From Abu Hurairah RA, he said: Rasulullah SAW said: "Islam was strange when it began and will one day be strange again; Blessed are the ghuraba' (those strange people)". [H.R.Muslim]
The Linguistic Approach
1. The word Ghariiban is a derivation from the word al-Ghurbah that has two meanings: first, a meaning which is physical in nature like someone who lives in other people’s country (not one’s own homeland) as a stranger. Second, a meaning which is spiritual in nature – it is this meaning that we mean here – i.e. someone in his istiqomah, ibaadah, keeping up firmly with religion and avoiding the fitnahs that arise, is a stranger in the midst of his people who do not possess such principles. This strangeness is relative in nature because sometimes someone feels strange in a place but not in other places or at a time but not at other times.
2. The meaning of the kalimah "bada-al Islamu ghariibaa [Islam began as something strange]" : it began with (the gathering of) a 'person per person' (who converted to Islam), it then spread and the people showed their selves, and then it experiences a decrease and various predicaments until there is none left except the 'person per person' (the purest among them who are keeping up with al-Haq) just as the condition when it first began.
3. The meaning of the kalimah "fa thuuba lil ghurabaa' [Blessed are the ghuraba' (those strange people)]" : The Ulamas differ in their opinions regarding the word ‘thuuba’. There are a few meanings, amongst them are: fariha wa qurratu 'ain (be blessed and it is refreshing to the eyes); ni'ma maa lahum (how good is what they achieved); ghibthatan lahum (joyfulness is for them); khairun lahum wa karaamah (goodness as well as honor are for them); al-Jannah (paradise); shajaratun fil jannah (a tree in paradise). In the understanding of the above hadith, all the meanings from these opinions are probable.
1. The hadith shows how great the importance of the Sahabahs RA who had embraced Islam in the early stage of the Prophet’s SAW prophethood are, because the characteristics of the Ghuraba' are very fitting for them. The alienation (ghurbah) which they had gone through are spiritual in nature where their conditions challenged the condition that was already prevalent in the midst of their society at that time, which was infected with the epidemic of shirk and debauchery. This is precisely the condition where the society are coming back to today. Shirk and corruptions in their many forms are prevalent. Truth is seen as falsehood and vice-versa. Man-made law such as democracy are held in high esteem while Allah's law are thrown out of the window. The Mujahideen who killed the kafirs are hated and discredited by the so-called Muslims themselves, more than they discredit and hate the Crusader-Jews when they killed Muslims.
2. Holding on strong to the Dienullah, istiqomah in performing as well as in taking examples (sunnah) from our Prophet, the role model Muhammad SAW, are also characters of a true Mu’meen who hopes for rewards like what had been gained by those Ghuraba' even though (in reaching for those things) most people are against them. What became the yardstick is the act of holding on strong to al-Haq, not the prevailing conditions that abound and are done by the majority. Allah Ta'ala says: "Wert thou to follow the common run of those on earth, they will lead thee away from the way of Allah...." (Qur'an 6:116).
3. The rewards that would be gained by the Ghuraba', as well as their status are great and high. The Ghuraba' are strange to their religion in the sense that they become strange simply because they are holding on strong to al-Haq and are istiqomah with it. They are strange because their ratio of existence amongst the society are very rare. Their insights, ideology, activities, and even appearance perhaps are deemed as abnormal, hence strange. So it could be said that the Ghuraba' are the crème de la crème of the ummah.
4. In some riwaayah (narrations), it was stated that the meaning of al-Ghuraba' is the good/righteous people who remain when the common conditions of mankind are decayed, in an era when the decay is viewed as normal, if not unnoticed. There is also this meaning; they are those who restore what had been damaged by mankind. This shows that the honesty of the heart alone is not enough but there must be efforts done in a wise, graceful, loving but firm way in order to restore the conditions of mankind which are already corrupted so that the label of Ghuraba' praised in the above hadith could be stamped on the Mu’meen, those who are left to carry out the da’wah, amar ma’ruf nahi mungkar and jihad even though the majority are frowning at them. They are those who are made to feel that the whole world and its contents including the people from amongst their own are against them. A simple formula to recognize them is as what Sayyidina 'Ali RA said:
"If you want to recognize in which direction the most righteous among the Muslims are then see in which directions the arrows of Kuffar are going".
Related post: Simple Formula to Recognize Purest Among Muslims