82. They should remain steadfast in their obedience and loyalty to God.
83. The expression 'cable of Allah', in this verse, refers to the 'religion
of God'. The reason for use of the word 'cable' (habl) is that it both establishes
a bond between man and God and joins all believers together. To take a firm
hold on this cable means that the believers should attach profound importance
to their religion: this should always be the centre of their concerns; they
should continually strive to establish it; and the common desire to serve it
should make them co-operate with each other.
As soon as Muslims turn their attentions away from the fundamental teachings of their religion and lose sight of establishing its hegemony in life they begin to concern themselves with matters of secondary importance. And, just as they rent the communities of the former Prophets, enticing people away from their true objective in life, so schisms and dissensions are bound to plague their lives. If Muslims do this they are bound to suffer indignity and disgrace both in this world and the Next as happened with the followers of the previous Prophets.
84. This refers to the state of the Arabs on the eve of the advent of Islam. There were animosities among the tribes which regularly broke out into fighting; every now and then there was much bloodshed. Things had reached a point that the entire Arabian nation seemed to be on the verge of destroying itself. It was due to the blessings of Islam alone that it was saved from being consumed by the fire to which this verse alludes. The people of Madina had embraced Islam some three or four years before these verses were revealed. They had witnessed the blessing of Islam as it unified into one brotherhood the Aws and Khazraj, two tribes which had long been sworn enemies. Moreover, both tribes treated the migrants from Makka in a spirit of sacrifice and love seldom seen even among members of the same family.
85. If they had eyes to see they could conclude for themselves whether their salvation lay in adhering firmly to this religion or in abandoning it and reverting to their former state; i.e. decide whether their true well-wishers were God and His Messenger or those Jews, polytheists and hypocrites who strove to plunge them back into their former state.
86. The reference is to those communities which received clear and straightforward teachings of the true religion but who had abandoned the fundamentals, forming separate sects around trivial and subsidiary questions; they became so engrossed in quarrelling over superfluous and insignificant questions that they lost sight of the mission God had entrusted to them, and even lost interest in those fundamentals of belief and righteous conduct which are essential for man's salvation and felicity.
87. Since God does not want to subject people to any wrong He illuminates the straight path of their salvation, and forewarns them of the matters for which they will be asked to render an account in the Hereafter. It is clear that if people abandon the path of rectitude they wrong no one but themselves.