What is the difference between planning (Makr) of God and the planning (Makr) of a man?

Q: What is the difference between planning (Makr) of God and the planning (Makr) of a man?

A: Makr of man consists of deceit and cheating to which a fellow resorts with a view to save himself or to overcome others or to fulfill his corrupt wishes.

But the Makr of Almighty Allah is a form of punishment, revenge and anger against man 's evil deed. This chastisement is kept secret from the man. The sinner does not know that he is under God's anger. For example, respiting the infidels and transgressors, so that their disobedience may multiply thereby making them liable to a greater chastisement in the Hereafter:

إِنَّمَا نُمْلِي لَهُمْ لِيَزْدَادُوا إِثْمًا ۚ وَلَهُمْ عَذَابٌ مُهِينٌ

"We grant them respite only that they may add to their sins ...” (Aale ‘lmran, 3: 178)

Imam Ridha’ (a.s.) said:

"By God, God did not chastise them more severely than by respiting them (so that their sins may increase and so also their punishment consequently)."

Also it is like 'gradual arrest ' (lstidraaj), in which whenever a person indulges in a new sin, Allah grants him a new favor, so that by remaining occupied in that blessing, the sinner may not realize that he is disobedient to Allah and that he may not repent for his sins.

It is narrated from Imam Sadiq (a.s.): "When a servant is under the kindness and mercy of

Allah and when Allah desires good for him, He puts him into trouble after he has committed a sin so that he may repent and be reminded of Allah and that he may purify himself of that sin. On the other hand, when Allah is enraged with a man, He bestows him a new blessing as a result of which he forgets repentance and continues to sin. This is what the Almighty Allah says:

وَالَّذِينَ كَذَّبُوا بِآيَاتِنَا سَنَسْتَدْرِجُهُمْ مِنْ حَيْثُ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ

"We draw them near (to destruction) by degrees from whence they know not. "

(Al Araaf 7: 182)1

As regards calling this kind of divine punishment a Makr it is that the Makr of men, is both selfish and oppressive. This chastisement from Allah is by way of recompense based on justice. It is a similar action, but different in its aim. Moreover, Makr of men, due to weakness and lack of encompassing is mostly a failure, whereas a similar Makr from Allah is perfect in power and effectiveness, which fulfils its aim. That is why He Himself says:

وَمَكَرُوا وَمَكَرَ اللَّهُ ۖ وَاللَّهُ خَيْرُ الْمَاكِرِينَ

''And Allah is the best of planners." (Aale ’lmran, 3:54)

اللَّهُ أَسْرَعُ مَكْرً

"Allah is quicker to plan ...” (Yunus, l0:21)

وَأُمْلِي لَهُمْ ۚ إِنَّ كَيْدِي مَتِينٌ

"And I grant them respite; surely My scheme is effective.” (Al A’araaf, 7: 183)

Or since divine punishment is effective against Makr of man it is true to call it as a Makr from Allah. For example:

وَجَزَاءُ سَيِّئَةٍ سَيِّئَةٌ مِثْلُهَ

"And the recompense of evil is punishment like it..." (Ash-Shura 42:40)

In fact the compensation of an evil is, in fact, not an evil as it based on justice, but it is all right to call it as such. Just as it is correct to say that the consequence of evil is evil and likewise to say that the recompense of a person's Makr is a Makr against him. However, divine Makr is never condemnable. On the contrary it is justice and that is why the Makr of man is called a bad Makr:

ۚ وَلَا يَحِيقُ الْمَكْرُ السَّيِّئُ إِلَّا بِأَهْلِهِ ۚ

"..and the evil plans shall not beset any save the authors

of it..."(Al Fatir, 35:42)

We should know that planning (Makr) and excuse (Heela) is in the meaning of a remedy and planning through hidden means for getting a benefit or to avoid harm. It is of two kinds:

The good planning, which is from the Merciful God and bad and devilish planning.

1. The good planning is that which is through permissible means and which is for getting permissible gain, in which one plans correctly and rightly. And it is to save oneself or others from harms and to be protected from oppression. In short, a remedial measure or planning for rightful aims is all right from both the viewpoint of wisdom and as well as Shariat laws. It is both desirable and meritorious.

2. Bad planning (Makr) is that which is done for devilish aims. For example: to plan to make money through unlawful means or to harm others or to obstruct the truth.

This is with regard to Makr of man, but Makr of God, is doubtlessly, the correct planning, which is both right and praiseworthy as it foils the devilish designs of unjust. It returns to them the losses of their Makr. It enables religion and its supporters to win over the enemies.

Another point is that divine planning is by way of retribution and furthermore it is against the designs of sinners and unjust and is a plan against their plans.

To understand the meaning of divine Makr look at the following verses of the Holy Quran:

وَاللَّهُ خَيْرُ الْمَاكِرِينَ وَمَكَرُوا وَمَكَرَ اللَّهُ

"And they planned and Allah (also) planned, and Allah is the best of planners.”

(Aal ‘Imran, 3:54))

It means: Jews and enemies of Christ planned to eliminate him and his law. In other words, they plotted and through devilish means, tried to obstruct the divine call. God also then made a plan against them to save the life of Christ and to protect his Shariat. He took remedial measures and foiled their plans and, of course, God is the best solution for those who inquire.

A person named Yahuda was a companion of His Eminence, Isa Masih (a.s.), but he was a hypocrite and a spy. At night when Isa (a.s.) was alone and none of his companions were with him, Yahuda informed the Jews of his whereabouts.

It was a dark night. The Jews told Yahuda: "Go in and bring out Isa so that we may kill him." When Yahuda arrived, Almighty Allah saved Isa (a.s.) and Yahuda could not see him; so he returned to the Jews while Allah had made his face exactly like that of Isa (a.s.). They apprehended him and when he cried that he is Yahuda and not Isa, they did not pay any heed to him and they finally killed him. Some have said that from the very beginning, Yahuda resembled Isa (a.s.) and that during that night he was apprehended and executed by the Jews.

وَاللَّهُ خَيْرُ الْمَاكِرِينَ وَيَمْكُرُونَ وَيَمْكُرُ اللَّهُ

"And when those who disbelieved devised plans against you that they might confine you or slay you or drive you away; and they devised plans and Allah too had arranged a plan; and Allah is the best of planners.” (Al Anfaal, 8:30)

It means that the leaders of Quraish gathered in Darun Nadwah to plot about driving away Prophet Muhammad (s.a:w.s.). Abul Bakhtari suggested: "He should be tightly chained and imprisoned in a closed room; and food and water be sent to him daily until he dies therein."

Shaykh Najdi said: "This is a defective suggestion, because Bani Hashim and their supporters would free him."

Hisham bin Amr said: "'Muhammad must be tied to the back of a camel, which should be driven out to the desert, so that he may starve to death."

Shaykh Najdi said: "He would certainly meet Arab tribals on the way and he would attract them; and they will save him. Finally he would join hands with them to fight us."

Abu Jahl said: "In my opinion, we should recruit a person from every clan so that all of them jointly kill him and thus his blood money may be shared by various different clans. In this way, Bani Hashim will not be able to fight all the tribes and consequently be obliged to accept blood money."

Shaykh Najdi said: "This is the best option." Some have said that it was the opinion of Shaykh Najdi from the very beginning and that all had agreed to it later.

So Abu Jahl recruited one person from every family. They resolved that one night all of them should gather outside the house of Muhammad (s.a.w.s.) and then assassinate him jointly.

Jibraeel (a.s.) informed the Messenger of Allah about the planning of Quraish and told him that it is the command of Allah that he should leave Mecca. So the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.s.) told Amirul Momineen (a.s.): "Remain in my place and sleep in my bed so that the Quraish may not find it vacant and follow me." Then he went out of his house to the cave of Thawr.

The Quraish sent a spy to his house who came back to inform them that Muhammad (s.a.w.s.) was in his house; so they surrounded the house that night. At dawn, they finally entered the house fully armed to eliminate the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) but Amirul Momineen (a.s.) arose from the bed and demanded: "'What do you want?"

They replied: "We want Muhammad, where is he?" Ali (a.s.) replied: "I am not a watchman over him." They turned back from there and with the help of an expert tracker reached the cave of Thawr. But by divine command, spiders weaved webs at the mouth of that cave so thickly that, seeing it, the Quraish remarked: "Had Muhammad entered this cave, these webs would have been destroyed. Therefore it is clear that he has not entered it." So they returned from there. Three days later, the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.s.) migrated to Medina.

The above incident well explains what the Makr of polytheists of Mecca meant and that it was a devilish and oppressive Makr and that the Makr of Allah was by way of retribution and that it was totally just.

Sayyid Abdul Husayn Dastghaib Shirazi