Abbas - Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs
(And had We willed We could have raised him by their means) We could have raised him by means of the greatest name to heaven and made him sovereign over the people of this world, (but he clung to the earth) he inclined to the wealth of this world (and followed his own lust) the lust of leadership; it is also said that this means: the lust of his ego by engaging in evil things. (Therefore his likeness) the likeness of Bal'am; and it is said: the likeness of Umayyah Ibn al-Salt (is as the likeness of a dog; if thou attackest him) and drive him away from you (he panteth with his tongue out, and if thou leavest him) and do not drive him away (he panteth with his tongue out) such is the case with Bal'am and Umayyah, when they were admonished they did not take any heed and when they were left alone, they did not understand anything. (Such is the likeness of the people who deny Our revelations) Muhammad (pbuh) and the Qur'an. These people are the Jews. (Narrate unto them the history (of the men of old)) recite to them the Qur'an, (that haply they may take thought) that haply they may reflect on the similes of the Qur'an.
And had We willed, We would have raised him up, to the ranks of the scholars, thereby, by facilitating his way to [good] deeds; but he was disposed to, at peace [in], the earth — that is, this world — and inclined to it, and followed his whims, by calling [others] to them, and so We abased him. Therefore his likeness, his description, is as the likeness of a dog: if you attack it, by driving it away or curbing it, it lolls its tongue out, and if you leave it, it lolls its tongue out, and no other animal is like it in this way (both conditional sentences constitute a circumstantial qualifier, that is to say, it has its tongue lolling out despicably in all circumstances. The purpose here is to point out the similarity [between the one who follows his whims and a dog] in terms of condition and vileness, judging by the [contextualising] fā’ [of fa-mathaluhu, ‘therefore his likeness’], which relates what comes after it to what came before it in the way of ‘inclining towards this world and following whims’, and judging by God’s saying: That, likeness, is the likeness of those people who deny Our signs. So recount the tale, to the Jews, that they might reflect, upon it and so believe.
(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.
Had We willed, We would have raised him up [with Our signs]…This refers to Balʿam b. Bāʿūrāʾ. But he was disposed to the earth and followed his [lower] desires. He turned away [from God’s signs] due to his following his [base] desire (hawā). God, Exalted is He, distributed desire among the bodily members such that each bodily member has a portionof it. If one of the bodily members inclines towards that desire, its harm will return to the heart. Know that the self has a secret which did not manifest itself except with Pharaoh when he said: ‘I am your Lord most High’ [79:24].Then [Sahl] was asked, ‘How can we be preserved from [base] desire (hawā)?’ He replied:Whoever keeps himself in propriety (adab) will be preserved from it, for whoever subdues his lower self through propriety serves God, Mighty and Majestic is He, with true sincerity (ikhlāṣ).He also said:The self (nafs) has seven heavenly veils and seven earthly veils. The more the servant buries his [lower] self in the earth the higher will his heart soar heavenwards. Furthermore, if he [completely] buries his lower self beneath the earth his heart will reach the Throne. He also said about Kahmas that he used to pray a thousand rakʿas (cycles of prayer) during the course of the day and night. He would make the closing greetings of peace (salāms) between each pair of rakʿas then say to his lower self, ‘Get up O refuge of evil, I am not satisfied with you.’His words, Exalted is He: