STRANGENESS IN ISLAM: THE CORRECT DEEN
The Messenger (sas) has informed us that the correct Deen is like a stranger to the people when he said: Indeed Islaam began as a stranger and shall return as a stranger just as it began, so Toobaa (a tree in Paradise) for the strangers. [Reported by Muslim from Abu Hurairah].
And in the narration of Imaam Ahmad and Ibn Maajah: It was then said: O Messenger of Allaah, who are the strangers? He replied: Those looked down upon in every tribe.
And in the narration of Tirmidhee: So Toobaa for the strangers, those who rectify what the people have corrupted of my Sunnah.
And also in the authentic narration of Imaam Ahmad the Messenger (sas) after being questioned as to who the strangers were, said: Righteous people amidst a majority of evil people. Those who disobey them are greater than those who obey them. This group strives for the ways of correction and reform and carries the torch of revival so that the Muslims awaken and return to the correct form of Islaam.
Let us say to those who turn away, to their own ruin, what Allaah has said to their equals:”No reason have we why we should not put our trust on Allaah. Indeed He Has guided us to the Ways we (follow). We shall certainly bear with patience all the hurt you may cause us. For those who put their trust should put their trust on Allaah” [Ibraaheem 14:12]
WHO ARE THE STRANGERS?
Author: Al-Haafidh Ibn Rajab Al-Hanbalee (736H-795H)
Source: Kashf-ul-Kurbah fee Wasfi Haali Ahlil-Ghurbah
This article is a direct translation and so you may encounter weak ahadeeth and narrations. Please refer to the footnotes for gradings of the ahadeeth.
The strangeness of the Sunnah and its adherents
Concerning the statement of the Prophet r: “Islaam began as something strange and will return to being strange, as it began”, Imaam Al-Awzaa’ee (ra) said: “As for this, then it does not mean that Islaam will go away, but rather it means that the Ahl-us-Sunnah will go away, up to the point that there will not remain in a land, any from them except one person.”
Based on this understanding, there can be found in the statements of the Salaf much praise for the Sunnah and their describing it as being strange, and describing its adherents and followers as being few.
Al-Hasan Al-Basree (ra) used to say to his companions: “Oh Ahl-us-Sunnah! Be gentle with one another and may Allaah have mercy on you. For indeed, you are from amongst the fewest of people.” 
Yoonus Ibn ‘Ubaid (ra) said: “There is not a thing more stranger than the Sunnah. And what is more stranger than it, is the one who knows it.”
Sufyaan Ath-Thawree (ra) said: “Treat the Ahl-us-Sunnah kindly, for verily, they are strangers.”
The understanding of the term “Sunnah” to these scholars, was the way of the Prophet r – that which he and his companions were upon – free from Doubts (Ash-Shubuhaat) and Desires (Ash-Shahawaat). Due to this, Al-Fudail Ibn ‘Iyaad (ra) used to say: “Ahl-us-Sunnah is he who knows what is entering his stomach from the halaal.”
That is because the consumption of halaal is from the greatest aspects of the Sunnah, which the Prophet r and his companions were upon.
Then it remained the custom of the majority of the later scholars, from the scholars of hadeeth and other fields, that the Sunnah consisted of what was free from Doubts in regards to Creed. This was especially the case with issues such as the belief in Allaah, His angels, His books, His messengers, the Last Day, and other issues such as Qadr and the merits of the Sahaabah.
They compiled literary works concerning this knowledge and named them books of “Sunnah”. This knowledge was only labeled with the name “Sunnah”, because its significance was tremendous and all those who opposed it were on the brink of destruction.
And as for the complete Sunnah, then it is the path that is free and safe from Doubts and Desires, as has been stated by Al-Hasan, Yoonus Ibn ‘Ubaid, Sufyaan, Al-Fudail and others besides them. Due to this, its adherents are described as strange because of their small number and rarity in the Last Days.
This is why it has been mentioned in some of the previously stated reports that they are: “A righteous people surrounded by people abounding in much evil. Those who disobey them are greater than those who obey them.” 
In this is an indication of the smallness of their amount in number and in the amount of those who answer and accept their call. We also are made aware of the greatness in number of those who oppose them and disobey them.
That is why it is reported in numerous ahaadeeth, praise for the one who sticks firmly to his Religion during the Last Days. And that he who does so will be like one who holds tightly onto hot pieces of coal. And that the one who acts upon it, will receive fifty times the reward more than those before him. This is because he will not find any supporters in doing good deeds.
These strangers are of two categories: The first of them are those who rectify themselves when the people have become corrupt. The second category contains those who rectify what the people have corrupted of the Sunnah. And this (latter one) is the most highest and virtuous of the two categories.
The strangeness of the believer during the Last Days
At-Tabaraanee and others transmitted with a chain of narration that has some speculation to it from the hadeeth of Abu Umaamah t that the Prophet r said: “Verily, for every matter there is a progression and a regression. And verily from the progression of this Religion is what you used to be upon from blindness and ignorance and what Allaah sent me with. And verily from the progression of this Religion is that the clan was taught (Islaam) by its family members, to the point that there was not found amongst them (the tribes) anyone except for one evildoer or two evildoers. So these two were oppressed and degraded. When they want to speak, they are restrained, subdued and persecuted. And verily from the regression of this Religion is that the tribe acts harshly against its family members, to the point that there is not seen amongst them anyone except one faqeeh (one with understanding) or two faqeehs. Thus they will both be oppressed and degraded. If they speak and command the good and forbid the evil, they are restrained, subdued and persecuted. And they will not find any supporters or helpers in that matter.”
Thus, the believer who is knowledgeable of the Sunnah and who possesses understanding of the Religion, is described in this hadeeth as being one who during the Last Days – at the point of its corruption – will be oppressed, debased and not able to find any helpers or supporters.
At-Tabaraanee also reported with a weak chain of narration on the authority of Ibn Mas’ood t that the Prophet r said: “And verily from its signs (i.e. the Hour) is that the believer will be in the sight of his tribe, more lower (in status) than the young sheep.” 
And it is recorded in the Musnad of Imaam Ahmad that ‘Ubaadah Ibn As-Saamat t said to one of his companions: “It is imminent that should your life be prolonged for you, you will see a man who recites the Qur’aan upon the tongue of Muhammad r repeating it and displaying it, allowing its halaal and forbidding its haraam. He will then be lowered in his status and his position will be neglected amongst you and considered just as the position of a dead donkey.”
And similar to this is the saying of Ibn Mas’ood t: “There will come upon the people a time in which the believer will become lower than the bondmaid.”
Indeed the believer will only be debased in the Last Days due to his strangeness in front of the evildoers from among the people of Doubts and Desires. Every one of them will hate him and abuse him because of his opposing of their way by following his way, and because of the seeking of his goal over their goal, and because of his evidences over what is with them.
And when Dawood At-Taa’ee died, Ibn As-Samaak said: “Indeed Dawood looked with his heart at what was in front of him and the sight of his heart overtook the sight of his eyes. So it was as if he no longer saw what you were looking at, and as if you could not see what he was looking at. And you were amazed at him, and he was amazed at you. It became strange to you that he was alive in the middle of death.”
And from among them was he whose own family and children would hate him due their loathing of his condition.
‘Umar Ibn ‘Abd-il-‘Azeez once heard his wife say: “May Allaah relieve us from you.” So he said: “Ameen.”
Our Salaf (predecessors), during their lifetimes, would mainly describe the believer with strangeness as has preceded in their narrations.
And from the words of Ahmad Ibn ‘Aasim Al-Andaakee, who was one of the biggest scholars at the time of Sulaimaan Ad-Daaraanee, was: “Indeed, I have reached from all the times, a time when Islaam has returned to being strange as it began. In it, the description of truth has returned to being strange as it began. If you were to turn to the scholar, you would find him being tested with the love of this worldly life and the love for honor and authority. And if you were to turn to the worshipper, you would find him ignorant in his worship, deceived and fallen victim to his enemy Iblees. He has mounted to the highest levels of worship while being ignorant of how to perform them so how can he be at that level? And the rest of the people are from among the ignorant followers, simple-minded and quick to follow a way, as if he were a wolf looking to steal a sheep, or a hungry lion, or a fox on the prowl. This is the description of the people of your time from the carriers of knowledge and the Qur’aan and the callers of wisdom.” 
This was the description of the people of his time. So how much has the situation increased and the crisis become greater after it. Indeed, it has reached a point that would have never been thought of nor imagined.
Clinging onto the Sunnah during the time of affliction
At-Tabaraanee reported from the hadeeth of Abu Hurairah t that the Prophet r said: “The one who clings onto my Sunnah at the time of the corruption of my ummah will receive the reward of a martyr.” 
And Abu Ash-Shaikh Al-Asbahaanee reported with a chain connected to Al-Hasan (Al-Basree), that he (ra) said: “If a man from the first generation of Muslims were sent (to us) today, he would not recognize anything from Islaam except for this prayer!”
Then he (ra) said: “I swear by Allaah, that if he were to live to the time of these evils, he would see the innovator calling unto his innovation, or the individual involved with the worldly life calling unto his worldly affairs. Then Allaah would protect him and his heart would long for that which the Salaf As-Saalih (pious predecessors) were upon. And so he would follow their footsteps and act according to their ways. For him there will be a great reward.”
Ibn Al-Mubaarak reported from Al-Fudail from Al-Hasan that he once mentioned the rich and extravagant man who has authority and who amasses wealth claiming that he has no end in it. And then he mentioned the misguided innovator who sets out against the Muslims with an unsheathed sword, changing the meaning of what Allaah has revealed concerning the disbelievers in favor of the Muslims. Then he said: “Your Sunnah, and I swear by the One besides whom there is nothing worthy of worship except Him, is between these two: between the self-sufficient one and the hard-hearted, the extravagant one and the ignorant. So have patience upon it, for indeed, Ahl-us-Sunnah are from amongst the fewest of people, those who do not fall into the category of the extravagant ones in their excessiveness nor do they fall with the innovators in the following of their desires. Rather, they bear with patience upon their Sunnah until they meet their Lord. So be that way, if Allaah wills!” 
Then he (ra) said: “I swear by Allaah, that if a man were to reach these evils, he would hear someone say: ‘Come over to me!’, and someone else say: ‘Come over to me!’ o he would say: ‘No! I do not want anything but the Sunnah of Muhammad r’, seeking after it and asking questions on it. Indeed this one will be given a great reward. So be that way, if Allaah wills!”
 What is meant by the term Ahl-us-Sunnah are all the Muslims who strictly follow the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad r. They learn it, act upon it, enforce it and teach it to others. They consist of the scholars, their students and those that follow in their footsteps.
 This report was recorded by Al-Laalikaa’ee. Badr Al-Badr indicated its weakness in his notes to Kashf-ul-Kurbah. However, a similar narration to this one has been recorded by Ad-Daarimee (1/72) and its wording is: “For verily, Ahl-us-Sunnah are the least of people in number who have preceded, and they are the least of people in number who remain.” This narration is authentic. See Dr. Nasr Al-‘Aql’s book Mafhoom Ahl-is-Sunnati wal-Jamaa’ah (pg. 84)
 This narration was recorded by Al-Laalikaa’ee in his Sharh Usool ‘Itiqaad Ahl-is-Sunnah (1/64) and it was mentioned from him by Ibn Al-Jawzee in Talbees Iblees. Dr. Nasr Al-‘Aql mentioned it in his book Mafhoom Ahl-is-Sunnati wal-Jamaa’ah (pg. 85).
 Musnad Ahmad (2/177) and its checking has been stated previously.
 This saying is based on the following hadeeth attributed to the Prophet r: “Verily, after you there will come times requiring patience. (In those days) the one who holds fast to that which you are upon will have the reward of fifty amongst you. He will receive the reward of fifty (the one holding onto the way of the companions in later times).” This hadeeth was reported by Al-Maroozee in As-Sunnah (no. 35), At-Tabaraanee in Al-Kabeer (17/117), Abu Dawood in his Sunan (no. 3441), At-Tirmidhee (no. 3057), who declared it saheeh, and Ibn Maajah (no. 4014). Shaikh Muhammad Naasir-ud-Deen Al-Albaanee authenticated it in As-Saheehah (no. 494).
 Al-Haithamee (ra) said: “In its chain is ‘Alee Ibn Yazeed and he is rejected.” [Majma’-uz-Zawaa’id: 7/261]. Thus the hadeeth is da’eef (weak).
 The hadeeth is as Ibn Rajab stated in that it has a weak chain of narration, may Allaah have mercy on him. Thus, the hadeeth is da’eef.
 Hilyat-ul-Awliyaa (9/286)
 This is a weak hadeeth reported by Abu Nu’aim who attributes it to At-Tabaraanee. Al-Haithamee (1/172) said: “In the chain is Muhammad Ibn Saalih Al-‘Adawee. I did not find anyone that wrote a biography for him. The rest of the narrators are reliable.” Abu Nu’aim indicated its weakness by labeling it strange from ‘Abd-ul-‘Azeez from ‘Ataa. Thus the hadeeth is da’eef due to the condition of Muhammad Ibn Saalih. See Silsilat-ul-Ahaadeeth Ad-Da’eefah (no. 327) of Shaikh Muhammad Naasir-ud-Deen Al-Albaanee.
 The chain quoted for this report by Ibn Rajab is not authentic. However, a similar narration to this can be found in Sunan Ad-Daarimee (1/71-72). Dr. Nasr Al-‘Aql mentioned it in Mafhoom Ahl-is-Sunnah (pg. 84-85).
 He is Kumail Ibn Ziyaad An-Nakha’ee (ra). He was one of the righteous and noble amongst the Taabi’een. He was captured and killed by Yoosuf Al-Hajaaj Ath-Thaqafee in 82H. See Al-Ma’warifah wat-Taareekh (2/481) of Al-Fasawee (ra).
 The great scholar Abul-‘Izz Al-Hanafee (ra) said in his book Al-Itibaa’ (pg. 86): “In this narration, the Commander of the Believers t has divided the blameworthy carriers of knowledge into three categories: 1) The wicked innovator who is not trustworthy and has no Eemaan. He is the one who rejects the truth which the Book came with, despises the creation and argues about the verses of Allaah without any authority. There is only pride in his heart, 2) the blind-follower that follows without any clear guidance or certainty, and 3) the one who follows the desires of the body and wealth.”
 This report has been transmitted by Abu Nu’aim in Al-Hilyah (1/79) and Al-Khateeb in Al-Faqeeh wal-Mutafaqqih (1/49). Also see Jaami’ Bayaan-ul-‘Ilm of Ibn ‘Abd-il-Barr (2/112) and Al-Bidaayah wan-Nihaayah of Ibn Katheer (9/47). Shaikh Saleem Al-Hilaalee mentioned it in one of his articles in Al-Asaalah magazine (Sha’abaan issue no. 3 of 1413H).
STRANGENESS AND THE STRANGERS
Imam Ibn ul Qayyim al Jawziyyah
Adopted by Ammar ibn Abdullah al-Hindi
Based on a booklet by ibn Qayyim entitled al-Ghurbathu wa al-Ghuraba
“Islam began as something strange, and it shall return to being something strange, so give glad tidings to the strangers.”
The Meaning of “Strangeness”
Many times in many situations the people that follow the religion of Allah feel a sense of not belonging, of being out of place, of not fitting in, and, in other words, of being strange. This feeling could occur in a gathering of non-Muslims, but, unfortunately, this feeling sometimes also occurs when one is with his fellow Muslims. A person sees his brothers and sisters doing acts that are contrary to Islam, or taking part in innovations that sometimes even border on kufr (apostasy), yet he feels that he does not have enough power or courage to stop them in these acts. Some brothers and sisters, especially if they do not have enough taqwa or Islamic knowledge, sometimes buckle under the pressure of their peers and join in these acts, knowing that this is not what Allah wants them to do. However, feeling helpless, since it seems that they are alone in their ideas and without any support to help them do what is right, they succumb to such pressures.
These brothers and sisters, may Allah have mercy on them, should take consolation in the verses of the Qur’an and the many statements of the Prophet (peace be upon him) describing this very situation of strangeness that they feel.
Why Have They Been Called “Strangers”?
Allah says in the Qur’an, “If only there had been, in the generations preceding you, people having wisdom, prohibiting others from evil in the earth; except a few of those whom we have saved from among them.” (Hud 116).
This verse speaks of the few people on earth, the “strangers”, who prohibit mankind from evil. These are the same people the Prophet (peace be upon him) spoke about when he said, “Islam began as something strange, and it shall return to being something strange, so give glad tidings [ar. Tooba. This is a tree in Paradise. So the Prophet (peace be upon him) is giving the good news of Paradise to these strangers.] to the strangers.” It was asked, “Who are those strangers, O Messenger of Allah?” He replied, “Those that correct the people when they become corrupt.” [Reported by Abu Amr al-Dani, from the hadith of ibn Masoud. It is authentic according to al-Albani. Another narration says, “Those that correct my sunnah which has been corrupted by the people after me.”] In another narration he said in response to the same question, “They are a small group of people among a large evil population. Those who oppose them are more than those who follow them.” [Reported by ibn Asaakir. It is authentic according to al-Albani.]
These praiseworthy people are called strangers since they are a small minority among mankind. Thus, Muslims are strangers among mankind; the true believers are strangers among Muslims; and the scholars are strangers among the true believers. And the followers of the Sunnah, those that clear themselves from all peoples of innovation, are likewise strangers.
In reality, however, their strangeness is only because they are the minority and it is not because their actions and beliefs are strange. This is what Allah says in surah al-Anaam, “And if you obey most of the people on Earth, they will lead you astray” (al-Anaam 116). Allah also says, “And most of mankind will not believe, even if you (O Muhammad) desire it eagerly” (Yusuf 103); “And truly, most of mankind are rebellious and disobedient (to Allah).” (al-Maidah 49); “But nay, most of mankind are ungrateful” (Yusuf 38). Therefore, Allah, the all-Knowing Creator, knows the most of mankind will not follow the truth. Instead, only a small group of people will be set apart that truly and correctly believe in Him, the strangers from among mankind.
The strangers in belief, however, and the strangers in character and actions are in reality the majority of mankind, for they are strange to Islam and to the laws that Allah has revealed. Thus we see that there are various types of strangeness, of which some are praiseworthy, some are blameworthy and some are neither praiseworthy or blameworthy. We will discuss these various categories separately below.
The Various Types of Strangeness
You should know, may Allah have mercy upon you, that strangeness is of three types:
The first type of strangeness is the strangeness of the “People of Allah and the People of His Messenger” (peace be upon him), which we mentioned previously. This strangeness is a praiseworthy strangeness, as it has been praised by Allah and His Messenger (peace be upon him). Therefore, this kind of strangeness should be sought and its people must be supported. This strangeness occurs in different times, in different places, and among different peoples. These strangers, then, are the true “People of Allah” for they do not worship ought save Him, and they do not take support from any path except the path of the Prophet (peace be upon him), and they do not call to anything except that which has been brought by the Prophet (peace be upon him). These are the people who left mankind when they (the strangers) were in need of them the most. For, on the Day of Judgment, when all other groups will go with that which they used to worship, they will stay in their places. It will be said to them, “Will you not go as the other people have gone?” They will answer, “We had abandoned the people (in this life), and we were more in need of them then we are today, and we will wait for our Lord whom we used to worship.” [Recorded by al-Bukhari and Muslim]
Thus it is apparent that this strangeness does not cause its bearer any discontent. Rather it is a comforting strangeness, a solace to the believers. This is because he knows that his helpers are Allah, His Messenger and those who believe [This is a reference to verse 55 of surah al-Maidah], even if all of mankind left and abandoned him. These strangers are again described in a hadith narrated by Anas ibn Malik, in which the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “It is possible that a disheveled, dusty person, with not many belongings [Literally, “with two headdresses”], who is not noticed among the people, if he asks of Allah, Allah will fulfill his prayer.” [Reported by at-Tirmidhi and al-Hakim. Al-Albani said it is authentic.] Al-Hasan al-Basri [a very famous Follower – tabi` – known for his piety, asceticism and knowledge] said, “A believer is a stranger in this world, he is never afraid of its humiliation, and he never competes for its glory. The people are in one situation and he is in a different situation. The people are content with him, yet he is in turmoil [Literally, “tired”] with himself.”
From the characteristics of these strangers that the Prophet (peace be upon him) described is the holding on to the sunnah of the Messenger (peace be upon him), even if the people abandon it. They, the strangers, leave all the innovations that their people invent, even if such practices should be common among them. They also stick to tawheed, even if the people corrupt it with shirk. They do not ascribe themselves to anything besides Allah and His Prophet (peace be upon him); they do not, that is, ascribe themselves to a shaikh, tariqah, particular madhhab or a group of people. They are dedicated only to Allah, with their sincere worship of Him and Him alone, and to His Prophet (peace be upon him), by following the path that he followed. These are the people who grasp the glowing hot embers [A reference to the hadith that is to follow], even though most of mankind – nay, all of them – blame them for this. This is the meaning of the statements of the Prophet (peace be upon him) alluding to the fact that they stick to his sunnah, even if the people corrupt it.
Allah, all praise be to Him, sent His Prophet (peace be upon him) when mankind followed different religions, for there were those who worshipped rivers and trees, and there were those who worshipped idols, and there were Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians. Islam, when it first appeared among these people, was strange to them. If a person from among them accepted Islam and followed the call of Allah and His Prophet (peace be upon him), he would be shunned by his family and his tribe. He would live the life of a stranger among his people. Eventually, however, Islam spread far and wide. The Muslims became stronger and stronger, so much so that the strangers were those that did not accept the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
But, alas, Satan deceived mankind again. People took to the ways that their forefathers, who had accepted Islam, had abandoned until, finally, Islam became strange again, just like it had started and just like the Prophet (peace be upon him) had foretold. Nay, indeed, rather the true Islam – that which the Prophet (peace be upon him) and his Companions were following [this is a reference to the reply that the Prophet (peace be upon him) gave when asked what the characteristics of the “Saved Group” were] has become even stranger to the people then when it initially appeared, even though its outward signs and external relics are well known and widespread. [This is what ibn al-Qayyim, wrote in the 8th Century of the Hijrah, wrote. Imagine our situations six centuries after him. May Allah protect us.]
How can it not be so, when these strangers are only one group among seventy-two others [the Prophet (peace be upon him) said in an authentic hadith that this Ummah would divide into seventy-three groups, all of which would go to Hell except the one Saved Group.], each of which follows its own desires and takes its passions as gods? Those are the groups that base their teachings on doubts and innovations and whose sole purpose is the gratification of their own desires. Thus, the group whose goal is to achieve the pleasure of Allah by following the path of His Messenger (peace be upon him) will be the strange one among all of the other groups.
This is why the true Muslims – those that adamantly cling to the Sunnah – will have the reward of fifty Companions. When the Prophet (peace be upon him) was asked about the verse, “O you who believe! Take care of your own selves. If you follow right guidance, no harm can come to you from those who err” (al-Maidah 105), he said, “Nay indeed, order good and forbid evil until you see stinginess being obeyed, and desires being followed, and this world preferred [over the next], and each person being deluded by his own opinions. Then take care of yourself and leave the common people. For indeed, after you there will be days of patience, where patience will be like holding on to glowing embers. Whoever is able to do this will have the reward of fifty people that do like him.” They asked, “O Messenger of Allah, the reward of fifty of them?” He replied, “The reward of fifty of you” [Recorded by al-Tirmidhi and Abu Dawud with a weak chain but it has supporting evidence. Al-Albani calls it sahih. See al-Sahiha, #957]. This reward is due to his strangeness among the people.
So, if the believer whom Allah has blessed with wisdom and knowledge wants to tread upon this path, the path of Allah, then let him be prepared to resign himself to the life of a stranger among his people, just like his predecessors who accepted Islam were treated by the people. For indeed, he will be a stranger in his beliefs, because his people have corrupted their beliefs. He will be a stranger in his religion, due to what the people have done to it. He will be a stranger in his manner of praying, because the people are ignorant of the prayer of the Prophet (peace be upon him). He will be a stranger in his ordering of good and prohibiting evil, for the people have taken what is evil as good and they have abandoned what is good as evil. In short, then, he will be a stranger in all his matters of this world and the Hereafter, calling to the path of Allah and withstanding the harm of all those that go against him.
As for the second type of strangeness, then know, O reader, that this strangeness is the blameworthy strangeness, for its people are the evil sinners, the ignorant and the arrogant of mankind. Their strangeness is due to their refusal to follow the correct and straight path of Allah. This strangeness is the strangeness of not conforming to the religion of Islam and, as such, it will remain strange even if its followers are numerous, its power is strong and its existence is widespread. These are the strangers to Allah. May Allah keep us from becoming one of them.
The third category of strangeness is, in essence, neither praiseworthy or blameworthy. It is the strangeness that a traveler experiences when he travels to a different country, like a person who lives in a place for a short period of time, knowing that he has to move on. One aspect of this strangeness is that all of us, whether we realize it or not, are strangers in this world, for we will all go one day to our permanent abode in the Hereafter. This is the meaning of the hadith of the Prophet (peace be upon him) when he told Abdullah ibn Umar, “Live in this world as though you are a stranger or a wayfarer.” Thus, this category of strangeness has the potential to become a praiseworthy strangeness if we realize the meaning of this statement of Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him).
We pray that Allah bless us to be Muslims, knowledgeable and pious, and that He forgive us our sins and bless us with His Mercy.
Glorified be your Lord, the Lord of Honor and Power! (He is free) from what they attribute to Him And Peace be on the Messengers. And all Praise and thanks be to the Allah, the Lord of the Worlds.
AL-GHURABAA – THE STRANGERS
The concept of Ghurbah – Strangeness:
The Arabic word “Ghurabaa`”, is the plural of the word “Ghareeb” which is a derivative of the word “Gharaba” – which means, “to go away, depart, absent o.s., withdraw (from), leave (s.o., s.th.)”. The word “Ghareeb” means, “strange, foreign, alien, extraneous” (see Hans Wehr Dictionary).
It has been reported from the Messenger of Allah SAW, which has been authenticated by al-‘Allaamah al-Muhaddith al-Albaani in his Sahih al-Jami’ as-Sagheer – that he SAW said: “Indeed Islaam began as something strange. And it will return as something strange the way it began. So give glad tidings to the strangers”.
Indeed this is the promise of the Messenger of Allah SAW who… “… does not speak from his desire. It is only a Revelation revealed…” (Q. 53:3-4).
This Hadeeth from the blessed tongue of Muhammad SAW shows us the true nature of the Islaamic revival. The Islaamic revival that took place over 1400 years from now in the Arabian Peninsula had this nature of “strangeness” and indeed, the revival we are witnessing in our time also has the very same nature. This is so because the history is the proof that the people who rejected faith in Allah and disobeyed Him usually outnumbered those who were loyal to Allah and His Messenger SAW. Those who confirmed to the oneness of Allah were always in the minority and thus became the “Strangers” in the community for going against the current of the society they were living in.
Sheikh Jamaalud-Deen Zarabozo outlines this in “The Friday Prayer Part III” p.62: “Allah says in the Quran, ‘And most of the mankind would not believe even if you desire it eagerly’ (Yusuf 103).
Allah also says, ‘But most of Mankind refuses [the truth and accepts nothing] but disbelief’ (al-Isra 89)
In yet another verse, Allah states, ‘Indeed we have brought the truth to you but most of them have a hatred for the truth’ (al-Zukhruf 78).
In these verses and, in fact, in numerous other places in the Quran, Allah has told us that the majority of mankind refuses to follow the truth. Indeed, a hadith in Sahih Muslim describes that all of mankind, nine hundred and ninety nine out of every one thousand will be in the Hellfire.
This means that the true believers will always be in minority. As they look around themselves they will see the majority of mankind turning their backs on the teachings and guidance of Allah. They prefer disbelief and disobedience to faith and obedience to Allah.
The believer will look like a stranger in their midst. His beliefs, actions and way of life will be completely different from theirs. The disbelievers may even do their best to make him feel like a stranger, someone who does not belong, someone with strange ideas and practices. They may be ridiculed. Psychological pressures may be put upon them. The media may attack them and so forth.”
“Indeed Islaam began as something Strange…”
This strangeness is not something new with this Ummah in particular, rather it existed amongst all the others Prophets and Messengers before Muhammad SAW. From amongst them was the great messenger, Nooh, who gave Da’wah to his people for 950 years and they rejected and mocked him. Lut gave da’wah to his people but the Kuffaar in response mocked him and tried to exile him and attacked his honour. Ibraaheem called his people to Allah by which he went against the norm of his community and consequently stepped on people’s feet, for which he was persecuted, and thrown into the fire. Moosa also called the Fir’awn and his people to worship Allah alone, where the former rejected his call from the first day and was destroyed, and the latter ones, in the absence of Moosa began to worship a calf besides Allah. ‘Isa ibnu Maryam called the people to worship Allah alone and he had to pay the price just like his predecessors, by being persecuted and mocked by his own people, so Allah raised him up and he is alive until this day of ours and will return before the Day of Judgment.
Then how may one forget the most noble of the sons of Adam – Muhammad ibn ‘Abdillah – may Allah’s Salaah and Salaam be upon him. His entire biography from the beginning till the end shows us how he stood up with the call of Tawheed on the methodology of the Prophets who went before him. How his own people turned against him and mocked him and how this “truthful” and “trustworthy” person was overnight labeled as a magician, a poet, a mad man, ‘the one who seeks power’ and so on. So the Muslims in the early stages were in a state of “Ghurbah” – Strangeness, as the Messenger of Allah SAW said,
“Indeed Islaam began as something strange…”.
“… and it will return as something strange the way it began…”
This indicates that the return of Islaam is a fact and that it must take the same route and methodology, and must go through the same phases of difficulties and hardship that the early Muslims went through. This is why Imaam Maalik – May Allah have mercy upon him – said that the latter part of this Ummah will not be corrected except by what corrected its earliest part. Therefore it is inevitable that this path of Islaamic revival must consist of firm faith in all that Allah has sent down. Likewise it is inevitable that the Muslims will have to go through hardship, endless struggle, persecution, exile and all that the first part of this Ummah went through due to their correct faith.
So we noticed the decline of Islaam as the time went until the Muslims were left without Khilaafah, and Kufr and Shirk began to creep into the Muslim ranks in its various forms, from grave worshipping to secularism. The people of innovations and desires were at last set free to spread their diseases throughout the Muslim lands. The aggressive Kuffaar invaded Muslim lands and enforced their religion of Kufr over the Muslim people. Even when they left, they installed a person with a Muslim name who implemented the same Kufr as his predecessors. This caused Islaam to nearly fade away from the lives of the Muslims.
In the midst of this calamity, Allah raised amongst this Ummah various personalities amongst the scholars, the du’aat (those who call to Islaam), intellectuals, thinkers, authors and the Mujaahideen in order to help and aid His Deen. The appearance of these personalities is not something new in this century; rather these people appeared through out the Islaamic history. It is the promise of Allah, by the tongue of His Messenger SAW, that there will always be a party amongst this Ummah, which will hold the flag of Tawheed high up, as the Prophet SAW said: “There will never seize to exist a group from my Ummah being apparent on the truth, those who forsake them will not be able to harm them.” (Muslim).
They will cure this Ummah of the diseases and corruption and will act as shields against foreign beliefs, ideologies and innovations that steal away the beauty of Islaam. These people are indeed very few in number, so consequently they will become the victims of strangeness. As the Prophet SAW said about them that they are…
“Those who are righteous when the people have become corrupt.” (Ahmad and Ibn Hibbaan and others. Sahih by supporting evidences, see “The Friday Prayer” by Jamalud-Deen Zarabozo)
Or in another narration: “A small group of pious people in a large group of evil people. Those who disobey them are more than those who obey them.” (Ahmad and Ibn Hibbaan and others. Hasan, see “The Friday Prayer” by Jamalud-Deen Zarabozo)
Today by the grace of Allah we can see the return of Islaam in front of our very eyes, by the return of the youth to Islaam and Jihaad. Many of us who started practicing this Deen most probably went through the early stages of strangeness. When a person merely begins to take interest in Islaam, and the materialistic society around him/her begins to view this person as a stranger. When this interest leads a person to increase his knowledge in Islaam, this person becomes more of a stranger by actually spending some of the time reading so-called ‘religious’ books, where as the time could have been spent reading some fiction-novel. Then this individual puts the knowledge to practice by making Wudoo and establishing Salaah five times a day, giving Zakaah, fasting in Ramadhaan and making Hajj. If this person is a brother then he grows a beard and if this is a sister, then she wears the Islaamic Hijaab and thus becomes even more of a stranger in her own household! Then this person takes on the duty of spreading the Message of the Messengers on his/her shoulders, by either speaking to the lost sheep of this Ummah on one-to-one basis, writing articles or giving lectures. Thus becoming a stranger amongst those practicing Muslims who practice the basics of Islaam but do not take the responsibility of taking it to others. Then this person goes a step further and devotes his/her life either seeking knowledge of Islaam, or living his entire life on a mountain in some trench writing the history of Islaam with his blood. This person becomes even more of a stranger amongst those practicing Muslims who take this message to others, but could not devote their lives to seeking knowledge or making Jihaad in His way.
These are the strangers who are the torchbearers of Tawheed, those who restore the honour of this Ummah and bring back to her the peace and security she once enjoyed.
These are the strangers who were given the glad tidings of the Paradise, as in the last part of the Hadeeth the Prophet SAW said:
“So Toobah for the Ghurabaa`”.
“…So Tooba for the Ghurabaa`”
The word “Tooba” is the name of a tree in Paradise that is promised to the strangers in this world. Regarding the word “Tooba”, Sheikh Jamaalud-Deen Zarabozo said the following in his work, “The Friday Prayer Part III” p. 66.
“The Prophet SAW has given the glad tidings of a tree in Paradise for those who have to live as strangers because the people are deviating from the teachings of the Quran and sunnah. What is the characteristic of this tree in Paradise? The Prophet SAW explained that also when he said, “Tuba is a tree in Paradise. The time it takes to transverse it is one hundred years. The clothing of the inhabitants of Paradise are taken from its sheaths.” [Sh. Al-Albaani called it Hasan in Silsila al-Ahadeeth as-Sahihah, v. 4 p. 639]
This glad tiding of the tree of Tuba for the strangers should make us all wish, strive and aspire to be from among the strangers in this time in which Islam has truly become strange again.”
May Allah make us from the strangers in this world and the inheritors of Tooba in the Hereafter – Ameen.