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Strangeness and the Strangers

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  • Sheikh Mehdi abd al Qadir Malang
    Strangeness and the Strangers Imâm Ibn Qayyim al Jawziyyah [Adopted by Ammar ibn Abdullah al-Hindi Based on a booklet by ibn Qayyim entitled al-Ghurbathu wa
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 26, 2006
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      Strangeness and the Strangers
      Imâm Ibn Qayyim al Jawziyyah
      [Adopted by Ammar ibn Abdullah al-Hindi Based on a booklet by
      ibn Qayyim
      entitled "al-Ghurbathu wa al-Ghuraba" Some modifications and
      additions have
      been made, (c) 1994 Basheer Publications]
      "Islâm 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
      Allâh
      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 Islâm, 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 taqwâ or Islamic
      knowledge,
      sometimes buckle under the pressure of their peers and join in these
      acts,
      knowing that this is not what Allâh 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 Allâh have mercy on them, should take
      consolation in the verses of the Qur'ân 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"?
      Allâh says in the Qur'ân, "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."
      (Hûd:
      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, "Islâm began as something strange, and it
      shall
      return to being something strange, so give glad tidings [Ar. Tûba.
      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 Allâh?" He replied, "Those that
      correct the
      people when they become corrupt." [Reported by Abû Amr al-Dani, from
      the
      hadîth of ibn Masûd. It is authentic according to al-Albânî. 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
      Asâkir. It is authentic according to al-Albânî.]
      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 sûrah al-An'âm, "And if you obey most of the people on
      Earth,
      they will lead you astray" (al-An'âm:116). Allâh also says, "And
      most of
      mankind will not believe, even if you (O Muhammad) desire it eagerly"
      (Yûsuf: 103); "And truly, most of mankind are rebellious and
      disobedient (to
      Allâh)." (al-Mâ'idah 49); "But nay, most of mankind are ungrateful"
      (Yûsuf
      38). Therefore, Allâh, 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 Allâh 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 Allâh have mercy upon you, that strangeness is
      of three
      types:
      The first type of strangeness is the strangeness of the "People of
      Allâh 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 Allâh 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
      Allâh" 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-Bukhârî 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 Allâh, His
      Messenger and those who believe [This is a reference to verse 55 of
      sûrah
      al-Mâ'idah], even if all of mankind left and abandoned him. These
      strangers
      are again described in a hâdîth narrated by Anas ibn Mâlik, 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 Allâh, Allâh will
      fulfill his
      prayer." [Reported by at-Tirmidhî and al-Hâkim. Al-Albânî said it is
      authentic.] Al-Hasan al-Basrî [a very famous Follower - tâbî` -
      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, tarîqah, particular madhhab or a group of people. They are
      dedicated
      only to Allâh, 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
      hadîth
      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.
      Allâh, 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. Islâm, when it first appeared
      among these
      people, was strange to them. If a person from among them accepted
      Islâm and
      followed the call of Allâh 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, Islâm 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 Islâm, had abandoned until, finally,
      Islâm
      became strange again, just like it had started and just like the
      Prophet
      (peace be upon him) had foretold. Nay, indeed, rather the true
      Islâm - 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
      hadîth 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 Allâh 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-Mâ'idah 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 Allâh,
      the reward of fifty of them?" He replied, "The reward of fifty of
      you"
      [Recorded by al-Tirmidhî and Abû Dâwûd with a weak chain but it has
      supporting evidence. Al-Albânî calls it sâhîh. See al-Sahîhah,
      #957]. This
      reward is due to his strangeness among the people.
      So, if the believer whom Allâh has blessed with wisdom and knowledge
      wants
      to tread upon this path, the path of Allâh, 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 Allâh 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 Allâh.
      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 Allâh. May Allâh 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 hadîth 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 Allâh's Messenger (peace be upon him).
      We pray that Allâh 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 Allâh, the Lord of the Worlds.
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