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Raj'a

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Shi'a Beliefs
Theology
Tawhid (Monotheism) Tawhid of EssenceTawhid in AttributesTawhid in ActionsTawhid in Worship
Other Beliefs TawassulShafa'aTabarruk
Divine Justice
Bada'Amr Bayn al-Amrayn
Prophethood
Infallibility'Ilm al-ghaybMu'jizaIntegrity of the Holy Qur'an
Imamate
InfallibilityWilaya'Ilm al-ghaybOccultation of Imam al-Mahdi (a) (Minor Occultation,Major Occultation) • Reappearance of Imam al-Mahdi (a)Raj'a
Resurrection
AkhiraBarzakhBodily ResurrectionSiratTatayur al-KutubMizanHashr
Other Outstanding Beliefs
Ahl al-Bayt (a)The Fourteen InfalliblesTaqiyyaal-Marja'iyya al-DiniyyaTawalliTabarri

Rajʿa (Arabic: الرَّجعَة), is the belief that a group of people who have died will return to the Earth shortly after the reappearance of the twelfth Shi'a Imam, al-Mahdi (a). It is a belief particular to the Shi'as. The Holy Qur'an has mentioned the story of some people who have been resurrected after death. Based on some hadiths, a number of perfect believers as well as a number of complete infidels will return to this world. The return of Imam Ali (a) and Imam al-Husayn (a) has been especially emphasized. Since there are mutawatir hadiths about raj'a, it is a certain fact. However, details about raj'a are not as certain.

Etymology

The word raj'a literally means 'to return'. In the Holy Qur'an and narrations different terms have been used to refer to this doctrinal principle such as raj'a, karra, radd, hashr. However, raj'a is the most popular term.

This form of Arabic infinitive (masdar al-marra) for raj'a translates into 'returning once, or to return once'.

In Shi'a Beliefs

As a technical term used in Islamic discourse and science, raj'a has been coined to represent the belief that at the time of Imam al-Mahdi's reappearance, God will bring back to life a number the deceased to the world with their worldly body. Creating an opportunity for the believers to reach their ultimate perfection is mentioned among the reasons behind raj'a. According to a hadith from Imam al-Rida (a), those believers who do not achieve the blessing of martyrdom will achieve it during their raj'a.

The purpose of this returning to life is for the Shi'as to aid and help the Imam (a) in his mission and for them to witness the establishment of his righteous government. Similarly, God will also bring back to life a number of the Imam's enemies so that they may taste the punishment of this world and witness, much to their regret, the glory and power of Imam al-Mahdi's government .

Raj'a is considered one of the necessary components of the Shi'a belief system. Al-Sharif al-Murtada, a Shi'a scholar and theologian, says, "The Twelver Shi'as are of the belief that at the time of Imam al-Mahdi's reappearance, God will bring back to a life a group among the believers, so that they may benefit from the righteous government of al-Mahdi (a), and gain the rewards of helping him and aiding him in establishing this government. A group from among the enemies will also be brought back to life, so that revenge can be taken on them."

'Allama Tabataba'i writes in al-Mizan, "Although the non-Shi'a denominations, accept the belief in the reappearance of al-Mahdi (a), and have widely reported (mutawatir) narrations from the Prophet (s) in this regard, they reject the issue of raj'a, and see this to be a belief particular to the Shi'as."

In Qur'an

According to Shi'a theologians and Quranic commentators, there are verses in the holy Qur'an that speak about raj'a.

Five verses refer to the resurrection of the dead in the past, these verses confirm the possibility of raj'a.

Some verses speak about the happening of raj'a in the future:

  • Verse 83 of Sura al-Naml (27) is about a day in which a group from every nation will be resurrected, the verse is not about the Day of Judgement as on the Day of Judgement all people will be resurrected not just certain groups of them[Note 6]
  • Verse 11 of Sura Ghafir (40) quotes from the faithless in the Day of Judgement that they had died twice and had been revived twice. The two deaths and revivals show that they had experienced raj'a before the Day of Judgement[Note 7]

In Hadiths

In his Bihar al-anwar, al-'Allama al-Majlisi mentions over one-hundred and sixty verses and narrations on the topic of raj'a. After quoting these hadiths, he says, "For those who have faith in the words of the Imams (a), no room for doubt remains that raj'a is a true concept. The reason being, that the reports that have been collated from the Imams (a) on this matter are at the level of tawatur (widely reported to the extent that no doubt can remain regarding the authenticity of the said matter).The author of the Quranic exegesis Al-Mizan, 'Allama Tabataba'i, believes that these reports have reached a level of tawatur in meaning. So much so that even if a few of these reports were to be problematic or unclear, it would not affect the tawatur of the reports.

Furthermore, the idea of raj'a appears in many of the recorded Ziyarahs and supplications, including the Al-Ziyara al-Jami'a al-Kabira, Ziyara Warith, Ziyara Arba'in, Ziyara Al Yasin, and Ziyara Rajabiyya, also the supplications of Wida' and 'Ahd.

It is noteworthy to say that while Shi'as believe in raj'a, they do not consider the rejecters of raj'a as non-Muslim (Kafir), since raj'a is a necessary belief to be Shi'a, not Muslim, meaning the rejecter will still be in the fold of Islam. It is understood from a number of reports that belief in raj'a is a condition for perfect faith and true Islam.

The Time of Raj'a

About the time of raj'a, there are three possibilities:

  1. shortly before the reappearance of the Twelfth Imam (a);
  2. simultaneously with his reappearance;
  3. shortly after the reappearance.

In some hadiths, whose chains of transmitters are weak, the time of raj'a is alluded to by the quite famous saying "All wonders [take place] between Jumada and Rajab" (اَلْعَجَبُ كُلُّ الْعَجَبِ بَینَ جُمَادَی وَ رَجَب). However, it is not possible to ascertain the exact time of, and the order of the events related to, raj'a.

Those Who Will Experience Raj'a

Although there is no doubt that raj'a will take place, as it is backed by widely transmitted hadiths, its details, including the number and identity of those who will return, are not certain. However, the majority of scholars maintain that during raj'a, only the Prophet (s), the Imams (a), and the pure believers and unbelievers will return.

Prophets and Believers before the Advent of Islam

According to some hadiths, Daniel (Daniyal (a)), Joshua (Yusha' (a)), Jesus ('Isa (a)), and Khidr are among those who will return. Also, it is mentioned that some believers and followers of the previous religions, such as the People of the Cave, will return.

Return of Jesus

Both Shi'a and Sunni sources state that 'Isa (a) will return at the time of Imam al-Mahdi (a). It can be understood from the traditions with certainty that 'Isa (a) will return after the reappearance of the Imam (a) and will pray behind him. According to some traditions, the Imam will give 'Isa (a) the leadership and governance of a part of the world. Sunni sources indicate that the duration of the return of 'Isa (a) will be forty years.

According to some hadiths, verse 159 of sura al-Nisa' "There is none among the People of the Book but will surely believe in him before his death; and on the Day of Resurrection he will be a witness against them" (Qur'an 4:159) is related to the return of 'Isa (a).

The Prophet (s), Ahl al-bayt (a), and Their Companions

The Prophet (s) will return together with Imam Ali (a). According to some hadiths, all the Imams (a) and some of their companions, such as Salman, Miqdad, Jabir b. 'Abd Allah al-Ansari, Malik al-Ashtar, al-Mufaddal b. 'Umar, Humran b. A'yan, Muyassir b. 'Abd al-Aziz, and the companions of Imam al-Husayn (a), will return.

Some other hadiths state that pure believers and unbelievers will return, without giving any specific names.

Several Returns of Imam Ali (a)

According to sixs hadiths, which do not have reliable chains of transmitters, Imam Ali (a) will return several times. And after punishing the enemies, he will rule the earth.

The First Returners

In Tafsir al-'Ayyashi, the first returners are said to be Imam al-Husayn (a) and his companions. A hadith in Bihar al-Anwar, which reports the conversation between Imam al-Husayn (a) and his companions on the eve of Ashura, includes a description of what will happen at the time of raj'a. In another hadith, Imam al-Husayn (a) is with Imam al-Mahdi (a) when the latter passes away; Imam al-Husayn (a) perforsm burial rituals for him and then continues his rule for forty years. However, according to some other hadiths, Imam al-Mahdi (a) will be the last ruler.

In some other hadiths, the first returner is said to be Imam Ali (a), but considering the hadiths that talk about several returns for Imam Ali (a), it is possible to infer that Imam Ali (a) will be the first returner before the reappearance of Imam al-Mahdi (a) and Imam al-Husayn (a) will be the first returner after the reappearance.

History in Shi'a Denominations

In some reports, it has been recorded that shortly after the martyrdom of Imam 'Ali (a), a group of people from Iraq developed the belief that Imam Ali (a) would return to this world before the final resurrection. Similar beliefs developed in different Shi'a denominations after the death or martyrdoms of personalities like Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya, Imam al-Kazim (a), and Imam al-Hasan al-'Askari (a).

In Other Religions

The concept of raj'a can be found in the Old Testament. The Book of Ezekiel for instance, points towards the coming back to life of the Israelites and the rule of David (a) in the end of times . In the Book of Daniel, it is reported that 'In the end of times, many of those who are asleep within the earth will be awoken' .

The New Testament also speaks about the returning to life of the righteous people and the establishment of the Messiah's rule in the first resurrection, before the coming of the second resurrection .

Related Works

Due to the great importance of raj'a in the Shiite theological belief system, Shi'a scholars and narrators have written numerous books and treatises on the topic. Unfortunately, many of these works are no longer available to us, and have been lost. Now, only their names remain in the books of rijal (books regarding the status of narrators, and at times their works) and fihrist (lists of authors and their works). Aqa Buzurg Tihrani introduces thirty works written on this topic. Some of the most important ones that have been published are as follows:

  • Al-Raj'a; Mirza Muhammad Mu'min b. Dust Muhammad Husayni Astarabadi (annotated by Faris Hassun Karim and published by Anwar al-Huda Publications, 1417/1996-1997). Mirza Muhammad Mu'min was martyred in Mecca in the year 1088/1677-1678). In this work, after a short introduction regarding the necessity of turning to the Infallible Imams (a) in all affairs, and submitting to their words, Mirza Muhammad presents more than a hundred narrations on the topic of raj'a.
  1. Al-Iqaz min al-haj'a bi l-burhan 'ala l-raj'a; Shaykh Muhammad b. Hasan al-Hurr al-'Amili (d. 1104/1692-1693). This book was authored in 1075/1664-1665; it contains over one-hundred and seventy narrations, including tens of verses and other proofs to establish the concept of raj'a.
  2. Raj'at; Muhammad Baqir al-Majlisi (d. 1111/1699-1700). This book was written in Persian. It contains fourteen narrations pertaining to the reappearance of the Twelfth Imam, al-Mahdi (a), and the topic of raj'a. It is worth noting that al-'Allama al-Majlisi has addressed in detail the issue of raj'a within his other famous work Bihar al-anwar. He presents approximately two-hundred narrations that have been reported on this topic .
  3. Al-Shi'a wa l-raj'a; Muhammad Rida Tabasi Najafi (d. 1405/1984-1985). This book was published in the year 1378/1958-1959 by al-Matba'a al-Haydariyya Publishers, Najaf. The book consists of theoretical, historical, linguistical, and ethical discussions, with research and analysis. In this book, the status of raj'a as per the Qur'an, reported supplications, reported salutations (Ziyarah), the consensus of the scholars and the view of reputable figures, has been analyzed and reviewed. In the first chapter of this book, one-hundred and seventy-four verses of the Qur'an that have been interpreted as referring to raj'a according to the narrations, have been mentioned alongside the relevant narrations.

Notes

  1. And when you said, ‘O Moses, we will not believe you until we see Allah visibly.’ Thereupon a thunderbolt seized you as you looked on. (55) Then We raised you up after your death so that you might give thanks. (Qur'an, 2:55-56)
  2. Or him who came upon a township as it lay fallen on its trellises. He said, ‘How will Allah revive this after its death?!’ So Allah made him die for a hundred years, then He resurrected him. He said, ‘How long have you remained?’ Said he, ‘I have remained a day or part of a day.’ He said, ‘Rather you have remained a hundred years. Now look at your food and drink which have not rotted! Then look at your ass! [This was done] that We may make you a sign for mankind. And look at the bones, how We arrange them and then clothe them with flesh!’ When it became evident to him, he said, ‘I know that Allah has power over all things.’ (Qur'an, 2:259)
  3. And when you killed a soul, and accused one another about it—and Allah was to expose what you were concealing— We said, 'Strike him with a piece of it:' thus does Allah revive the dead, and He shows you His signs so that you may exercise your reason. (Qur'an, 2:72-73)
  4. Have you not regarded those who left their homes in thousands, apprehensive of death, whereupon Allah said to them, 'Die,' then He revived them? Indeed Allah is gracious to mankind, but most people do not give thanks. (Qur'an, 2:243)
  5. When Allah will say, O Jesus son of Mary, remember My blessing upon you and upon your mother, when I strengthened you with the Holy Spirit, so you would speak to the people in the cradle and in adulthood, and when I taught you the Book and wisdom, the Torah and the Evangel, and when you would create from clay the form of a bird, with My leave, and you would breathe into it and it would become a bird, with My leave; and you would heal the blind and the leper, with My leave, and you would raise the dead, with My leave; and when I held off [the evil of] the Children of Israel from you when you brought them manifest proofs, whereat the faithless among them said, ‘This is nothing but plain magic.’ (Qur'an, 5:110)
  6. On that day We shall resurrect from every nation a group of those who denied Our signs, and they will be held in check. (Qur'an, 27:83)
  7. They will say, 'Our Lord! Twice did You make us die, and twice did You give us life. We admit our sins. Is there any way out [from this plight]?' (Qur'an, 40:11)

References

  • The material for writing this article has been mainly taken from رجعت in Farsi WikiShia.