Two-thirds of a billion Muslims expect the Mahdi – the last Islamic imam they believe will come and rule the world – to arrive in their lifetimes, according to a new poll.
The survey by Pew Research notes that in the Middle East, North Africa, South Asia and Southeast Asia, “half or more Muslims believe they will live to see the return of the Mahdi. This expectation is most widespread in Afghanistan (83 percent), Iraq (72 percent), Tunisia (67 percent) and Malaysia (62 percent).
The survey said that belief drops to about four-in-10 across Central Asia, except for Turkey, where 68 percent expect to witness his return. It drops slightly further across southern and eastern Europe.
“In some countries with sizable Sunni and Shi’a populations, views on the Mahdi’s return differ by sect. In Iraq, for example, Shi’as are more likely than Sunnis to expect the Mahdi to return in their lifetime, by an 88 percent to 55 percent margin. In Azerbaijan, the difference between the two groups is also large (25 percentage points),” the report said. “Differences between Shi’as and Sunnis on this issue may reflect the more central role that the Mahdi’s return plays in Shi’a Islam.”
The result? An estimated 672 million Muslims expect to witness the Mahdi’s return.
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