(“Truly, our homes lie open.” And they lay not open. They but wished to flee.) If the enemy had entered upon them from every side of Al-Madinah and from every direction, then demanded that they become disbelievers, they would have promptly done so. They would not have adhered to their faith or remained steadfast in it if they were faced with the slightest fear. This is how it was interpreted by Qatadah, `Abdur-Rahman bin Zayd and Ibn Jarir. This is a condemnation of them in the clearest terms. Then Allah reminds them of the promise they had made to Him before this fear struck them, that they would not turn their backs or flee from the battlefield.
(and a covenant with Allah must be answered for.) means, Allah will inevitably ask them about that covenant. Then Allah tells them that fleeing from battle will not delay their appointed demise or make their lives any longer; on the contrary, it may be the cause of their being taken sooner, and in a sudden manner. Allah says:
(and then you will enjoy no more than a little while!) meaning, `after you run away and flee from battle.’
(Say: “Short is the enjoyment of this world. The Hereafter is better for him who have Taqwa”) (4:77). Then Allah says:
(Say: “Who is he who can protect you from Allah if He intends to harm you, or intends mercy on you” And they will not find, besides Allah, for themselves any protector or any helper.) meaning, they have no one else except Allah to respond to their cries.