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Last Updated: 2009/08/17
Summary of question
What is the Raj’ah? Which people are subject to it and when will it take place?
What is the Raj’ah? Which people are subject to it and when will it take place?
Concise answer

Raj’ah is a Shia Imamiyyah doctrine, which refers to the return of some of the dead to this world before the Day of Judgment and a little after the rise and emergence of Imam Mahdi (as) and before his martyrdom.

The Raj’ah isn't something general that takes place for everyone, it only belongs to those who are complete in faith and those who have the highest levels of evilness and shirk.

Detailed Answer

“Raj’ah” literally means to return[1] and in Islamic terms, refers to the return of certain people from the dead (pure believers and absolute mushriks) before the Day of Resurrection.

Raj’ah in the Quran and traditions

1- Quran

After concentrating on Quranic verses, one can conclude that the verses pointing to this subject can be categorized into two categories:

a) Verses that speak of it taking place in the future, such as verse 82 of surah Naml: “The day We shall resurrect from every nation a group of those who denied Our signs, and they shall be held in check” Most great scholars consider this verse referring to the Raj’ah (not the Day of Judgment) and believe it to be pointing to the fact that a group of righteous and evil people will return before the Day of Judgment; the reason for this claim being that if the verse was actually referring to the Day of Judgment, it would have an incorrect meaning, because the verse says that only a group from every nation will be awakened, while on the Day of Judgment, all are to be resurrected, not some, as verse 47 of surah Kahf says: “And We will resurrect them (mankind) and not leave any of them out”.

b) Verses that speak of previous incidents regarding past civilizations which can be considered a form of returning, such as:

i) Verse 259 of surah Baqarah which mentions the story of a prophet who passed by a town whose walls had tumbled and the bones of its inhabitants were scattered in every direction. He asked himself: “How will Allah (swt) be able to resurrect all of these people after their death?” Allah (swt) took his life for a hundred years and then resurrected him and asked him how long his stop had been. The prophet answered: “A day or half a day.” Allah (swt) replied that he had been dead for a hundred years![2] It doesn’t make a difference if this prophet was Uzayr or another prophet, what matters is that the Quran explicitly states that life after death does take place even in this world.[3]

ii) Verse 243 of surah Baqarah speaks of another group of people who left their homes out of fear of death (and according to commentators of the Quran, as an excuse for not participating in jihad against the enemies of Allah (swt)), Allah (swt) ordered them to die and they died and he brought them back to life again.[4]

iii) In verses 55-56 of surah Baqarah, we read how a group of the Bani Israel asked to see Allah (swt) and subsequently were struck by lightning and all died; they were all then brought back to life so that they would be grateful of Allah’s (swt) blessings.[5]

iv) When listing Prophet Isa’s (pbuh) miracles in verse 110 of surah Ma’idah, the Quran says: “You awaken the dead by my command”.[6] This verse shows that Prophet Isa (pbuh) would continuously awaken the dead (because of the mozare’  verb [تخرج] which denotes continuousness) and this itself is also a form of the return of the dead.

v) Verse 73 of surah Baqarah is about a slain person that the Bani Israel were arguing and disputing over who his killer was. The Quran says: “It was ordered that a cow with certain traits be killed and a part of it be touched to the slain person so that he would come to life (in order to show who the murderer was and put an end to the arguing).”[7]

In addition to the abovementioned, there are other instances in the Quran that imply raj’ah. Verses like the ones narrating the story of the “Companions of the Cave”. What they underwent was also a form of raj’ah. The story of Prophet Ibrahim (pbuh) and the four fowl that he killed and cut into little pieces and placed a portion of each one on a mountain and how they returned to their original form when summoned is also another case.[8]


2- Traditions:

Imam Sadiq (as) says regarding raj’ah: “By Allah (swt), the days and nights will not come to an end until Allah (swt) awakens the dead and takes the lives of the living and returns the rights to their true owners and establishes His religion and makes it dominate the world.”

Also, Ma’mun said to Imam Ridha (as): “O Abal-Hasan, what is your opinion on raj’ah?” The imam (as) answered: “Raj’ah is for real. It has taken place in past nations and the Quran has also spoken of it and the messenger of Allah (swt) has said: “Everything that has taken place in previous nations will take place exactly the same for this nation.”[9]

Of course, the hadiths on this subject are many, but we only mentioned these two to make things short.


Raj’ah from the intellect’s and a philosophical perspective

It is necessary to point out a few philosophical points regarding this subject:

1- Reaching perfection

This world is where potentials are lived up to and where perfection is to be achieved. The reason for this world’s creation is so that people can reach the highest levels of perfection in it and in other words, this world has been created for the hereafter. Nevertheless, since not all believers get the chance to achieve this goal in this world as a result of the obstacles and difficulties that get in the way and because of sudden deaths, Allah’s (swt) never-ending wisdom calls for them to be returned to this world in order to continue their journeys for perfection. Imam Sadiq (as) says: “Every believer who is murdered comes back to this world, so that he/she dies a natural death after living another life, and every believer who dies a natural death comes back to this world to be killed (so that he/she reaches the level of martyrdom).[10]


2- Worldly Punishment and Reward

There are many people who were deprived of their rights for different reasons and were killed oppressively. One of the reasons for raj’ah is for Allah (swt) to bring both sides to this world so that the oppressed take their rights back from their oppressors. Imam Kadhim (as) has been narrated saying: “People who have died come back to this world to take revenge; all harm will be retaliated for, and any person who has been subject to anger will avenge similarly. Every person who has been killed, will personally retaliate for his/her killing; their enemies will also be resurrected for this purpose and to make up for the blood they have shed; after taking revenge, they will live for thirty months and will all die together in one night, while having peace of mind and being happy about the fact that they have avenged themselves; their enemies being transferred to harsh otherworldly punishments.”[11]

Therefore, one of the objectives of Raj’ah is for the believers to finish their perfection and for the disbelievers and tyrants to reach even lower levels of lowliness. Considering the fact that Raj’ah isn't something that happens for all and only belongs to pure believers and pure mushriks and enemies of Allah (swt), as Imam Sadiq (as) has said: “Raj’ah isn't general and only belongs to those who have accomplished complete faith or pure shirk.”[12], it becomes clear that these two reasons for Raj’ah are main ones.


3- Aiding religion and taking part in the establishment of a just divine government

Numerous verses and hadiths tell us that Islam and a just divine government will become universal by the hands of Imam Mahdi (as). Allah (swt) says: “Indeed We will aid our messengers and the believers in the world and on the day that the witnesses arise”.[13]

This verse implies that this aid will be done collectively, not individually; what is for sure is that since this aid still hasn’t taken place, it will take place in the future, because Allah (swt) always fulfills His vows. It is because of this that Imam Sadiq (as) says in explanation of the abovementioned verse: “By Allah (swt) this aid lies in the Raj’ah, because many prophets and imams have been killed in this world and no one helped them, but this matter will take place during the Raj’ah.”[14]

Also, Imam Baqir (as) says in explanation of the verse “هو الذی ارسل رسوله بالهدی و دین الحق...” (He is the one who sent His messenger with the true religion for the guidance of man so that it [Islam] would prevail over all religions): “یظهره الله عزوجل فی الرجعة” (Allah will cause the prevalence of religion during the Raj’ah).[15]


The time of the Raj’ah

Hadiths that speak of this matter say that it will take place a little after the emergence of Imam Mahdi (as) and before his martyrdom and the Day of Judgment.

Concerning this matter, Imam Sadiq (as) says: “When the time comes for the rise of Imam Mahdi (as) in the month of Jamdil-Akhar and after it heavily rains for ten days in the month of Rajab such that the people have never seen rain like it before, Allah (swt) will cause the bones and meat of the believers in their graves to grow by virtue of the rain; it is as if I am seeing them coming from Juheynah[16] right now and shaking off the dust from their hair.”[17]

The final point that needs to be made here is that once again according to hadiths, the first to come back during the Raj’ah is Imam Husein (as). The imam (as) himself has been narrated saying: “I am the first to come out after the ground splits open, and this will coincide with the return of the Commander of the Faithful and the rise of Imam Mahdi (as).”[18]

There is another similar hadith by Imam Sadiq (as) that says: “The first person to return to this world is Husein ibn Ali (as). He will rule for so long that his eyebrows will grow [to the extent that] they will cover his eyes.”[19]

[1] Farhange Mo’in, vol. 2, pg. 1640.

[2] Baqarah:259.

[3]فاماته الله ماة عام ثم بعثه”.

[4]فقال لهم الله موتوا ثم احیاهم”.

[5]ثم بعثناکم من بعد موتکم لعلکم تشکرون”.

[6]و اذ تخرج الموتی باذنی”.

[7]فقلنا اضربوه ببعضها کذالک یحیی الله الموتی و یریکم آیاته لعلکم تعقلون”.

[8] Tafsir Nemouneh, vol. 15, pp. 546-557.

[9] Uyun Akhbaril-Ridha (as), 2/201/1, quoted by Mizanul-Hikmah, hadith 6924 and 6926.

[10] Biharul-Anwar, vol. 53, pg. 40.

[11] Ali Davani, Mahdiye Mow’ud (translation), vol. 13, pg. 1188.

[12] Mohammad Riza Zamiri, Raj’at, pg. 55.

[13] Mu’min:10.

[14] Sheikh Ali Ha’eri Yazdi, Ilzamul-Nasib.

[15] Bihar, vol. 53, pg. 64.

[16] Juheynah: A place far from Medinah; there is also a tribe by this name. Majma’ul-Bahrayn, vol. 6, pg. 230.

[17] Mizanul-Hikmah, hadith 6928.

[18] Mizanul-Hikmah, hadith 6937.

[19] Mizanul-Hikmah, hadith 6935.

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