107. This verse .can be interpreted in three ways, and each meaning is equally
valid: First, that those who now shirked to fight in the cause of God were themselves
initially eager to fight. They often approached the Prophet (peace be on him),
saying that they were being wronged, beaten, persecuted and abused, that' their
patience was exhausted, and that they wanted permission to fight. They had then
been told to be patient and continue to purify their souls by observing Prayers
and dispensing Zakah. At that time they had felt disconcerted by this counsel
of patience. Later on, some of those very same people were to tremble at the
first sight of the enemy and the dangers of warfare.
Second, that they remained highly 'religious' as long as they were asked merely to pray and pay Zakah, which entailed no risk to their lives. But as soon as that phase was over and they were asked to expose themselves to danger, they began to shiver with fear.
Third, that in the former times the same people had unsheathed their swords for trivial causes. They had fought for loot and plunder, and engaged in feuds motivated by animal impulses, so much so that feuding had almost become their national pastime. At that time they had been told to abstain from bloodshed and to reform themselves by observing Prayers and dispensing Zakah. When, later on, the same people were told that the time had come for them to fight in the cause of God, those who had shown themselves to be lions while fighting for their own selfish causes turned out to be as meek as lambs. The strong hands which had wielded the sword so firmly, and had used it so fiercely for the sake of either personal or tribal honour, or for Satan's sake, became almost paralysed.
Each of these three meanings applies to a different kind of person, but the actual words of the verse seem to apply equally to all who shirked fighting in the cause of God.
108. Were they to serve the religion of God and spend their energy in that cause, they would surely be rewarded by Him.
109. When such people encounter success and victory, they attribute it to the grace of God. They allow themselves to forget that this grace came to them through no one but the Prophet (peace be on him). When they are either beaten or face setbacks because of their own faults and weaknesses they gratuitously exonerate themselves and place the blame squarely on the Prophet (peace be on him).
110. Such people are responsible for their own conduct. It is they rather than the Prophet (peace be on him) who will be censured. The task entrusted to the Prophet (peace be on him) was merely to communicate to them the ordinances and directives of God and he acquitted himself of it very well. It was not his duty to compel them to follow the right way, so that if they failed to follow the teachings communicated to them by the Prophet (peace be on him) the responsibility was entirely theirs. The Prophet (peace be on him) would not be questioned as to why they disobeyed.
111. The main reason for the attitude of the hypocrites and lukewarm believers was their lack of conviction that the Qur'an came from God. They did not believe that the Prophet (peace be on him) had received the messages and directives that he preached from God Himself. Hence, when they are censured for their hypocritical conduct, they are told that they do not reflect upon the Qur'an. For the Qur'an itself is a strong, persuasive testimony to its divine origin. It is inconceivable that any human being should compose discourses on different subjects under different circumstances and on different occasions, and that the collection of those discourses should then grow into a coherent, homogeneous and integrated work, no component of which is discordant with the others. It is also inconceivable that such a work would be permeated through and through with a uniform outlook and attitude, a work reflecting a remarkable consistency in the mood and spirit of its Author, and a work too mature ever to need revision.
112. This was a period of turbulence and upheaval and rumour was rife. Occasionally, baseless and exaggerated reports circulated and seized the whole of Madina and its outlying areas with alarm and consternation. At other times some cunning enemy tried to conceal the dangers threatening the Muslims by spreading soothing reports. A specially keen interest in rumours was taken by those who simply relished anything out of the ordinary, and who did not consider this life-and-death struggle between Islam and Ignorance to be a matter of crucial importance, and who were not aware of the far-reaching consequences of rumour-mongering. As soon as they heard something, they ran about spreading it everywhere. This rebuke is addressed to such people. They are warned against spreading rumours and are directed to convey every report they receive to responsible quarters.
113. It is all a matter of choice and luck. One has the opportunity to struggle for the cause of God, and to urge others to strive for it in order to raise the banner of the Truth and be rewarded by God for so doing. Likewise, one also has the opportunity to expend one's energy trying to create misunderstanding among God's creatures and to demoralize people in their struggle for His cause thus incurring His chastisement.
114. At that time the relations between the Muslims and non-Muslims were strained to the limit. It was feared, therefore, that the Muslims might feel inclined to treat the latter discourteously. They are accordingly asked to pay at least as much respect and consideration to others as is paid to them - and preferably more. Good manners and courtesy are to be matched by the Muslims. In fact, the mission entrusted to the Muslims requires them to excel others in this respect. Harshness, irritability and bitterness are not becoming in a people whose main function is to preach a message and invite people to it; a people committed to guiding mankind towards righteousness. While harshness and bitterness may at best satisfy one's injured vanity, they are positively harmful to the cause that one seeks to promote.'
115.Whatever the unbelievers, polytheists and atheists may do does not impair God's godhead. That God is the One and Absolute Lord of all is a fact which none can alter. And a Day will come when He will gather together all human beings and will make them see the consequences of their deeds, and no one will be in a position to escape His retribution. God therefore does not require His good creatures to maltreat, on His behalf, those who are lost in error. This is the link between the present verse and the one preceding it. The same verse also concludes the theme running through the last twenty verses or so (see verses 71 ff). The present verse outlines that a man can follow whichever course he deems fit, and expend his energy in any direction he likes, but ultimately all men will have to stand before the One True God for His judgement and will see the consequences of their deeds.