It is narrated on the authority of Abu Huraira that the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said: Islam initiated as something strange, and it would revert to being strange, so good tidings for the stranger. (Sahih Muslim Book 001, Number 270)
What is the most disturbing, freaky, weird aspect of Islam: what is it about Islam that its very practitioners feel so strange as to desire to conceal that nature from the vision of their own souls (upon their backs)?
It is the realisation that, in life, there is no esoteric and exoteric distinction: there is nothing other than ayat, nothing that can approached in life other than what might be called the Symbolic. Life is a journey through space of pure surface of symbols. (There is a zahir and a batin, but, as we have seen previously, these concepts relate to the verses concerning co-garmenting of spouses, not the usual imaginary division between the spaces of an external society and psychological personality.) Followed by the appreciation of how the symbols of life interpolate the Truth About It All.
Such a view of life is radically different from the conventional, rational comprehension of reality — when enunciated in full to those of a “normal” disposition, it sounds plain weird.
Prophecy is strange, seeing only the Symbolic, while the rest of us get caught up in an imaginary world of false origins, totalizations of mere fragments of the ayat, turning particular games of life into the be-all and end-all of existence — worshipping the ayat rather seeking what the ayat indicate.
A stranger — ghuraba – is someone who has travelled far from their home. The home is the Ultimate Reality of human creation, the space of the Real: it is comprehended within life by correct appreciation and configuration of the symbols. And so, when enunciated, the symbols never refer to what you think they might refer to in normal life — because they never refer to anything at all! — instead, when appreciated, correlated and configured correctly — the symbols form an intrusion/recollection/induction of the Real into human perception. They are of the home, though we travel in this foreign land. The occupants of this land then hear strangeness being spoken by the stranger, because they are not aware of the home and instead calibrate the symbols as fixed in their reference.
This contrast between the essence of the Prophetic sunnah of symbolic literacy and “normal” perception is what makes Islam strange to everyone, including, heartbreakingly, practicing Muslims themselves.
So let this hadith be a wake up call to all Muslims. How normal have we become? How sane in relation to our assumptions about reality? Why the long faces and introverted conservatism?
Baby, let’s get strange, and beautifully strange implications will follow, for all aspects of life.
Strange divination of the symbols of the cosmos are learnt, with the stranger engaging Qur’an as the nexus of the Symbolic-as-generative-of-herself, generative of all revelatory unraveling, all Godly glances, all pure perception.
Baby, let’s get strange.