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 upon him for having become 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 naýīmin wa sururi
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