(O ye who believe! Observe your duty to Allah, and give up what remaineth (due to you) from usury) [2:278].
Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn Ja‘far informed us> Abu ‘Amr ibn Hamdan> Abu Ya‘la> Ahmad ibn al-Akhnas> Muhammad ibn Fudayl> al-Kalbi> Abu Salih> Ibn ‘Abbas who said: “We heard, and Allah knows best, that this verse was revealed about the Banu ‘Amr ibn ‘Umayr ibn ‘Awf, from Thaqif, and Banu’l-Mughirah, from Banu Makhzum, because Banu’l-Mughirah used to borrow from Thaqif money with usury. When Allah, exalted is He, made His Messenger conquer Mecca, He abolished all usurious transactions. Banu ‘Amr ibn ‘Umayr and Banu’l-Mughirah, then, went to see ‘Attab ibn Usayd who was in Mecca. Banu’l-Mughirah said: ‘Why are we the most wretched of all people? Usury has been cancelled from amongst people, but we still pay it’. The Banu ‘Amr ibn ‘Umayr said: ‘The treaty that we have stipulates that usury is paid to us’. ‘Attab sent a letter to the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, regarding this matter. Then this verse and the verse after it (And if ye do not, then be warned of war (against you) from Allah and His messenger…) were revealed. The Banu ‘Amr knew that they would not be paid usury when the result involves a war from Allah and His Messenger. Allah, exalted is He, says: (And if ye repent, then ye have your principal (without interest)) such that you would not take more (Wrong not, and ye shall not be wronged) by being given less than your capital”.
‘Ata’ and ‘Ikrimah also said: “This verse was revealed about al-‘Abbas ibn ‘Abd al-Muttalib and ‘Uthman ibn ‘Affan who had lent someone dates. When it was time for the collection of the dates, the owner of the dates said to them: ‘If you take all of what is due to you what remains will not be enough for me and my dependents. Why do you not take half of what is due to you and I will double the interest that was initially agreed?’ They both agreed. When the term was due, they both asked the man to pay what was agreed. This reached the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, and he warned them against going ahead with it. Allah, exalted is He, then revealed this verse. Both ‘al-‘Abbas ibn ‘Abd al-Muttalib and ‘Uthman ibn ‘Affan complied and took back only the capital they initially lent to the man.
Said al-Suddi: “This verse was revealed about al-‘Abbas and Khalid ibn al-Walid who were partners in the pre-Islamic period. Both of them used to lend others money with usury. When Islam came, people owed huge sums of money to them because of usury. Allah, exalted is He, then revealed this verse, and the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said: ‘Any usurious transaction agreed in the pre-Islamic period is cancelled and the first usury I cancel is that of al-‘Abbas ibn ‘Abd al-Muttalib’ ”.
Asbab Al-Nuzul by Al-Wahidi , trans. Mokrane Guezzou