Rajʻa (Arabic: الرجعة) (alternatively rjaa, rajaʻa, rajʻat) in Islamic terminology, refers to the Second Coming, or the return to life of a given past historical figure after that person's physical death. While primarily used in Shia Muslim terminology, variations on the doctrine exist in Sunni Islam and the Baháʼí Faith, and rajʻa is used to describe certain Christian doctrines in Arabic.
The Rajʻa doesn't refer exclusively to the theological meaning, but is used in Arabic for other cases such as: remarriage of divorced spouses after a period of waiting, the reappearance of Muhammad al-Mahdi after his occultation, and the reestablishment of an Islamic state in the modern world.
Twelver Shia Muslims believe that the 12th Imam, Muhammad al-Mahdi, is currently living and is removed from access by his followers in a state called the major occultation. In Twelver belief, the 12th Imam is identical with the figure of the Mahdi whose appearance is still awaited by other Muslim sects. It is believed that before the Day of Judgement, Muhammad al-Mahdi will return with a group of chosen companions. This return is more properly known as zuhur or 'appearance', as the Hidded Imam is believed to have remained alive during his occultation since the year 874.
After his reappearance Shia eschatology predicts that the Mahdi will do battle against Dajjal and Sufyani. After this battle it is believed that the Imam Mahdi will be joined by the return of Christ, and of the Imam Husayn, along with other historical figures such as the prophets and saints of the past. The return of these historical figures will herald the beginning of the Last Judgment. The purpose of this return is the establishment of justice for those who were oppressed and died oppressed: the oppressors are punished directly by the oppressed during this future reappearance. Shias base this belief on several verses in the Quran where it is mentioned that some people will die twice and live twice.
After 260 AH, belief in Rajʻa was treated by Sunni authors as a distinctive trait distinguishing Shia and Sunni Muslims, with many books written addressing this distinction. Releasing from Irreversibility with the Proof of Rajʻa (in Arabic: الايقاظ من الهجعة بالبرهان علي الرجعة) was the most extensive book, with reference to more than 670 hadiths, Qurʼanic verses and rationale.
Some Sunni scholars do believe in Rajʻa, believing in the return of number of people such as Seven Sleepers synchronous with the appearance of the Mahdi. Jalaluddin Al-Sayuti wrote about the rajʻa but in a different way from the Shiites. According to his book The Possibility of Seeing the Prophet and the Angels (Arabic: تنوير الحلك في إمكان رؤية النبي والملك,) Suyuti claims to have seen the Prophet Muhammad over 70 times while he was awake. According to him, in contrast to Shiite belief, the return of the Prophet Muhammad is not limited to a specific time in the future. Al-Sayuti did not mention if any other religious figures will return after death before the resurrection. According to Abu ʻAbdullah Al-Qurtubi, rajʻa is understood as the lack of physical presence of a prophet, who marks his apparent death by absence in the physical world but will reappear, from time to time, to those who are pure in heart. The Maliki scholar Ibn al-Arabi, known for his exegesis of the Sunan al-Tirmidhi, stated that seeing and hearing the prophets while awake is possible for the pure believer.
Certain Qurʼanic verses that Sunni and Shia scholars suggest confirm Rajʻa include the following:
The concept of return is central to Baháʼí prophetology, as Baháʼí's believe the Prophets of their religions to fulfill the expectations of return in Shiʻa Islam, Christianity and other religions. Specifically, the Báb is seen as the Shiʻa Mahdi, while Baháʼu'lláh is seen simultaneously as the return of Christ and of the Imam Husayn.
Baháʼís do not view the return of the prophets and saints of the past as a physical return, or resurrection, but rather a return of spiritual characteristics and archetypal roles. A well known Baháʼí story describes Rúhu'lláh Varqá, who would later be martyred for his allegiance to the Baháʼí Faith, describing the return of the prophets in this way:
'One day Baháʼu'lláh asked Ruhu'lláh, 'What did you do today?'
He replied, "I was having lessons from [a certain teacher].'
Baháʼu'lláh asked, 'What subject were you learning?'
'Concerning the return [of the prophets],' said Ruhu'lláh.
'Will you explain what this means?' Baháʼu'lláh demanded.
He replied: 'By return is meant the return of realities and qualities.'
Baháʼu'lláh, questioning him further, said: 'These are exactly the words of your teacher and you are repeating them like a parrot. Tell me in your own words your own understanding of the subject.'
'It is like cutting a flower from a plant this year,' answered Ruhu'lláh. 'Next year's flower will look exactly like this one, but it is not the same.'
The Blessed Beauty praised the child for his intelligent answer and often called him Jinab-i-Muballigh (His honour, the Baháʼí teacher)
As the Manifestations of God are believed to both possess both a human soul, and to be Manifestations of the eternal logos, each prophet is described by Baháʼu'lláh as in one sense the return of every previous prophet. The concept of return is further extended to the companions of the Manifestations, with members of the Letters of the Living being regarded as the return of figures such as the Prophet Muhammad, Imam Ali and Fatima.