Raj'a

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Rajʿa (Arabic: الرَّجعَة), the belief that a group of people will return to the Earth after death, is a belief particular to the Shi'as. The period of this incident will begin shortly after the reappearance of the twelfth Shi'a Imam, al-Mahdi (a). 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.

Literal Meaning

The word raj'a is extracted from the root of 'ra ja 'a' (ر ج ع) in Arabic, and 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'.

Technical Meaning

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 of his Shi'as who have departed from the world before his reappearance. 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 in the Shi'a Belief System

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."

Evidence and Proofs for Raj'a from the Holy Qur'an

According to Shi'a theologians and Quranic commentators, there are verses in the holy Qur'an that speak about raj'a. These verses are categorized in to two groups based on their ability to establish raj'a.

Group one: Verses that clearly and directly point towards raj'a. These verses were employed by the Infallible Imams (a) to prove raj'a , they are as follows:

  • 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)
  • 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)

Group two: Verses that point towards the possibility of raj'a. These verses speak about people who have died coming back to life in this world; these verses are also proofs for resurrection, too . These verses are:

  • Or him who came upon a township as it lay fallen on its trellises... So Allah made him die for a hundred years, then He resurrected him...And now look at its bones, how We raise them up and clothe them with flesh!' (Qur'an, 2:259)
  • And when Abraham said, 'My Lord! Show me how You revive the dead,' He said, 'Do you not believe?' He said, 'Yes indeed, but in order that my heart may be at rest.' He said, 'Catch four of the birds. Then cut them into pieces, and place a part of them on every mountain, then call them; they will come to you hastening. And know that Allah is all-mighty and all-wise.' (Qur'an, 2:260)
  • They remained in the Cave for three hundred years, and added nine more [to that number]. (Qur'an, 18:25)
  • Then We raised you up after your death so that you might give thanks. (Qur'an, 2:56)
  • 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)
  • 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)
  • And [he will be] an apostle to the Children of Israel, [and he will declare,] 'I have certainly brought you a sign from your Lord: I will create for you the form of a bird out of clay, then I will breathe into it, and it will become a bird by Allah's leave... (Qur'an, 3:49)
  • 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... (Qur'an, 5:110)

Evidence and Proofs for Raj'a from the Narrations

Many narrations speak about the issue of raj'a. There is a narration from the Holy Prophet (s) with the following message:

I swear by God, who holds my life in His hands, you Muslims will face the events that the previous nations (referring to the Israelites) faced. What the previous nations faced, will be repeated in its entirety for you.

According to this report, everything that took place for previous nations, will also takes place for this nation, and one of those issues is raj'a and the returning to life of the dead, as is stated in the verses mentioned, hence it must also happen to our nation.

In one narration, Imam al-Sadiq (a) has counted raj'a as one of the conditions of faith . Similarly, Imam al-Baqir (a) and Imam al-Sadiq (a) have both said in commentary of 'the days of Allah' that, 'the 'days of Allah' are the day of the promised Mahdi's uprising, the day of raj'a and the Day of Judgement' .

Imam al-Rida (a) comments that belief in raj'a is an important and affective factor of faith. He places it alongside belief in Tawhid, Prophethood, Imamate, Mi'raj (the night journey of the Prophet (s)), and the questioning of the grave.

As per one report, Ma'mun al-'Abbasi asked Imam al-Rida (a), 'O Aba l-Hasan, what do you say about raj'a?' The Imam (a) replied:

Raj'a is the truth and it existed in previous nations. The Qur'an has also spoken about it and the Prophet (s) has said, 'After me will come a nation that will face all that was faced by nations before them, without anything extra or less. The Prophet (s) also said, 'When al-Mahdi from among my sons reappears, 'Isa will descend from the skies and pray behind al-Mahdi.'

Ma'mun asked what the final result of this would be. The Imam (a) answered:

The Right (Haqq) will return to its rightful owners.

Those Who Will Experience Raj'a

Some reports have specifically mentioned those that will experience raj'a. From among the Prophets (a), those mentioned are; Daniel (Daniyal (a)), Joshua (Yusha' (a)), Jesus ('Isa (a)), Khidr (a), the Prophet Muhammad (s). The Imams (a) and a number of their companions such as; Salman, Miqdad b. 'Amr, Jabir b. 'Abd Allah al-Ansari, Malik al-Ashtar, Mufaddal b. 'Umar, Hamran b. A'yan and Muyassir b. 'Abd al-'Aziz will also return through raj'a, alongside the companions of the cave (Ashab al-Kahf).

The History of Raj'a 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).

Raj'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 .

The Authenticity of the Raj'a Narrations

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.

Works about Raj'a

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 (encyclopaedias 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:

  1. Al-Raj'a; Mīrza 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.
  2. Al-Iqaz min al-hij'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.
  3. 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 .
  4. Al-Shi'a wa al-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 (Ziyara), 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.

References

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