||The Strangeness of the Sunnah and its Adherents
Concerning the statement of the Prophet (s): “Islām
began as something strange and will return to being strange, as it began”,
Imām Al-Awzā’ī (r) said:“As for this, then it does not mean that Islām will go
away, but rather it means that the Ahl-us-Sunnah will go away, up to the
point that there will not remain in a land, any from them except one person.”
Based on this understanding, there can be found in the statements of the Salaf
much praise for the Sunnah and their describing it as being strange, and
describing its adherents and followers as being few.
Al-Hasan Al-Basrī (r) used to say to his companions: “O Ahl-us-Sunnah! Be gentle
with one another and may Allāh have mercy on you. For indeed, you are from
amongst the fewest of people.” 
Yūnus Ibn ‘Ubaid (r) said: “There is not a thing more stranger than the Sunnah.
And what is more stranger than it, is the one who knows it.”
Sufyān Ath-Thawrī (r) said: “Treat the Ahl-us-Sunnah kindly, for verily, they
The understanding of the term “Sunnah” to these scholars, was the way of the
Prophet (s) – that which he and his companions were upon – free from Doubts
(Ash-Shubuhāt) and Desires (Ash-Shahawāt). Due to this, Al-Fudail Ibn ‘Iyād (r)
used to say: “Ahl-us-Sunnah is he who knows what is entering his stomach from
That is because the consumption of halāl is from the greatest aspects of the
Sunnah, which the Prophet (s) and his companions were upon.
Then it remained the custom of the majority of the later scholars, from the
scholars of hadīth and other fields, that the Sunnah consisted of what was free
from Doubts in regards to Creed. This was especially the case with issues such
as the belief in Allāh, His angels, His books, His messengers, the Last Day, and
other issues such as Qadar and the merits of the Sahābah. 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, Yūnus Ibn ‘Ubaid, Sufyān,
Al-Fudail 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 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.
That is why it is reported in numerous ahādīth, praise 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, will receive fifty times the reward more than those before him. 
This is because he will not find any supporters in doing good deeds.
These strangers are of two categories: The first of them are those who rectify
themselves when the people have become corrupt. The second category contains
those who rectify what the people have corrupted of the Sunnah. And this (latter
one) is the most highest and virtuous of the two categories.
The strangeness of the believer during the Last Days
At-Tabarānī and others transmitted with a chain of narration that has some
speculation  to it from the hadīth of Abu Umāmah that the Prophet (s) said:
“Verily, for every matter there is a progression and a regression. And verily
from the progression of this Religion is what you used to be upon from blindness
and ignorance and what Allāh sent me with. And verily from the progression of
this Religion is that the clan was taught (Islām) by its family members, to the
point that there was not found amongst them (the tribes) anyone except for one
evildoer or two evildoers. So these two were oppressed and degraded. When they
want to speak, they are restrained, subdued and persecuted. And verily from the
regression of this Religion is that the tribe acts harshly against its family
members, to the point that there is not seen amongst them anyone except one
faqīh (one with understanding) or two faqīhs. Thus they will both be oppressed
and degraded. If they speak and command the good and forbid the evil, they are
restrained, subdued and persecuted. And they will not find any supporters or
helpers in that matter.”
Thus, the believer who is knowledgeable of the Sunnah and who possesses
understanding of the Religion, is described in this hadīth as being one who
during the Last Days – at the point of its corruption – will be oppressed,
debased and not able to find any helpers or supporters.
At-Tabarānī also reported with a weak chain of narration on the authority of Ibn
Mas’ūd (r) that the Prophet (s) said:
“And verily from its signs (i.e. the Hour) is that the believer will be in the
sight of his tribe lower (in status) than the young sheep.” 
And it is recorded in the Musnad of Imām Ahmad that 'Ubādah Ibn As-Sāmit said to
one of his companions:
"It is imminent that should your life be prolonged for you, you will see a man
who recites the Qur'ān upon the tongue of Muhammad (s) repeating it and
displaying it, allowing its halāl and forbidding its harām. He will then be
lowered in his status and his position will be neglected amongst you and
considered just as the position of a dead donkey.”
And similar to this is the saying of Ibn Mas’ ūd:
“There will come upon the people a time in which the believer will become lower
than the bondmaid.”
Indeed the believer will only be debased in the Last Days due to his strangeness
in front of the evildoers from among the people of Doubts and Desires. Every one
of them will hate him and abuse him because of his opposing of their way by
following his way, and because of the seeking of his goal over their goal, and
because of his evidences over what is with them.
And when Daw ūd At-Tā’ī died, Ibn As-Samāk said:
“Indeed Daw ūd looked with his heart at what was in front of him and the sight
of his heart overtook the sight of his eyes. So it was as if he no longer saw
what you were looking at, and as if you could not see what he was looking at.
And you were amazed at him, and he was amazed at you. It became strange to you
that he was alive in the middle of death."
And from among them was he whose own family and children would hate him due
their loathing of his condition.
‘Umar Ibn ‘Abd-il-‘Azīz once heard his wife say: “May Allāh relieve us from
you.” So he said: “Amīn.”
Our Salaf (predecessors), during their lifetimes, would mainly describe the
believer with strangeness as has preceded in their narrations.
And from the words of Ahmad Ibn ‘Āsim Al-Andākī, who was one of the biggest
scholars at the time of Sulaimān Ad-Dārānī, was:
“Indeed, I have reached from all the times, a time when Islām has returned to
being strange as it began. In it, the description of truth has returned to being
strange as it began. If you were to turn to the scholar, you would find him
being tested with the love of this worldly life and the love for honor and
authority. And if you were to turn to the worshipper, you would find him
ignorant in his worship, deceived a face fallen victim to his enemy Iblīs. He
has mounted to the highest levels of worship while being ignorant of how to
perform them so how can he be at that level? And the rest of the people are from
among the ignorant followers, simple-minded and quick to follow a way, as if he
were a wolf looking to steal a sheep, or a hungry lion, or a fox on the prowl.
This is the description of the people of your time from the carriers of
knowledge and the Qur’ān and the callers of wisdom.” 
This was the description of the people of his time. So how much has the
situation increased and the crisis become greater after it. Indeed, it has
reached a point that would have never been thought of nor imagined.
Clinging onto the Sunnah during the time of affliction
At-Tabarānī reported from the hadīth of Abu Hurairah that the Prophet (s) said:
“The one who clings onto my Sunnah at the time of the corruption of my Ummah
will receive the reward of a martyr.” 
And Abu Ash-Shaikh Al-Asbahānī reported with a chain connected to Al-Hasan (Al-Basrī),
that he (r) said: “If a man from the first generation of Muslims were sent (to
us) today, he would not recognize anything from Islām except for this prayer!”
Then he (r) said: “I swear by Allāh, that if he were to live to the time of
these evils, he would see the innovator calling unto his innovation, or the
individual involved with the worldly life calling unto his worldly affairs. Then
Allāh would protect him and his heart would long for that which the Salaf as-sālih
(pious predecessors) were upon. And so he would follow their footsteps and act
according to their ways. For him there will be a great reward.”
Ibn Al-Mubārak reported from Al-Fudail from Al-Hasan that he once mentioned the
rich and extravagant man who has authority and who amasses wealth claiming that
he has no end in it. And then he mentioned the misguided innovator who sets out
against the Muslims with an unsheathed sword, changing the meaning of what Allāh
has revealed concerning the disbelievers in favor of the Muslims. Then he said:
“Your Sunnah, and I swear by the One besides whom there is nothing worthy of
worship except Him, is between these two: between the self-sufficient one and
the hard-hearted, the extravagant one and the ignorant. So have patience upon
it, for indeed, Ahl-us-Sunnah are from amongst the fewest of people, those who
do not fall into the category of the extravagant ones in their excessiveness nor
do they fall with the innovators in the following of their desires. Rather, they
bear with patience upon their Sunnah until they meet their Lord. So be that way,
if Allāh wills!” 
Then he (r) said:
“I swear by Allāh, that if a man were to reach these evils, he would hear
someone say: ‘Come over to me!’ and someone else say: ‘Come over to me!’ So he
would say: ‘No! I do not want anything but the Sunnah of Muhammad (s)’, seeking
after it and asking questions on it. Indeed this one will be given a great
reward. So be that way, if Allāh wills!”
 What is meant by the term Ahl-us-Sunnah [or Ahl as-Sunnati wal-Jamā'ah] are
all the Muslims who follow the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (s) and the
Jama`ah. They learn it, act upon it, and teach it to others. They consist of the
scholars, their students and those that follow in their footsteps.
 This report was recorded by Al-Lālikā'ī. Badr Al-Badr indicated its weakness
in his notes to Kashf-ul-Qurbah. However, a similar narration to this one has
been recorded by Ad-Dārimī (1/72) and its wording is: "For verily, Ahl-us-Sunnah
are the least of people in number who have preceded, and they are the least of
people in number who remain." This narration is authentic.
 This narration was recorded by Al-Lālikā'ī in his Sharh Usūl 'Itiqād
Ahl-is-Sunnah (1/64) and it was mentioned from him by Ibn Al-Jawzī in Talbīs
 Musnad Ahmad (2/177) and its checking has been stated previously.
 This saying is based on the following hadīth attributed to the Prophet (s):
"Verily, after you there will come times requiring patience. (In those days) the
one who holds fast to that which you are upon will have the reward of fifty
amongst you. He will receive the reward of fifty (the one holding onto the way
of the companions in later times)."
This hadīth was reported by Al-Marūzī in As-Sunnah (no. 35), At-Tabarānī in Al-Kabīr
(17/117), Abu Dawūd in his Sunan (no. 3441), At-Tirmidhī (no. 3057), who
declared it sahīh, and Ibn Mājah (no. 4014).
 Al-Haithamī (r) said: “In its chain is ‘Alī Ibn Yazīd and he is rejected.” [Majma’-uz-Zawā’id:
 The hadīth is as Ibn Rajab stated in that it has a weak chain of narration.
 Hilyat-ul-Awliyā (9/286)
 This is a weak hadīth reported by Abu Nu’aim who attributes it to At-Tabarānī.
Al-Haithamī (1/172) said: “In the chain is Muhammad Ibn Sālih Al-‘Adawī. I did
not find anyone that wrote a biography for him. The rest of the narrators are
reliable.” Abu Nu’aim labeled it strange (gharib) from ‘Abd-ul-‘Azīz from ‘Atā.
 The chain quoted for this report by Ibn Rajab is not authentic. However, a
similar narration to this can be found in Sunan Ad-Dārimī (1/71-72).
 He is Kumail Ibn Ziyād An-Nakha’ī (r). He was one of the righteous and
noble amongst the Tābi’īn. He was captured and killed by Yūsuf Al-Hajāj
Ath-Thaqafī in 82H. See Al-Ma’warifah wat-Tārīkh (2/481) of Al-Fasawī (r).
Source: Taken (with Thanks) from Shields of Islam