Asking about the “dhuhur” (reappearance) of Imam Zaman (as) and its signs is very good and desirable, yet one mustn’t get so caught up in this matter to the extent that he/she forgets about the true goal which is to prepare for and pave the way for his coming.
The signs for his coming are categorized into different groups, one of them being their classification into “certain” and “uncertain” signs. Many perceive that Imam Zaman’s (as) coming depends on these signs taking place beforehand, while it (his coming) solely depends on the will of Allah (swt) and it can't be asserted that the “certain” signs are to take place for sure and one hundred percent. The reason for such a claim is that according to some hadiths, other than his reappearance itself which is a promise on Allah’s (swt) behalf that will never be broken, all other signs of his reappearance (even the “certain” ones) only have a possibility of taking place and are usually meant to take place along with the dhuhur.
The emergence and rise of an evil character by the name of Sufyani, the echo of a divine call and also a satanic call in the skies, the rising of the sun from the west, a civil war in the army of falsehood and the killing of the Nafs Zakiyyah are all some of the signs of the dhuhur.
1- The rise of Imam Zaman (as) is one of the most important incidents to take place in this world, to the extent that he has been given the title of “The Promised one of all Religions” and “The Universal Reformist to the People of the World”.
2- Since his appearance is of so much significance, it must be accompanied by signs that have never taken place before, like the birth of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) which was accompanied by several extraordinary signs.
3- The reasons and benefits of such signs can be summarized in the following:
a) Some of these signs are so great that they are considered a type of glorification and praise of the rise itself and the individual to rise.
b) A number of them are a threat and means of fear to the enemies.
c) Another number of them are glad tidings and good news to some of those awaiting his rise.
4- It is preferred for the believers (mu’minin) to be aware of these signs in order to prevent their deceit, so that they won't consider anything they think of as a sign of Imam Zaman’s (as) dhuhur and so that they will no longer be taken advantage of by “false Mahdis” or others with such wicked goals as a result of their unawareness. The only thing that the believers must observe is not to get too detailed and put too much time and energy in analyzing these signs because such a matter is also undesirable. This subject will be explained further in this article.
Interpreting the signs of Dhuhur
There are many different categorizations for the signs of dhuhur, one being their categorization into “certain” and “uncertain” signs. One common mistake that most people usually make is that they perceive that being a certain sign makes dhuhur completely dependent on it and in other words, the dhuhur won't take place until the sign has taken place priorly! But according to some hadiths, the dhuhur solely depends on Allah’s (swt) will alone, regardless of which signs have taken place and which ones haven’t. Hence, being a “certain” sign signifies that there are more chances of the dhuhur taking place after it when compared with other signs, but not for sure and one hundred percent. Conversely, an “uncertain” sign is one that is less likely to be followed by the dhuhur.
The following hadith can be considered the origin of this categorization:
Dawud ibn Abil-Qasem reports that he and others were with Imam Jawad (as). The subject of (the signs of dhuhur) and the rise and emergence of (a character named) Sufyani was brought up and that in some hadiths it has been stated that (it is one of the signs of dhuhur) and will surely take place. Dawud asked if Allah (swt) ever causes any changes in assured incidents that are to take place for sure by causing the incident not to take place at all or by only causing some minor changes in its details (this change of course in incidents by Allah (swt) is referred to as bada’). His excellency answered: “Yes, there are always chances of change even in incidents that are certain to take place! Dawud said to the Imam (as): “If this is so, then we fear that Allah (swt) might change his mind (bada’) regarding the dhuhur itself!
The imam (as) answered: “(Such a thing won't ever happen, because) the rise of the Qa’im (Imam Zaman (as)) is one of Allah’s (swt) (never-changing) vows and promises (that will never undergo any change).”
Regarding this matter, the great hadith researcher and high-ranking scholar, Muhaddith Nuri writes:
“Other than the reappearance and rise of Hujjat-ibnil-Hasan Al-Mahdi (as) itself, which is to take place for sure and without any changes, all of the signs that will take place before and along with it have the possibility of experiencing change in the time they are to take place, some may happen sooner and others later than expected; even the signs that have been counted as “certain” and for sure! The reason (why even the certain ones may experience change) being that what is meant by “certain” signs in the hadiths that mention them, isn't that they are completely unchangeable and that they will take place exactly as described in the hadiths, what is truly meant is that a degree of emphasis lies in them that in no way contradicts their changing in any stage.”
Hence, everyone should strive in preparation for his coming and instead of excessive worry (which sometimes unfortunately results in hopelessness regarding Allah’s (swt) mercy and Imam Zaman’s (as) grace), they should sincerely beg and pray for it and strengthen the body and soul through learning more about religion and putting it to practice by doing the wajib acts and refraining from the haram ones.
The different types of signs and their number
According to some hadiths, five signs are considered “certain” ones which we will list. Of course, the explanation of each of these signs is very vast, therefore we will try to explain each one in short.
Abu Hamzah Thumali says: “I told Imam Jafar Sadiq (as) that his father, Imam Muhammad Baqir (as) once said: “The emergence of an individual by the name of Sufyani is for sure, the echo of a call from the skies is also for sure, as is the rise of the sun from the west,” he also named other signs that are also for sure.”
Imam Jafar Sadiq (as) completed his father’s words by saying: “In addition to the internal conflict between Bani “Felan” (felan in Arabic means “someone” and is used when the person speaking doesn’t want to directly name someone and here what might be meant by his excellency is the tribe of Bani Umayyah or maybe the army of evil), the killing of the Nafs Zakiyyah (the pure one), and the emergence and rise of the Qa’im (Imam Mahdi (as)) which in reality is a vow that will without a doubt take place. I (Abu Hamzah) asked: “Can you please explain about the cry from the sky?!” He answered: “In the beginning of a certain day, a caller will call in such a way that each nation will understand what is being said through its own language, saying: “All be aware that the truth is in Ali (as) and his followers!”, and at the end of the day, Iblis (Shaytan) will call out saying: “All be aware that the truth lies in the Sufyani and his followers!”
Here, those who don’t have stable faiths will begin to doubt.”
The person meant by the Nafs Zakiyyah, is a magnanimous individual who has been given the responsibility of Islamic propagation on the behalf of Imam Mahdi (as) but will be martyred near the Ka’bah (between the Rukn and Maqam).
And also, the person meant by the Sufyani, is one of the enemies of Imam Mahdi (as) who rises against him in order to defeat him and will be sucked into the ground along with his army by the order of Allah (swt) in a land known as “Bida’” (in Yemen).