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Thinker, writer, interested in Islamic history and ustaadh of tajweed ... seeker of truth
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In a Nutshell: In the collective imaginationProphets and Messengers tend to be imagined as missionaries or philanthropists, saving lost or destitute souls, opposed by disbelieving individuals whom they need to win over.
Messengers were envoys of God sent to lost nations whose elites had abandoned previous shariahs, resulting in systems of governance and ways of life that were failing the nation. This necessitated a new shariah being revealed.
Prophets on the other hand were sent to people that had already submitted to God, helping them manage their affairs and stay on the right path - no new shariah was required.

In the collective imaginationProphets and Messengers tend to be imagined as missionaries or philanthropists, saving lost or destitute souls, opposed by disbelieving individuals whom they need to win over.

Messengers were envoys of God sent to lost nations whose elites had abandoned previous shariahs, resulting in systems of governance and ways of life that were failing the nation. This necessitated a new shariah being revealed. Prophets on the other hand were sent to people that had already submitted to God, helping them manage their affairs and stay on the right path - no new shariah was required.

Given the hierarchical nature of society, we see it is rulers, elites and influentials (mala'un) of a nation (qawm) who usually lead the resistance to Messengers if they are unwilling to accept the call and likewise if they accept the call. This is elaborated in further detail here.

Thus if one reviews the wording of the Qur'an, these two terms appear again and again:

Nuh

The ELITES among his NATION said, "Indeed, we see you in clear error." (Qur’an Aaraf 60)
قَالَ ٱلْمَلَأُ مِن قَوْمِهِۦٓ إِنَّا لَنَرَىٰكَ فِى ضَلَـٰلٍۢ مُّبِينٍۢ

So the ELITES among those who disbelieved from his NATION said, " We do not see you but as a man like ourselves, and we do not see you followed except by those who are the lowest of us [and] at first suggestion. And we do not see in you over us any merit; rather, we think you are liars."(Qur’an Hud 27)
فَقَالَ ٱلْمَلَأُ ٱلَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا۟ مِن قَوْمِهِۦ مَا نَرَىٰكَ إِلَّا بَشَرًۭا مِّثْلَنَا وَمَا نَرَىٰكَ ٱتَّبَعَكَ إِلَّا ٱلَّذِينَ هُمْ أَرَاذِلُنَا بَادِىَ ٱلرَّأْىِ وَمَا نَرَىٰ لَكُمْ عَلَيْنَا مِن فَضْلٍۭ بَلْ نَظُنُّكُمْ كَـٰذِبِينَ

And he constructed the ship, and whenever an assembly of the ELITES of his NATION passed by him, they ridiculed him. He said, "If you ridicule us, then we will ridicule you just as you ridicule." (Qur’an Hud 38)
وَيَصْنَعُ الْفُلْكَ وَكُلَّمَا مَرَّ عَلَيْهِ مَلَأٌ مِّن قَوْمِهِ سَخِرُوا مِنْهُ ۚ قَالَ إِن تَسْخَرُوا مِنَّا فَإِنَّا نَسْخَرُ مِنكُمْ كَمَا تَسْخَرُونَ

But the ELITES among those who disbelieved from his NATION said, "This is not but a man like yourselves who wishes to take precedence over you; and if Allah had willed [to send a messenger], He would have sent down angels. We have not heard of this among our forefathers. (Qur’an Mominoon 24)
فَقَالَ ٱلْمَلَؤُا۟ ٱلَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا۟ مِن قَوْمِهِۦ مَا هَـٰذَآ إِلَّا بَشَرٌۭ مِّثْلُكُمْ يُرِيدُ أَن يَتَفَضَّلَ عَلَيْكُمْ وَلَوْ شَآءَ ٱللَّهُ لَأَنزَلَ مَلَـٰٓئِكَةًۭ مَّا سَمِعْنَا بِهَـٰذَا فِىٓ ءَابَآئِنَا ٱلْأَوَّلِينَ

Hud

Said the ELITES ones who disbelieved among his NATION, "Indeed, we see you in foolishness, and indeed, we think you are of the liars." (Qur’an Aaraf 66)
قَالَ ٱلْمَلَأُ ٱلَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا۟ مِن قَوْمِهِۦٓ إِنَّا لَنَرَىٰكَ فِى سَفَاهَةٍۢ وَإِنَّا لَنَظُنُّكَ مِنَ ٱلْكَـٰذِبِينَ

Saleh

Said the ELITES ones who were arrogant among his NATION to those who were oppressed - to those who believed among them, "Do you [actually] know that Salih is sent from his Lord?" They said, "Indeed we, in that with which he was sent, are believers." (Qur’an Aaraf 75)
قَالَ ٱلْمَلَأُ ٱلَّذِينَ ٱسْتَكْبَرُوا۟ مِن قَوْمِهِۦ لِلَّذِينَ ٱسْتُضْعِفُوا۟ لِمَنْ ءَامَنَ مِنْهُمْ أَتَعْلَمُونَ أَنَّ صَـٰلِحًۭا مُّرْسَلٌۭ مِّن رَّبِّهِۦ ۚ قَالُوٓا۟ إِنَّا بِمَآ أُرْسِلَ بِهِۦ مُؤْمِنُونَ

Ibrahim

"Have you not considered the one who argued with Ibrahim about his Lord (merely) because Allah had given him KINGSHIP?" (Qur'an 2:258)
أَلَمْ تَرَ إِلَى الَّذِي حَاجَّ إِبْرَاهِيمَ فِي رَبِّهِ أَنْ آتَاهُ اللَّهُ الْمُلْكَ

Shuayb

Said the ELITES ones who were arrogant among his NATION, "We will surely evict you, O Shu'ayb, and those who have believed with you from our city, or you must return to our way of life." He said, "Even if we were unwilling?" (Qur’an Aaraf 88)
قَالَ ٱلْمَلَأُ ٱلَّذِينَ ٱسْتَكْبَرُوا۟ مِن قَوْمِهِۦ لَنُخْرِجَنَّكَ يَـٰشُعَيْبُ وَٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا۟ مَعَكَ مِن قَرْيَتِنَآ أَوْ لَتَعُودُنَّ فِى مِلَّتِنَا ۚ قَالَ أَوَلَوْ كُنَّا كَـٰرِهِينَ

Said the ELITES ones who disbelieved among his NATION, "If you should follow Shu'ayb, indeed, you would then be losers." (Qur’an Aaraf 90)
وَقَالَ ٱلْمَلَأُ ٱلَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا۟ مِن قَوْمِهِۦ لَئِنِ ٱتَّبَعْتُمْ شُعَيْبًا إِنَّكُمْ إِذًۭا لَّخَـٰسِرُونَ

Musa

Said the ELITES among the NATION of Pharaoh, "Indeed, this is a learned magician (Qur’an Aaraf 109)
قَالَ ٱلْمَلَأُ مِن قَوْمِ فِرْعَوْنَ إِنَّ هَـٰذَا لَسَـٰحِرٌ عَلِيمٌۭ

To Pharaoh and his establishment, but they followed the command of Pharaoh, and the command of Pharaoh was not [at all] discerning. (Qur’an Hud 97)
إِلَىٰ فِرْعَوْنَ وَمَلَئِهِ فَاتَّبَعُوا أَمْرَ فِرْعَوْنَ ۖ وَمَا أَمْرُ فِرْعَوْنَ بِرَشِيدٍ

To Pharaoh and his ELITES, but they were arrogant and were a haughty NATION. (Qur’an Mominoon 46)
إِلَىٰ فِرْعَوْنَ وَمَلَئِهِ فَاسْتَكْبَرُوا وَكَانُوا قَوْمًا عَالِينَ

[Pharaoh] said to the ELITES ones around him, "Indeed, this is a learned magician. (Qur’anShuaraa 34)
قَالَ لِلْمَلَإِ حَوْلَهُ إِنَّ هَـٰذَا لَسَاحِرٌ عَلِيمٌ

Insert your hand into the opening of your garment; it will come out white, without disease. And draw in your arm close to you [as prevention] from fear, for those are two proofs from your Lord to Pharaoh and his ELITES. Indeed, they have been a NATION defiantly disobedient." (Qur’an Qasas 32)
اسْلُكْ يَدَكَ فِي جَيْبِكَ تَخْرُجْ بَيْضَاءَ مِنْ غَيْرِ سُوءٍ وَاضْمُمْ إِلَيْكَ جَنَاحَكَ مِنَ الرَّهْبِ ۖ فَذَانِكَ بُرْهَانَانِ مِن رَّبِّكَ إِلَىٰ فِرْعَوْنَ وَمَلَئِهِ ۚ إِنَّهُمْ كَانُوا قَوْمًا فَاسِقِينَ

And certainly did We send Moses with Our signs to Pharaoh and his ELITES, and he said, "Indeed, I am the messenger of the Lord of the worlds." (Qur’an Zukhruf 46)
وَلَقَدْ أَرْسَلْنَا مُوسَىٰ بِآيَاتِنَا إِلَىٰ فِرْعَوْنَ وَمَلَئِهِ فَقَالَ إِنِّي رَسُولُ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ

And the ELITES among the NATION of Pharaoh said," Will you leave Moses and his NATION to cause corruption in the land and abandon you and your gods?" [Pharaoh] said, "We will kill their sons and keep their women alive; and indeed, we are subjugators over them." (Qur’an Aaraf 127)
وَقَالَ ٱلْمَلَأُ مِن قَوْمِ فِرْعَوْنَ أَتَذَرُ مُوسَىٰ وَقَوْمَهُۥ لِيُفْسِدُوا۟ فِى ٱلْأَرْضِ وَيَذَرَكَ وَءَالِهَتَكَ ۚ قَالَ سَنُقَتِّلُ أَبْنَآءَهُمْ وَنَسْتَحْىِۦ نِسَآءَهُمْ وَإِنَّا فَوْقَهُمْ قَـٰهِرُونَ

Then We sent after them Moses with Our signs to Pharaoh and his ELITES, but they were unjust toward them. So see how was the end of the corrupters. (Qur’an Aaraf 103)
ثُمَّ بَعَثْنَا مِن بَعْدِهِم مُّوسَىٰ بِآيَاتِنَا إِلَىٰ فِرْعَوْنَ وَمَلَئِهِ فَظَلَمُوا بِهَا ۖ فَانظُرْ كَيْفَ كَانَ عَاقِبَةُ الْمُفْسِدِينَ

Then We sent after them Moses and Aaron to Pharaoh and his ELITES with Our signs, but they behaved arrogantly and were a criminal NATION (Qur’an Yunus 75)
ثُمَّ بَعَثْنَا مِن بَعْدِهِم مُّوسَىٰ وَهَارُونَ إِلَىٰ فِرْعَوْنَ وَمَلَئِهِ بِآيَاتِنَا فَاسْتَكْبَرُوا وَكَانُوا قَوْمًا مُّجْرِمِينَ

But no one believed Moses, except [some] youths among his NATION, for fear of Pharaoh and his ELITES they would persecute them. And indeed, Pharaoh was haughty within the land, and indeed, he was of the transgressors (Qur’an Yunus 83)
فَمَا آمَنَ لِمُوسَىٰ إِلَّا ذُرِّيَّةٌ مِّن قَوْمِهِ عَلَىٰ خَوْفٍ مِّن فِرْعَوْنَ وَمَلَئِهِمْ أَن يَفْتِنَهُمْ ۚ وَإِنَّ فِرْعَوْنَ لَعَالٍ فِي الْأَرْضِ وَإِنَّهُ لَمِنَ الْمُسْرِفِينَ

And Moses said, "Our Lord, indeed You have given Pharaoh and his ELITES splendor and wealth in the worldly life, our Lord, that they may lead [men] astray from Your way. Our Lord, obliterate their wealth and harden their hearts so that they will not believe until they see the painful punishment." (Qur’an Yunus 88)
وَقَالَ مُوسَىٰ رَبَّنَا إِنَّكَ آتَيْتَ فِرْعَوْنَ وَمَلَأَهُ زِينَةً وَأَمْوَالًا فِي الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا رَبَّنَا لِيُضِلُّوا عَن سَبِيلِكَ ۖ رَبَّنَا اطْمِسْ عَلَىٰ أَمْوَالِهِمْ وَاشْدُدْ عَلَىٰ قُلُوبِهِمْ فَلَا يُؤْمِنُوا حَتَّىٰ يَرَوُا الْعَذَابَ الْأَلِيم

And a man came from the farthest end of the city, running. He said, "O Moses, indeed the ELITES ones are conferring over you [intending] to kill you, so leave [the city]; indeed, I am to you of the sincere advisors." (Qur’an Qasas 20)
وَجَآءَ رَجُلٌۭ مِّنْ أَقْصَا ٱلْمَدِينَةِ يَسْعَىٰ قَالَ يَـٰمُوسَىٰٓ إِنَّ ٱلْمَلَأَ يَأْتَمِرُونَ بِكَ لِيَقْتُلُوكَ فَٱخْرُجْ إِنِّى لَكَ مِنَ ٱلنَّـٰصِحِينَ

And Pharaoh said, "O ELITES ones, I have not known you to have a god other than me. Then ignite for me, O Haman, [a fire] upon the clay and make for me a tower that I may look at the God of Moses. And indeed, I do think he is among the liars." (Qur’an Qasas 38)
وَقَالَ فِرْعَوْنُ يَـٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلْمَلَأُ مَا عَلِمْتُ لَكُم مِّنْ إِلَـٰهٍ غَيْرِى فَأَوْقِدْ لِى يَـٰهَـٰمَـٰنُ عَلَى ٱلطِّينِ فَٱجْعَل لِّى صَرْحًۭا لَّعَلِّىٓ أَطَّلِعُ إِلَىٰٓ إِلَـٰهِ مُوسَىٰ وَإِنِّى لَأَظُنُّهُۥ مِنَ ٱلْكَـٰذِبِينَ

Bilqees

She said, "O ELITES, indeed, a noble letter has been delivered to me.” (Qur’an Naml 29)
قَالَتْ يَـٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلْمَلَؤُا۟ إِنِّىٓ أُلْقِىَ إِلَىَّ كِتَـٰبٌۭ كَرِيمٌ

She said, "O ELITES ones, advise me in my affair. I would not decide a matter until you witness [for] me." (Qur’an Naml 32)
قَالَتْ يَـٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلْمَلَؤُا۟ أَفْتُونِى فِىٓ أَمْرِى مَا كُنتُ قَاطِعَةً أَمْرًا حَتَّىٰ تَشْهَدُونِ

Samuel

Have you not considered the ELITES of the Children of Israel after [the time of] Moses when they said to a prophet of theirs, "Send to us a king, and we will fight in the way of Allah"? He said, "Would you perhaps refrain from fighting if fighting was prescribed for you?" They said, "And why should we not fight in the cause of Allah when we have been driven out from our homes and from our children?" But when fighting was prescribed for them, they turned away, except for a few of them. (Qur’an Baqarah 246)
أَلَمْ تَرَ إِلَى ٱلْمَلَإِ مِنۢ بَنِىٓ إِسْرَ‌ٰٓءِيلَ مِنۢ بَعْدِ مُوسَىٰٓ إِذْ قَالُوا۟ لِنَبِىٍّۢ لَّهُمُ ٱبْعَثْ لَنَا مَلِكًۭا نُّقَـٰتِلْ فِى سَبِيلِ ٱللَّهِ ۖ قَالَ هَلْ عَسَيْتُمْ إِن كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ ٱلْقِتَالُ أَلَّا تُقَـٰتِلُوا۟ ۖ قَالُوا۟ وَمَا لَنَآ أَلَّا نُقَـٰتِلَ فِى سَبِيلِ ٱللَّهِ وَقَدْ أُخْرِجْنَا مِن دِيَـٰرِنَا وَأَبْنَآئِنَا ۖ فَلَمَّا كُتِبَ عَلَيْهِمُ ٱلْقِتَالُ تَوَلَّوْا۟ إِلَّا قَلِيلًۭا مِّنْهُمْ ۗ وَٱللَّهُ عَلِيمٌۢ بِٱلظَّـٰلِمِينَ

Yusuf

And the king said, "Indeed, I have seen seven fat cows being eaten by seven lean, and seven green spikes [of grain] and others dry. O ELITES, explain to me my vision, if you should interpret visions." (Qur’an Yusuf 43)
وَقَالَ ٱلْمَلِكُ إِنِّىٓ أَرَىٰ سَبْعَ بَقَرَ‌ٰتٍۢ سِمَانٍۢ يَأْكُلُهُنَّ سَبْعٌ عِجَافٌۭ وَسَبْعَ سُنۢبُلَـٰتٍ خُضْرٍۢ وَأُخَرَ يَابِسَـٰتٍۢ ۖ يَـٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلْمَلَأُ أَفْتُونِى فِى رُءْيَـٰىَ إِن كُنتُمْ لِلرُّءْيَا تَعْبُرُونَ

And the ELITES among his NATION who disbelieved and denied the meeting of the Hereafter while We had given them luxury in the worldly life said, "This is not but a man like yourselves. He eats of that from which you eat and drinks of what you drink." (Qur'an Mominoon 33)
وَقَالَ ٱلْمَلَأُ مِن قَوْمِهِ ٱلَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا۟ وَكَذَّبُوا۟ بِلِقَآءِ ٱلْءَاخِرَةِ وَأَتْرَفْنَـٰهُمْ فِى ٱلْحَيَوٰةِ ٱلدُّنْيَا مَا هَـٰذَآ إِلَّا بَشَرٌۭ مِّثْلُكُمْ يَأْكُلُ مِمَّا تَأْكُلُونَ مِنْهُ وَيَشْرَبُ مِمَّا تَشْرَبُونَ

"And the king said: ‘Bring him to me that I may attach him to my person.’ Then, when he spoke to him, he said: ‘Verily, this day, you are with us high in rank and fully trusted." (Qur'an 12:54)
وَقَالَ الْمَلِكُ ائْتُونِي بِهِ أَسْتَخْلِصْهُ لِنَفْسِي فَلَمَّا كَلَّمَهُ قَالَ إِنَّكَ الْيَوْمَ لَدَيْنَا مَكِينٌ أَمِينٌ

Muhammed

And the ELITES among them went forth, [saying], "Continue, and be patient over [the defense of] your gods. Indeed, this is a thing intended. (Qur’an Saad 6)
وَٱنطَلَقَ ٱلْمَلَأُ مِنْهُمْ أَنِ ٱمْشُوا۟ وَٱصْبِرُوا۟ عَلَىٰٓ ءَالِهَتِكُمْ ۖ إِنَّ هَـٰذَا لَشَىْءٌۭ يُرَادُ


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