The Possibility of Canceling the Signs of the Reappearance
The reported signs were the information that Allah willed about their occurrence in future and were in effect at the time that the Imams (AS) spoke about them. In other words, with their vision in the knowledge of what had been willed to happen, the Imams (AS) mentioned some of the signs that Allah had willed and planed at that time. However, Allah has not promised the occurrence of the planned signs, and thus all such signs are subject to change due to Allah's new decision (al-Badaa).
The traditions state that amongst all the signs there are few sings that are definite, which means it is unlikely that Allah changes His will on their occurrence. Thus, they are very likely to take place before the advent of Imam al-Mahdi (AS). Umar Ibn Hanzala narrated:
Imam al-Sadiq (AS) said, "There are five definite signs before the rising of al-Qa'im, which are: (the rising of) al-Yamani and al-Sufyani, the (heavenly) cry/call (by Gabriel which will be heard all over the world), the murder of Nafs al-Zakiyya, and the sink (of the Sufyani army) into (the land of) al-Baydaa (located between Mecca and Medina)."[^4]
Even for such definite signs Allah reserves al-Badaa. Al-Badaa is the origination of a new plan by Allah. We will discuss the phenomenon of al-Badaa and its significance in the next section. Allah may change those of the definite wills that are not categorized as His Sunan or His promises. For instance, Allah informed us through His Apostle (PBUH&HF) that before the reappearance of Imam al-Mahdi (AS), al-Sufyani would certainly rise. This is a definite will, but it is not categorized as a promise.
It is just an insisted future event meaning that it is unlikely that Allah cancels His permission for the occurrence of this event, though it is still possible. According to the following tradition, Allah may make Badaa even in such insisted news. Dawud Ibn al-Qasim al-Ja'fari narrated:
We were with Imam al-Jawad (AS) when the issue of Sufyani was brought up and the traditions which state that his advent is of the definite matters. I said to Imam al-Jawad (AS), "Does Allah make Badaa in the definite matters?" He (AS) replied, "Yes." I said, "Then, we have a fear that Allah makes Badaa in (the rising of) al-Qa'im." The Imam replied, "al-Qa'im is of the promises, and Allah does not break His promises (referring to verses 3:9 and 13:31)."[^5]
In other words, Allah will not fail in any of His promises including the annihilation of injustice and the establishment of the government of justice on the earth by Imam al-Mahdi (AS). This was Allah's testimony in verses of Quran that we quoted in previous section. However, Allah may make Badaa on the time of reappearance of Imam al-Mahdi (AS) and may advance or postpone it. Moreover, He may cancel the occurrence of the definite signs that were supposed to take place before the Imam's (AS) advent, as the above tradition explained.
The question that may arise here is that what the significance of canceling a sign by Allah is. To answer this, let us first discuss the notion of al-Badaa. This is one of the complex issues that has confused many people's minds, and consequently the enemies of the Ahl al-Bait (AS) have taken the advantage of this confusion to attack our faith.
The Badaa and its significance
There are many pieces of evidence in the Quran and the traditions expressing that Allah may change what He has already willed and He may initiate a new will. However, as we discussed earlier, there is an exception for His Sunan and His promises that He has chosen not to change at all.
The will of Allah is the creation of Allah. Thus, this change only occurs to the created information and does not imply a change in His Eternal Knowledge/His Essence. In other words, the novelty occurs in Allah's action, and not in Allah's Essence. Allah eternally knew what He would change later. By al-Badaa, only the created information that has been visible (al-Shahada) for the vice-regents of Allah becomes invisible (al-Ghaib) and vice versa. The visible information is about what Allah has willed to happen in the past and in the future (Ilm Ma Kan wa Ma Yakun), and the invisible information is about all other infinite possibilities that Allah has not willed to happen (Ilm Ma Lam Yakon).
There are numerous verses in Quran that prove Allah's hands are open to originate or change anything in His creation. For instance:
"And the Jews said, 'The hand of Allah is tied up'. Be their hands tied up and be they accursed for what they uttered. Nay, His hands are outstretched. (5:64)"
"Allah erases whatever He wills and records/establishes (likewise), and with Him is the Mother-Book. (13:39)" "Thy Lord creates whatever He wills, and He chooses. No choice have they (in what He has not permitted, or in leadership as per another Hadith). Glory to Allah! And far is He above the partners they ascribe! (28:68)"
"If He so wills, He removes you and brings in a New Creation. Nor is that (at all) difficult for Allah. (14:19-20; 35:16-17)" "Every day He brings in a (new) matter/situation. (55:29)"
"He increases in the creation what He wills, for Allah has power over all things. (35:1)" "Nor is an individual's life prolonged, nor does anything decrease from his life span, except that it is (being reflected) in a Book. All this is easy for Allah. (35:11)"
In a very long discourse narrated from Imam Ali (AS), he has stated the following regarding al-Badaa:
Imam Ali (AS) said, "As for he who denies al-Badaa, (it would suffice that) Allah said in His Book, 'So turn away from them, and you are not blameworthy (51:54)' (by which) Allah, the exalted, intended their destruction on the earth at that time. Then, Allah rectified for them by His mercy, and made Badaa regarding to their destruction, and revealed to His Apostle, 'And remind, for reminding benefits the Believers (51:55)'.
A similar case is His saying, 'But Allah was not to punish them whilst you were amongst them; nor was He to punish them whilst they ask for forgiveness. (8:33)' Then Allah made Badaa (by revealing), 'But what plea have they that Allah should not punish them when they keep out (men) from the Sacred Mosque? (8:34)' Similarly, it is His saying, 'If there are twenty tolerant amongst you, they will overcome two hundred, and if there are a hundred (like them) amongst you, they will overcome a thousand of those who disbelieve. (8:65)'
He then made Badaa and said, 'Now, Allah lightened your (burden) for He knew that there is a weakness in you. Thus, if there are a hundred tolerant amongst you, they will overcome two hundred, and if there are a thousand (like them) amongst you, they will overcome two thousands by the leave of Allah. And Allah is with those who are patient.
(8:66)' This way, Allah carried out the matter in the abrogating (Nasikh) and the abrogated/cancelled (Mansukh). This shows the reformation of what was originated. Furthermore, it is His saying, 'Allah wipes off whatever He wills and records (likewise), and with Him is the Mother-Book. (13:39)' Hence, does He wipe off except that which existed [i.e., its will was existent]? And, does He record except that which did not exist [i.e., its will was non-existent]? There are many examples like these in the Quran..."[^6]
In another verse of the Quran, Allah stated:
"Why had not there been a township (among those We decreed to destroy) whose people would accept faith so that their faith should have profited them, except for the People of Jonah (Yunus)? When they believed, We removed from them the chastisement of ignominy in the life of this world, and permitted them to enjoy (their life) for a while. (10:98)"
The above verse points to a glaring example of al-Badaa that took place for the People of Prophet Yunus (AS) whose calamity was kept off and prevented. Due to their rejections and disbelief, they became subjected to the severe wrath of the Almighty. At the time that the punishment was about to manifest, Prophet Yunus (AS) distanced himself from them and went far away. Upon his leave, people came to their senses and suddenly changed their behavior and became mindful of Allah. They pleaded for mercy from the Almighty Allah from the depth of their hearts. Subsequently, Allah decided to avert the calamity that was about to inflict them all.
Another example for Allah's change of decision is when we pray to Him. If Allah chooses to respond to our prayer, He initiates real change in the outside world and may re-plan our future. Allah states in the Quran:
"Call on Me so that I answer you (40:60)".
My Lord would have not concerned Himself with you if it were not for your call (upon Him). (25:77)"
There are sayings from the Imams (AS) that show Allah may cancel a decisive/confirmed decree (Qadhaa al-Mubram) regarding a worldly punishment that is about to take place, just due to the Du'aa of His servant. It is narrated:
Imam Musa al-Kadhim (AS) said, "I advise you to Du'aa. Certainly Du'aa and request from Allah, the Mighty and the Majestic, drives away an affliction that was planned, was passed, and all that was remaining was its execution (Imdhaa). When Allah is implored, He averts the affliction an amazing averting."[^7]
As we have seen, there are massive pieces of evidence in the Quran that clearly disprove the doctrine that states "the Pen has dried up for all future events". In contrast, the followers of Ahl al-Bait (AS) do not emulate the Jews who considered Allah had concluded the matter. We believe Allah's hands are open to do as He wills and chooses. Nevertheless, Allah does not act without purpose.
The changes in decree have educational purposes for people including the Prophets and the Imams, peace be upon them. Although people are usually unaware of the details of all such changes, yet by realizing the general concept of al-Badaa, one will truly understand that everything is in the hand of Allah and He is able to do all things at any time, and that it is never too late for Him to do anything He wills. It demonstrates the absolute freedom of Allah in all His actions and that He is never restricted by His own creations, including His previous will.
Moreover, it removes the suspicion of compulsion and non-revocable pre-destination, and gives the sinners hope that Allah may totally revive their past and future. It encourages them to strive hard, to implore Allah, and to act upon good deeds with the hope that Allah may fix their deeds and may change their fate. Zurara Ibn A'ayun and Hisham Ibn Salim narrated:
Imam al-Sadiq (AS) said, "Allah was not worshipped to the extent that He was worshipped due to al-Badaa. Allah was not glorified as much as He was glorified due to al-Badaa."[^8]