Does the Lord of the Quran make plans (set traps)? How can we answer those who make these claims by using some verses as excuses?

Details of the Question
Does the Lord of the Quran make plans (set traps)? How can we answer those who make these claims by using some verses as excuses?
The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

The origin of the word translated as "trap, trick, plan" is the Arabic word "MKR". The concept "divine makr" is well known. While explaining the issue, we will use the terminology of the Quran in order to avoid wrong expressions. Lexically MAKR means to divert somebody from his target through a trick. 

The word "MKR" has two reflections: The first one is the MAKR that is praiseworthy and the second one is the MAKR that is that is unworthy. 

The nice "makr" is the makr that aims to reach a nice outcome. Allah, who informed His Messenger about the trap/plan of the unbelievers who decided to kill him in Makkah and enabled him to migrate from Makkah the same night,  explains the incident as follows: 

"Remember how the unbelievers plotted against thee, to keep thee in bonds, or slay thee, or get thee out, (of thy home). They plot and plan and Allah too plans but the best of planners is Allah." (al-Anfal, 8/30)

The MaKR of Allah mentioned in the verse is a nice example of praiseworthy MAKR. (R. Isfahani, Mufradat, MKR item)

We can give the following verse as an example of bad MAKR:

"They swore their strongest oaths by Allah that if a warner came to them, they would follow his guidance better than any (other) of the Peoples: but when a warner came to them, it has only increased their flight (from righteousness)―On account of their arrogance in the land and their plotting of Evil. But the plotting of Evil will hem in only the authors thereof. Now are they but looking for the way the ancients were dealt with? But no change wilt thou find in Allah's way (of dealing): no turning off wilt thou find in Allah's way (of dealing)." (Fatir, 35/42-43)

The trap set by the tribe of Thamud in order to kill their prophet, Salih, is a bad trap but the trap set by Allah in order to save His Messenger is a nice trap. (ibid) Both kinds of makrs (traps) are mentioned in the following verse: 

"They said: "Swear a mutual oath by Allah that we shall make a secret night attack on him and his people, and that we shall then say to his heir (when he seeks vengeance): `We were not present at the slaughter of his people and we are positively telling the truth.' They plotted and planned, but We too planned, even while they perceived it not." (an-Naml, 27/49, 50)

It is understood from the explanations above that Allah's MAKR/trap is always a nice tactic in a sense. It means to eliminate the bad traps of the oppressors.

This is the true meaning of the "traps set by Allah" about which people make a great fuss.

We should not forget that Allah, who has endless knowledge and power, does not need to set traps - in the sense that we know - nor does He condescend to do so. However, the Quran addresses people; therefore, it has to use the language that people will understand. One of the phrases that are widely used not only then but also today is "to set a trap, to trick" and words that connote the same meaning. The reason why the Quran, which will be valid up to the Day of Judgment, uses these words in its universal message is a strategic style to influence the people it addresses.  

After this short explanation, we can have a look at the verses regarding the issue one by one. First, we will quote the translations of the verses that are used in the objections; then, we will explain them briefly. 

1. " By it He (Allah) causes many to stray …" (al-Baqara, 2/26)

Its explanation:

The translation of the relevant verse is as follows: “Allah disdains not to use the similitude of things lowest as well as highest. Those who believe know that it is truth from their Lord; but those who reject Faith say: "What means Allah by this similitude?" By it He causes many to stray and many He leads into the right path but He causes not to stray, except those who forsake (the path).” (al-Baqara, 2/26)

As it is clearly expressed in the verse, some ignorant deniers regarded it very simple for the Quran to give a "mosquito" as an example and regarded it as unfit for Allah. The main reason behind this criticism is the fact that those who criticize the Quran do not believe in it. Thus, Allah answers those unbelievers through those verses. He draws attention to the following points in the answer:

Firstly: It is underlined that mentioning a mosquito is by no means wrong as they think. In fact, no state disdains some of its citizens by ignoring them; similarly, Allah does not regard the mosquito, which is a disdained being, out of the guardianship of His divine state. Besides, there is something else that those ignorant people do not know: the mosquito is a wonderful work of art of Allah. It is not less sophisticated than an elephant in terms of art.

Secondly: Whether a mosquito is worth mentioning depends on the viewpoints of people. Unbelievers can disdain animals because of their negative viewpoints. However, believers think that every living being is a wonderful work of art of Allah and that a mosquito is also a divine work of art worthy of being mentioned in the book of Allah.

Thirdly: Man was created so that he would be tested; therefore, his free will cannot be removed from him because he needs to prefer one side. Therefore, a door is opened for the mind but man cannot be forced to prefer a certain direction. Some people use their minds and believe; others prefer unbelief using their minds. The following phrase in the verse underlines this fact: “He causes many to stray and many He leads into the right path”.

Fourthly: That Allah causes some people to stray is not something random and without a reason. Contrarily, it is based on the acts of the sinners who rebel against Allah and go astray. The following phrase in the verse indicates this fact: “but He causes not to stray, except those who forsake (the path)”. As it is seen, there is no trap or groundless confusing here.

2. "And the best of planners is Allah." (Aal-i Imran, 3/54)

Its Explanation:

“When Jesus found unbelief on their part, he said: "Who will be my helpers to (the work of) Allah?" Said the Disciples: 'We are Allah's helpers we believe in Allah and do thou bear witness that we are Muslims. Our Lord! we believe in what thou hast revealed, and we follow the Messenger; then write us down among those who bear witness.' And (then unbelievers) plotted and planned, and Allah too planned, and the best of planners is Allah.” (Aal-i Imran, 3/52-54)

In the verses above, the state of the disciples of Jesus and those who made plans to kill him is indicated. The word plot/plan mentioned in the following sentence describes this bad plot of those who wanted to kill him:“And (then unbelievers) plotted and planned, and Allah too planned, and the best of planners is Allah.” The meaning of "Allah's planning" is His ascending of Jesus to the sky and ruining their plan. That is, He caused the soldiers to think that the person who showed them his place was Jesus by making him resemble Jesus; thus, He ruined their plan. (According to some narrations, the person that showed the soldiers the place of Jesus was a disciple.)

3. "If some evil befalls them …Say: 'All things are from Allah'.” (an-Nisa, 4/78-79)

Its Explanation:

The translation of the relevant verses is as follows: "Wherever ye are, death will find you out, even if ye are in towers built up strong and high!" If some good befalls them they say "This is from Allah"; but if evil, they say "This is from thee" (O Prophet). Say: "All things are from Allah. But what hath come to these people, that they fail to understand a single fact? Whatever good, (O man!) happens to thee is from Allah; but whatever evil happens to thee is from thyself And We have sent thee, as a Messenger to (instruct) mankind: And enough is Allah for a witness." (an-Nisa, 4/78-79)

In the verses above, attention is drawn to two points:

Firstly: It is the answer given to hypocrites (munafiqs). In the previous verse, it is stated that they are afraid of fighting in the war; in the verses above, they say the booties obtained in the war were granted to them by Allah (in order to eliminate the idea that they were obtained thanks to Hz. Muhammad (pbuh)) and that the sorrowful incidents like death, wounds, etc took place because of the Prophet. Allah answers their ignorant claims by drawing attention to the issue of creating: “Say: 'All things are from Allah'.” That is, Allah creates both the good and the evil.

Secondly: The issue is analyzed from the viewpoint of causes not creating and the following is stated: “Whatever good, (O man!) happens to thee is from Allah; but whatever evil happens to thee is from thyself.” That is, all of the good deeds coming to man from Allah is a grace of Allah because the creator of all of the bounties is Allah only. All of the good deeds of man are a result of the bounties given to him beforehand; they are not preliminary to or a means of the good deeds to come.  On the other hand, the cause of a bad deed that comes to man is man himself; he gives fatwa to qadar for the bad deeds to come because of the bad deeds he commits.

As it is seen, we are face to face with an issue whose philosophical dimension is very big. It is really a big boldness for those who cannot make their simple minds understand these profound issues to try to regard Allah as responsible.

4. "Allah hath set the seal on their hearts." (an-Nisa, 4/155)

Its Explanation:

The translation of the relevant verse is as follows:“(They have incurred divine displeasure): in that they broke their Covenant: that they rejected the Signs of Allah; that they slew the Messengers in defiance of right; that they said "Our hearts are the wrappings (which preserve Allah's Word; we need no more)"; nay Allah hath set the seal on their hearts for their blasphemy, and little is it they believe.” (an-Nisa, 4/155)

As it is seen, the verse above, which describes the situation of Jews, is very clear. They deny Allah’s signs (verses) and kill Allah’s messengers unjustly; while doing so, they say, “our hearts are the wrappings; they cannot understand these issues" by making fun of the message of Allah. For, the stronger the relationship between crime and punishment is, the stronger justice will be manifest.   

It is understood from what is stated by the verse above that Allah did not set the seal on people's hearts at random. On the contrary, He set the seal on the hearts some fanatical irreligious people who committed many major crimes, killed their prophets, closed their hearts to the truths with their free will and sealed them, and then boasted about them.  

5. “From those, too, who call themselves Christians …We estranged them, with enmity and hatred between the one and the other, to the Day of Judgment." (al-Maida, 5/14)

Its Explanation:

The translation of the relevant verse is as follows:“From those, too, who call themselves Christians, We did take a Covenant, but they forgot a good part of the Message that was sent them: so We estranged them, with enmity and hatred between the one and the other, to the Day of Judgment. And soon will Allah show them what it is they have done." (al-Maida, 5/14)

The people mentioned in the verse above are Christians. Allah obtained from Jesus the same promise that he received from the previous prophets: to advise his ummah to believe in and to help Hz. Muhammad, the last prophet that would come at the end of time. Jesus gave some advice to Christians to fulfill the requirements of this vow. This issue is mentioned in some Gospels. (Ibn Ashur, the interpretation of the relevant verse) However, they ignored this vow and forgot about it in the course of time. Finally, when Hz. Muhammad came as a prophet, they opposed him instead of helping him. Allah caused disagreements among them to show them that they were not consistent.  

It should not be forgotten that the disagreements that occurred among Christian sects like Catholicism, Orthodoxy and Protestants were caused by Christians themselves. For, these disagreements originate from the different views of those sects. What leads them to those different views is various feelings like interest, love of leadership, posts and ranks, originating from their own souls. That is, the real cause of these disagreements is themselves. However, in the verse, attention is drawn to the point of divine punishment, not to the cause, acting upon "the creation of the deed" in order to state that a punishment was given to them. It is underlined that their negative attitude toward Hz. Muhammad (pbuh) had a great role in this sociological incident and the punishment given to them. 

6. "For such it is not Allah's will to purify their hearts." (al-Maida, 5/41) 

Its Explanation:

The translation of the relevant verse is as follows: “O Messenger! let not those grieve thee who race each other into Unbelief: (whether it be) among those who say: "We believe" with their lips but whose hearts have no faith; or it be among the Jews,― men who will listen to any lie,― will listen even to others who have never so much as come to thee. They change the words from their (right) times and places; they say "If ye are given this, take it, but if not, beware:" If anyone's trial is intended by Allah, thou hast no authority in the least for him against Allah. For such it is not Allah's will to purify their hearts. For them there is disgrace in this world, and in the Hereafter a heavy punishment." (al-Maida, 5/41)

In the verse, the free will of man is compared to Allah's universal will as a necessity of testing. "Belief is defined as light put into the heart of man by Allah after he takes the necessary steps by using his free will.”

Accordingly, first man needs to make efforts in order to believe in the messages of Allah sent by Him as revelation by using his mind and free will; then, Allah will activate His universal will, open his heart to the truths and give him the ability to understand. Those who tread on this principle because of their sensual desires will bear the consequences.

This is the situation mentioned in the verse. Hypocrites and fanatic Jews betray Hz. Muhammad. They do not believe in him heartily but they say they believe in him. In order to express their enmity toward Hz. Muhammad (pbuh) and the religion of Islam, they keep saying to the people around, “If Muhammad gives you a fatwa like this, accept it; if it is not given, do not accept it.” That is, they assume an anarchic attitude like accepting or not accepting the laws of the state based on their own desires and try to shake the authority of the state.

We can understand the truths expressed by Allah in order to console His Messenger, who became very worried because of the betrayal of the mischief-makers, as follows:  “O Messenger! Do not worry about what they do. Their hearts are spoiled; they cannot understand the truths. If I wished, I would clean and purify their hearts. It is not beyond my power. However, they blackened their hearts deliberately through their persistent unbelief and hypocrisy; so, they will continue to remain like that. They will definitely suffer the consequences.” 

7. " The Jews … Amongst them We have placed enmity and hatred." (al-Maida, 5/64)


Its Explanation:

The translation of the relevant verse is as follows:“The Jews say: "Allah's hand is tied up." Be their hands tied up and be they accursed for the (blasphemy) they utter. Nay both His hands are widely outstretched: He giveth and spendeth (of His bounty) as He pleaseth. But the revelation that cometh to thee from Allah increaseth in most of them their obstinate rebellion and blasphemy. Amongst them We have placed enmity and hatred till the Day of Judgment. Every time they kindle the fire of war, Allah doth extinguish it; but they (ever) strive to do mischief on earth. And Allah loveth not those who do mischief.” (al-Maida, 5/64)

The explanations about Christians are also valid for Jews, whose situation is described here.

The real cause of the enmity among them is pursuing their sensual desires by abandoning the orders of Allah.

However, the penal aspect of the issue is put at forefront because the divine justice would be overshadowed if they went unpunished. Their crimes are listed and attention is drawn to the punishment they deserve - without giving any details about their deeds that have to occur sociologically. 

Their crimes: To accuse Allah of stinginess by saying, “Allah's hand is tied up.” To act in an unruly way toward the revelation of Allah sent to Hz. Muhammad (pbuh). To try to pick a war all the time by eliminating world peace. To try to cause mischief on the earth.  

Thus, Allah punished them with their own traps they prepared for the humanity; He allowed them to fight one another as a punishment for trying to make people enemies of one another. He left them fighting one another.    

8. "The best of planners is Allah." (al-Anfal, 8/30)

Its Explanation:

The translation of the relevant verse is as follows: “Remember how the unbelievers plotted against thee, to keep thee in bonds, or slay thee, or get thee out, (of thy home). They plot and plan and Allah too plans but the best of planners is Allah.” (al-Anfal, 8/30)

As it was stated in the introduction, the phrases meaning “Allah’s setting traps” in the Quran means His eliminating those traps. All of the tafsir scholar understood it like that. To set secret traps and make secret plans in the sense that we understand means to try to do something in an unnoticed way because of fearing from the other party. Does Allah, who has enough power to destroy the whole universe at once, need to set secret traps? Then, this expression is an emphasized style of speech that can be understood by people. Nobody who knows Allah and is aware of the style of the Quran has difficulty in understanding this style. To set a trap is a bad deed but to eliminate a trap is a good deed.    

In the Quranic terminology, a good makr/trap is the makr that is made in order to reach a nice result. Allah, who informed His Messenger about the trap set by the unbelievers who wanted to kill Hz. Prophet (pbuh) and enabled him to migrate from Makkah,  describes that incident as follows in the Quran: “Remember how the unbelievers plotted against thee, to keep thee in bonds, or slay thee, or get thee out, (of thy home). They plot and plan and Allah too plans but the best of planners is Allah.”(al-Anfal, 8/30). Allah’s MAKR/trap mentioned here is a very nice trap.

9. " I will fill Hell with jinn and men all together!" (Hud, 11/119)

Its Explanation:

The translation of the relevant verses are as follows: “If thy Lord had so willed, He could have made mankind one People: but they will not cease to dispute Except those on whom He hath bestowed His Mercy: and for this did He create them: and the Word of thy Lord shall be fulfilled: "I will fill Hell with jinn and men all together.” (Hud, 11/118-119)

The issue mentioned in the verses above is a topic of qadar. Qadar is a part of Allah's knowledge. The attribute of knowledge is a property that has no power of sanction. This means as follows: Allah knows everything in detail and how they will take place. Endless knowledge means knowledge that surrounds everything. Ignorance cannot penetrate into the knowledge that surrounds everything.

In the verse above, it is stated that Allah knows with His endless knowledge which way people will follow - through their free will - and whether they will go to Paradise or Hell at the end of the way they choose. There is no compulsion here. The biggest evidence that there is nothing like sending some people to Paradise and others to Hell without any legal and ethical criterion as if drawing lots is the fact that God created all of the beings in the universe in a wonderful system considering all of the necessary balances, that He teaches justice in the heavenly books He sent, that He says He never likes oppressors and that He does not need to do any injustice as a being who has endless power.  

10. "Allah… He leaves straying whom He pleases and …"(an-Nahl, 16/93)

Its Explanation:

The translation of the relevant verse is as follows:“If Allah so willed, He could make you all one people: but He leaves straying whom He pleases and He guides whom He pleases: but ye shall certainly be called to account for all your actions.” (an-Nahl, 16/93)

The meaning of the verse above is as follows: If Allah wished, he would force all people to accept Islam and unite them as one ummah. However, this compulsion would be contrary to the mystery of testing; so, He did not do it. Contrarily, He would lead some people astray and others to guidance acting upon their performances based on their free will. For, to prefer guidance and aberration depends on a person's will but to create them belongs to Allah. The expression of this fact aims to make people turn toward Allah, beg and pray Him.

Accordingly, no matter how much a person worships, he thinks that he may go astray any time because of the suggestions of Satan and his soul and that Allah may leave him in aberration; therefore, he always feels that he has to take refuge in Allah and takes refuge in Him. Similarly, no matter how much a person sins, a sinner thinks that he can make himself forgiven by Allah by going to the door of Allah, who holds guidance in His hand by creating; thus, he gets rid of the problem of hopelessness.

The last sentence of the verse, “…but ye shall certainly be called to account for all your actions” indicates that everything will develop based on man's free will and in the way that divine justice foresees. For, if there were compulsion and force, questioning would not be fair. Anybody who believes in Allah believes that Allah is away from oppression and understands the expression of the verse as we have mentioned.

11. " I will fill Hell with Jinn and men all together!" (as-Sajda, 32/13)

Its Explanation:

The translation of the relevant verses are as follows:“If only thou couldst see when the guilty ones will bend low their heads before their Lord, (saying:) "Our Lord! We have seen and we have heard: now then send us back (to the world): we will work righteousness: for we do indeed (now) believe." If We had so willed, We could certainly have brought every soul its true guidance: but the Word from Me will come true. "I will fill Hell with Jinn and men all together.” (as-Sajda, 32/12-13)

As it is seen in the verses above, the answer given to those who feel remorse on the Day of Judgment and want to be sent to the world again is in question. People are warned seriously lest they should encounter that terrifying scene on the Day of Judgment, which subdues the oppressors. It is indicated that Paradise and Hell exist and that people will go to either of these places after death. This issue was determined in Allah’s pre-eternal knowledge. Therefore, Allah promises that He will not send people to Paradise without testing them, that He will test them in order to differentiate between the good and the bad, the oppressors and the oppressed and in order to give the people what they deserve and that He will send those who pass the test to Paradise and those who fail to Hell.   

12. "If it be His wish to give you Punishment … Nor will they find for themselves, besides Allah any protector?" (al-Ahzab, 33:17)

Its Explanation:

The translation of the relevant verse is as follows: “Say: "Who is it that can screen you from Allah if it be His wish to give you Punishment or to give you Mercy?" Nor will they find for themselves, besides Allah any protector or helper.” (al-Ahzab, 33/17)

In the verse above, it is clearly emphasized that Allah holds the reins of everything, that His power penetrates everything, that all beings obey Him and that it is Allah who creates everything good or bad. Through those expressions, it is indicated that there is no god but Allah, that there is no sultanate except His in the universe and that Allah is the only owner of the property hence it is necessary not to worship anybody but Allah.

Instead of being a sincere slave of Allah by taking lessons from these clear truths, following a way that will cause a person a lot of troubles and to make superficial objections instead of understanding seem strange. 

13. "If anyone withdraws himself from remembrance of Most Gracious, We appoint for him an evil one."(az-Zukhruf, 43/36)

Its Explanation:

The translation of the relevant verse is as follows: “If anyone withdraws himself from remembrance of Most Gracious, We appoint for him an evil one to be an intimate companion to him.” (az-Zukhruf, 43/36)

It is stated in the verse above that an evil being is appointed as a friend for those who do not see and recognize Allah, who has endless mercy, Hz. Muhammad (pbuh), whom Allah sent as mercy to the realms, and virtually pretend to be blind. In return for their pretending to be blind by ignoring the truth, they become slaves of Satan, which makes them blind and unable to see by blinding the eyes of their hearts. For, an angel protects those who are believers. When a person abandons belief, the angel no longer protects him. The person who is unprotected is surrounded by devils. This is a very important lesson and warning.   

In fact, an unbeliever always ignores the Quran and is deceived by Satan all the time; similarly, some believers sometimes ignore the Quran and are deceived by Satan. It can even be said that the root of all evil and sins is the time when the Quran is ignored. It is necessary to understand from the following hadith the sign how the devil that approaches man drives him away from belief even if it is for a second:“A person who steals is not a real believer at the moment he steals; a person who drinks alcohol is not a believer at the moment he drinks.”

We are in need of the hearts that can see the truth without any prejudice not without any knowledge.

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