Meaning of the Hadith: “Islam started as a stranger...”


Q: I hope your eminence will explain the meaning of the following Hadith of Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him): Islam started as a stranger (gharib) and it will return a stranger as it has started. Does this Hadith mean that Islam will restore its glory, supremacy and power achieved at the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him) or the opposite? Considering the following Hadith of Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him): The best of people are my generation (or my century), then those who come after them, then those who come after them. The apparent meaning of the previous Hadith indicates that the best century is the one in which the noble Messenger (peace be upon him) lived. No other generation will be as good as it was.Yet, the first Hadith: “Islam started as a stranger...” indicates through the words: “as it has started” at its end that Islam will return as it was before during the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him), and mutual love and affection will prevail among all Muslims once more. But the current situation of the Muslims is different from that. Muslims fight one another and there are divisions among them. Their rulers oppress religious people. The whole society mocks religious people and fights them. The Western countries invade Muslim countries through their destructive cultures and ideologies that do not fit Muslim societies. Many Muslim women adopt their revealing clothing styles and go out displaying their beauty and charms. I hope you will explain this in detail. I appreciate your advice. May Allah reward and help you.

A: The meaning of the Hadith: is that Islam first started as a lone stranger when the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) began calling people to embrace it. They did not respond to him, except one, then another. (Part No. 2; Page No. 250) Therefore, at that time it was a stranger, because the individuals who embraced it lived like strangers among people for being few and weak in contrast to the great numbers and strength of their enemies who persecuted the Muslims until some of them had to immigrate to Abyssinia (Ethiopia) to be able to worship Allah and to escape oppression, tyranny and torture. The Messenger of Allah himself (peace be upon him) had to immigrate at Allah’s Command to Madinah, after he endured intense persecution, in the hope that Allah would support him with believers who would back him in his Call to Islam and with them achieve its victory. Allah fulfilled his hopes, gave might to His soldiers and granted victory to His Messenger. The first Islamic state was established and Islam spread, with the Help of Allah, all over the world. Allah (Exalted be He) made the word of those who disbelieved the lowest, and His Word the highest. Truly, Allah is Exalted in Might and Wisdom. All honor and glory belong to Him, to His Messenger, and to the believers. This glory continued for a long time then division and weakness started to appear among Muslims. Weakness and failure gradually increased among them until Islam returned a stranger as it has started. But this time it is not lonesome because Muslims are few in number. In fact, Muslims are many in number, but they do not adhere to their religion or to the Book of their Lord, and have deviated from the teachings of the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him), except those whom Allah wills. They became preoccupied with their own selves and the pursuit of worldly life. They compete with one another for its sake as those who came before them competed. They fight one another over rule and legacy. So, the enemies of Islam found a way in to the Muslims. They occupied their lands, subdued their people and they inflicted horrible torture upon them. This way Islam returned to its initial state of solitude. (Part No. 2; Page No. 251) Some scholars - including Shaykh Muhammad Rashid Rida - maintain that this Hadith includes a favorable sign that Islam will be victorious again after its second period of strangeness, inferring this from the parallel drawn in the Prophet’s saying: ...And it will return a stranger as it has started. Just as Islam spread and Muslims became powerful after its first period of strangeness and solitude, it will become victorious and prevalent again after its second period of strangeness and solitude.For further explanation, we enclose the interpretation of Al-Shatiby of this Hadith from the book titled “Al-I‘tisam” accompanied by a commentary of Shaykh Muhammad Rashid Rida. They explain the second view which is the stronger one. Also, authentic Hadiths on the emergence of Al-Mahdy and the descent of ‘Isa (Jesus, peace be upon him) at the end of time, confirm the spread of Islam and the return of power and glory to the Muslims, and the defeat of disbelief and disbelievers. .May Allah grant us success. May peace and blessings be upon our Prophet Muhammad, his family, and Companions.