10. What Is ‘Raj'at (The Return)? Is Its Occurrence Possible?

Raja't is one of the popular Shi'ite beliefs and its explanation, briefly, is as follows:
After the reappearance of Imam Mahdi (a.s.) and on the threshold of Resurrection, a group of the sincere mu'mineen and a group of the immensely wicked disbelievers and rebellious individuals shall return to this world. The first group shall subsequently advance several ranks towards perfection whilst the second group would taste a severe chastisement.

The late Sayyid Murtadha, one of the greatly distinguished scholars, explains as follows: “After the reappearance of Hadhrat Mahdi (a.s.), the Exalted Allah (s.w.t.) shall cause group of those, who had previously departed from the world, to return to this world in order that they may be partners in the reward and glory of assisting him (a.s.) and in witnessing Allah's rule over the entire world; He shall also cause the most obstinate enemies to return in order to extract revenge from them.”

He then adds: “No intellectual person can ever claim that Allah (s.w.t.) does not possess the power to cause this occurrence to happen and, since this cannot be considered to be impossible, it is itself a proof of the truthfulness of this issue. Nonetheless, our opponents reject this so vehemently as if they regard it to be an event that is inconceivable.”

He then further adds: “The consensus of the Twelve-Imam Shi'ites proves this belief, for there is none, from amongst them, who oppose it.”1

Nevertheless, from the statements of some of the scholars and also from the words of late Tabrisi in his book Majma'ul Bayan, it appears that a minority from amongst the Shi'ites had opposed this belief, interpreting Raj'at to mean the return of the rule and government of the Ahlul Bayt (a.s.) and not the return of the people and coming to life of the dead. However, they are few in number and accordingly do not injure the consensus.

There are indeed numerous aspects that need to be discussed which we shall present here, in a few words, so as not to deviate from the subject matter:

1. Without any doubt, for a group of dead individuals to come back to life in this world is entirely possible, just as the coming to life of all the humans on the Day of Judgment is entirely possible. Astonishment over such an issue is akin to the disbelief exhibited by the pagan polytheists over the issue of Resurrection, and mockery with respect to this issue is analogous to their mockery. This is because the intellect does not consider such an occurrence to be impossible; indeed the Power of Allah (s.w.t.) is so extensive and all-embracing that for Him all these issues are simple.

2. In the Noble Qur’an there are five instances of raj'at, occurring with respect to past nations:

A) Regarding a prophet, who passed by a settlement which lay in ruins while the bodies of its inhabitants lay scattered. He asked himself as to how Allah (s.w.t.) would bring them to life after they have died whereupon Allah (s.w.t.) made him to die for one hundred years and then, bringing him to life, asked: “How long have you tarried? He replied: A day or a part of it. He was told: No. A hundred years have passed by you.” Whether this prophet had been 'Uzayr or someone else does not make a difference. The significant point is the explicit declaration of the Qur’an about life after death in this world itself.

فَأَمَاتَهُ اللَّهُ مِائَةَ عَامٍ ثُمَّ بَعَثَهُ ۖ قَالَ كَمْ لَبِثْتَ قَالَ لَبِثْتُ يَوْمًا أَوْ بَعْضَ يَوْمٍ قَالَ بَلْ لَبِثْتَ مِائَةَ عَامٍ

“So Allah made him die for a hundred years, then raised him to life. He said: How long have you tarried? He said: I have tarried a day, or a part of a day. Said He: Nay! you have tarried a hundred years” (2:259).

B) In verse 243 of Surah al-Baqarah, the Qur’an speaks about a group of individuals, who, out of fear of death (and according to some commentators, under the pretext of plague had refrained from participating in the jihad) had stepped out of their houses, whereupon Allah (s.w.t.) commanded them to die and then raised them to life again.

فَقَالَ لَهُمُ اللٌّهُ مُوتُوا ثُمَّ أَحْـيَاهُمْ‏

“Allah said to them: 'Die': Then He restored them to life.” (2:243).

Some commentators, who have been unable to digest the occurrence of such an unusual incident, have regarded it as just a presentation of an example. However, it is plain that such interpretations, vis-à-vis the apparent meaning and the explicit statements of the verse in connection with the occurrence of this issue, are unacceptable.

C) In verses 55 and 56 of Surah al-Baqarah, which are in connection with the tribe of Bani Isra’il, we read that a group from amongst them, desiring to see Allah (s.w.t.), were overcome by a deadly lightning and died, after which, Allah (s.w.t.) brought them back to life in order that they may thank Him for His bounties.

ثُمَّ بَعَثْنَاكُمْ مِنْ بَعْدِ مَوْتِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَشْكُرُونَ

“Then We raised you up after your death that you may give thanks.” (2:56).

D) Verse 110 of Surah al-Maidah, while enumerating the miracles of Prophet 'Isa (a.s.), states:

وَ إِذْ تُخْرِجُ الْمَوْتى‏ بِإِذْنِي

“And when you brought forth the dead by My permission.” (5:110).

This expression indicates that 'Isa (a.s.) made use of this miracle (bringing the dead to life) of his; moreover, the imperfect tense of the word تَخرُجُ indicates repetition, which itself can be regarded as a kind of Raj'at (for those whom he (a.s.) brought back to life).

E) And finally, in verse 73 of Surah al-Baqarah, when there arose a dispute and disagreement amongst the Bani Isra’il with respect to unearthing the killer of a murdered person, the Qur’an says that they were ordered to sacrifice a cow possessing certain specific features, and to tap a part of its body upon the body of the murdered person in order that the person may return to life (and disclose the name of his murderer thereby putting an end to the dispute)

فَقُلْنَا اضْرِبُوهُ بِبَعْضِهَا كَذٌلِكَ يُحْيِ اللٌّهُ الْمَوْتى‏ وَ يُرِيكُمْ آيَاتِهِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَعْقِلُونَ

“So We said: Strike the (dead body) with part of the (sacrificed cow), thus Allah brings the dead to life, and He shows you His signs so that you may understand.” (2:73).

Apart from these five instances, there are other occasions which are observed in the Noble Qur’an - such as the story of the People of the Cave which is also something similar to raj'at, and the story of the four birds of Prophet Ibrahim (a.s.) that are brought back to life after being sacrificed in order to demonstrate for him the possibility of the resurrection of man - an incident, which is very significant when discussing raj'at.

Accordingly, how is it possible that a person accepts the Noble Qur’an as a Divine book and, despite all these clear verses, suntil denies the possibility of raj'at? Essentially, is raj'at something other than a return to life after death?

Can raj'at not be regarded as a small example of Resurrection, in this small world? How can one, who accepts Resurrection in that extensive scale, reject the issue of raj'at? Or ridicule its concept? Or speak like Ahmad Amin Misri, who, in his book Fajrul Islam, writes:

األْيَهُوْدِيَّةُ ظَهَرَتْ بِالتَّشَيُّعِ بِالْقَوْلِ بِالرَّجْعَةِ.

“Another Judaism has manifested in Shi'ism due to the concept of raj'at!”2

Honestly, what difference lies between this statement of Ahmad Amin and the disavowal of physical resurrection by the pagan Arabs?

3. What we have stated up to this point has proved the possibility of the occurrence of raj'at; and its occurrence is emphasized by numerous traditions which have been narrated from the Imams of the Ahlul Bayt (a.s.), and since it is beyond the scope of our discussion to present them all, it should suffice for us to quote the statistics compiled by the late 'Allamah Majlisi, who says:

How is it possible that a person believes in the truthfulness of the words of the Imams of the Ahlul Bayt (a.s.) but (at the same time) refuses to accept the 'successively transmitted' traditions in connection with raj'at - explicit traditions, which are almost two hundred in number and transmitted by forty odd trustworthy transmitters and eminent scholars in more than fifty books! If these traditions are not 'successively transmitted', then which tradition can be such?3 and 4

  • 1. Safinah al-Bihar, vol. 1, pg. 511 (under رجع).
  • 2. 'Aqaidul Imamiyyah of Sheikh Muhammad Ridha Mudhaffar, pg. 71.
  • 3. Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 53, pg. 122.
  • 4. Tafsir-e-Namuna, vol. 15, pg. 555.