Concerning the statement of the Prophet: “Islaam began as something strange and will return to being strange, as it began”, Imaam Al-Awzaa’ee (رحمه الله) said:
“As for this, then it does not mean that Islaam will go away, but rather it means that the Ahl-us-Sunnah  will go away, up to the point that there will not remain in a land, any from them except one person.”
Based on this understanding, there can be found in the statements of the Salaf much praise for the Sunnah and their describing it as being strange, and describing its adherents and followers as being few.
Al-Hasan Al-Basree (رحمه الله) used to say to his companions:
“Oh Ahl-us-Sunnah! Be gentle with one another and may Allaah have mercy on you. For indeed, you are from amongst the fewest of people.” 
Yoonus Ibn ‘Ubayd (رحمه الله) said:
“There is not a thing more stranger than the Sunnah. And what
is more stranger than it, is the one who knows it.”
Sufyaan Ath-Thawree (رحمه الله) said:
“Treat the Ahl-us-Sunnah kindly, for verily, they are strangers.” 
The understanding of the term “Sunnah” to these scholars, was the way of the Prophet – that which he and his companions were upon – free from Doubts (Ash-Shubuhaat) and Desires (Ash-Shahawaat). Due to this, Al-Fudayl Ibn ‘Iyaad (رحمه الله) used to say:
“Ahl-us-Sunnah is he who knows what is entering his stomach from the halaal.”
That is because the consumption of halaal is from the greatest aspects of the Sunnah, which the Prophet and his companions were upon.
Then it remained the custom of the majority of the later scholars, from the scholars of hadeeth and other fields, that the Sunnah consisted of what was free from Doubts in regards to Creed. This was especially the case with issues such as the belief in Allaah, His angels, His books, His messengers, the Last Day, and other issues such as Al-Qadar (Divine Pre-Ordainment) and the merits of the Sahaabah. They compiled literary works concerning this knowledge and named them books of “Sunnah”. This knowledge was only labeled with the name “Sunnah”, because its significance was tremendous and all those who opposed it were on the brink of destruction.
And as for the complete Sunnah, then it is the path that is free and safe from Doubts and Desires, as has been stated by Al-Hasan, Yoonus Ibn ‘Ubayd, Sufyaan, Al-Fudayl and others besides them. Due to this, its adherents are described as strange because of their small number and rarity in the Last Days.
This is why it has been mentioned in some of the previously stated reports that they are:
"A righteous people surrounded by people abounding in much evil. Those who disobey them are greater in number than those who obey them." 
In this is an indication of the smallness of their amount in number and in the amount of those who answer and accept their call. We also are made aware of the greatness in number of those who oppose them and disobey them.
That is why it is reported in numerous ahaadeeth, praise for the one who sticks firmly to his Religion during the Last Days. And that he who does so will be like one who holds tightly onto hot pieces of coal. And that the one who acts upon it, will receive fifty times the reward more than those before him.  This is because he will not find any supporters in doing good deeds.
These strangers are of two categories: The first of them are those who rectify themselves when the people have become corrupt. The second category contains those who rectify what the people have corrupted of the Sunnah. And this (latter one) is the most highest and virtuous of the two categories.
 What is meant by the term Ahl-us-Sunnah are all the Muslims who strictly follow the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad. They learn it, act upon it, enforce it and teach it to others. They consist of the scholars, their students and those that follow in their footsteps.
 This report was recorded by Al-Laalikaa'ee. Badr Al-Badr indicated its weakness in his notes to Kashf-ul-Kurbah. However, a similar narration to this one has been recorded by Ad-Daarimee (1/72) and its wording is:
"For verily, Ahl-us-Sunnah are the least of people in number who have preceded, and they are the least of people in number who remain."
This narration is authentic. See Dr. Nasr Al-'Aql's book Mafhoom Ahl-is-Sunnati wal-Jamaa'ah (pg. 84)
 This narration was recorded by Al-Laalikaa'ee in his Sharh Usool 'Itiqaad Ahl-is-Sunnah (1/64) and it was mentioned from him by Ibn Al-Jawzee in Talbees Iblees. Dr. Nasr Al-'Aql mentioned it in his book Mafhoom Ahl-is-Sunnati wal-Jamaa'ah (pg. 85)
 Musnad Ahmad (2/177) and its checking has been stated previously.
 This saying is based on the following hadeeth of the Prophet:
"Verily, after you there will come times requiring patience. (In those days) the one who holds fast to that which you are upon will have the reward of fifty amongst you. He will receive the reward of fifty (i.e. the one holding onto the way of the companions in later times)."
Reported by Al-Marwazee in As-Sunnah (no. 35), At-Tabaraanee in Al-Kabeer (17/117), Abu Dawood in his Sunan (no. 3441), At-Tirmidhee (no. 3057), who declared it saheeh, and Ibn Maajah (no. 4014). Imaam Al-Albaanee authenticated it in As-Saheehah (no. 494)