Hadith on Islam being “strange”

Shortened Question:

Who are the “gurabaa” (strangers) mentioned in the Hadith?


Dear Sir

What is the meaning of hadis of islaam began as strange and will return to it being strange? Also who are the strangers mentioned in hadis and how you know it is them?


In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.

As-salāmu ‘alaykum wa-rahmatullāhi wa-barakātuh.

There are two issues of clarification here:

  1. The general connotation of the Hadith
  2. And the interpretation of the word “strangers” in Hadith
  3. The Hadith mentioned in reference is as follows:

قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: بدأ الإسلام غريبا وسيعود كما بدأ غريبا فطوبى للغرباء

Translation: the Messenger of Allah (peace and salutations be upon him said, “Islam began as something strange and will return as something strange as it began, so give glad tidings to the strangers”.

This narration is authentic and found with slight variations in wording on the authority of Abdullah ibn Mas`ud, Abu Hurairah and Ibn Umar (may Allah be pleased with them all) as recorded in Sahih Muslim (262)[1] ; Sunan at-Tirmidhi (2629) and Musnad al-Imam Ahmad (3814 & 9114)[2].

The narration of Sahih Muslim on the authority of Ibn Umar (may Allah be pleased with him)[3] includes:

وهو يأرز بين المسجدين كما تأرز الحية في جحرها

Translation: It (Islam) will recede between the two mosques just as the serpent crawls back into its hole.

The narration of Sahih Muslim on the authority of Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) [4]contains:

إن الإيمان ليأرز إلى المدينة كما تأرز الحية إلى جحرها

Translation: Verily the Iman will recede to Madinah just as the serpent crawls back into its hole.

  1. Sheikh Shabbir Ahmad al-Uthmani (may Allah have mercy on him) in Fat`h al-Mulhim bi Sharh Sahih al-Imam Muslim (1: 115) explains:

والظاهر عندي والله أعلم أن هذا وقت خروج الدجال … فالمراد والله أعلم أن الإسلام يكون موقرا مأمونا من فتنة المسيح الدجال ورعبه في هذين المسجدين المكرمين

Translation: This narration is referring to the era in which Dajjal (the anti-Christ) will appear … Islam will be revered and secured from the trial and awe of Dajjal, the anti-Christ, in these two auspicious mosques [of al-Masjid al-Haram in Makkah al-Mukarramah and al-Masjid an-Nabawi in al-Madinah al-Munawwarah].

In explaining this, Allamah Ali bin Sultan Muhammad al-Qari(may Allah have mercy on him) in Mirqat al-Mafatih Sharh Mishkat al-Masabih[5] explains:

والمراد أن أهل الإيمان يفرون بإيمانهم إلى المدينة وقاية بها عليه

Translation: The believers will flee to Madinah in order to protect and safeguard their Iman by virtue of it

  1. Al-Hafidh Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani[6], as also asserted by Qadhi Iyadh and Imam an-Nawawi[7](may Allah have mercy on them all), states:

أي : إنها كما تنتشر من جحرها في طلب ما تعيش به فإذا راعها شيء رجعت إلى جحرها ، كذلك الإيمان انتشر في المدينة ، وكل مؤمن له من نفسه سائق إلى المدينة لمحبته في النبي – صلى الله عليه وسلم – ، فيشمل ذلك جميع الأزمنة لأنه في زمن النبي – صلى الله عليه وسلم – للتعلم منه ، وفي زمن الصحابة والتابعين وتابعيهم للاقتداء بهديهم ، ومن بعد ذلك لزيارة قبره – صلى الله عليه وسلم – والصلاة في مسجده والتبرك بمشاهدة آثاره وآثار أصحابه . .

Translation: the serpent disperses from its hole to seek sustenance and when is it frightened it returns to seek refuge in its hole. Similarly, Iman will spread from Madinah and every believer has in himself a desire or need driving him back to Madinah due to the love of Prophet Muhammad (peace and salutations be upon him). This encompasses all times. This is because the people were driven to Madinah at the time of Prophet in order to learn from him; in the times of the companions and their followers, to follow their guidance; and in later times, to visit the grave of Prophet (peace and salutations be upon him), to observe salah in his mosque and to gain blessings by witnessing his monuments and the monuments of his companions.

  1. Al-Qadhi Iyadh[8] (may Allah have mercy on him) states:

وظاهر الحديث العموم وأن الإسلام بدأ في آحاد من الناس وقلة ثم انتشر وظهر ثم سيلحقه النقص والإخلال حتى لا يبقى إلا في آحاد وقلة كما بدأ

Translation: The outward of the Hadith is inclusiveness. Verily Islam began among individuals and very few people and it then gradually spread and arose. However, thereafter it will be afflicted with paucity and disruption to the extent that once again it will remain only in individuals and few people just as it began.

  1. The explanation of the word “strangers” is expounded by other narrations themselves:

The narrations in Sunan Ibn Majah (3980) and Musnad al-Imam Ahmad (3814) include:

قيل: ومن الغرباء؟ قال: النزاع من القبائل

Translation: He was asked, “Who are the strangers?” He (peace be upon him) replied: those who completely break away and withdraw themselves from their own tribes

Imam al-Harawi[9] (may Allah have mercy on him) states:

أراد بذلك المهاجرين الذين هجروا أوطانهم إلى الله تعالى

Translation: It refers to those migrants who leave their hometowns for the sake of Allah Ta`ala [to protect their faith]

Al-Imam Ahmad (may Allah have mercy on him) records in his Musnad (6692 & 7125) on the authority of Abd Allah bin Amr al-As (may Allah be pleased with him):

قال رسول الله ذات يوم ونحن عنده طوبى للغرباء فقيل من الغرباء يا رسول الله قال أناس صالحون في أناس سوء كثير من يعصيهم أكثر ممن يطيعهم

Translation: Allah`s Messenger (peace and salutations be upon him) said one day while we were by him, “Blessed are the strangers.” He was then asked: “Who are the strangers, Oh Allah`s Messenger?” He replied: “They are righteous people among many evil people who disobey them more than they obey them.”

Similary, Imam at-Tirmidhi (may Allah have mercy on him) includes a reliable narration in his Sunan (2630):

أن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم قال إن الدين ليأرز إلى الحجاز كما تأرز الحية إلى جحرها وليعقلن الدين من الحجاز معقل الأروية من رأس الجبل إن الدين بدأ غريبا ويرجع غريبا فطوبى للغرباء الذين يصلحون ما أفسد الناس من بعدي من سنتي

Translation: Allah’s Messenger (peace and salutations be upon him) said: “The religion will recede to the Hijaz like the serpent recedes into its hole. The religion will cling to the Hijaz like the mountain goat clings to the mountaintop. The religion began strange, and it will become strange again just as it was, so blessed are the strangers who restore what the people corrupt of my Sunnah.”

As the era of Prophet Muhammad and the companions grows longer, evil will increase and righteousness will decrease. The “strangers” mentioned in the Hadith refers to those righteous individuals who forsake their luxuries, resist the impediments of society discouraging them from practicing Islam, adhere to the teachings of Allah and His Messenger (peace be upon him), and revive the Sunnah while living where evil is rife, the teachings of Islam are assumed to be foreign and abandoned, and there are very few people who agree with them, assist them and revive Islam.

And Allah Ta’āla Knows Best

Hanif Yusuf Patel

Student Darul Iftaa

Checked and Approved by,
Mufti Ebrahim Desai.




[1] [Sahih Muslim bi Sharh an-Nawawi, 1: 453-4, Dar ibn Rajab; Fat`h al-Mulhim bi Sharh Sahih al-Imam Muslim, 1: 115, Dar al-Qalam, Damascus) (Kitab al-Iman)]

[2] Also in [Mirqat al-Mafatih Sharh Mishkat al-Masabih, 1: 243, Dar al-Fikr Beirut]

[3] [Sahih Muslim bi Sharh an-Nawawi, 1: 454; Fat`h al-Mulhim bi Sharh Sahih al-Imam Muslim, 1: 115]

[4] [Sahih Muslim bi Sharh an-Nawawi, 1: 454; Fat`h al-Mulhim bi Sharh Sahih al-Imam Muslim, 1: 116]

[5] [1: 243, Dar al-Fikr, Beirut]

[6] [Fat`h al Bari Sharh Sahih al-Bukhari In Fat`h al-Mulhim bi Sharh Sahih al-Imam Muslim, 1: 116]

[7] [Sahih Muslim bi Sharh an-Nawawi, 1: 455]

[8] [Fat`h al-Mulhim bi Sharh Sahih al-Imam Muslim, 1: 115; Sahih Muslim bi Sharh an-Nawawi, 1: 455]

[9] [Fat`h al-Mulhim bi Sharh Sahih al-Imam Muslim, 1: 115; Sahih Muslim bi Sharh an-Nawawi, 1: 455]

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Posted in Aqaa'id (Beliefs)Qur'an & Hadeeth on 26th Jan 2016 by Our Imam | 1348 Views