The following has been taken from Tafseer Ibn Kathir (Darussalam English Publication) :
Imam Ahmad recorded from Anas bin Malik that the Messenger of Allah said to Ubayy bin Ka`b,
(Verily, Allah has commanded me to recite to you (Those who disbelieve from among the People of the Scripture.)) Ubayy said, “He (Allah) mentioned me by name to you” The Prophet replied,
(Yes.) So he (Ubayy) cried. Al-Bukhari, Muslim, At-Tirmidhi and An-Nasa’i all recorded this Hadith from Shu`bah.
In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.
لَمْ يَكُنِ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا مِنْ أَهْلِ الْكِتَابِ وَالْمُشْرِكِينَ مُنفَكِّينَ حَتَّىٰ تَأْتِيَهُمُ الْبَيِّنَةُ
رَسُولٌ مِّنَ اللَّهِ يَتْلُو صُحُفًا مُّطَهَّرَةً
فِيهَا كُتُبٌ قَيِّمَةٌ
وَمَا تَفَرَّقَ الَّذِينَ أُوتُوا الْكِتَابَ إِلَّا مِن بَعْدِ مَا جَاءَتْهُمُ الْبَيِّنَةُ
وَمَا أُمِرُوا إِلَّا لِيَعْبُدُوا اللَّهَ مُخْلِصِينَ لَهُ الدِّينَ حُنَفَاءَ وَيُقِيمُوا الصَّلَاةَ وَيُؤْتُوا الزَّكَاةَ ۚ وَذَٰلِكَ دِينُ الْقَيِّمَةِ
(1. Those who disbelieve from among the People of the Scripture and the idolators, were not going to leave until there came to them the Bayyinah.) (2. A Messenger from Allah reciting purified pages.) (3. Wherein are upright Books.) (4. And the People of the Scripture differed not until after there came to them the Bayyinah.) (5. And they were commanded not, but that they should worship Allah, making religion purely for Him alone, Hunafa’, and that they perform Salah and give Zakah, and that is the right religion.)
As for the People of the Scripture, they are the Jews and the Christians, and the idolators are the worshippers of idols and fire among the Arabs and the non-Arabs. Mujahid said, they are not going
(to leave) “Meaning, they will not be finished until the truth becomes clear to them.” Qatadah also said the same thing.
(until there came to them the Bayyinah.) meaning, this Qur’an. This is why Allah says,
(Those who disbelieve from among the People of the Scripture and idolators, were not going to leave until there came to them the Bayyinah.) Then He explains what the Bayyinah is by His saying,
(A Messenger from Allah, reciting purified pages.) meaning, Muhammad and the Magnificent Qur’an he recites, which is written down among the most high gathering in purified pages. This is similar to Allah’s statement,
(In Records held in honor. Exalted, purified, in the hands of scribes (angels). Honorable and obedient.) (80:13-16) Then Allah says,
(Wherein are upright Books.) Ibn Jarir said, “Meaning in the purified pages are Books from Allah that are upright, just and straight. They have no mistakes in them because they are from Allah, the Mighty and Majestic.”
(And the People of the Scripture differed not until after there came to them the Bayyinah.) This is similar to Allah’s statement,
(And be not as those who divided and differed among themselves after the Bayyinat came to them. It is they for whom there is an awful torment.) (3:105) This refers to the people of those divinely revealed Scriptures that were sent down to the nations that were before us. After Allah established the proofs and evidences against them, they divided and differed concerning that which Allah had intended in their Scriptures, and they had many differences. This is like what has been reported in a Hadith that has many routes of transmission,
(Verily, the Jews differed until they became seventy-one sects. And verily, the Christians differed until they became seventy-two sects. And this Ummah will divide into seventy-three sects, and all of them will be in the Fire except one.) They said, “Who are they, O Messenger of Allah” He replied,
((Those who are upon) what I and my Companions are upon.)
(And they were commanded not, but that they should worship Allah, making religion purely for Him alone,) This is similar to Allah’s statement,
(And We did not send any Messenger before you but We revealed to him: La ilaha illa Ana.) (21:25) Thus, Allah says,
(Hunafa’) meaning, avoiding Shirk and being truly devout to Tawhid. This is like Allah’s statement,
(And Verily, We have sent among every Ummah a Messenger (proclaiming): “Worship Allah, and avoid the Taghut (false deities).”) (16:36) A discussion of the word Hanif has already been mentioned previously and in Surat Al-An`am, so there is no need to repeat it here.
(and perform Salah) And this is the best of the physical forms of worship.
(and give Zakah,) This is doing good to the poor and the needy.
(and that is the right religion.) meaning, the upright and just religion, or the nation that is straight and balanced.
إِنَّ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا مِنْ أَهْلِ الْكِتَابِ وَالْمُشْرِكِينَ فِي نَارِ جَهَنَّمَ خَالِدِينَ فِيهَا ۚ أُولَٰئِكَ هُمْ شَرُّ الْبَرِيَّةِ
إِنَّ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ أُولَٰئِكَ هُمْ خَيْرُ الْبَرِيَّةِ
جَزَاؤُهُمْ عِندَ رَبِّهِمْ جَنَّاتُ عَدْنٍ تَجْرِي مِن تَحْتِهَا الْأَنْهَارُ خَالِدِينَ فِيهَا أَبَدًا ۖ رَّضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُمْ وَرَضُوا عَنْهُ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ لِمَنْ خَشِيَ رَبَّهُ
(6. Verily, those who disbelieve from among the People of the Scripture and idolators, will abide in the fire of Hell. They are the worst of creatures.) (7. Verily, those who believe and do righteous good deeds, they are the best of creatures.) (8. Their reward with their Lord is Eternal Gardens, underneath which rivers flow. They will abide therein forever, Allah will be pleased with them, and they well-pleased with Him. That is for him who fears his Lord.)
Allah informs of what will happen to the wicked disbelievers among the People of the Scripture and the idolators who oppose the Allah’s divinely revealed Books and the Prophets whom He sent. He says that they will be in the fire of Hell on the Day of Judgement and they will abide therein forever. This means that they will remain in it and they will have no way out of it and they will not cease being in it.
(They are the worst of creatures.) meaning, they are the worst creation that Allah has fashioned and created. Then Allah informs about the situation of the righteous people who believed in their hearts and performed righteous deeds with their bodies. He says that they are the best of creation. Abu Hurayrah and a group of the scholars have used this Ayah as a proof that the believers have a status among the creatures that is better than the angels. This is because Allah says,
(They are the best of creatures.) Then Allah says,
(Their reward with their Lord) meaning, on the Day of Judgement.
(is Eternal Gardens underneath which rivers flow. They will abide therein forever,) meaning, having no end, no break and no conclusion.
(Allah will be pleased with them, and they well-pleased with Him.) The condition of Him being pleased with them is more illustrious than all of the everlasting delights that they will be given.
(and they well-pleased with Him.) Due to the comprehensive favors He has given them. Then Allah says,
(That is for him who fears his Lord.) meaning, this is the reward that will be attained by those who revere Allah and fear Him as He deserves to be feared. This is the person who worships Allah as if he sees Him, and he knows that even though he does not see Him, indeed Allah sees him.
Imam Ahmad recorded from Abu Hurayrah that the Messenger of Allah said,
(Shall I not inform you of the best of creation) They said, “Of course, O Messenger of Allah!” He said,
(A man who takes the reins of his horse in the way of Allah, and whenever there is a fearful cry from the enemy, he climbs upon it. Shall I not inform you of the best of creation) They said, “Of course, O Messenger of Allah!” He said,
(A man who has a flock of sheep and he establishes the prayer and gives the obligatory charity. Shall I not inform you of the worst of creation) They said, “Of course.” He said,
(The person who is asked by Allah and he does not give by Him.)
This is the end of the Tafsir of Surat Lam Yakun (Al-Bayyinah), and all praise and thanks are due to Allah.