Book Review: Al Ghuraba - The Muslim Strangers

Discussion in 'Bibliophile's Corner' started by abu Hasan, Nov 4, 2006.

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  1. abu Hasan

    abu Hasan Administrator

    the word gharib is used both ways in urdu; both as a poor person [or a miskin, faqir] AND as something strange and foreign.

    people don't seem to realize that the latter usage is not restricted to the erudite; just ask any urdu speaker if he has heard the phrase: `ajeeb O ghareeb. here ghareeb means strange, foreign, outlandish. each word in the phrase complements the other.

    i tend to think that the word gharib to be used as a destitute is related to the fact that a foreign person, a stranger, a traveler - not more than a couple of centuries ago - would be destitute and someone described a local destitute as 'looking like a gharib' which i suspect fell into popular usage as destitute.

    this could well have happened in persia and fully integrated in that lexicon before passing on to urdu/hindi/punjabi. [note the order - and yours ;)]

    another such polysemous word is latifah. it is commonly used as a 'joke' [pun unintended]. but it actually means 'hinting at a subtle point.' because latif/latifah is something subtle, fine. laTifah is used in books, usually to highlight a finer point, an obscure fact etc. laTayif al-minan or The Subtle Favors of ibn `aTaAllah as-sakandari comes to mind as a word-reference. [laTayif, pl.laTifah; minan, pl.minnah-favor]

    i don't have a reference but my brother explained this to me long ago [and his explanation is convincing and plausible even if it is his very own]: that since a joke is amusing because of its subtle hint - a turn of phrase, or a pun - the real meaning is laTif, hence the coining of the word laTifah. or perhaps from the word luTf which means courtesy, kindness, politeness, gentleness, geniality. this in turn causes the receiver of luTf to be happy, joyful. so that which causes you to be happy is a laTifah, hence extend this further and it becomes a joke. [pun intended]

    latifah: that what we call 'kabab shami' [levantine kabab], i hear from my syrian friends that it is called as 'kabab hindi' [indian kabab] back in the levant/sham. a dear friend of mine, a damascene, remarked, 'there must have been a turkish salesman in between..'
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2006
  2. :s1: Jazak Allah for this. I have noticed that many lay-people (and possibly some maulvis too) from Indo-Pak get confused with this hadith because in Urdu/Punjabi/Hindi the word, 'gharib' means poor, so they interpret this hadith to mean that only poor people can be good Muslims! 'Islam ghariboN se shuroH huwa tha aur ghariboN mein hii khatam ho ga' is a typical paraphrase of this hadith. Interesting isn't it how such a simple linguistic error can lead to a totally different understanding. BUT, thinking a bit more deeply, it is quite easy to see that mostly it is the poor who are practising Islam as it gives them something.--hope The rich are busy enjoying the pleasures of the world to care about religion! And are there not hadith like, 'It is easier for a camel to go through the eyes of a needle than for a rich man to go to Paradise' (also found verbatim in the Injil) and the statement by Isa alayhisalam, 'The meek shall inherit the Earth'.
  3. abu Hasan

    abu Hasan Administrator

    If someone asks about the meaning of the ĥadīth wherein the Prophet şallAllāhu álayhi wa sallam said: ‘Islām began as a stranger and shall return to the way it began’, he shall be told:

    Before RasūlAllāh şallAllāhu álayhi wa sallam proclaimed Islam people followed different religions [and some none at all]: there were the Jews, the Christians, the Magians and those who worshipped heathen gods [ábadat al-awthān]. When RasūlAllāh şallAllāhu álayhi wa sallam came forth with [his message of] Islām, whosoever bore faith became a stranger, an outlander in his own country, in his own street. He became an outcast and was ostracized from his community; he was fearful of openly displaying his Islām. His very family and friends abandoned him. He lived among them utterly scorned, humiliated and despised. Yet, he patiently endured the harassment and persecution heaped on him for becoming a Muslim. This went on until finally, Allāh táālā strengthened Islām and increased its supporters, and at last the people of Truth [ahl al-ĥaqq] prevailed and falsehood was vanquished.

    This is what it means when we say Islām was strange and foreign in the beginning.

    ana al-gharību fa lā ulāmu ála’l bukā
    inna’l bukā ĥasanun bi kulli gharībi
    I am a stranger and a stranger is not chided if he weeps
    Verily, it behoves a stranger to weep

    ayyuha’l ghāfilu fī žilli na[FONT=&quot]ýīmin wa sururi[/FONT]
    kun gharīban wa’jáli’d dunyā sabīlan li’l úbūri
    wa-ádudi’n nafsa ţiwāla’d dahri min ahli’l qubūri
    wa’rfuđi’d dunyā wa lā tarkan ilā dāri’l ghurūri

    O, the one lost in the shade of luxury and happiness
    Be a stranger and make this worldly life, a path to pass
    Count yourself as long as you live, among the dead
    Forsake this world and do not trust this home of delusions
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2007
  4. abu Hasan

    abu Hasan Administrator

    A well-known ĥadīth says: ‘Islām began in a strange and forlorn fashion and it shall return to becoming strange just the way it began; so glad tidings [or ţūbā] for the strangers [in that age].’ Another says: ‘Be in this world as a stranger or a wayfarer; and count yourself among the dead’.

    Gharīb, means a stranger; Ghurabā its plural. Gharīb is also the state of being forlorn and foreign. Islām, in its early days was viewed as a strange and foreign thing to people who worshipped their desires and respected only wealth and might. The Muslim who abstained from pleasures and strived to be austere and just was viewed as an outlander – as a gharīb. And RasūlAllāh şallAllāhu álayhi wa sallam foretold that Islām shall become foreign once more; true Muslims, Muslims striving to be good and just will be viewed as outlandish – or the ghurabā.

    When RasūlAllāh şallAllāhu álayhi wa sallam was asked who the ghurabā were, he said: ‘those folk who remain righteous when corruption spreads among the people’ [alladhīna yuşliĥūna idhā fasada’n nās]

    The book Al-Ghurabā talks about such people. It contains ĥadīth, moving stories, verses extolling such folk and encouraging Muslims to be steadfast in trying times. Indeed, this is the very age the Prophet şallAllāhu álayhi wa sallam foretold about Islām being forlorn – and if not, it is not very far.

    About the Author:
    Imām Abū Bakr Muĥammad ibn al-Ĥusayn al-Ājuriy is a famous muĥaddith and jurist from the fourth century after Hegira. He was born and grew up in the western part of Baghdād named Darb al-Ájurr, hence the appellation. Ibn Khallikān says: ‘He was a Shāfiýī jurist and a muĥaddith; he is the author of the famous book Al-Arba[FONT=&quot]ýīn. He was a righteous and a pious man.’ Dhahabi says about him: ‘The Imām, the muhaddith; he was the Imām of the grand mosque in Makkah [Imām al-ĥaram]; a truthful, charitable and a pious man; a man of exemplary character.’[/FONT]

    His teachers:
    - Imām Abū Muslim Ibrāhīm al-Başrī al-Kajjī (d.292 AH)
    - Imām Abu’l Ábbās Aĥmed ibn Sahl al-Ashnāni (d.307 AH)
    - Imām Abū Ábdullāh Aĥmed ibn al-Ĥasan (210-306 AH)
    - Imām Jáafar ibn Muĥammad al-Firyābī (207-301 AH)
    - Imām Abū Jáafar Aĥmed ibn Yaĥyā al-Bajali (d.296 AH)
    - Imām Yaĥyā ibn Zanjway ibn Mūsā al-Qaţţān (d.304 AH)
    - Imām Abū’l Qāsim Ábdullāh ibn Muĥammad al-Baghawi (214-317 AH)
    - Imām Abū Muĥammad Khalaf ibn Ámr al-Úkbarī (206-296 AH)
    - Imām Abū Bakr Ábdullāh ibn Sulaymān as-Sajistāni (230-316 AH) the son of Imām Abū Dāwūd, the author of the famous ‘Sunan’.
    His prominent students:
    - Imām Abū Nuáym al-Aşbahānī (336-425 AH), the famous muĥaddith and the author of Hilyatu’l Awliyā.
    - Imām Abū’l Qāsim ábd al-Malik ibn Bishrān (339-430 AH)
    - Imām Abū’l Ĥusayn Álī ibn Bishrān (338-415 AH)
    - Imām Abū Muĥammad ábd ar-Raĥmān al-Māliki al-Bazzāz (323-416 AH)
    Some of his works:
    • Akhlāq Ahl al-Qur’ān
    • Akhbār Úmar ibn Ábdu’l Ázīz
    • Kitāb al-Arba[FONT=&quot]ýīn[/FONT]
    • Taĥrīm an-Nard wa’sh Shaţranj wa’l Malāhī
    • Ash-Sharīáh
    • Kitab at-Taşdīq bi’n Nažr ila’llāhi táālā
    It is said that he went to Makkah once and he liked it very much there. He said: ‘O Allāh, let me stay here for an year’ and he heard someone say: ‘rather, for thirty years.’ Thus he stayed there for thirty years until he passed away in Muĥarram, 360 AH. Abū Bakr al-Khaţib [Baghdādi] says, ‘I saw this written on his tombstone [balāţah] in Makkah.’

    Name of the book: Kitāb Al-Ghurabā mina’l Mu’minīn
    Name (English): The book about Forlorn Muslims, the Strangers.
    Author: Imām Abū Bakr Muĥammad ibn al-Ĥusayn al-Ājuriy [d. 360 AH]
    Pages: 127
    Subject: Taşawwuf.
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2008

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