(And of them are those who vex the Prophet and say: He is only a hearer…) [9:61-62].
This was revealed about a group of hypocrites who used to harm the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, by saying about him things that should not be said. One of them said: “Do not do this, for we fear that what we say might reach him and he will punish us”. Al-Julas ibn Suwayd said: “We will say whatever we wish to say and when we go to him he will believe whatever we tell him, for Muhammad is nothing but a hearer”, and so Allah, exalted is He, revealed this verse.
Muhammad ibn Ishaq ibn Yasar and others said: “This verse was revealed about one hypocrite whose name is Nabtal ibn al-Harith. This man was dark-skinned, red-eyed, burned in the cheeks and deformed. It is this man about whom the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said: ‘Whoever wants to look at the devil, let him look at Nabtal ibn al-Harith’. This man was a tale-bearer; he related the words of the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, to the hypocrites. And when he was told to stop doing this, he said: ‘Indeed, Muhammad is but a hearer, he believes everything that people tell him. We say whatever we like and then we go to him and swear that we never said it and he believes us’. And so Allah, exalted is He, revealed this verse”.
Al-Suddi said: “A group of hypocrites, including Julas ibn Suwayd ibn al-Samit and Wadi‘ah ibn Thabit, gathered and wanted to speak ill of the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace. They had with them a boy from the Helpers by the name of ‘Amir ibn Qays. These hypocrites mocked the Prophet and then spoke and said ‘By Allah, if what Muhammad says is true, then we are worse than asses’. The boy got angry and said: ‘By Allah, what Muhammad says is true and you are worse than asses’. The boy then went to the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, and informed him about what they said. The Prophet summoned them and when he asked them they swore that ‘Amir was a liar. ‘Amir also swore that they were liars. ‘Amir then prayed: ‘O Allah, do not make us disperse until you show who is lying and who s telling the truth’. And so this verse was revealed about them (And of them are those who vex the Prophet and say: He is only a hearer) and He also revealed (They swear by Allah to you (Muslims) to please you…) [9:62]”.
Asbab Al-Nuzul by Al-Wahidi , trans. Mokrane Guezzou