What is Raj'a (the return)?

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What is Raj'a (the return)?
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In the Arabic language, raj'a means 'return'; in Shi'i terminology it denotes the return of a group of Muslims to this world after the appearance of the Mahdi and before the Resurrection. Evidence for the possibility of such an occurrence is forthcoming first and foremost from the Qur'an, which tells us, in the Sura al-Naml (27: 83,87):

And [warn of] the Day when We will gather from every nation a company of those who deny Our signs, and they will be [driven] in rows.(27:83)

And [warn of] the Day the Horn will be blown, and whoever is in the heavens and whoever is on the earth will be terrified except whom Allah wills. And all will come to Him humbled.(27:87)

As can be seen, the verses above speak of two days, the first of which turns one's attention to the second. As regards the first day, there is mention made of the revival only of a particular group, whilst as regards the second day, the death of the whole of mankind is mentioned; we observe, then, that the first day is other than the Day of Resurrection.

 

As can be seen, the verses above speak of two days, the first of which turns one's attention to the second. As regards the first day, there is mention made of the revival only of a particular group, whilst as regards the second day, the death of the whole of mankind is mentioned; we observe, then, that the first day is other than the Day of Resurrection.
A comparison between these two verses in the Sura al-Naml reveals that the world is awaiting two days, on one of which some, and on the other of which all souls will be revived. Sayings transmitted in the Shi'i tradition maintain that the first day pertains to the period after the appearance of the Mahdi and before the Day of Resurrection.
The return to life in this world of a group of righteous or wicked souls before the Resurrection should not, then, give rise to astonishment, for in previous communities also there were groups who, after their death, returned again to life, and after a time passed away for a second time. [1]

A comparison between these two verses in the Sura al-Naml reveals that the world is awaiting two days, on one of which some, and on the other of which all souls will be revived. Sayings transmitted in the Shi'i tradition maintain that the first day pertains to the period after the appearance of the Mahdi and before the Day of Resurrection.

The return of persons to life in this world does not conflict with reason, nor with sources transmitted by tradition, for as we have seen, the Qur'an explicitly refers to this return in respect of past communities, and there can be no better evidence than this for upholding the possibility of this phenomenon. There are some who regard the 'return' to mean the same thing as 'transmigration' ( tanasukh); such an idea is utterly baseless, for transmigration holds that a soul, after dying, regains its life anew, either starting out from the embryonic state, or else by entering another body. The Return, on the other hand, has nothing to do with either of these false ideas. The principal authority for upholding the validity of the doctrine of the Return is derived from the revival of the dead in past communities, and the bodily Resurrection on the Day of Judgement; indeed, one might regard the Return as a minor foreshadowing of that ultimate Resurrection at which all without exception will be brought back to life.

There are some who regard the 'return' to mean the same thing as 'transmigration' (tanasukh); such an idea is utterly baseless, for transmigration holds that a soul, after dying, regains its life anew, either starting out from the embryonic state, or else by entering another body. The Return, on the other hand, has nothing to do with either of these false ideas. The principal authority for upholding the validity of the doctrine of the Return is derived from the revival of the dead in past communities, and the bodily Resurrection on the Day of Judgement; indeed, one might regard the Return as a minor foreshadowing of that ultimate Resurrection at which all without exception will be brought back to life.

There is an extensive debate regarding raj'a, and detailed explanations of its different aspects, in the Shi'i books of Qur'anic commentary, Hadith, and theology. In Shi'i sources there are also transmitted sayings regarding this question that have the highest degree of confirmation ( tawatur); more than thirty Hadith scholars in over fifty books have transmitted such sayings. [2]

1. See Sura al-Baqara, n:55-56, for mention of the revival of a group amongst the People of Israel; verses 72-73 for the revival, by means of the cow of Moses, of those killed amongst the People of Israel; verse 243 for the death and revival of another group of people; verse 259 for the revival of Uzayr after one hundred years; and Sura Al 'Irnran,: 49, for the miraculous revival of the dead by Jesus.
2. al-Majlisi, Bihar al-anwar, vol. 53, p. 136. Translator's note: See Sachedina, Islamic Messianism, pp. 166-73, for further discussion of the doctrine of raj' a.

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لا يكونُ أخوكَ أقوى مِنكَ على مَودّتِهِ.
Do not let your brother be stronger than you are in your amity for him.