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What signs and indications will precede the Imam's reappearance?

One of the signs from the traditions for the return of the Mahdi is that "death and fear" will afflict the people of Baghdad and Iraq. A fire will appear in the sky and redness will cover them. The events that arose out of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait may well serve to strengthen faith for some.273

That is how L. S. Walbridge has described what she heard during her investigation of this question with Shi'ah Muslims in the USA. If we take a closer look at the relevant narration, we will find this tradition in a famous book of As-shaykh Al-Moufid. Al-Husayn b. Sa'id reported on the authority of Mundhir al-Jawzi, on the authority of Abu Abd Allah Ja'far al-Sadiq: Mundhir al-Jawzi said: I heard Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq (as) saying:

Before the coming of the one who will rise (al-Qa'im), peace be upon him, the people will be chided for their acts of disobedience by a fire which will appear in the sky and a redness which will cover the sky. It will swallow up Baghdad, and will swallow up Kufa. Their blood will be shed and houses destroyed. Death (fana') will occur amid their people and a fear will come over the people of Iraq from which they shall have no rest.

According to the Shi'ah traditions there are more than a hundred signs which were mentioned by the Imams. Here are two important signs of the Imam's reappearance, which were given in the statement of Al-Mahdi (as) that was narrated at the beginning of chapter two:

1) The revolt of the Sufiyani, a person from the progeny of Abu Sufiyan (one of the Holy Prophet's major enemies) and father of Mua'wiya (father of Yazid), who will become very powerful. He will corrupt the world in all respects.
2) A loud call from the sky will usher the Imam's reappearance.274

It is entirely possible that these events are partially metaphorical. The revolt of the Sufiyani may refer to an ideological tendency that is similar to that found in Abu Sufiyani's progeny (Mu'awiya and Yazid), a tendency that combines oppression with a love of worldly things. This style of rule makes recourse to Islam. The loud call from the sky may also be understood as a figurative predictions, and not refer to some sort of miraculous atmospheric event. Rather, it may refer to a loud call being issued from satellites and other forms of media technology.

However my personal view is that these signs mentioned in those letters and narrations are also symbols, which should reflect universal circumstances, whereby one will be tried of injustice and worldwide hypocrisy and eagerly awaiting the prospect of peace and justice. The call from the sky may especially reflect this idea. In a Chinese proverb we read:

"Whoever is hungry, eats;
Whoever seeks wisdom, reads."

I will add to it: "Whoever is oppressed, struggles desperately hoping for Justice."

This opinion represents the final conclusion, and is supported by many traditions and famous historical stories surrounding Imam Al-Mahdi (as). This was mostly the Shi'ah version of that time.
The Sunni Muslims have narrated from the Prophet (saws) that he said about Ad-Dajjal: he would have water and fire with him: (what would seem to be) fire, would be cold water and (what would seem to be) water would be fire. Also narrated by Abu Sa'id:

One day the Messenger of Allah (saws) narrated to us a long narration about Ad-Dajjal and among the things he narrated to us was: Ad-Dajjal will come, and he will be forbidden to enter the mountain passes of Medinah. He will encamp in one of the salt areas neighboring Medinah and there will appear to him a man who will be the best or one of the best of the people. he will say, 'I testify that you are Ad-Dajjal whose story the Messenger of Allah (saws) has told us. Ad-Dajjal will say (to his audience). 'Look if I kill this man and then give him life, will you have any doubt about my claim?' They will reply, 'No'. Then Ad-Dajjal will kill that man and then will make him alive. The man will say, 'By Allah (swt), now I recognize you more than ever!' Ad-Dajjal will then try to kill him (again) but he will not be given the power to do so."275

In another narration one can easily detect an indication that Ad-Dajjal is the Sunni version of another deviated ideology which should be shaped before the appearance of Imam Mahdi (as). In a metaphoric language one can read that Abu Hurairah narrated that the Holy Prophet (saws) said:

"There are angles at the mountain passes of Medina (so that) neither plague nor Ad-Dajjal can enter it."276

273. Kitab al-Irshad, pp.541-548

274. Araki, Mohsin, Ideological and Jurisprudential Frontiers of Islam, p.32, Book Extra, London, 1999

275. Sahih Al-Bukhari, translated by Dr. Muhammed Muhsin Khan, Vol.9, chp.16, p.184-186, Dar Al Arabia-beirut, Lebanon 1985

276. Sahih Al-Bukhari, translated by Dr. Muhammed Muhsin Khan, Vol.9, chp.16, p.184-186, Dar Al Arabia-beirut, Lebanon 1985

Adapted from the book: "The Awaited Saviour; Questions and Answers"

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