Glad Tidings to the Strangers

by Shaykh 'Abdullah Ateeq Al-Harbee (hafidhahullaah)

After praising Allaah, and asking Allaah to send peace and blessings upon the Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم), his family, his companions, and those who follow them til the Day of Judgment, the shaykh began:  

Indeed, it has been authentically narrated from the Messenger of Allaah (صلى الله عليه وسلم), who said (what means): Bada Al-Islamu ghariban Wa sa ya-'udhu ghariban kama bada`aa Fa tooba lil ghuraba (Islam began as strange, and it will return strange as it began, so glad tidings to the strangers). [Muslim]

Today's gathering [lecture] will regard the explanation of this hadeeth and its understanding, by the permission of Allaah ('azza wa jall). 

The Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said in the beginning of the hadeeth: Islam began as strange. Indeed, Allaah ('Azza wa jall) sent Muhammad (صلى الله عليه وسلم) after a break in the sending of the Messengers. So after raising 'Iesa (Jesus, son of Maryam) to the heavens, He did not send a Prophet until sending Muhammad (صلى الله عليه وسلم). The people lived in ignorance and darkness, and were in a state of kufr (disbelief) and shirk (polytheism), except for a few from the People of the Book. So, kufr and tughian (oppression) had encompassed the whole of the earth.

Allaah (Subhanahu wa Ta'aala) intended good for mankind. Therefore, He sent His Messenger (Muhammad, صلى الله عليه وسلم) in order to take mankind away from the worship of the people and slaves to the worship of Allaah (Jalla wa 'Alla), and in order to take them from the darkness of kufr and shirk to the light of Al-Islaam.

So when the Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم) was initially sent, and he began to call the people to the worship of Allaah alone, Islaam at that point was something that was strange. And nobody believed in him (صلى الله عليه وسلم) apart from one or two men, his wife and a child. So Islaam began as something strange.

Then Allaah ('Azza wa jall) gave victory to the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم), and Islaam was spread upon the earth, and indeed the Qur`an was manifest. And people entered into the religion of Allaah (Jalla wa 'Alla) in droves. And Allaah informed - upon the tongue of the Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم) - that Islaam shall return to being strange, just as it began. So how would that be when Islaam had already spread upon the earth - its East and its West?

Yes, Islaam did return as strange - even to Muslim lands. And [even] among the Muslims, the true and correct Islam that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) was sent with has become something strange.

So, for instance, you'll find the Muslim who says La illaaha il Allaah (which means: none has the right to be worshipped in truth except Allaah) yet seeks refuge in other than Allaah, contradicting the testification of Tawheed. Or you'll see the Muslim who says La illaaha il Allaah yet says, "Ya RasulAllaah, give us rain", or "Wali such and such, help me in this affair." And from them are those who believe there is benefit in other than Allaah: that we may call on other than Allaah to benefit us. And from them are those who believe those other than Allaah can harm us - without the Qadr (decree) of Allaah.

And from them, you will find individuals who believe - or will say - they know the Ghayb (Unseen). And from them, you will find individuals who say La illaaha il Allaah, but they distance themselves from the worship of Allaah (Jall wa 'Alla) and the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allaah.

And from them are those who call to the authentic Sunnah, and [their] call is looked at as strange among [their] own people of Al-Islaam.

This is one of the signs of the Prophethood of the Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم), who informed this would happen. And indeed it has taken place as the Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم) informed us. ... 

[This] type of strangeness is the strangeness of Ahlul-Deen, and this is a strangeness that is mamdouha (good). The intent is a person holds onto the religion of Allaah while among the people of dalaala(misguidance) and kufr and shirk and bid'ah (heresy) and ma'siya (sins). So this strangeness is mahmouda (praiseworthy), because for this individual there will be great reward due to the good he's upon, and opposing the people distant from the deen of Allaah ('Azza wa jall) and the Sunnah of His Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم). So you will find this type of stranger obeying Allaah's commands in all his affairs and carrying out the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allaah (صلى الله عليه وسلم).

And this type of praiseworthy strangeness differs from land to land. So you will find in some places that this type of strangeness is not present due to the great presence of the Sunnah, whereas in another place, that strangeness may be present due to the presence of kufr, bid'ah, shirk, and widespread nature of that. This is the strangeness for whom the stranger will find a tremendous reward with Allaah (Subhanahu wa Ta'aala).

If this type of strangeness is praiseworthy, and the Messenger of Allaah (صلى الله عليه وسلم) has praised the individual who has this type of strangeness, then what are the characteristics of this type of stranger? And what is it that distinguishes this stranger from everyone else. Many of the scholars have mentioned many of the characteristics of these strangers.

The characteristics [of these strangers] are many. We'll mention some, in shaa` Allaah:

1- The first of those characteristics is Ifradullaahi Ta'aala, that they single out Allaah with 'ibada (worship), knowing that He is alone without partner. So they do not worship except Allaah; they do not pray save to Allaah; they do not fast except for Allaah; they do not perform dhikr except for Allaah; they do not recite Qur`an except for Allaah; they do not seek refuge except with Allaah; they do not seek aid except from Allaah; and they do not rely except on Allaah (Jalla wa 'Alla). So if he says La illaaha il Allaah and he understands its meaning, he puts it into practice. And it was for this reason that when the 'Arabs said La illaaha il Allaah, they would abandon all those things that were worshipped besides Allaah. Those mushrikun (idolators) who entered Islaam at the hand of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) would leave all those idols, and throw them behind their back, because they knew the meaning of La illaaha il Allaah [none has the right to be worshipped in truth except Allaah alone, or none is worshipped in truth except Allaah alone]. 

Astonishing is the condition today of many Muslims, who say La illaaha il Allaah but don't know the meaning. We'll see that one says La illaaha il Allaah, but you'll find him seeking refuge in other than Allaah. So [that person] did not affirm or apply La illaaha il Allaah. [Another] says La illaaha il Allaah, but he seeks aid from other than Allaah. So this person didn't single out Allaah with worship, as Allaah (Jalla wa 'Alla) did not create us except to worship Him alone without partner. Allaah says (what means):

And I (Allaah) created not the jinns and humans except they should worship Me (Alone). (Adh-Dhariyat, ayah 56)

And also: And indeed it has been revealed to you (O Muhammad), as it was to those (Allaah's Messengers) before you: "If you join others in worship with Allaah, (then) surely (all) your deeds will be in vain, and you will certainly be among the losers." (Az-Zumar, ayah 65)

So Allaah ('Azza wa jall) has commanded us with Tawheed and has prohibited us from that which opposes it (shirk). Therefore, the greatest of the characteristics of these strangers is they hold onto at-Tawheed, singling out Allaah in each and every act of worship; they leave off shirk, distance themselves from it, have a strong fear of falling into it; and give da'wa to at-Tawheed, calling the creation to single out Allaah with each and every act of worship.

2- The second of the characteristics that the scholars have mentioned concerning the strangers is their following of the Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم), and taking his words over the words of anyone of the creation.

Allaah (subhanahu wa ta'aala) says: O you who believe! Do not put (yourselves) forward before Allaah and His Messenger, and fear Allaah. Verily! Allaah is All-Hearing, All-Knowing. (Al-Hujurat, ayah 1)

And likewise the statement of Allaah: Indeed in the Messenger of Allaah (Muhammad) you have a good example to follow, for him who hopes in (the Meeting with) Allaah and the Last Day and remembers Allaah much. (Al-Ahzab, ayah 21)

And likewise: Say (O Muhammad to mankind): If you (really) love Allaah then follow me (i.e. accept Islamic Monotheism, follow the Qur`an and the Sunnah), Allaah will love you and forgive you of your sins. And Allaah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. (Aali 'Imran, ayah 31)

Therefore, the strangers do not take the word of anyone over the word of the Messenger of Allaah (صلى الله عليه وسلم). Therefore, he is their example and he is their guide in regard to actions and statements. So you'll find the strangers not praying except as the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) prayed, not fasting except as he fasted, and they remember Allaah with dhikr as the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) did; and likewise from other acts of worship, you'll find them not doing so except as the Messenger of Allaah (صلى الله عليه وسلم) did. And likewise in regards to them dealing with their wife, children, neighbors, and kufar, and other than them, you'll find that the ghuraba (strangers) are those who follow the Messenger of Allaah (صلى الله عليه وسلم) in all of those affairs.

It is for that reason that the Muslim who tries to be from amongst the ghuraba (strangers) takes the Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم) as his example in all his affairs, with regards to acts of worship and character. Because the Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم) was noble and generous, and likewise he was Raufun Rahim (kind and merciful) with the believers, as Allaah ('Azza wa jall) said concerning him: And verily, you (O Muhammad) are on an exalted standard of character. (Al-Qalam, ayah 4)

And when we analyze his life, we find that he (صلى الله عليه وسلم) actualized (applied) the Qur`an in every aspect of his life. And when he was asked (recorded as a hadeeth in the saheeh of Ibn Khuzaimah and others) about the action that most enter people into Jannah, he (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said in response: taqwaAllaah (fear of Allaah) and husnul khuluq (good character).
So, oh Muslim, how did the Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم) deal with other people, Muslims or other than them? And we find him (صلى الله عليه وسلم), likewise, the most distant of the people from the muharamat (the prohibited). So, for example, he was the most distant of people from zina (adultery), ribaa (usury, interest), gheiba (backbiting), and namima (tale-spreading). Therefore, it is important that the Muslim follows the Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم) in every aspect of his life. He (صلى الله عليه وسلم) was the most righteous of men, and he was deserving of being followed.

3Also from the characteristics of the ghuraba is that we find them having sabr (patience) in this dunya upon the hardships. Do not doubt, brothers, that this dunya is a land of tests and trials. And in it is good, and in it is other than good. In it is health and sickness. In it is poverty and wealth. And this is from the Sunnah of Allaah, with His creation. He tests His slaves by way of these hardships. Allaah (Subhanahu wa Ta'aala) says (what means):

Or think you that you will enter Paradise without such (trials) as came to those who passed away before you? They were afflicted with severe poverty and ailments, and were so shaken that even the Messenger and those who believed along with him said, "When (will come) the Help of Allaah?" Yes! Certainly, the Help of Allaah is near! (Al-Baqarah, ayah 214)

Allaah also said:

And certainly, We shall test you with something of fear, hunger, loss of wealth, lives and fruits, but give glad tidings to As-Saabirin (the patient ones), who, when afflicted with calamity, say: Inna lillaahi wa inna ilayhi raji'oon (Truly! To Allaah we belong and truly, to Him we shall return). They are those on whom are the Salawaat (i.e. blessings, etc.) (i.e. who are blessed and will be forgiven) from their Lord, and (they are those who) receive His Mercy, and it is they who are the guided ones. (Al-Baqarah, ayat 155-157)

And there are many other ayat that indicate this dunya is a life of tests. Therefore, we must couple this 'ilm (knowledge) with sabr upon the trials that come to us. And this is from our Eeman in the Qadr that we have sabr upon the harms that come to us.

And as the Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said [in a hadeeth recorded in Saheeh Muslim]: "Indeed amazing is the affair of the mu`min (believer). And this is not for anyone except the believer. If he is given something good, he is thankful, and this is good for him. And if he is afflicted with a hardship, then he is patient, and it is good for him."

Therefore, it's a must that these hardships will come to us. And when these hardships come to us, in that which is connected to our lives and daily affair, then it is for us to be patient. And the mu`min will only increase in Eeman and belief in Allaah when these hardships come. And with patience, he will obtain the highest of stations and levels. When we analyze the best of mankind - al-anbiya` (the prophets, 'alaihimus sallam) - we see they were afflicted with these trials, and some of them were killed.

4- And from the characteristics of the strangers of Ahlus-Sunna wal Jama'ah is the love they have for one another, and that is because Allaah (Subhanahu wa Ta'aala) revealed: The believers are nothing else than brothers (in Islaamic religion). So make reconciliation between your brothers, and fear Allaah, that you may receive mercy. (Al-Hujurat, ayah 10)

And the Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم) explained the tightest bond of Eeman is to love for Allaah and hate for the sake of Allaah

. On the authority of Ibn 'Abbas (radiallaahu 'anhummaa), who said that Allaah's Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم) asked Abu Dharr: "What is the firmest handhold of Eeman?" So he replied, "Allaah and His Messenger know best." He (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said: Allegiance for the sake of Allaah, and enmity for the sake of Allaah. And love for the sake of Allaah, and hatred for the sake of Allaah. [Al-Albaanee declared it hasan in As-Silsilatus-Saheeh (4/307, no. 1768)]

From the Sunnah, we know that a man who was travelling to a land to visit another man was asked by an angel, "For what reason are you going to visit this man?" and was also asked "Is it for something you want from him?" So the person said he was not going to visit him except out of love for Allaah (for the sake of Allaah). So then, the angel told him that, because of that, Allaah loved him.

So the believer should love his brother; we should excuse each other for some of our mistakes and shortcomings. [Note: this aspect of forgiving personal harm and overlooking the ignorance of the oppressors is not to be confused with mistakes in 'aqeeda (creed) or manhaj (methodology), which must be corrected - and not overlooked.]

The Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said: "All the children of Adam sin..." And some of the scholars have taken a principle from a hadeeth in which the Messenger of Allaah (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said: "mu`min should not hate a female mu`mina. If he dislikes from her a characteristic, then indeed he will love from her another characteristic."

And likewise, the scholars have taken this principle as it relates to our brothers. If we dislike a characteristic from our brother, then there will be many characteristics that we will find in him and love. So the issue of overlooking the mistakes we may make is also from the characteristics of the ghuraba. So as you would like the people to overlook your mistakes, you likewise overlook theirs.

5- So what is the reward for the ghurabaIndeed, it is the reward of Jannat il-Na'eem (Paradise of Delight).

As the Messenger of Allaah (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said, "Islaam began as strange, and it will return strange as it began, so tooba is for the strangers."

Tooba is either a tree in Jannah or it is the whole of Jannah, Al-Jannah, the expanse of which is as the expanse of the heavens and the earth. As Allaah (Subhanahu wa Ta'aala) has said, the likes of Al-Jannah that the mu`mineen have been promised has rivers of pure water, milk that does not change taste, and rivers of delicious wine, and rivers of honey. And in a hadeeth Qudsee, Allaah (Subhanahu wa Ta'aala) said: "I have prepared for My righteous slaves what no eye has ever seen, nor an ear has ever heard, and that which has never occurred in a human heart." [Bukhaaree, Muslim]

So we ask Allaah to make us see the haqq (truth) for being haqq, and bless us with following it; and to make us see the batil (falsehood) for being batil, and bless us to stay away from it. We ask Allaah - by His most Beautiful Names and Perfect, Lofty Attributes - to make our final word in this dunya La illaaha il Allaah. Our Lord, give us good in this world and in the hereafter, and save us from the fire. And our final supplication is Al-Hamdulillaah (All Praise is due to Allaah).

And may peace and blessings be upon the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم), his family, and all his companions. 

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