Abbas - Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs
(Recite unto them) O Muhammad (the tale of him to whom We gave Our revelations) the greatest divine name, (but he sloughed them off) the reference here is to Bal'am Ibn Ba'ura' whom Allah honoured with His greatest name but he used to pray against Moses and so Allah took it away from him. It is also said that the reference here is to Umayyah Ibn al-Salt whom Allah honoured with knowledge and good speech but when he did not believe, Allah took this away from him, (so Satan overtook him) Satan deluded him (and he became of those who lead astray) he became of the erring disbelievers.
And recite, O Muhammad (s), to them, that is, the Jews, the tidings, the tale, of him to whom We gave Our signs, but he cast them off, emerging in his disbelief in the same way that a snake emerges from its [shed] skin, he rebelled in disbelief, this was Bal‘am b. Bā‘ūrā’, a scholar from among the Children of Israel, who had been given some knowledge [of the Scriptures], and who was asked [by them] to invoke God against Moses. And when he did, the invocation turned against him and his tongue fell out onto his chest, and Satan pursued him, catching up with him and so he became his comrade, and he became of the perverse.
(And recite to them the story of him to whom We gave Our Ayat, but he threw them away) "Is about Bal`am bin Ba`ura' a man from the Children of Israel.'' Shu`bah and several other narrators narrated this statement from Mansur who got it from Ibn Mas`ud. Sa`id bin Abi `Arubah narrated that Qatadah said that Ibn `Abbas said, "He is Sayfi, son of Ar-Rahib.'' Qatadah commented that Ka`b said, "He was a man from Al-Balqla' (a province of Jordan) who knew Allah's Greatest Name. He used to live in Bayt Al-Maqdis with the tyrants.'' Al-`Awfi reported that Ibn `Abbas said, "He is Bal`am bin Ba`ura', a man from Yemen whom Allah had given the knowledge of His Ayat, but he abandoned them.'' Malik bin Dinar said, "He was one of the scholars of the Children of Israel whose supplication was acceptable. They used to seek his lead in suplication in times of difficulty. Allah's Prophet Musa sent him to the King of Madyan to call him to Allah. That king appeased him and gave him land and gifts, and he reverted from the religion of Musa and followed the king's religion.'' `Imran bin `Uyaynah narrated that `Husayn said that `Imran bin Al-Harith said that Ibn `Abbas said, "He is Bal`am son of Ba`ura'.'' Similar was said by Mujahid and `Ikrimah. Therefore, it is well-known that this honorable Ayah was revealed about a man from the Children of Israel in ancient times, according to Ibn Mas`ud and several others among the Salaf. `Ali bin Abi Talhah reported that Ibn `Abbas said, "He is a man from the city of the tyrants (Jerusalem) whose name was Bal`am and who knew Allah's Greatest Name.'' `Ali bin Abi Talhah also reported that Ibn `Abbas that he said, "When Musa and those with him went to the city of the tyrants (Jerusalem), the cousins of Bal`am and his people came to him and said, `Musa is a strong man, and he has many soldiers. If he gains the upper hand over us, we will be destroyed. Therefore, supplicate to Allah that He prevents Musa and those with him from prevailing over us.' Bal`am said, `If I supplicate to Allah that He turns back Musa and those with him, I will lose in this life and the Hereafter.' They kept luring him until he supplicated against Musa and his people, and Allah took away what he bestowed on him (of knowledge). Hence Allah's statement,
فَانْسَلَخَ مِنْهَا فَأَتْبَعَهُ الشَّيْطَـنُ
(but he threw them away; so Shaytan followed him up).''' Allah said next,
(And had We willed, We would surely have elevated him therewith but he clung to the earth and followed his own vain desires.) Allah said,
وَلَوْ شِئْنَا لَرَفَعْنَـهُ بِهَا
(And had We willed, We would surely have elevated him therewith) from the filth of this earthly life through the Ayat that We gave him knowledge of,
وَلَـكِنَّهُ أَخْلَدَ إِلَى الاٌّرْضِ
(but he clung to the earth), he became interested in the adornment of this life and its delights. He indulged in the lusts of life and its joys and was deceived by it, just as life deceived others like him, without sound comprehension or a good mind. Muhammad bin Ishaq bin Yasar narrated from Salim, from Abu An-Nadr that when Musa entered the land of Bani Canaan in the area of Ash-Sham (Greater Syria), the people of Bal`am came to him, saying, "This is Musa, son of `Imran with the Children of Israel. He wants to drive us out from our land, kill us and replace us with the Children of Israel. We are your people and have no other dwelling area. You are a person whose supplication is acceptable (to Allah), so go out and supplicate to Allah against them.'' He said, "Woe to you! Here is Allah's Prophet (Musa) with whom the angels and believers are! How can I supplicate against them when I know from Allah what I know'' They said, "We have no other dwelling area.'' So they kept luring and begging him until he was tempted by the trial and went on his donkey towards Mount Husban, which was behind the Israelite military barracks. When he proceeded on the Mount for a while, the donkey sat down and refused to proceed. He got off the donkey and struck it until it stood up again and he rode it. The donkey did the same after a little while, and he struck it again until it stood up... So he proceeded and tried to supplicate against Musa and his people. However, Allah made his tongue mention his people with evil and the Children of Israel with good instead of his people, who protested, "O Bal`am! What are you doing You are supplicating for them and against us!'' He said, "It is against my will. This is a matter that Allah has decided.'' He then said to them, as his tongue was made to loll out of his mouth, "Now I have lost this life and the Hereafter.'' This Ayah was revealed about the story of Bal`am son of Ba`ura'
(So his parable is the parable of a dog: if you drive him away, he pants, or if you leave him alone, he (still) pants.) Scholars of Tafsir have conflicting opinions regarding the meaning of this Ayah. Some scholars said that it refers to the end of Bal`am's tongue which flickered out of his mouth, as in the story narrated from Ibn Ishaq, from Salim, from Abu An-Nadr. Therefore, his example is the example of the dog, its tongue pants regardless of whether it is driven away or not. It was also said that the meaning here is a parable of this man -- and his like -- concerning their misguidance, persisting the wrong path and not being able to benefit from faith or comprehend what they are being called to. So his example is that of a dog which pants whether it was driven away or left alone. The person described here does not benefit from the advice or the call to faith, just as if the advice and call never occurred. Allah said in another Ayah, k
(Whether you ask forgiveness for them (hypocrites) or ask not forgiveness for them -- (and even) if you ask seventy times for their forgiveness -- Allah will not forgive them.) 9:80 and similar Ayat. It was also said that the meaning here, is that the heart of the disbeliever, the hypocrite and the wicked is weak and devoid of guidance. Therefore, it keeps faltering. Similar was narrated from Al-Hasan Al-Basri.
فَاقْصُصِ الْقَصَصَ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَتَفَكَّرُونَ
(So relate the stories, perhaps they may reflect) Allah said next to His Prophet Muhammad,
فَاقْصُصِ الْقَصَصَ لَعَلَّهُمْ
(So relate the stories, perhaps they may) the Children of Israel, who have knowledge ot the story of Bal`am and what happened to him when Allah allowed him to stray and expelled him from His mercy. Allah favored him by teaching him His Greatest Name, by which, if He is asked, He will grant, and if He is called upon, He answers. But Bal`am used it in disobedience to Allah and invoked Him against His own party of the people of faith, followers of His servant and Messenger during that time, Musa, the son of `Imran, peace be upon him, whom Allah spoke to directly,
(perhaps they may reflect.) and avoid Bal`am's behavior, for Allah has given the Jews knowledge and made them superior to the bedouins surrounding them. He gave them the description of Muhammad which would allow them to recognize him, as they recognize their own children. They, among people, have the most right to follow, aid and support Muhammad, in obedience to their Prophets who informed them of him and commanded them to follow him. Therefore, whoever among them defies the knowledge in their Books or hides it from the servants, Allah will place disgrace on him in this life, followed by humiliation in the Hereafter. Allah said,
(Evil is the parable of the people who rejected Our Ayat.) Allah says, evil is the example of the people who deny Our Ayat in that they are equated with dogs that have no interest but to collect food and satisfy lusts.' Therefore, whoever goes out of the area of knowledge and guidance, and seeks satisfaction for his lusts and vain desires, is just like a dog; what an evil example. The Sahih recorded that the Messenger of Allah said,
(The evil example is not suitable for us: he who goes back on his gift is just like the dog that eats its vomit.) Allah's statement,
وَأَنفُسَهُمْ كَانُواْ يَظْلِمُونَ
(and they used to wrong themselves.) means, Allah did not wrong them, but they wronged themselves by rejecting guidance, not obeying the Lord, being content with this life that will soon end, all the while seeking to fulfill desires and obey lusts.
Maududi - Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi - Tafhim al-Qur'an
The wording of the Text shows that he was not an imaginary person invented for the sake of a parable but did really exist. Allah and His Messenger did not mention him by name because the purpose for which the event had been narrated was served without this. Therefore his name was kept secret so as to avoid giving him unnecessary notoriety; and this generous way has generally been followed both in the Qur'an and the Traditions. That is why they have not mentioned the name of the person who has been cited as a bad example. Some commentators have, however, mentioned some specific names belonging to the ancient history or to the time of the Holy Prophet. For instance, some mention the name of Ba'alam, the son of Ba`ura, others that of Umayyah-bin-Abi-Assalt and Saifi-ibn Ar-Rahib. But the fact is that the identity of that person has not been established by the Qur'an or the Hadith. Therefore it is still a secret, but the parable applies to everyone who bears such a conduct.
As this passage deals with a very important subject, it requires detailed continents.
The person, who has been held out as a bad type, possessed the knowledge of the Revelations of Allah and was acquainted with the Reality.
Therefore it was reasonably expected that his knowledge ought to have guarded him against the way he knew to be wrong, and guided him to the way he knew to be right. Then Allah would have exalted him to the high rank of humanity because of his practice in accordance with the knowledge of the Revelation. But he became inclined towards the benefits, lusts and comforts of the world and succumbed to temptations. He was so overpowered by avarice of these lower desires that he discarded all the higher things and let go waste all the rational and moral potentialities of progress. Thus he transgressed all the limits that he ought to have observed in accordance with the demand of his knowledge. When Satan, who was lying in ambush nearby, saw him turning away deliberately and willfully from the Truth because of his moral weaknesses, he chased him down and down froth one abyss to the other, till he fell into the company of those who had utterly last their reason under his misguidance.
Allah has likened such a person to a dog because of his similarity to it in avarice and lust. The dog is proverbial for these characteristics: its ever hanging tongue and watering mouth point to its insatiable greed: it goes on smelling the earth even when it is hit with a piece of stone; it picks it up in its teeth, hoping that it might be a piece of bone. Its intense greed for exclusive ownership becomes manifest when it comes across a big carcass, sufficient to feed a number of dogs; but it does not let any other dog share it. The second characteristic of the dog is its being very sexy. It is because of these things that the worldly man, who transgresses all bounds imposed by Faith and knowledge, has been likened to a dog. Then he, like the dog, looks for nothing but the means of filling up his belly and gratifying his lust.
(Recite unto them the tale of him to whom We gave Our revelations, but he sloughed them off…) [7:175]. Ibn Mas'ud said: “This verse was revealed about Bal'am ibn Abrah, one of the Children of Israel”, while Ibn 'Abbas and other commentators of the Qur'an said this relates to Bal'am ibn Ba'ura. Said al-Walibi: “He was a man from the city of al-Jabbarin and his name was Bal'am. This man knew Allah's greatest name. When Moses, peace be upon him, went to this city, his cousins and people went to see Bal'am and said to him: 'Moses is a tough man and he has a huge army. He will definitely destroy us if he ever conquers us. Pray to Allah that he drives Moses and those with him away from us'. The man said: 'I will lose both this world and the next if I were to pray to Allah to drive away Moses and those with him'. But they kept insisting until he prayed against Moses and those with him. As a result, [Allah] stripped him of what he had. Hence Allah's saying (but he sloughed them off…)”. Said 'Abd Allah ibn 'Amr ibn al-'As and Zayd ibn Aslam: “This verse was revealed about Umayyah ibn Abi al-Salt al-Thaqafi who had studied the Scriptures and knew that Allah was about to send a messenger at around that time, hoping to be himself that messenger. When Allah, exalted is He, sent Muhammad, Allah bless him and give him peace, he envied him resentfully and disbelieved in him”. Ibn 'Abbas said, according to the report of 'Ikrimah: “This verse is about a man who was given three prayers which were answered. This man had a wife called al-Basus who loved him, and from her he had children. One day she said to him: 'Let one of those answered prayers of yours be for me'. He said: 'One is for you, what do you wish for?' She said: 'Ask Allah to make me the most beautiful woman among the Children of Israel'. [He did and] when she knew that there was no one like her, she shunned him and wanted something else. The man prayed to Allah to make her a barking dog. And so, two prayers were wasted. Then, her children came to him and said: 'We cannot stand this, our mother has become a barking dog and people are insulting us because of her. Pray that Allah restores her to her initial state'. The man prayed and she became as she was before. But all three answered prayers were now wasted. This is al-Basus whose ill-omen became a proverb. People say: He/she is more ill-omened than al-Basus”.