Muhammad bin Ishaq narrated that Ibn `Abbas said, "Allah said to His Prophet ,
﴿قُلْ إِن كَانَتْ لَكُمُ الدَّارُ الاٌّخِرَةُ عِندَ اللَّهِ خَالِصَةً مِّن دُونِ النَّاسِ فَتَمَنَّوُاْ الْمَوْتَ إِن كُنْتُمْ صَـدِقِينَ ﴾
(Say to (them): "If the home of the Hereafter with Allah is indeed for you especially and not for others, of mankind, then long for death if you are truthful.'') meaning, `Invoke Allah to bring death to the lying camp among the two (Muslims and Jews).' The Jews declined this offer by the Messenger of Allah .''
﴿وَلَن يَتَمَنَّوْهُ أَبَدًا بِمَا قَدَّمَتْ أَيْدِيهِمْ وَاللَّهُ عَلِيمٌ بِالظَّـلِمينَ ﴾
(But they will never long for it because of what their hands have sent before them (i.e. what they have done). And Allah is Aware of the Zalimin (polytheists and wrongdoers).) meaning, "Since they know that they recognize you, and yet disbelieve in you.'' Had they wished death that day, no Jew would have remained alive on the face of the earth. Moreover, Ad-Dahhak said that Ibn `Abbas said that,
(Then long for death), means, "Invoke (Allah) for death.'' Also, `Abdur-Razzaq narrated that `Ikrimah said that Ibn `Abbas commented,
(Then long for death if you are truthful), "Had the Jews invoked Allah for death, they would have perished.'' Also, Ibn Abi Hatim recorded Sa`id bin Jubayr saying that Ibn `Abbas said, "Had the Jews asked for death, one of them would have choked on his own saliva.'' These statements have authentic chains of narration up to Ibn `Abbas. Further, Ibn Jarir said in his Tafsir, "We were told that the Prophet said,
«لَوْ أَنَّ الْيَهُودَ تَمَنَّوُا الْمَوْتَ لَمَاتُوا وَلَرَأَوْا مَقَاعِدَهُمْ مِنَ النَّارِ، وَلَوْ خَرَجَ الَّذِينَ يُبَاهِلُونَ رَسُولَ اللهِصلى الله عليه وسلّم لَرَجَعُوا لَا يَجِدُونَ أَهْلًا وَلَا مَالًا»
(Had the Jews wished for death, they would have died and seen their seats in the Fire. And, those who invoked such curse against Allah's Messenger would have found no families or property had they returned to their homes).''
Similar to this Ayah is Allah's statement in Surat Al-Jumu`ah,
﴿قُلْ يأَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ هَادُواْ إِن زَعمْتُمْ أَنَّكُمْ أَوْلِيَآءُ لِلَّهِ مِن دُونِ النَّاسِ فَتَمَنَّوُاْ الْمَوْتَ إِن كُنتُمْ صَـدِقِينَ - وَلاَ يَتَمَنَّونَهُ أَبَداً بِمَا قَدَّمَتْ أَيْديهِمْ وَاللَّهُ عَلِيمٌ بِالظَّـلِمِينَ - قُلْ إِنَّ الْمَوْتَ الَّذِى تَفِرُّونَ مِنْهُ فَإِنَّهُ مُلَـقِيكُمْ ثُمَّ تُرَدُّونَ إِلَى عَالِمِ الْغَيْبِ وَالشَّهَـدَةِ فَيُنَبِّئُكُم بِمَا كُنتُمْ تَعْمَلُونَ ﴾
((Say (O Muhammad ): "O you Jews! If you pretend that you are friends of Allah, to the exclusion of (all) other mankind, then long for death if you are truthful. ''But they will never long for it (death), because of what (deeds) their hands have sent before them! And Allah knows well the Zalimin. Say (to them): "Verily, the death from which you flee will surely meet you, then you will be sent back to (Allah) the Knower of the unseen and the seen, and He will tell you what you used to do.'') (62:6-8).
So they claimed that they are Allah's sons and loved ones and said, "Only those who are Christian or Jews shall enter Paradise.'' Therefore, they were called to invoke Allah to destroy the lying group, be it them or the Muslims. When the Jews declined, every one was sure of their wrong, for had they been sure of their claims, then they would have accepted the proposal. Their lies were thus exposed after they declined the offer to invoke the curse.
Similarly, the Messenger of Allah called a delegation of Najran's Christians to curse after he refuted them in a debate in which they demonstrated stubbornness and defiance. Allah said,
﴿فَمَنْ حَآجَّكَ فِيهِ مِن بَعْدِ مَا جَآءَكَ مِنَ الْعِلْمِ فَقُلْ تَعَالَوْاْ نَدْعُ أَبْنَآءَنَا وَأَبْنَآءَكُمْ وَنِسَآءَنَا وَنِسَآءَكُمْ وَأَنفُسَنَا وأَنفُسَكُمْ ثُمَّ نَبْتَهِلْ فَنَجْعَل لَّعْنَتُ اللَّهِ عَلَى الْكَـذِبِينَ ﴾
(Then whoever disputes with you concerning him (`Isa) after (all this) knowledge that has come to you (i.e. `Isa) being a servant of Allah, and having no share in divinity), say (O Muhammad ): "Come, let us call our sons and your sons, our women and your women, ourselves and yourselves ـ then we pray and invoke (sincerely) the curse of Allah upon those who lie.'') (3:61).
When the Christians heard this challenge, some of them said to each other, "By Allah! If you do such with this Prophet, none of you will have an eye that blinks.'' This is when they resorted to peace and gave the Jizyah (tax) in disgrace. The Prophet accepted the Jizyah from them and sent Abu `Ubaydah bin Al-Jarrah with them as a trustee. Similar to this meaning is Allah's command to His Prophet to proclaim to the polytheists:
﴿قُلْ مَن كَانَ فِى الضَّلَـلَةِ فَلْيَمْدُدْ لَهُ الرَّحْمَـنُ مَدّاً﴾
(Say (O Muhammad ) whoever is in error, the Most Gracious (Allah) will prolong him (in it).) (19:75) meaning, "Whoever among us has deviated, may Allah increase and prolong his deviation.'' We will mention this subject later, Allah willing.
The Mubahalah (invocation to Allah to destroy the liars) was called a `wish' here, because every just person wishes that Allah destroy the unjust opponent who is debating with him, especially when the just person has a clear, apparent proof for the truth he is calling to. Also, the Mubahalah involves invoking Allah for death of the unjust group, because to disbelievers, life is the biggest prize, especially when they know the evil destination they will meet after death.