وَكَذَٰلِكَ جَعَلْنَا فِي كُلِّ قَرْيَةٍ أَكَابِرَ مُجْرِمِيهَا لِيَمْكُرُوا فِيهَا
Wakadhālika ja‘alnā fī kulli qaryatin akābira mujrimīhā liyamkuru fīhā
Thus, have We installed in every town its major criminals that they may plot therein.
(Sūrat al-An‘ām, No 6, Āyat 123)
This intriguing verse can be better understood by analyzing its words.
• The first word ‘kadhālika’ tells you that this is a Practice (sunnah) of Allah ‘azza wajall, one of His ways that remain constant throughout the ages. The Sunnah being referred to is leaving the sinner and those who do wrong to their own devices. They are permitted to continue with their wrongdoing and harm only their own selves.
• The word ‘ja‘alnā’ means ‘We placed’, or ‘We made’, or as in the above translation, ‘We installed’. The verb refers to Allah subhānahu wata‘ālā who has a made a system of cause and effect to take place. When a person makes a certain choice, Allah (swt) makes the effect take place. But the choice of cause does not come from Him, only its effect. The same word ‘ja‘alnā’ is used in the previous verse for the light that is given to believers. God’s behavior is the same with both groups, letting the effects of their separate choices take place.
• ‘Akābira mujrimīhā’ refers to the leaders who oppose and reject the message of God. Every society has their own people who lead on the authority of their power, wealth, etc. The rest of the people follow. These leaders are the ones who set the trend and dominate the opinions of others. Their motives are often insidious and thus they commit the crime of guising their evil ideas in the garb of public concern.
• ‘Liyamkurū’ means they may plot and conspire in society. Their inner darkness results in their acting against what was pure and righteous. This includes getting others to also join them on the path of evil. To do this they conspire to bring down the word of God and keep people in mental chains. They bombard people with their propaganda and convince them they are right.
Every society has people who reject the truth and want others to reject it too. They devise plans to put the truth down and use language and communication tools to stir up aversion to it. They are afraid of people recognizing the truth and accepting it as that will weaken their grip on power. This was true of the ancient societies of the Prophets, of the people during the time of the Prophet Muhammad sallal-lāhu ‘alayhi wa-ālihi wasallam and is even true of society today. Conspiracies to bring down Islam and Muslims abound in the modern world. Most of these are set in motion by the leaders with devious plans to hold on to power. However, this will not last for long for Amirul Mu’minīn Ali bin Abī Tālib has said: Whoever acts tyrannically will be broken (Ghurar, H. 7697). Additionally, the tyrants will be the farthest away from Allah on the Day of Judgment – said Imam al-Sādiq ‘alayhis salām (Wasā’il al-Shī‘ah, 11:304).
Remember this verse when you witness the sinister plots of world leaders against Islam. Whether through political means of weakening status of Muslims and Muslim countries or through a war against morals and ethics to erode the fabric of virtue in Muslim communities, it is a manifestation of hatred against religion. They fulfill their evil motives through strategic planning which can sometimes take years to bear fruit. We need to see through their veils and recognize the plots.
Sources: Shaykh Fadhl b. Hasan Tabrisī, Tafsīr Majma‘ al-Bayān; ‘Allāmah Sayyid Muhammad Husayn Tabātabā’ī, Tafsīr al-Mīzān; Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (Ed.), Tafsīr-e Namūneh; Agha Muhsin Qarā’atī, Tafsīr Nūr; https://hadith.academyofislam.