Why the Messengers Are Opposed
The way that leaders foolishly try to set traps for a Messenger is based on the fact that Allah's Messengers and believers who support them spoil the immoral and perverted order established by unbelievers. Messengers summon their people to serve only Allah. When they begin to do so, the Qur'anic understanding of justice and morality begin to take hold in society. The resulting honesty, sincerity, self-sacrifice, industriousness, and similar moral qualities will upset those who are corrupt and unjust, as well as those who exploit others to gain rank and position. It will also make those who have adopted a shameless, immoral lifestyle and who transgress the limits that Allah has set uncomfortable.
Those who control others by making them dependent upon their wealth, rank, and position fear that they will lose the people's obedience, for now they will listen only to the Messenger, submit themselves to Allah, and act according to the Qur'anic teachings and norms. These are the genuine people who follow the Qur'anic teachings of what is lawful and unlawful. In other words, they do not steal or engage in corruption, defend the poor and the orphaned. Therefore, they ignore their unbelieving society's traditional norms. The message of Prophets and believers thus impinge on unbelievers' interests.
Something else that upsets the society's leaders is that, despite their power, respectability, and authority, a person who is not one of them has been accepted and is now exposing their own falsehoods and those of their system by his religious and moral way of life. As we stated earlier, since they evaluate matters very foolishly and think in a very distorted manner these leaders cannot tolerate even the idea that a Messenger could get the better of them.
Given that Allah's Messengers are the wisest and morally the purest individuals in the world, the leading unbelievers are jealous of them and try to embarrass them in the eyes of society. But it is in fact only themselves who end up embarrassed. For example, the Meccan unbelievers leveled many false accusations against our Prophet (saas), hoping that their mocking words and insults would debase one so high in Allah's Sight in the believers' eyes. But they failed, for such attempts only increased the believers' zeal and strengthened their unity. Allah describes some of the slanders uttered by these people:
Those who do not believe say: "This is nothing but a lie he has invented, and other people have helped him to do it." They have brought injustice and falsehood. They say: "It is myths of previous peoples that he has had transcribed and that are read out to him in the morning and the evening." Say: "The One Who sent it down is He Who knows all of the hidden secrets in the heavens and earth. He is Ever-Forgiving, Most Merciful." (Surat al-Furqan, 4-6)
Another reason why the great majority of leaders react against a Messenger is because according to their own distorted value judgments they are jealous of someone who is not a member of the elite assuming a leadership position and evaluate matters in the light of their own unpleasant logic.
These Leaders Cannot Appreciate What Messengers Are
The major characteristic of unbelievers, especially of their leaders, is that they cannot evaluate a situation according to the dictates of their conscience. This is described in detail in the Qur'an. And there is no doubt that this characteristic also applies to the leading unbelievers. One of the clearest indications of this is their inability to understand what a Messenger is: an envoy of Allah sent to direct a society in His way. This is certainly an important responsibility, but the leaders cannot grasp this subtlety and so regard a Messenger as an ordinary individual, the same as themselves. Naturally, they evaluate his message in terms of their own distorted logic and silly traditions and rules, which are not based upon the Qur'an.
One of the strictest rules and traditions concerns a leader's qualifications. As a general rule, one who wants to lead a society must have certain material qualifications: a good lineage or wealth. In other words, he must be a member of a class that regards itself, in its own eyes, as the elite .
Unbelievers interpret a Messenger's message according to this distorted logic. In their unintelligent eyes, "if Allah is to have a Messenger," he must be someone from their group: wealthy or well known. They believe that someone who does not come from their social class cannot be Allah's Messenger and, therefore, cannot be a leader. This foolishness inflicts great losses and suffering on them both in this world and in the hereafter. In the Qur'an this way of thinking is revealed in the account of Saul:
Their Prophet said to them: "Allah has appointed Saul to be your king." They asked: "How can he have kingship over us when we have much more right to kingship than he does? He does not even have much wealth!" He said: "Allah has chosen him over you and favored him greatly in knowledge and physical strength. Allah gives kingship to anyone He wills. Allah is All-Encompassing, All-Knowing." (Surat al-Baqara, 247)
This superficial and flawed way of thinking is quite widespread among leading unbelievers. This explains why the Makkan elite rejected the Prophet Muhammad's (saas) mission. As revealed in the Qur'an, they turned their faces and asked: "Has the Reminder been sent down to him out of all of us?" (Surah Sâd, 8). This is an explicit example of unbelievers' lack of rationality, and their psychology is described in other verses as follows:
But when the truth came to them, they said: "This is magic and we reject it." They ask: "Why was this Qur'an not sent down to one of the great men of the two cities?" (Surat az-Zukhruf, 30-31)
Allah answers this question in the next verse:
Is it, then, they who allocate the mercy of your Lord?... (Surat az-Zukhruf, 32)
According to the unbelievers' twisted way of thinking, the fact that the Messenger is chosen by Allah is not enough. Their only criterion in their distorted logic is material wealth, and they therefore evaluate the Messenger in its light. According to their distorted logic, such a person must have great material wealth so that he will be obeyed. These foolish expectations on the part of unbelievers are revealed thus in the Qur'an:
"We have provided throughout this Qur'an all kinds of examples for people, but most people spurn anything but disbelief. They say: "We will not believe you until you make a spring gush out from the ground for us; or have a garden of dates and grapes through which you make rivers come pouring; or make the sky, as you claim, fall down on us in lumps; or bring Allah and the angels here as a guarantee; or possess a house built out of gleaming gold; or ascend up into heaven – and even then we will not believe in your ascent unless you bring us down a book to read!" Say: "Glory be to my Lord! Am I anything but a human messenger?" " (Surat al-Isra', 89-93)
However, believers attach themselves to a Messenger not because of his wealth but because Allah has chosen him. They obey him because of his faith in and closeness to Allah. Unbelievers cannot appreciate this, for they think that people obey the Messengers because of their wealth. So, this is one of the reasons why they attack a Messenger and believers, and initiate a struggle. A striking example revealed by Allah in the Qur'an of the immoral attitude of the elite toward Messengers, and where that immorality and unintelligence leads them can be seen in the struggle between the Prophet Moses (as) and Pharaoh.
The Prophet Moses (as) and Pharaoh
As revealed in the Qur'an, Pharaoh was an oppressor who ruled the Egyptians with his material and military might. He especially oppressed and tortured the Israelites, who were forced to work as slaves in Egypt. Pharaoh's regime is described in the Qur'an as follows:
Pharaoh exalted himself arrogantly in the land and divided its people into camps, oppressing one group of them by slaughtering their sons and letting their women live. He was one of the corrupters. (Surat al-Qasas, 4)
Allah sent the Prophet Moses (as) as a Messenger and Prophet to free the Israelites from Pharaoh's cruelty and to lead them to the right path. The Prophet Moses (as) asked Pharaoh for permission to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, but Pharaoh refused since that would, in his own foolish eyes, cast a shadow on his power. He was irrational enough to insist on his perversion and claim to be the "Lord of all Egypt." (Surely Allah is beyond that) He ruthlessly oppressed the people and made them agree that his distorted ideas were the only right ones:
.. "I only show you what I see myself, and I only guide you to the path of rectitude." (Surah Ghafir, 29)
For this reason, Pharaoh could not allow the Prophet Moses (as) to become the Israelites' leader. In his foolish mind all of Egypt belonged to him and he could not imagine that the Prophet Moses (as), who had no material wealth, could be their leader.
Pharaoh was jealous of the Prophet Moses (as) and nursed a deep hatred for him. Displaying his superior wealth, power, and possessions, he foolishly tried to belittle Allah's Messenger with deceptive words. But at the end of the day he was the only one to be humiliated and lost everything in this world and the hereafter. Pharaoh's words are quoted as follows in the Qur'an:
Pharaoh called to his people, saying: "My people, does the kingdom of Egypt not belong to me? Do not all these rivers flow under my control? Do you not then see? Am I not better than this man who is contemptible and can scarcely make anything clear? Why have gold bracelets not been put upon his arms, and why is there not a train of angels accompanying him?" In that way, he swayed his people and they succumbed to him. They were a people who had gone astray. ((Surat az-Zukhruf, 51-54)
As we see, Pharaoh was so irrational and depraved as to present himself as the "Lord of Egypt." (Surely Allah is beyond that) But the Prophet Moses (as) said that Allah was the "Lord of everything on earth, in the heavens and in between," which of course included Egypt, and this upset Pharaoh. This conversation is related in the Qur'an as follows:
Pharaoh asked: "What is the Lord of all the worlds?" He [Moses] replied: "The Lord of the heavens and earth and everything between them, if you knew for sure." He [Pharaoh] said to those around him: "Are you listening?" He [Moses] said: "Your Lord and the Lord of your forefathers, the previous peoples." He [Pharaoh] said: "This Messenger, who has been sent to you, is mad." He [Moses] replied: "The Lord of the East and the West and everything between them, if you used your intellect." He [Pharaoh] said: "If you take any deity other than me, I will certainly throw you into prison." (Surat ash-Shu'ara', 23-29)
Pharaoh was hostile to the Prophet Moses (as) because the truths he told threatened his kingdom's twisted order. Pharaoh knew that Allah existed, and said as much:
... "Council, I do not know of any other deity for you apart from me. Haman, kindle a fire for me over the clay and build me a lofty tower so that, perhaps, I may be able to climb up to Moses' god! I consider him a blatant liar. " (Surat al-Qasas, 38)
This distorted logic of Pharaoh's betrays a general characteristic of those who lead the forces of opposition against Allah's Messengers: their distorted belief in Allah. For this reason, they do not recognize that they owe obedience to His Messengers. When a Messenger tells them that their society's status quo has become corrupt and asks them to give up their dishonest profits and become his followers, these arrogant leaders, who have been spoiled by their blessings, respond with anger and hostility.
In the Qur'an, Allah informs us of their state and states that He will choose His Messengers:
And likewise in every city, We set up its greatest wrongdoers to plot in it. They plot against themselves alone, but they are not aware of it. When a sign comes to them, they say: "We will not believe until we have been given the same as the messengers of Allah were given." Allah knows best where to place His message. Debasement in the Sight of Allah and a severe punishment will strike those who did wrong for the plots that they concocted. (Surat al-An'am, 123-124)