Glad Tidings to the Strangers (Ghuraba)

by Shaykh Abdullah Ateeq Al-Harbee

[Shaykh ‘Abdullaah ‘Ateeq is a teacher in the faculty of Hadeeth at Madeenah University and is known for his Salafiyyah. He came to the west recently for the purpose of da’wah.]

After praising Allaah, and then sending peace and blessings upon the Messenger (salallaahu ‘alaihiwasallam), 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 (salallaahu ‘alaihiwasallam) in the Saheeh Hadeeth [Ibn Maajah, kitaab al fitan 3986] and also [Sahih Muslim :The Book of Faith (Kitab Al-Iman): Book 1 : Hadith 270], who said:

Bada Al-Islamu ghariban (Islam began as strange)

Wa sa ya-‘udhu ghariban (and it will return strange)

kama bada`aa (as it began)

Fa tooba lil ghuraba (so tooba [glad tidings] to the strangers)

« بدأ الإسلام غريبًا، وسيعود غريبًا كما بدأ، فَطُوبي للغرباء »

Bada Al-Islamu ghariban wa sa ya-‘udhu ghariban kama bada`aa fa tooba lil ghuraba

(Islam began as something strange and it will return strange as it began, so glad tidings for the strangers).

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

The Prophet (salallaahu ‘alaihiwasallam) said in the beginning of the hadeeth, “Islam began as strange.” Indeed, Allaah (‘azza wa jall) sent Muhammad (salallaahu ‘alaihiwasallam) after a break in the sending of the Messengers. So after raising ‘Iesa (Jesus) to the heavens, He did not send a Prophet until sending Muhammad (salallaahu ‘alaihiwasallam). 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 the Messenger (Muhammad, salallaahu ‘alaihiwasallam) 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-Islam.

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

Then Allaah (‘Azza wa jall) gave victory to the Prophet (salallaahu ‘alaihiwasallam), and Islam was spread upon the earth, and indeed the Qur’an was made manifest. And people entered into the religion of Allaah (Jalla wa ‘Alla) in droves. And Allaah informed – upon the tongue of the Messenger (salallaahu ‘alaihiwasallam) – that Islam shall return to being strange, just as it began. So how would that be when Islam had already spread upon the earth, its East and its West?

Yes, Islam did return as strange – even to Muslim lands. And [even] among the Muslims, the true and correct Islam that the Prophet (salallaahu ‘alaihiwasallam) was sent with has become something strange.

So, for instance, you’ll find the Muslim who says La illaha il Allaah yet seeks refuge in other than Allaah, contradicting the testification of tawheed. Or you’ll see the Muslim who says La illaha il Allaah and says, Ya RasulAllaah, gives 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 unseen. And from them, you will find individuals who say La illaha 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-Islam.

This is one of the signs of the Prophethood of the Messenger (salallaahu ‘alaihiwasallam), who informed this would happen and indeed it has taken place as the Messenger (salallaahu ‘alaihiwasallam) informed us.

The scholars (rahimahumullaah) have categorized the issue of strangeness into three categories:

1- There is the strangeness from the land or from one’s country, and this strangeness could be praiseworthy or blameworthy. And this is connected to the niya (intention) of a particular individual. …So for instance, if a person were to travel to a strange land for the purpose of halal trade or da’wa, then his strangeness to the land would be a praiseworthy strangeness. And if a person were to travel to a land for the purpose of fisq (sin, evil) orfasaad (evil spreading) or corruption, then this strangeness would be blameworthy.

2- The second type is the [blameworthy] strangeness of the people of fisq, corruption and evil deeds, and the people of dalaala (misguidance) and the people of shirk. [This is] because this kufr, shirk, and dalaala makes their chest constrained, and it makes them individuals who are strangers – even though they may be plentiful in one particular place. But without guidance, these people are strange [in a blameworthy way] and have constraint in their chest. So you see some of them may have much money, but because of the constrained chest – due to kufr and dalaala – they kill themselves. …

3- The third 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 and kufr and shirk and bid’ah and ma’siya. 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 (salallaahu ‘alaihiwasallam). 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 (salallaahu ‘alaihiwasallam).

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 (salallaahu ‘alaihiwasallam) 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.

Characteristics of the Strangers

Many of the scholars have mentioned many of the characteristics of these strangers. The characteristics are many. We’ll mention some, inshaAllaah:

1- The first of those characteristics is ifradullaahi ta’la, 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’anexcept 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 Islam at the hand of the Prophet (salallaahu ‘alaihiwasallam) 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 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:

And I (Allaah) created not the jinns and humans except they should worship Me (Alone). (Adh-Dhariyat 51:56) 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 39:65)

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 (salallaahu ‘alaihiwasallam), 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 49:1)

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 33:21)

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.” (Aal-Imran 3:31)

Therefore, the strangers do not take the word of anyone over the word of the Messenger of Allaah (salallaahu ‘alaihiwasallam). 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 (salallaahu ‘alaihiwasallam) prayed, not fasting except as he fasted, and they remember Allaah with dhikr as the Prophet (salallaahu ‘alaihiwasallam) did; and likewise from other acts of worship, you’ll find them not doing so except as the Messenger of Allaah (salallaahu ‘alaihiwasallam) 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 (salallaahu ‘alaihiwasallam) in all of those affairs.

It is for that reason that the Muslim who tries to be from amongst the ghuraba takes the Messenger (salallaahu ‘alaihiwasallam) as his example in all his affairs, with regards to acts of worship and character. Because the Messenger (salallaahu ‘alaihiwasallam) was noble and generous, and likewise he was rauf rahim 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 68:4)

And when we analyze his life, we find that he (salallaahu ‘alaihiwasallam) actualized (applied) the Qur’an in every aspect of his life. And when he was asked (recorded as a hadeeth in the sahih of Ibn Khuzaimah and others) about the action that most enter people into Jannah, he (salallaahu ‘alaihiwasallam) said in response:taqwaAllaah (fear of Allaah) and husnul khuluq (good character).

So, oh Muslim, how did the Messenger (salallaahu ‘alaihiwasallam) deal with other people, Muslims or other than them? And we find him (salallaahu ‘alaihiwasallam), 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 (salallaahu ‘alaihiwasallam) in every aspect of his life. He was the most righteous of men, and he was deserving of being followed.

3- Also 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:

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 2:214)

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, etc.). Who, when afflicted with calamity, say: Inna lillahi 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 2:155-157)

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 (salallaahu ‘alaihiwasallam) said [in a hadeeth recorded in Sahih 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 – the anbiya (prophets, ‘alaihim usallam) – 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 49:10)

And the Messenger (salallaahu ‘alaihiwasallam) explained the tightest bond of eeman is to love for Allaah and hate for the sake of Allaah. On the authority of Ibn ‘Abbas, may Allaah be pleased with him, who said that Allaah’s Messenger (salallaahu ‘alaihiwasallam) asked Abu Dharr: “What is the firmest handhold of eeman?” So he replied, “Allaah and His Messenger know best.” He (salallaahu ‘alaihiwasallam) 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-Albani 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 ‘aqida (creed) or manhaj (methodology), which must be corrected – and not overlooked.]

The Prophet (salallaahu ‘alaihiwasallam) 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 (salallaahu ‘alaihiwasallam) said: “A 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 ghuraba? Indeed, it is the reward of Jannat il-na’eem (Paradise of Delight).

As the Messenger of Allaah (salallaahu ‘alaihiwasallam) said, “Islam 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 Qudsi, 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.”

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 illaha 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 AlHamdulillah (All Praise is due to Allaah).

And may peace and blessings be upon the Prophet (salallaahu ‘alaihiwasallam), his family, and all his companions.