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Rufai Oladimeji
, Nigeria.
Question

What is the meaning of this hadeeth
(prophetic narration): “Islam began
as something strange and will
revert to being strange as it
began.”?

Answer

Praise be to Allah.
This hadeeth was narrated by
Muslim (145) from Abu Hurayrah
(may Allah be pleased with him)
who said: The Messenger of Allah
(peace and blessings of Allah be
upon him) said: “Islam began as
something strange and will revert to
being strange as it began, so give
glad tidings to the strangers.”
Al-Sindi said in Hashiyat Ibn Majah:
“Strange” refers to the small
number of its adherents. The basic
meaning of ghareeb (a stranger) is
being far from one's homeland.
“And will revert to being strange”
refers to the small number of those
who will adhere to its teachings
even though its followers are many.
“So give glad tidings to the
strangers” means those who follow
its commands. “Tooba (glad tidings)”
has been interpreted as meaning
Paradise or a great tree in Paradise.
This shows that supporting Islam
and following its commands may
require leaving one's homeland and
being patient in bearing the
difficulties of being a stranger, as
was the case in the beginning.
In Sharh Saheeh Muslim, Al-Nawawi
quoted al-Qadi ‘Iyad as saying
concerning the meaning of this
hadeeth:

“Islam began among a few
individuals, then it spread and
prevailed, then it will reduce in
numbers until there are only a few
left, as it was in the beginning.”
It says in Fatawa al-Lajnah al-
Daimah, 2/170:
The meaning of this hadeeth is that
Islam began as something strange,
when the Messenger of Allah (peace
and blessings of Allah be upon him)
called people to Islam, but no one
responded except a few here and
there. At that time it was
something strange because its
people were like strangers amongst
others and they were few in number
and weak, in contrast to the great
numbers and strength of their
enemies who persecuted the
Muslims. Then some of them
migrated to Abyssinia, fleeing for
the sake of their religion from
tribulation and to save themselves
from persecution and oppression,
and the Messenger of Allah (peace
and blessings of Allah be upon him)
migrated at Allah’s command to
Madeenah, after suffering intense
persecution and in the hope that
Allah would give him people to
support him in his call and support
Islam. Allah fulfilled his hopes,
granted victory to his troops and
supported His slave.

The Islamic state was established
and Islam spread, with the help of
Allah, throughout the land; Allah
made the word of kufr (disbelief)
lowest and the word of Allah is
(always) uppermost, for Allah is
Almighty, All-Wise, and honour,
power and glory belong to Allah, and
to His Messenger (peace and
blessings of Allah be upon him), and
to the believers [cf al-Munafiqoon
63:8]. This continued for a long
time, then division and dissent
spread among the Muslims and
weakness and failure increased
gradually, until Islam once again
became something strange as it was
in the beginning. But this is not
because of their small numbers,
because at that time they will be
many, rather it is because they do
not adhere to their religion or cling
to the Book of their Lord and the
teachings of the Messenger of Allah
(peace and blessings of Allah be
upon him), apart from those whom
Allah wills. So they become
distracted and turn to competing in
worldly matters, like those who
came before them, and they fight
amongst themselves for leadership.
So the enemies of Islam found a
way in and they colonized their
lands, humiliated their people and
treated them badly. This is the way
in which Islam returned to being
strange as it was in the beginning.
A number of scholars – including
Shaykh Muhammad Rasheed Rida –
thought that this hadeeth gives glad
tidings of a second victory of Islam
after it becomes something strange
again. They base this on the
metaphor used by the Prophet
(peace and blessings of Allah be
upon him) when he said, “… will
revert to being strange as it began.”
So just as following the initial
strangeness and alienation the
Muslims were victorious and Islam
spread, this will happen again after
the second period of strangeness
and alienation.

This view is more likely to be
correct, and is supported by what is
proven in the ahadeeth (reports)
about the Mahdi and the descent of
‘Eesa (peace be upon him) at the
end of time, when Islam will spread
and the Muslims will be victorious,
and kufr and the kafirs (non-
Muslims) will be defeated.
And Allah is the Source of strength.
May Allah send blessings and peace
upon our Prophet Muhammad and
upon his family and companions.

islamqa.info/en/answers/45855/islam-began-as-something-strange

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