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Islam’s unique growth

Question

What is the meaning of this Hadith:

‘Islam began as something strange and will revert to being strange as it began.’

 

Answer

This is a Hadith from Sahih Muslim.

The Arabic word used in this Hadith: Ghariban can be translated and interpreted in a few ways.

 

1. The common translation is as you have cited it: strange.

This means, that Islam started as something strange; something that people considered as odd. It was unpopular in the society of Makkah. After this Allah Ta’ala spread the winds of guidance and Islam spread far and wide. Thereafter, being a Muslim was not odd anymore.

The second part of the Hadith would mean:

There would come a time when it will return to this state, i.e, a state of being odd. Those who practice on the ideal Islam will be considered strange and odd.

(Al-Mufhim, Hadith: 114, Sharhun Nawawi ‘ala Sahih Muslim, Hadith: 370 and Faydul Qadir, Hadith: 1951)

 

2. After providing the above explanation, ‘Allamah Qurtubi (rahimahullah) states:

[Since the word Gharib could also mean: a stranger/ traveller] ‘It could also be referring to the Muhajirun (early migrators).  The Muhajirun were forced to leave their homeland [of Makkah] to protect their religion. [Thus they were travellers who were strangers at first in Madinah].

In this case, the last part of the Hadith would mean that a time will come wherein there would be much trouble on the Muslims once again. This will force them to also leave their homelands once again to preserve their religion as the [earlier] Muhajirun had done.’

(Al-Mufhim, Hadith: 114. Also see Sharhun Nawawi ‘ala Sahih Muslim, Hadith: 370)

 

3. Another explanation given by Shaykh ‘Abdul Fattah Abu Ghuddah (rahimahullah) is as follows:

[One meaning of the word Ghariban is: unique]

In the beginning days, Islam managed to spread in a unique way, i.e, despite all opposition, Allah Ta’ala caused it to prevail.

The second part of the Hadith would mean:

Islam in the latter eras, will also return to its glory in a strange way; in a way that will be unique and unfathomable. Insha Allah.

I heard this from the senior ‘Alim of India, Moulana Ibrahim Devla (hafizahullah) who heard this directly from Shaykh ‘Abdul Fattah (rahimahullah) during one of his visits to India.

 

In instances like this, there is no harm in understanding the Hadith to be referring all of the above meanings, it their own right. This is common in non legislative texts of Shari’ah.

(refer: Muqaddimahtut Tafsir of Ibn Taymiyah (rahimahullah), pg. 4)

 

 

And Allah Ta’ala Knows best,

 

Answered by: Moulana Muhammad Abasoomar