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King Abdullah’s health and the Signs of the Times

[ by Charles Cameron ]

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia is currently recovering from two recent surgeries in hospital in the US, may he, may we all be blessed with good health.


Dr. Kamal El-Helbawy of the Centre for the Study of Terrorism in London was quoted yesterday by [Iranian] Press TV as saying that a coup might take place in Saudi Arabia:

“It is possible that a coup could happen, and I see nothing to prevent that from happening,” Dr. Kamal Helbawy of the Center for the Study of Terrorism said in an interview with Press TV aired on Saturday. “Both in Qatar and Oman in the past, the sons of the kings stole the leadership from their fathers, and I think there is a rift in the house of Saud,” he added. [ … ] “With his old age and sickness, there is suspicion about succession. There has been tension in the family for several decades. I believe there is a political and religious crisis,” Helbawy said.

[ h/t Habiba Hamid ]


I have no special insight into the affairs of the Kingdom. I only mention this press report because just today I ran across a reference to the Kuwaiti Shi’ite author Jaber Bolushi and his book [downloadable here in Arabic], Appearance of Imam Mahdi in 2015 — which brings us back to King Abdullah.

We need (IMO) to get used to the idea that every newsworthy event has the potential to spark some kind of reaction in the apocalyptic mind.

I do not wish to suggest that any given event will necessarily spark a Mahdist response — just that it may — and that we should therefore keep tabs on Mahdist and messianic sentiment in general, and note carefully what “signs of the times” might prove persuasive to those who seek such things.


The Sunni site where I found Bolushi’s book mentioned, contained the following among a list of “signs” of the soon-coming of the Mahdi:

Death of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia (we wish him long life) in 2015: The Shia believe that King Abdullah will be the last king of the House of Saud before the appearance of the Mahdi. Jaber Bolushi cites a Hadith attributed to Prophet Mohammad [saw] (the Shia claim this Hadith used to be reported in Musnad Ahmad, but was later removed) in which the Prophet mentions that the last man who will govern Al-Hijaz (the region that includes Mecca & Medina) before the Mahdi will be called Abdullah and he will be the successor of his brother who is named by the name of an animal. The previous king of Saudi Arabia was King Fahd (Fahd means leopard). It is worth noting that King Abdullah is currently 84 years old. After he dies, a dispute will occur among the royal family as to who should succeed him. There will be a strife and blood shed. Then, people will search for the Mahdi and offer him allegiance between Rukun and Maqam in the Haram Masjid in Mecca.


My point is not to discuss the health of King Abdullah – I wish him well – nor the specifics of this particular prophecy – date-setting seems to me to be a fool’s errand, even according to the scriptures of the various religions where it is practiced.

My point, again, is that today’s news – whatever it is — will be “read” and understood within dozens of conflicting apocalyptic contexts, most of which we are in general unaware of, with possible repercussions on the world stage that may therefore take us by surprise.


Jean-Pierre Filiu in his recently published book, Apocalypse in Islam, writes that:

ambitious militia leaders, such as Muqtada al-Sadr in Iraq and Hasan Nasrallah in Lebanon, consciously exploit popular messianic feeling in order to assert their authority at the expense of the Shi’i clerical establishment, without allowing themselves to fall captive to apocalyptic rhetoric. [ … ] For the moment, only the Iraqi militia known as the Supporters of the Imam Mahdi has actively sought to translate the rise of eschatological anxiety into political action. Yet one day a larger and more resourceful group, eager (like Abu Musab al-Suri) to tap the energy of the “masses” as a way of achieving superiority over rival formations, may be strongly tempted to resort to the messianic gambit. An appeal to the imminence of apocalypse would provide it with an instrument of recruitment, a framework for interpreting future developments, and a way of refashioning and consolidating its own identity. In combination, these things could have far-reaching and deadly consequences.

That’s the point.

2 Responses to “King Abdullah’s health and the Signs of the Times”

  1. Larry Dunbar Says:

    "We need (IMO) to get used to the idea that every newsworthy event has the potential to spark some kind of reaction in the apocalyptic mind." It looks to me like John Boehner http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7143552n&tag=mg;mostpopvideo#ixzz18JlIpnU3 is of an apocalyptic mind. Is there something specific we should be watching for coming out of the USA? Kind of like the Black flag of Afghanistan? 

  2. Charles Cameron Says:

    Boehner is a Catholic, and unlike Marco Rubio his Catholicism doesn’t seem to be blended with Baptist church-going. Since Augustine, the Catholic Church has tended to be far less prone to "soon coming" end times expectation than evangelical and particularly pentecostal Christianity –, so my guess would be that while eschatological triggers may influence his party, and he may therefore respond to them, he is unlikely to be in a state of "semiotic arousal" (Richard Landes’ phrase for those who see signs of the times everywhere) himself.

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