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Some Shiite Muslims have long believed, based on Islamic prophecies, that Abdullah’s death would set off a chain of events that would destabilize Saudi Arabia and culminate in the rise of Imam Mahdi—the messianic figure of Islamic eschatology.
Though Mahdi is not explicitly mentioned in the Koran, references to him appear in the hadith, a collection of reported teachings by the Prophet Mohammed, assembled after his death.
The most populous group of Shiites—the Twelvers—say the Mahdi is the last of 12 divine imams that are heirs to an Islamic nation. Mahdi is said to have been born in the mid-9th century, but to have then disappeared from humanity. Doctrine says Mahdi will reappear in “the end times.” Continue reading