54. Mawdudi explains: “Quite obviously this does not mean that all Messengers were assembled together at one particular place and addressed collectively. Rather, this manner of address simply signifies that the same directive was given to all Messengers who were raised at different times and in different places. In this sense, the Messengers represent a single group that had been entrusted with an identical Message.”
Although rusul is in plural, the intended meaning is that individual Messengers were addressed at their own times to this effect (Alusi and others).
55. That is, eat of the lawful things. Hence all Prophets were very specific about consuming only the lawful. Once Umm `Abdullah b. Shaddad sent across a bowl of milk to the Prophet. He returned it with a question, “Where did you get a goat from?” It is only when she explained that she had bought one, that he drank from it. He remarked at that time, “Messengers have been instructed to partake of only the lawful” (Razi). The report is in Ibn Abi Hatim (Ibn Kathir).
Zamakhshari adds: It is said that the “good and the pure” things should have three qualities: lawful, clean, and invigorating. Lawful is that by which Allah has not been disobeyed; pure, that which does not lead to man’s forgetfulness of Allah; and strength-giving that which holds together the body and safeguards the mind.
Majid writes: “God’s apostleship is not at all identical with asceticism. The passage may well imply the condemnation of the abstemious practices of the Christian monks.”
Muhammad Asad has another line of approach. He writes: “This rhetorical apostrophe to all of God’s apostles is meant to stress their humanness and mortality, and thus to refute the argument of the unbelievers that God could not have chosen ‘a mortal like ourselves’ to be His message-bearer: an argument which overlooks the fact that only human beings who themselves ‘partake of the good things of life’ are able to understand the needs and motives of their fellow-men and, thus, to guide them in their spiritual and social concerns.”
56. This implies that pure and lawful food helps generate righteous deeds (Razi, Ibn Kathir).
Mawdudi strikes another note: “The word at-tayyibat used in the Qur’an signifies things that are at once clean in themselves and which are obtained through clean and lawful means.
“The directive to partake clean things strikes at the two extremes of monasticism and Epicureanism and brings into relief the moderate and balanced approach which characterizes Islam. A Muslim should neither deny himself lawful things, nor should he hanker after everything of the world without distinguishing between that which is lawful and that which is not.
“It is also significant that the directive to partake of the clean things precedes the directive to act righteously. This suggests that righteous behavior becomes absolutely meaningless if it is not accompanied with the lawfulness of what one eats and the lawfulness of the earning that enables that eating. The very first condition of being righteous is that man should subsist on what is lawful.”
According to a hadith, the Prophet said,“People! Allah is pure and likes pure things.” He followed this statement by reciting the above verse and then added: “A person undertakes a long journey. His clothes are soiled and his hair is disheveled. But the food that he eats is unlawful, the drink that he drinks is unlawful, the dress that he wears is unlawful, and his body has been nourished on what is unlawful. He raises his hands to the sky and prays: ‘O my Lord! O My Lord!’ How can his prayer be answered?”(Ibn Kathir, Mawdudi).
57. This verse could be linked to the previous one where Jesus and Maryam were mentioned. This particular one seems to be saying, “(We informed the two that Our command to previous Messengers was of the same nature viz., “O Messenger! Eat of the good and pure things and work righteous deeds.”