(And of mankind is he who would sell himself, seeking the pleasure of Allah…) [2:207].
Said Sa‘id ibn al-Musayyab: “When Suhayb set off to emigrate to the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, a group of idolaters from the Quraysh followed him. [When they caught up with him,] he came off his mount, emptied his quiver and held his bow. Then he said: ‘O Qurashites! You know well that I am one of your best archers. I swear by Allah that I will throw at you all the arrows in my quiver before you even get to me. I will then use my sword as long as I am able to hold it, and then you can do with me as you please’. They said: ‘Tell us about the whereabouts of your house and properties in Mecca and we will let you go’. They gave him their word that they will let him go if he were to tell them about the whereabouts of his house and properties, and so he informed them. When he got to the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, the Prophet said to him: ‘What a prosperous transaction! What a prosperous transaction! O Abu Yahya!’ and Allah revealed the verse (of mankind is he who would sell himself, seeking the pleasure of Allah)”.
Other Qur’anic exegetes said: “The idolaters captured Suhayb and tortured him. But Suhayb said to them: ‘Look! I am an old man who will bring you no harm whether I was with you or with others. Why do you not take my money and leave me alone with my religion?’ They agreed. They also agreed to let Suhayb have a mount and some expenditure. He was received in Medina by Abu Bakr and ‘Umar who were accompanied by some men. Abu Bakr said to him: ‘Abu Yahya! You made a prosperous transaction!’ Suhayb said: ‘May you never loose in any transaction! What are you talking about?’ Abu Bakr said: ‘Allah has revealed about you this verse, and he read the verse to him’ ”.
Said al-Hasan: “Do you know about whom this verse was revealed? It was revealed about the Muslim who meets a disbeliever and say to him: ‘Say: there is no god but Allah and your blood and property shall be spared’. The disbeliever refuses to say it. The Muslim then says: ‘By Allah! I will sell myself for the sake of Allah’. He goes forward and fights until death”.
It was also said that this verse was revealed about the person enjoins good and forbids evil. Said Abu’l-Khalil: “‘Umar ibn al-Khattab heard a man reciting this verse and he commented: ‘We are unto Allah! This is about a man who gets killed because of enjoining good and forbidding evil’ ”.
Asbab Al-Nuzul by Al-Wahidi , trans. Mokrane Guezzou