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Doctrine of the Return (raj'ah)

Adopted from the book : "The Faith of Shi'a Islam" by : "Allamah Muhammad Ridha al-Muzaffar"

In this question the Shi'a follow what has been said by the Household of the Prophet: that Allah will cause people to return to this world in the same form as they were before; that He will distinguish between the righteous and the wrong-doers, and between the oppressed and the oppressors; and that this will take place during the time of Mahdi. Allah will not cause anyone to return unless he has attained a high degree of faith of has sunk deep into corruption. After this they will die again, and on the Day of Resurrection they shall be raised again to be rewarded or punished, for Allah has mentioned in the Qur'an the desire of these people who have come twice into this world to come yet a third time in order to repent of their sins.

They shall say:' 'Our Lord! Thou hast cause us to die two deaths, and Thou hast given us twice to live; now we confess our sins. Is there any way to go forth? (40;11)

Truly the Qur'an came to proclaim raj'ah in this world,as did many traditions from the house of Infallibility, and all the Imamites believe this, except a few who have interpreted the pronouncement on raj'ah as meaning that the government will return to the Household of the prophet together with the power to forbid and command, and that this will be when the Awaited One reappears, without involving the return of people or the giving of life to the dead.

Belief in raj'ah considered among the Sunni to be repugnant, and they deem it a heretical belief. Their collectors of ahadith considered one who had transmitted ahadith about raj'ah to be discredited, and caste of their transmission. Moreover, they considered one who believed in raj'ah to have descended to the ranks of unbelief (kufr) or polytheism (shirk) or worse. This belief was therefore one of the biggest cause for the despising of the Shi'a by the Sunni, and their slandering of them.

Undoubtedly, this was all part of the sabre-rattling engaged in by some Islamic sects in the past to damage each other and cause dissention. In fact, there is no evidence to substantiate their accusations, because belief in raj'ah cannot cause any blemish on belief in tawhid or nubuwwah; it only emphasizes the correctness of the two, because raj'ah testifies to the supreme ability of Allah to resurrect and raise from the dead, and is one of the supernatural events that will testify as a miracle for Muhammad (A S) and his Household. It is similar to the miracle of the raising from the dead performed by' Isa, only more important, as it involves raising those bodies that have rotted away.

Says he (man): "Who will give life to the bones when they are rotten?"

Says: "He will give life to them Who brought them into existence at first, and He is cognizant of all Creation." (36; 78-9)

One who denigrates raj'ah as being a kind of transmigration of the soul, which we know to be incorrect, had not differentiated between transmigration and bodily resurrection, because the meaning of transmigration is the soul moves into another body, and this is not the same as bodily resurrection. The meaning of this latter is that the soul returns to the same body with all its individual characteristics; and raj'ah is the same as this. If raj'ah were a kind of transmigration, the restoring to life by Isa must also be transmigration, and the Resurrection (ma'ad) would be as well.

Now there remain two points to discuss concerning raj'ah: firstly, that it is impossible that it should take place; secondly, that the traditions relating to raj'ah are not true. Now, if it is worth discussing these two subjects, raj'ah cannot be as despicable a subject as the enemies of the Shi'a have suggested, How many beliefs of other sects of Islam which are either extremely improbable or else entire unsubstantiated by religious texts have led to these sects being accuse of being unbelievers or of being beyond the pale of Islam? And for this there are many example: the belief that the Prophet was liable to forget or to disobey Allah's Will: the belief that the Qur'an is eternal; the belief that when Allah said He will punish, he is obliged to do so (al-wa'-id); the belief that the Prophet did not appoint a khalifah after him.

As for our two points of discussion, and for there being no basis in truth for raj'ah due to its being impossible, we hold that it is a kind of bodily resurrection, differing only in that it takes place in this world. Therefore the same evidence that proves the possibility of resurrection will also prove the possibility of raj'ah. There is no reason for amazement, except in that it is unusual for us and we are not accustomed to such things in the life of this world. But we know of no cause or impossibility that would bring us near to an understanding or refutation of raj'ah, only that human imagination dose not find it easy to accept what is out of the ordinary. So there is no more reason to refute it than there is to refute resurrection.
Who will revive these bones when they have rotted away. (36; 78)

Say: "He will revive them Who brought them into existence at first, and He is Cognizant of all Creation." (36;79)

In such a situation, where there is no intellectual evidence either to deny or to prove raj'ah, or even if it is just our imagination that says that there is no evidence, we must have recourse to the Islamic texts which are from the source of Divine inspiration. For there is proof in the Qur'an to substantiate the occurrence of raj'ah in this world for some of the dead, as there is also for the miracle of' Isa in restoring the dead to life.
And I heal the blind and the leprous and bring the dead to life with Allah's permission. (3;49)

And Allah said:

When will Allah give it life after its death? So Allah caused him to die for a hundred years, then raised him to life. (2; 259)

And also in the verse we have seen before:

They shall say: "Our Lord! thou hast caused is to die two deaths ..." (40; 11)

And the meaning of the verse will not be fulfilled unless there is a return to this world after death, although some commentators of the Qur'an have tried to give an exegesis (ta'wil) which cannot, however, satisfy us or reveal the true meaning of the verse.

Concerning the second point of discussion, which claims that the traditions referring to raj'ah are not authentic, this has no foundation in truth, because raj'ah is a necessary belief according to the Household of the prophet, and this has been narrated by many transmitters.

After this, it is rather surprising that a famous writer, Ahmad Amin, who claims to be knowledgeable, says in his book 'The Dawn of Islam' (Fajr al-Islam): Judaism makes its appearance in Shi'ism in the belief in raja'ah, as it has been mentioned in those verses of the Book which have quoted above.

And we would also tell him: there is no way in which Judaism and Christianity cannot appear in Islam, because the Prophet came to confirm what existed of the Divine shara'i', even though he abrogated some of their laws. So the appearance of Judaism and Christianity is not a disgrace in Islam, even if, as the writer claims, raj'ah is one of the beliefs of the Jews.

Anyway, raj'ah is not one of the fundamentals of Islam, belief in which is compulsory; but our belief stems the authenticated traditions of the Household of the Prophet whom we know to be infallible. For it is not one of the unseen things which they relate, and there is nothing which suggests that it cannot take place.