Allah, Glorious is He, sent His Messenger (SAW) at a time when the whole world was steeped in the depths of ignorance; knowledge of the truth had been lost and nowhere was it being established and lived by as was deserving. People would unduly adopt the practices they found their forefathers upon, practices that their predecessors had themselves invented and regarded to be commendable: matters that were no more than superstition, concocted belief and innovation.
When he (SAW) stood amongst them,
|“...a bringer of good tidings and a warner, and a caller to Allah by His permission and a light giving lamp,”|
quickly did they meet the good he brought with open rejection and opposition; countering the truth he brought with lies, throwing absurd accusations at him simply because he opposed their beliefs and practices, and claiming that he was a liar, even though he was known by them to be truthful and trustworthy. They claimed he was a magician while knowing full well that he did not possess the qualities and traits of one and, moreover, had never claimed to be one. They claimed he was possessed while knowing full well that his intellect was intact and that he had no satanic symptoms.
When he (SAW) called them to worship the only One who deserved to be worshipped, the One who has no partner, they responded by saying,
|“...this is a lying magician. Has he turned all the gods into One God? This is truly astonishing!”|
this, even though they, in their hearts, acknowledged the truth of what he said,
|“When they embark in ships, they call on Allah, making their religion sincerely His...”|
When he warned them about the severity of the Day of Judgment, swift were they to reject all the evidences they witnessed of the possibility of its occurrence and said,
|“What an extraordinary thing! When we are dead and turned to dust...? That would be a most unlikely return!”|
When he (SAW) tried to inculcate the fear of Allah’s punishment in them, they said,
|“Allah! If this is really the truth from You, rain down stones on us from heaven or send a painful punishment down on us.”|
When he (SAW) performed miracles, quick were they to deny them. All of this was done by them by way of calling to what they were upon, that they be followed in their ways and beliefs, and by way of stubbornly resisting anything that opposed them. This is why Allah, Most High, said concerning the dispute of Ibrahim with his people,
|“...when he said to his father and his people, ‘What do you worship?’ They said, ‘We worship idols and will cling to them.’ He said, ‘Do they hear you when you call or do they help you or do you harm?’ They said, ‘No, but this is what we found our fathers doing.’”|
So the only response they had in the face of these damning questions was that they were doing what they found their fathers doing. Allah, Most High, says,
|“Or did We give them a Book before which they are holding to? No, in fact they say, ‘We found our fathers following a religion and we are simply guided in their footsteps.’”|
Again they could only recourse to their blind following of their fathers, so Allah, Most High, says,
|“Say, ‘What if I have come with better guidance than what you found your fathers following?’”|
and their only response was open rejection, being unable to answer the question.
Dreading that they would lose what they had, they had the same attitude towards the Prophet (SAW) because he had come with something outside of what they were accustomed to, something different to their disbelief and misguidance. This dread led them to make certain political decisions that would effectuate, in their view, some level of agreement and unity between them and him (SAW). They attempted to convince him to liberalise his call and share power with them, he having it sometimes and they at other times. They tried their hardest to prevent their feeble house from collapsing. However, he (SAW) was inexorable in his call to the truth and upholding what was correct in its pristine purity. Allah, Most High, revealed,
|“Say, ‘O disbelievers! I do not worship what you worship and you do not worship what I worship. Nor will I worship what you worship and nor will you worship what I worship. You have your religion and I have my religion.’”|
Upon hearing this they erected the war of enmity: they boycotted him, the people of authority and power set their will against him, those who had the closest lineage to him, such as Abu Jahl, were the most severe and harshest against him, and to befriend him was to be painfully punished.
What strangeness is there that can compare to this?
Yet despite all this, Allah did not abandon him (SAW), He did not allow them to overcome him, instead He protected him, ultimately giving him ascendancy so that he could fully convey the message of his Lord.
The Legal Law, throughout its period of revelation, demarcated those who followed it from those who did not; it framed clearly defined criteria differentiating it from the innovations of others, and it did all this in an amazing way - it did so by establishing a clear relationship between its laws and the original religion of the Arabs, the religion of Ibrahim, peace be upon him, and the other Prophets sent to them, this so that the elders could feel some sense of familiarity with it. Allah, Most High, says,
|“They are the ones Allah has guided, so be guided by their guidance.”|
|“He has laid down the same religion for you as He enjoined on Nuh: that which We revealed to you and which We enjoined Ibrahim, Musa and `Isa: ‘Establish the religion and do not make divisions in it.’ What you call the polytheists to follow is very hard for them.”|
The Messenger of Allah (SAW) persisted in his call and a few individuals responded to it, all the while concealing their faith for fear of the disbelievers. This was at the time when the disbelievers were oppressing the Muslims. When it was discovered that a particular individual had become a Muslim, they behaved harshly towards him, opposed him, and harmed him at every opportunity. Some of these Muslims sought protection from their tribes, others migrated for the sake of Allah, and others had no option but to face torture and death at the hands of the enemy. They endured this situation patiently, hoping for reward from their Lord, until Allah revealed leeway allowing them to outwardly utter words of disbelief while the heart still believed. In this way they were seen to be conforming and hence were saved from torture.
This strangeness is also clear.
Islam continued on the increase, its path became firm and manifest during the lifetime of the Prophet (SAW) and the majority of the epoch of the Companions.
But then traces of abandoning the Sunnah appeared and people developed a propensity towards misguided innovations such as that of the Qadariyyah and the Khawarij. This latter group were the ones talked about in the hadith,
|“They would kill the Muslims and leave the idolaters. They will recite the Qur’an, yet it will not go beyond their throats,”|
meaning that they will not acquire an understanding of the Qur’an, they would just take to its literal sense.
All of this occurred towards the end of the generation of the Companions. Sects started multiplying, just as was promised by the Prophet (SAW) with his words,
|“The Jews split into seventy one sects and the Christians similarly. My nation shall split into seventy three sects.”|
In another hadith,
|“You will surely follow the ways of those before you, cubit by cubit and hand-span by hand-span to the point that were they to enter the hole of a lizard, you would also follow them.” They asked, ‘Messenger of Allah, do you mean the Jews and Christians?’ He replied, “Who else?”|
The meaning of this hadith is wider than the meaning of the previous one, for the previous hadith deals with the People of Innovation in the view of the majority of the People of Knowledge; whereas this one deals with any form of opposition to the Legal Law.
Every party in a disagreement tends to call others to its position, for to bolster ones supporters in a deed or stance is a natural reaction. Because of this, dispute occurs with the opponent and empathy occurs with the conformer as a result of which enmity and hatred is engendered amongst the disputants.
Islam had become firm and manifest, and those who followed it were the Greatest Group, the strangeness they had experienced left them, and the enemy was unable to overcome them. Then the Muslim community fell prey to the splitting that had been predicted, its strength went to weakness, and the innovator was able to find an audience and increase his following. The people of the Sunnah were assaulted by innovation and misguidance and many succumbed. The nation split. This is the Sunnah of Allah in this creation, the people who follow the truth are usually few in number when compared to those who follow falsehood,
|“But most people for all your eagerness are not believers,”|
|“But very few of My slaves are thankful...”|
Allah also desired to bring the promise of the Prophet (SAW) to light that this religion would once again become strange, strangeness only comes about by losing adherents to something or by their number diminishing. This happened when good became viewed as evil and evil as good, Sunnah became viewed as innovation and innovation as Sunnah; Ahlu’l-Sunnah were now censured and abused whereas in the beginning they were dominant and strong.
However, Allah had decreed that the Muslims, altogether, would never unite upon opposing the Sunnah, rather the group called Ahlu’l-Sunnah would remain until the command of Allah comes, but they would be few and isolated, at odds with those around them, and because of this Allah would multiply their reward and grant them a great recompense.
It becomes clear from what has preceded that the desire of the opposer to have others conform to him is something that has existed and still exists. Whoever conforms to him is regarded to be on the truth no matter what, whoever does not conform is in error; whoever conforms is praised and happy, and whoever does not is censured and boycotted; whoever conforms has traversed the path of guidance and whoever does not has traversed the path of misguidance.
 Sad (38): 5
 al-`Ankabut (29): 65
 Qaf (50): 3
 al-Anfal (8): 32
 al-Shu`ara´ (26): 70-74
 al-Zukhruf (43): 21-22
 al-Zukhruf (43): 24
 al-Kafirun (109): 1-6
 al-An`am (6): 90
 al-Shura (42): 13
 Bukhari #7344 and Muslim #1074 on the authority of Abu Sa`id
 Bukhari #3456-7320 and Muslim #2669 on the authority of Abu Sa`id.
 Yusuf (12): 103
 Saba´ (34): 13