Cunning and Conspiracy

Overall Meaning: Meaning of cunning and conspiracy:
Makr linguistically: It is plotting and trickery. [1239] al-Sihah, al-Jawhari (2/819).
Makr technically: It is when one internally intends other than what he externally displays. [1240] Mu`jam Maqalid al-`Ulum, al-Suyuti (p. 207).
Kayd linguistically: It is malignancy and deviousness, and likewise mukayadah. Everything that is cured has had kayd done onto it. [1241] al-Sihah, al-Jawhari (2/533); Lisan al-`Arab, Ibn Manzur (3/383).
Kayd technically: It is secretive harmful intent. [1242] al-Ta`rifat, al-Jurjani (p. 227).

Difference between cunning, conspiracy, plots (hiyal) and treachery (ghadr): [1243] al-Furuq al-Lughawiyyah, al-`Askari (p. 259-260, 509).
- Cunning, like conspiring, is through thorough contemplation and thought, though conspiracy is even more intense than cunning in this sense. Plots may not be out of devious cunning, such as one plotting some good outcome for people. This is referred to as plotting even though it results in benefit. Devious cunning is never beneficial.
- Cunning is preparing to harm another without his knowledge, regardless whether it is directly or indirectly. Plotting, however, cannot be indirect. Allah referred to what the disbelievers are warned of falling into as makr when He said, “Only the losers feel secure against Allah’s guile makr.” (al-A`raf: 99) This is so since the cunning prepares what is hateful to the one who is deceived without his realisation. Since this is in essence what they are warned against, it was referred to as cunning.
- Treachery is breaching of pledges which ought to be faithfully upheld. Devious cunning may be instigated without any prior contractual obligations.

Dispraise of cunning and conspiracy in the Qur’an and Sunnah:
❖ Allah, exalted, says, “Behaving arrogantly in the land and plotting evil. But evil plotting only backfires on those who plot. Are they awaiting anything but the fate of those destroyed before? You will find no change in the way of Allah, nor will you find it diverted.” (Fatir: 43)
❖ He, sanctified, says, “He Ya`qub said, ‘My son, tell your brothers nothing of this dream, or they may plot to harm you. Satan is man’s sworn enemy.’” (Yusuf: 5)
❖ `A’ishah bint Sa`d ibn Abi Waqqas said, “I heard Sa`d, Allah be pleased with him, say, ‘Allah's Messenger ﷺ says, He who intends to do harm to the people of Medina, Allah would efface him just as water dissolves salt.[1244] al-Bukhari (1877) and Muslim (1387). Al-`Ayni said, “Whoever schemes against the people of Madinah Allah will destroy him like lead dissolves. He is not deserving of that punishment but that he has committed a great sin.” [1245] `Umdat al-Qari, al-`Ayni (10/241).

Quotes of the Predecessors and scholars on dispraising cunning and conspiracy:
❖ Muhammad ibn Ka`b al-Qurazi said, “There are three traits that, whoever possesses them, has them backfire against him: abuse, breaching covenants, and cunning. He then recited, ‘Evil plotting engulfs naught but the plotters.’ (Fatir: 43); ‘People, your abuse is but against yourselves.’ (Yusuf: 23); ‘Anyone who breaks his pledge does so to his own detriment.’ (al-Fath: 10) [1246] Dhamm al-Baghy, Ibn Abi al-Dunya (1/88).
❖ Ibn al-Qayyim said, “There is in the story of Yusuf elucidation to the fact that whoever schemes some unlawful conspiracy against another, Allah will surely conspire against him, and He will surely make a way out for the oppressed if he is patient over his conspirer’s scheming and was kindly subtle in his dealing with it.” [1247] Ighathat al-Lahfan, Ibn al-Qayyim (2/119).

Categories of cunning: [1248] al-Dhari`ah ila Makarim al-Shari`ah, al-Raghib (p. 255); Ighathat al-Lahfan, Ibn al-Qayyim (1/388).
Cunning may be praiseworthy or blameworthy. Its real nature is concealing other than what is displayed to acquire what is desired. Praiseworthy forms include His cunning, exalted, with those who are cunning as a recompense for their deeds and rewarding them like for like. He, exalted, says, “They schemed and so did Allah: He is the best of schemers.” (al-Anfal: 30); “So they plotted a plot: and We plotted a plot, while they perceived not.” (al-Naml: 50). Another example is one’s manner with a child who refuses to learn what benefits him. As for blameworthy manifestations of cunning - the most common among people - then it is when there is intent to harm the other.

Categories of conspiracy: [1249] Ighathat al-Lahfan, Ibn al-Qayyim (2/119).
Conspiring is also categorised into two:
1- Praiseworthy: Which is plotting with good intent.
2- Blameworthy: Which is scheming with evil intent.

Means to being safe from the conspiring of the conspirators:
1- Patience and piety. 
2- Concealing Allah’s bounties away from the eyes of the envious. 
3- Supplicating to Allah with truthfulness and sincerity. 
4- Relying upon Allah, exalted.

Adages, proverbs, and poetry about cunning:
❖ “Be cunning when you are in chains!” [1250] al-Amthal, Ibn Salam (p. 102).
❖ “Many a plot is a disaster for its plotter.”
❖ Taqiyy al-Din al-Hilali said,
“Cunning plotting backfires on its schemers;
The one who digs a well of treachery falls in it.
Many who dug a grave to bury another
Ended up dragged into that very hole.
Many who fathered an arrow to hunt another,
Had that same arrow fly into their bare necks.”