The Story of the People of the Garden

Allah the Almighty says:
Lo! We have tried them as We tried the owners of the garden when they vowed they would pluck its fruit next morning, And made no exception (for the Will of Allah); Then a visitation came upon from thy Lord it while they slept And in the morning it was as if plucked. And they cried out one unto another in the morning, Saying: Run unto your field if ye would pluck (the fruit). So they went off, saying one unto another in low tones: No needy man shall enter it to-day against you. They went betimes, strong in (this) purpose. But when they saw it, they said: Lo! we are in error! Nay, but we are desolate! The best among them said: Said I not unto you: Why glorify ye not (Allah)? They said: Glorified be our Lord! Lo! we have been wrong-doers. Then some of them drew near unto others, self-reproaching. They said: Alas for us! In truth we were outrageous. It may be that our Lord will give us better than this in place thereof. Lo! we beseech our Lord. Such was the punishment. And verily the punishment of the Hereafter is greater if they did but know. Lo! for those who keep from evil are gardens of bliss with their Lord. (Al-Qalam, 17-34)
This is an example set by Allah the Almighty for the polytheists of Quraish as He favored them with sending the honorable and great Prophet, Muhammad (Peace be upon him), but they belied him and rejected what he had brought them. Almighty Allah, says: (Have you not seen those who have changed the Blessings of Allah into disbelief (by denying Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) and his Message of Islam), and caused their people to dwell in the house of destruction? Hell, in which they will burn, – and what an evil place to settle in!). (Ibrahim, 28, 29)
Ibn Abbas (May Allah be pleased with him) said: They are the polytheists of Quraish whom were likened to the people of the garden that contained various fruits and plants that were ripe and the time of their harvesting has come. Thus, He, Glory be His, says: (When they swore) secretly (to pluck the fruits of the (garden)) i.e. to harvest it; (in the morning) in order not to be seen by either a poor, or a needy and be forced to donate to or give them any of its fruits. So, they swore to this without saying “If Allah wills”. Consequently, Allah the Almighty disabled them and sent over their garden fire that burnt it and left nothing thereof. He, Glory be His, says: “Then a visitation came upon from thy Lord it while they slept And in the morning it was as if plucked (in complete ruins)”.
Allah the Almighty says: (Then they called out one to another as soon as the morning broke), i.e. they got up in the morning and they called out one to another saying: (Go to your tilth in the morning, if you would pluck the fruits), i.e. go early to your garden and pluck the fruits before the poor and needy persons come to ask you for charity. The story goes: (So they departed, conversing in secret low tones), i.e. talking one to another in low tones saying: (No Miskin (poor man) shall enter upon you into it today), i.e. they agreed upon that and made mutual consultations thereto. The story goes on: “They went betimes, strong in (this) purpose. (to prevent the poor taking anything of the fruits there from)”, i.e. they went forth with seriousness, power and strong bad intention.
Ikrimah and Ash-Shuabi said: (And they went in the morning with strong intention), i.e. rage and bad intention against the poor. (But when they saw the (garden)), i.e. when they reached their garden and found what had happened to it, upon this (they said: Verily, we have gone astray), i.e. we have lost our way to our own garden, then they said: (Nay! Indeed we are deprived of (the fruits)!), i.e. we have been punished because of our bad intentions and were deprived of the blessing of our tilth.
And, (the best among them said) Ibn Abbas (May Allah be pleased with him), Mujahid and others said: He was the best and the most moderate and just one among them all. (Did I not tell you: why say you not: Insha Allah (If Allah wills)), it was said: To say a good word instead of what you have intended. (They said: “Glory to Our Lord! Verily, we have been Zalimun (wrong-doers).” Then they turned one against another, blaming. They said: “Woe to us! Verily, we were Taghun (transgressors and disobedient)), they regretted and showed sorrow when both could do them nothing, and they confessed their sinful deed after they had been punished and all that went in vain.
It was said: That they were brothers and they inherited that garden from their late father who used to give much and much in charity. But, when they possessed the garden they denied the acting of their late father and intended to deprive the poor of its fruits. Thereupon, Allah the Almighty punished them and gave them the severest of penalties. For this, Allah the Almighty commanded that charity must be taken out of fruits and it is preferably to be paid on the day of harvesting. He says: He it is Who produceth gardens trellised and untrellised, and the date-palm, and crops of divers flavour, and the olive and the pomegranate, like and unlike. Eat ye of the fruit thereof when it fruiteth, and pay the due thereof upon the harvest day, and be not prodigal. Lo! Allah loveth not the prodigals. (Al-Anam, 141)
It was said: They were from the Yemen, from a town called “Darwan”. It was also said: They were from Abyssinia. Allah knows best!
Allah the Almighty says: (Such is the punishment), i.e. like this We punish them who disobey Our Command and does not show kindness to the needy from among Our creatures. (But truly the punishment of the Hereafter is greater) than that of the present life (if they but knew).
This story resembles Allah’s Saying: (And Allah puts forward the example of a township, that dwelt secure and well-content: its provision coming to it in abundance from every place, but it (its people) denied the Favors of Allah (with ungratefulness). So Allah made it taste extreme of hunger (famine) and fear, because of that (evil, i.e. denying Prophet which they (its people) used to do. And verily, there had come unto them a Messenger from among themselves, but they denied him, so the torment overtook them while they were Zalimun (polytheists and wrong-doers)). (An-Nahl, 112, 113)
It was said that this example was of the people of Makkah set for themselves and verily, there is no contradiction in this. Allah knows best!