that He also took the oath of allegiance from them. Thus it is obvious and clear that there is nothing impossible or strange in this assemblage of the whole of mankind on the occasion of Adam's creation.
In this verse the object, for which the Covenant was taken from the whole of mankind has been stated: it was to make each and every individual fully and consciously responsible for his deeds so that those who would rebel against their Lord should be held accountable for their guilt. It has been made plain that after this Covenant they could not justify any sin on the ground that they had committed it in ignorance nor could they shift the responsibility for deviation on to their predecessors. Allah warns that by taking this Covenant He has imbued in the heart of every individual that He alone is his Allah and Lord. Therefore none can absolve himself from the responsibility for a deviation, saying, "I was quite unaware of this", or "I was led astray by my wrong environment."
In this connection, let us now consider a few questions that might arise. Supposing that this Covenant did take place, do we have any remembrance of this? Is anyone of us conscious that he was brought before his Allah on the occasion of the Creation and that the said dialogue did actually take place? If the answer is in the negative, then how can it be justified to bring such a Covenant as evidence against us, when we do not remember it nor are conscious of this Covenant?
The answer is that this will be brought against us as an evidence because, though its remembrance and consciousness has been removed from the memory and the conscious mind, it has been retained in the subconscious mind.
As to why it has been removed from the memory and the conscious mind the answer is obvious. If the impression of the Covenant had remained fresh in the memory and the conscious mind, then everyone would have automatically observed it, and the trial and test would have become meaningless. Thus the very object for which man has been created would have been tendered meaningless. It has, however, been retained in the subconscious mind as a potentiality, and can be brought into consciousness by intuition and internal factors as in the case of all other branches of subconscious knowledge. The fact is that whatever man has achieved in culture, civilization, morality, sciences and all other aspects of human activities, lay hidden as potentialities and was brought out by external factors and intuition. But it is also a fact that no education, no training, no environment, no external factor, no intuition is capable of creating any other thing than the one that already lies potentially in the subconscious mind. Likewise none of these factors is in any way capable of totally effacing the things that lie hidden potentially in the subconscious mind. The most that these factors can do is to pervert its nature, but in spite of all efforts to pervert it, it will still remain latent in the subconscious mind and will try to come to the surface in response to external factors. The following is true of all the branches of potential knowledge:
All these exist as potentialities in our subconscious minds and prove their existence when they appear as actual actions.
All potentialities require external stimuli, teaching and training to take practical shapes which, in fact. are a response of our potentialities to the external stimuli.
All these things can be suppressed and made dormant by wrong desires and environment and perversions but can never be effaced totally from the subconscious mind. Therefore these can be reformed and converted by the help of inner feelings and external efforts.
Exactly the same is true of the intuitional knowledge we have regarding our own position in the universe and our relationship to the Creator of the universe.
That this knowledge does really exist is proved by the fact that it has been appearing every now and then in every period of human life in every pan of the earth, in every habitation, in every posterity and in every generation and that no earthly power has been successful in effacing it.
That this conforms to the reality is shown by the fact that whenever this knowledge has actually been applied to practical life, it has always produced good and useful results.
There has always been need of some external appeal to cause them to appear and take practical shapes. Accordingly the Prophets, the Books, and inviters to the Truth from among the followers of the Prophets have been performing this service. That is why the Qur'an calls them remembrancers: for the Prophets, the Books and the inviters to the Truth do not create anything new in the minds of the people but refresh and bring to the surface by reminders what was already latent in them.
Another proof of the existence of this hidden knowledge in the human mind is that in every age, it has made a positive response to the call of the inviter and has come out as soon as it recognized his voice.
Above all, the greatest proof of the existence of this knowledge is that it Has survived in the human heap in spite of the strenuous and continuous efforts to suppress, conceal and pervert it. Though the powers of ignorance and folly, lusts and prejudices, misguidance and temptations, have succeeded in producing shirk, atheism, irreligiousness, deviation, they have failed to efface the impress of this inherent knowledge from the human heart. That is why it comes to the surface whenever efforts are made to revive it.
As regards the evidence of this inherent knowledge on the Day of Judgment, Allah will refresh and revive the memory of this Covenant, whereby they all acknowledged Allah alone as their Lord and Deity. Then He will show that this remained embedded in their hearts, in spite of its persistent denial in this world and will provide from their own selves the proof of the fact that the impress of this Covenant was always present in their minds and will show from the records of their lives how and when they suppressed the voice of this inherent knowledge: how and when their intuitional knowledge rebelled against their deviations, and how often it urged theta to respond to the invitation of the inviters to the Truth and how they silenced their inner voice by means of different pretexts. At that time, when all the secrets will be exposed, none will be able to put forward any excuses. Everyone shall have to confess one's guilt in plain and clear words. That is why the Qur'an says that they shall not say, "We had no knowledge of this Covenant," but will have to confess, "We were disbelievers and knowingly denied the Truth". They will stand witness against themselves to the effect that they were disbelievers.
"Our Signs" are the impresses of the knowledge of the Truth that have been embedded in the human heart and point clearly to Allah's existence.
That is, "So that these people should (turn away from the paths of deviation and rebellion and) come back (to the paths of obedience and service)".