The R. A. Sayyed Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah
The belief in the return is not part of the doctrine. Rather it is an idea that was mentioned in some narrations. It says that that at the end of time people, both believers and disbelievers, will come out of their graves when Imam Al-Mahdi (a.s) is about to appear. They will fight again, and the belief will win over falsehood. We do not accept these stories, neither from the point of view of their references nor their content. We do not believe in return in the way that we have explained. Moreover, not believing in this idea does not make one desert Islam nor Shiism. Although we believe, as it stated in the Glorious Quran, that Allah, The Most Exalted, is capable of bringing the dead back to life, this return is something else.
The concept of return is evident in many narrations, but there is a confusion in the content of these narrations in defining what is meant by it, which makes the talk about the return of specific people not founded on a reliable base. Thus, the return of the state and rule of the right, through the appearance of Imam Al-Mahdi (a.s) and the establishment of justice after oppression and tyranny, is more probable.
The narrations that talk about the return as the return of certain people are confused, which means that the return in general is proven but not as the return of certain people in particular. It is possible that they infer to the return of the state of the right.
Ash-Sharif Al-Murtada mentioned that some of our companions have interpreted the return as the return of the state and the enjoining [good] and forbidding[evil] without the return of persons and bringing the dead back to life. Although he did not approve of this opinion, he said that the return [of people] has not been proven by the apparent meaning of the narrated stories … Its proof is based on the consensus of the Imamis’ on its meaning. But this consensus since it is based on [confusing] narrations might be conceptual. Thus, one has to go back to study the [content of these] narrations.
Imam Al-Rida (a.s.) quotes the Messenger (p.) as saying: Islam began as something strange, it will return to be strange, so good tidings for the strangers. The Messenger (p.) was asked: then what? And he said: then the right will return to its owners.