Abbas - Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs
(Had they but found a refuge) to run to, (or caverns) in the mountain, (or a place to enter) or an underground passage, (they surely had resorted thither swift as runaways) they would have promptly gone there.
If they could find a shelter, in which to seek refuge, or some caverns, underground chambers, or any place to enter, they would turn and bolt away to it, they would hasten to enter it and get away from you with the undeterred speed of an indomitable steed.
Allah describes to His Prophet the fright, fear, anxiety and nervousness of the hypocrites,
يَحْلِفُونَ بِاللَّهِإِنَّهُمْ لَمِنكُمْ
(They swear by Allah that they are truly of you), swearing a sure oath,
وَمَا هُم مِّنكُمْ
(while they are not of you), in reality,
وَلَـكِنَّهُمْ قَوْمٌ يَفْرَقُونَ
(but they are a people who are afraid), and this is what made them swear.
لَوْ يَجِدُونَ مَلْجَئاً
(Should they find a refuge), such as a fort in which they hide and fortify themselves,
(or caves), in some mountains,
(or a place of concealment), a tunnel or a hole in the ground, according to the explanation given by Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid and Qatadah,
لَّوَلَّوْاْ إِلَيْهِ وَهُمْ يَجْمَحُونَ
(they would turn straightway thereto with a swift rush) away from you because they associate with you unwillingly, not because they are fond of you. They prefer that they do not have to mix with you, but necessity has its rules! It is because of this that they feel grief, sadness and sorrow, seeing Islam and its people enjoying ever more might, triumph and glory. Therefore, whatever pleases Muslims brings them grief, and this is why they prefer to disassociate themselves from the believers. Hence Allah's statement,
Maududi - Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi - Tafhim al-Qur'an
This was the condition of the hypocrites of Al-Madinah, the majority of whore were rich and old. We find from a list of the hypocrites, cited by Ibn Kathir in Al-Badayah-wan-Nihayah, that only one of them was young and none was poor. These people had large properties and flourishing businesses in Al Madinah. They were worldly-wise and their wide experience had taught them expediency, but their sense of self-interest had put them into a dilemma. When Islam reached Al-Madinah and a large majority of the population embraced it sincerely and enthusiastically, they found themselves in a very perplexing situation. They could not reject it outright for the majority of their own people, nay, their own sons and daughters, were filled with enthusiasm for Islam. If they had remained unbelievers, they would have lost their high position, their prestige and reputation and run the risk of a rebellion by the Muslims of their own household. On the other hand, if they sincerely embraced Islam, they would incur the danger of war, not only with the whole of Arabia but also with the adjoining nations and empires. Above all, self-interest had so blinded them that, in resolving the dilemma, they would not consider the problem from the point of view of truth and righteousness which by themselves are worthy of every sacrifice. Therefore they decided that the best thing for them was to profess Islam outwardly in order to make their positions, properties and businesses secure, but to adopt a hypocritical attitude towards it so that they might be able to avoid the losses and perils inherent in the sincere acceptance of Islam.
This verse (57) depicts the dilemma of the hypocrites, as if to say, "In reality these people are not Muslims, though they swear that they are Muslims like you; they profess Islam simply because they are afraid of losses they might incur, if they reject it outright. Then they dare not stay at AI-Madinah as non-Muslims for they would lose the high positions they enjoyed and might even have to cut off their connection with their wives and children; and if they decided to emigrate from AI-Madinah, they would have to abandon their properties and business. But they are not prepared for these sacrifices for they have no sincere attachment even to kufr. Therefore they are compelled against their beliefs by the force of circumstances to remain in AI-Madinah: they offer their Salat but regard this as forced labor: they pay the Zakat dues but as a penalty, for they are in their heart of hearts averse to these things. To add to their `calamities' they are asked every now and then to make sacrifices of their lives and their wealth and to go forth for Jihad and to fight with one enemy or the other. They are so much afraid of these `calamities' that, in order to escape from them, they would run in frantic haste to take refuge in any hole, if they hoped that it would provide immunity against these 'calamities'.