Strangeness and the
By Imam Ibn ul Qayyim al Jawziyyah
Adoptted 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
Quran and the many statements of the Prophet (saws) describing
this very situation of strangeness that they feel.
Why Have They Been Called "Strangers"?
Allah says in the Quran,
"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." (Qur'an 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 (saws) 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 (saws) 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
"And if you
obey most of the people on Earth, they will lead you astray"
(Qur'an al-Anaam 116).
Allah also says,
of mankind will not believe, even if you (O Muhammad) desire it
eagerly" (Qur'an Yusuf 103);
most of mankind are rebellious and disobedient (to Allah)."
(Qur'an al-Maidah 49)
most of mankind are ungrateful" (Qur'an 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
either 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" (saws), which we mentioned previously. This strangeness
is a praiseworthy strangeness, as it has been praised by Allah and
His Messenger (saws). 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 (saws), and they do
not call to anything except that which has been brought by the Prophet
(saws). 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-Bukhaari 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
These strangers are again described
in a hadith narrated by Anas ibn Malik, in which the Prophet (saws)
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 fulfil 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 (saws) described is the holding on to the Sunnah
of the Messenger (saws), 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 (saws); 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
(saws), 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
(saws) 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 (saws) 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 (saws), 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 (saws).
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 (saws) had foretold.
Nay, indeed, rather the true Islam - that which the Prophet (saws)
and his Companions were following [this is a reference to the reply
that the Prophet (saws) 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
How can it not be so, when these
strangers are only one group among seventy-two others [the Prophet
(saws) 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
(saws) 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 (saws)
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" (Qur'an al-Maidah
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 (saws). 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 (saws) 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 Allahs Messenger (saws).
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
Honour 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.