Essays in Series


About the Series

The Strangers series brings to light a few hidden figures in the history of humanity and ʾIslām who preserved and promulgated the spiritual, or ḍḫāhiri, knowledge. Some of them, such as al-Kḥiḍr (alayhi-s-salām) and Salmān al-Fārsī, are known from the Qurʾānic stories and the Prophet's ﷺ life. Others, such as Ḥasan aṣ-Ṣabbāḥ, are mis-known as he is falsely alleged for running the ḥasḫisḫ smoking Assassins cult out of the mountains of Alamūt. And some figures in the series are less widely known, such as Naṣir Kḫusraw, a mystic, poet and a seeker of the living ʾImām, or Sḫams-i-Tabrīzī, who initiated Rūmī to the spiritual truths that seeped into his poetry.

The Prophet ﷺ once noted that ʾIslām began as something strange and it will return as something strange, and blessed are the strangers. What unites the figures in this series is their role, often hidden from the common eye, in preserving and disseminating the promise and the knowledge of wilāyah/walāyah. Naṣir Kḫusraw implores in Qasidah ʾIʿtirāfī: Confessional Ode: "I asked myself: How is it now with that Tree and with that Hand. Where shall I see that Hand, that group, that Oath?"

Then one day, I read in the Book the Verse of the Oath,in which Allāh proclaims His Handis above all hands, and pondered on that groupwho swore allegiance beneath the Tree(like Jaʿfar, Miqdad, Salmān, al-Buraa)
I asked myself:How is it now with that Tree and with that Hand?Where shall I see that Hand, that group, that Oath?
I asked, but was rebuffed. They are no more– so I was told –The Tree, the Hand are gone,the Assembly dispersed,the Hand concealed and veiled in secrecy.Those men were the Companions,favored by that allegianceand chosen to be with the Prophet in Paradise.
But I said to myselfIn the Book it is clear that Aḥmad ﷺis the Messenger of Good News, and the Warner,luminous as light.If the unbelievers wished to blow it outAllāh would light it again in spite of them.How is it today that no one is left of that Community?Surely the word of the Universal Judge cannot be false!
Whose hand should we grasp,where should we take an oaththat even we of latter times might enjoy the justice of heaven?Why should it be our fault not to be born in that era?Why should we be deprived of the Prophet,afflicted and distressed?