بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
A famous eschatological expression is that the Sun will rise from the West ( طلوع الشمس من المغرب من المحتوم ). In Muslim, the Prophet Muhammad (s) says, "When three things appear, a person's faith will not avail him if he had not believed before or did not earn goodness from his faith: (1) The rising of the Sun from its setting place, (2) The Dajjal, and (3) The Beast of the Earth." (ثلاث إذا خرجن لا ينفع نفسا إيمانها لم تكن آمنت من قبل أو كسبت في إيمانها خيرا: طلوع الشمس من مغربها، و الدجال ودابة الأرض ).
In my reading of the hadith literature, there is a strong indication that this Sun is not the star that our Earth rotates around, but actually a man. The Sun is a luminous golden object that brings light, clarity, guidance, warmth, and the growth of our crops. A narration about the Mahdi says, "The one whom Jesus the son of Mary will pray behind is the twelfth from the progeny, the ninth from the loins of al-Husayn b. `Ali [a]. He is the Sun that will rise from its setting place." ( إن الذي يصلي عيسى بن مريم خلفه هو الثاني عشر من العترة ، التاسع من ولد الحسين بن علي عليهما السلام وهو الشمس الطالعة من مغربها ).
A careful study of the Quran will show that light represents the religion (61:8, which Allah will always preserve) and guidance (2:257). 33:46 describes the Prophet as "an illuminated lamp" (siraj, a word also used for "Sun"), and 5:15 describes him as a "light". In one hadith, the Imam as-Sadiq describes the Prophet as the Sun in Surat ash-Shams ( الشمس رسول الله صلى الله عليه وآله به أوضح الله عز وجل للناس دينهم ), and in another hadith, the "day" in 92:2 that follows the night is the Mahdi who will arise after oppression ( والنهار إذا تجلى قال: النهار هو القائم منا أهل البيت إذا قام غلب دولة الباطل ). The Mahdi's occultation is compared to that of the Sun behind the clouds ( وأما وجه الانتفاع بي في غيبتي فكالانتفاع بالشمس إذا غيبتها عن الابصار السحاب ).
These comparisons between the Mahdi and the Sun is a similitude to the Prophet. The Mahdi is the most similar man to the Prophet, because he is like him in form and in character ( أشبه الناس بي خلقا وخلقا ), and he will openly declare and explain the religion to the world. The Mahdi will take his example until Islam becomes dominant, manifest, clear, and overspreading ( بسيرة ما سار به رسول الله صلى الله عليه وآله حتى يظهر الاسلام ). 39:69 says that the "Earth will shine with the light of its Lord", and the hadiths indicate that it will shine by the light of the Mahdi's coming ( وأشرقت الارض بنور ربها " قال رب الارض يعني إمام الارض، ).
This begs the question: if the Mahdi is the Sun, what does it mean to rise from its place of setting? Rather than saying that there would be a change of the Earth's axis, we should consider the root of the word gharb (غرب). It has come to mean "set", but in its most basic sense, it means "to become a stranger, odd, obscure, difficult to comprehend, and to go away and depart". This is because the Sun passes above us, then becomes "estranged" from us and leaves us, setting in the West. A stranger in Arabic is a ghareeb. This brings us to the Prophetic hadith, "Islam began as a stranger, and it shall return as a stranger, so blessed are the strangers" ( إن الاسلام بدا غريبا وسيعود كما بدا فطوبى للغربا ). Just as the Prophet came by himself to an adverse society, Islam would return in the Mahdi, who would be estranged from his community and coming with a call that most people will not be familiar with. It is said that, by the time of his coming, the religion of Islam will be barely recognizable from the principles taught by our Prophet, so much so that it will be as though the Mahdi is bringing a new religion. Imam `Ali said that the Qa'im would recommence Islam just as the Prophet did ( إذا قام القائم عليه السلام استأنف دعاء جديدا كما دعا رسول الله صلى الله عليه وآله ), and Imam Ja`far repeated the same idea ( يستأنف الداعي منا دعاء جديدا كما دعا رسول الله صلى الله عليه وآله ).
Just as the Mahdi faded into obscurity, he would return out of that obscurity. He is currently in the clouds, which is to say that the occultation has surrounded him in opaque confusion, but that his affect on the Earth is still present. His companions will also be strangers who are not recognized ( إذا يستغني الناس عن ضوء الشمس ونور القمر ويجتزون بنور الامام ), and they are gathered with him like cirrus clouds ( فيظهر في ثلاثمائة وثلاثة عشر رجلا عدة أهل بدر على غير ميعاد قزعا كقزع الخريف رهبان بالليل أسد بالنهار ). "At that time people will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory." (Mark 13:26) When he returns, "mankind shall have no need of the light of the Sun and the light of the Moon, and they shall pass by the light of the Imam." ( إذا يستغني الناس عن ضوء الشمس ونور القمر ويجتزون بنور الامام ). Meaning, they will be able to go directly to the Imam for guidance, and we will no longer need to seek out other sources of light.
May Allah hasten his luminous coming.