“The strangeness of the people of Allah, and the people of the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah from amongst the Creation…it is the strangeness whose possessors were praised by the Messenger of Allah, and he informed us that the religion that he was brought with “…began as something strange,” and that it will “…return to being strange as it began,”
and that its adherents will become strangers.
And this type of strangeness can occur in one location in exclusion to another, and in one era in exclusion to another, and amongst one group of people in exclusion to another. However, those who are described with this strangeness are the true people of Allah. This is because they do not lean towards anything but Allah, do not ascribe themselves to anyone besides His Messenger, and do not call to anything other than what he was brought with. They are the ones who abandoned the people when they needed them most. So, when the people go about behind their deities on the Day of Resurrection, they will remain where they are, and it will be said to them: ‘Will you not go along with the people?’ And they will reply: ‘We abandoned the people when we were more in need of them than we are today, and we are instead waiting for our Lord Whom we used to worship.’
So, this strangeness does not result in any loneliness for its possessor. In fact, he is as happy and sociable as can be when he abandons the deviant people, and as lonely as can be when he socializes with them. So, his allies are Allah, His Messenger, and the believers, even if the majority of the people oppose him and push him aside…
…And al-Hasan al-Basri said: “The believer in this world is like a stranger: he does not become upset when it puts him down, and he does not compete for it to make him honorable. The people are in a certain state, and he is in another state: the people are relieved of him, and he is exhausted of himself.”
And from the characteristics of these strangers who were praised by the Prophet are:
- holding tightly to the Sunnah, even if the people abandon it;
- leaving what they have introduced into the Religion, even if it is something good in their eyes;
- freeing oneself completely and purely for Tawhid, even if most people criticize him for this;
- not ascribing oneself to anyone other than Allah and His Messenger – not a shaykh, a path, or a group. Rather, these strangers ascribe themselves to Allah by serving Him, and to His Messenger by following only what he came with;
And such people are the ones who are truly holding onto the burning piece of coal, and most people will criticize them. Due to their strangeness between the Creation, these people consider them to be odd and innovators, and accuse them of separating themselves from the majority…
…And how can it not be that this one sect (the people of the Sunnah) be very small and strange between seventy-two other sects who have followers and leaders, position and alliances, and do not gain power except by going against that which the Messenger came with? The essence of what he came with goes against their whims, and what they are upon of the doubts and innovations that are the end result of their actions, and the desires that are their goal and intention.
So, how can the believer who is travelling to Allah upon the road of adherence to the Sunnah not be strange between those who have followed their whims, obeyed their lusts, and have each become impressed with their own opinion? And because of this, Allah will give to the truthful Muslim in such a time – if he holds tightly to his religion – the reward of fifty of the Companions, as both Abu Dawud and at-Tirmidhi report that the Prophet said: “After you, there will be days that require much patience, such that the one who holds onto his religion in such a time will have the reward of fifty of you.” And this great reward is due only to their strangeness between the people, and the fact that they held tightly to the Sunnah despite the dark clouds of desires and whims they were surrounded with.
So, if the believer who has been provided by Allah with insight into His Religion, understanding of the Sunnah of His Messenger, comprehension of His Book, and has been shown what the people are upon of desires, innovations, deviance, and turning away from the straight path that the Messenger of Allah and his Companions were upon – if such a person wishes to traverse this path, he must prepare himself for how the innovators and ignorant people will criticize him, insult him, turn the people away from him, and warn against him, just as their predecessors from the kuffar used to do with the one he has chosen to follow, peace and blessings be upon him…
…So, he is strange in his practice of the Religion because of the corrupt manner in which they practice it, and he is strange in his firm adherence to the Sunnah because of their adherence to innovations, and he is strange in his beliefs because of the corruption in their beliefs, and he is strange in how he prays due to the bad manner in which they pray, and he is strange in his ways due to the misguidance and corruption of their ways, and he is strange in what he has ascribed himself to because of what they have ascribed themselves to, and he is strange in how he deals with them because he does not deal with them in accordance with what their desires dictate.
Basically, he is strange in both the matters of this world and the next. He does not find any of the common people who will help and assist him. He is a learned one amongst ignorant. He is a person of the Sunnah amongst people of innovation. He is a caller to Allah and His Messenger amongst callers to desires and innovations. He commands that which is good and forbids that which is bad amongst people who see the good as being bad, and the bad as being good…”
[‘Madarij as-Salikin’; 3/182-185]