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Concerning the statement of the Prophet: “Islam began as something strange and will return to being strange, as it began”, Imam Al-Awzai (ra) said:
“As for this, then it does not mean that Islam will go away, rather it means that Ahlus- Sunnah will go away, up to the point that there will not remain any from them in a land except one person.”
Based on this understanding, there can be found much praise in the statements of the Salaf for the Sunnah and their describing it as being strange, and describing its adherents and followers as being few.
Al-Hasan Al-Basri (ra) used to say to his companions: “Oh Ahlus-Sunnah! Be gentle with one another, and may Allah have mercy on you, for indeed, you are from amongst the fewest of people.”
Yunus bin ‘Ubayd (ra) said: “There is not a thing more strange than the Sunnah. But what is stranger than it, is the one who knows it.”
Sufyaan Ath-Thawree (ra) said: “Treat Ahlus-Sunnah kindly, for verily, they are strangers.”
The understanding of the term “Sunnah” to these scholars, was the way of the Prophet – that which he and his Companions were upon – free from Doubts (Shubuhaat) and Desires (Shahawaat). This is why Al-Fudayl bin ‘Iyaad (ra) would say: “Ahlus-Sunnah are those who know what enters their stomachs from the Halaal (lawful).”
That is since the consumption of Halaal is from the greatest aspects of the Sunnah, which the Prophet and his Companions were upon.
Then it remained the custom of the majority of the later scholars, from the scholars of Hadith and other fields, that the Sunnah consisted of that which was free from Doubts in regards to Creed. This was especially the case with issues such as the belief in Allah, His Angels, His Books, His Messengers, the Last Day, and other issues such as Al-Qadar (Divine Pre-Decree) and the merits of the Companions. They compiled literary works concerning this knowledge and named them books of “Sunnah”. This knowledge was only labeled with the name “Sunnah”, because its significance was tremendous and all those who opposed it were on the brink of destruction.
And as for the complete Sunnah, then it is the path that is free and safe from Doubts and Desires, as has been stated by Al-Hasan, Yunus bin Ubayd, Sufyaan, Al-Fudayl and others besides them. Due to this, its adherents are described as strange because of their small number and rarity in the Last Days.
This is why it has been mentioned in some of the previously stated reports that they are: “A righteous people surrounded by people abounding in much evil. Those who disobey them are greater in number than those who obey them.”
In this is an indication of the smallness of their amount in number and in the amount of those who answer and accept their call. We also are made aware of the greatness in number of those who oppose them and disobey them.
This is why there is much praise reported in numerous ahadith for the one who sticks firmly to his Religion during the Last Days. And that he who does so will be like one who holds tightly onto hot pieces of coal. And that the one who acts upon it (i.e. the Sunnah), will receive fifty times the reward more than those before him.25 This is because he will not find any supporters in doing good deeds (during those times).
These strangers fall into two categories:
Introduction to the Book
Text of the Book
The Strangeness Of The Sunnah And Its Adherents
The Strangeness Of The Believer During The Last Days
Clinging Onto The Sunnah During Times Of Affliction
The Hadith Of Imam Ali Concerning Knowledge
Categories Of The Bearers Of Knowledge
Characteristics Of The People Of Knowledge
Types Of Believers According To Their Strangeness
Types Of Strangeness