بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
والحمدلله رب العالمين و الصلاة والسلام على أشرف الأنبياء والمرسلين
In the name of Allah, the Most Merciful the Bestower of Mercy. All praise is due to Allah, and may peace and blessings be upon the most noble of the Prophets and Messengers
Have you ever been somewhere and felt as if you did not quite belong?
These moments usually take place for me when I am hemmed in by busy London shoppers or to be more precise when I’m standing around in Topshop Oxford Circus. There is nothing wrong with wanting to buy things, and indeed many a stylish hijabi frequent these London stores, but there is something about the intensity of the Topshop Oxford Circus which can be overwhelming. It’s a combination of shop floors heaped with materialistic offerings, the ceaseless throng of eagle eyed consumers and the beat of the latest punk rock music which, for a brief moment makes me lapse into a mood of complete detachment. More common examples could be the Friday afternoon work ‘wine-down’ (actual wine included) leaving you the only sober one in the office, or the university seminar where every theory from humanism to neo-Marxism is being thrashed out as solutions to the topic of the day while your rational longs to utter, “you know there is something called Islam…”
For many, such scenarios can be moments of unease, frustration, loneliness or in some instances lead to a crisis of faith. However this doesn’t have to be the case. An explanation of the following hadith can offer some clarity;
The Prophet (saw) said, “Islam began as something strange and will revert to being strange as it begun, so give glad tidings to the strangers” (Sahih Muslim)
Here the Prophet (saw) foretold of a time to come after him. He warns us that just as Islam began as a religion which was practiced by a few and thus was rejected and seen as something ‘strange’ by the mass of people. After the golden era of Islam when it’s light had enlightened all areas of the globe, Islam would ‘revert’ back to a religion of strangeness and its adherents would be considered to be strangers. Is this not but us?
The hadith teaches us more…
i) To experience a sense of strangeness, should not surprise us
If we have been forewarned of this feeling of strangeness, we should not be surprised when we are faced with tests. In another hadith, the Prophet warned us of “the days of patience, where patience will be like holding on to glowing embers.” (At-Tirmindhi/Abu Dawood/al-Albaani)
ii) We should take strength from the feeling of strangeness
The most beautiful part of the hadith is the message to “give glad tidings to the strangers”. If to be a stranger entails adherence to the path of the Almighty, to the sunnah of the most noblest example for mankind, and as Tabarani stated to remain righteous in the face of corruption, then glory be to Allah, may we all be deemed the most looniest out there! Let us embrace this feeling of strangeness! Celebrate it and take strength from it, for the reward for such steadfastness will be from the Allah. In the same hadith, the Prophet continued that whoever was able to remain patient their reward would be “like the reward of fifty people that do like him.” (At-Tirmindhi/Abu Dawood/al-Albaani)
iii) We all need an element of strangeness
As important as it also is to reach out to the rest of society, to be accommodating and compromise where permissible, we should not forget our identity. This is where a little bit of strangeness can do us some good. Say for example your son is the only Muslim in the school. While you will encourage him to take part in every school activity, you will draw the line if his offered the part of Prophet Jesus (as) in the Christmas nativity play. As a result he may indeed feel like the odd one out in his class, but he will see it as a positive strangeness reaffirming his identity and beliefs as a Muslim. In essence just as one may one to hold on to their Afro-Caribbean identity, Scottish heritage or Liverpool allegiance when working at Stamford Bridge, there is nothing wrong with maintaining your religious identity. And if is a sense of strangeness that stirs the light of remembrance in your heart, you should be thank-full for the reminder.
May the strange find solace in His signs, His Book, the sunnah of His final Prophet and be blessed with the good companionship of others equally as strange!
Anything good and correct is from Allah, anything bad and incorrect if from my own shortcomings.