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'a Muslims. The 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.
The word "raj'a" literally means 'to return'. In the 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'.
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 (a)'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."
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:
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.The author of the Qur'anic 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.
About the time of raj'a, there are three possibilities:
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.
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.
According to some hadiths, Daniel (a) (Daniyal), Joshua (a) (Yusha'), Jesus (a) ('Isa), 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 the Jesus (a) will return at the time of Imam al-Mahdi (a). It can be understood from the traditions with certainty that Jesus (a) will return after the reappearance of Imam al-Mahdi (a) and will pray behind him. According to some traditions, the Imam (a) will give Jesus (a) the leadership and governance of a part of the world. Sunni sources indicate that the duration of the return of Jesus (a) will be forty years.
According to some hadiths, Qur'an 4:159, "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." is related to the return of Jesus (a).
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.
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).
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' .
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 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: