¡ Those who disbelieve among the People of the Book and the idolaters will not desist until the clear proof comes unto them,
1 Some commentators consider this verse to be among the most difficult verses of the Quran (Sh, W). According to most commentators, those who disbelieve among the People of the Book refers to disbelievers among both Jews and Christians (Bḍ, IK, Q, Sh), though some say it refers only to the Jews of Madinah (Q). Most read this verse to mean that disbelievers will not leave their disbelief until the clear proof of revelation has come to them (Q, R, Sh, Z). Others say that it could mean that they will not be punished or destroyed until the proof of revelation has been brought to them (Sh); in which case the idolaters will not desist could be translated “the idolaters will not be abandoned,” meaning that God will send them the clear proof and they will then be rewarded or punished based upon their acceptance or rejection of it. This interpretation accords with many passages confirming that God will not punish any for wrong belief until they have been presented with the truth and then rejected it, as in 17:15: And never do We punish till We have sent a messenger (see 79:18-19c). In this vein, the verse can be seen as a specific reference to disbelief in the prophethood of Muhammad (Q), not necessarily to disbelief in God. Most interpret the clear proof as a reference to the Quran (Q, R, Sh), as in 6:57: Truly I stand upon a clear proof from my Lord, and you have denied Him. Others take clear proof as a reference to the Prophet Muhammad (Q, R, Sh). But it can also be seen as a reference to the phenomena of revelation and thus to the books and prophets sent to all communities, since the dozens of references to clear proof(s) throughout the Quran are used in relation to many different prophets and the books with which they were sent (see the introduction to this sūrah). In this interpretation, disbelievers among the People of the Book refers to those who are said to have altered the scriptures that had been sent to them through previous prophets; see 2:75c; 3:78c.