One day the Messenger of Allah (PBUH: peace be upon him) asked his companions: “Which of God’s creatures possess the most amazing iman (faith)?”
“The Angels,” answered his companions.
“How would the Angels not have faith in Allah when they are always close to Him,” replied the Messenger in disagreement.
“The prophets,” answered the other companions.
“How would the prophets not have faith when words of God are revealed unto them?” the Messenger disagreed.
“We - your companions?” the companions suggested.
“How would you not have faith when I am always amidst you?” retorted the Messenger.
Finally the Messenger decreed: “The creatures with the most amazing iman are those who live after me. They have never met me but they declare faith in me. They love me more than they love their children and elders. They are my Ikhwan (Brothers). They read the Quran and are faithful to all its contents.”
(Related by Abu Ya’la)
“O Abu Bakr,” the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) asked, “Do you not long for my Ikhwan since they also love you because you are my companion?”
(Related by Ibnu Hajar Asqalani)
The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) continued: “Good tidings for those who meet and declare faith in me. And sevenfold good tidings for those who declare faith in me but have never met me.”
(Related by Ahmad)
Let it be known to you, that the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) longs for a tha’ifah (group) from amongst his ummah near the end of time; an ummah whose morals are akin to the prophets’ and who remain steadfast to the ways of the siddiqin (righteous). They are the strange ones among the general Muslim population.