Term originally applied to some of the Companions of the Prophet. When Muhammad left Mecca for Medina, the Ansar were the Medinese who aided him and who became his devoted followers, serving in his army. The term was revived in the 19th century to refer to the followers of the Sudanese al-Mahdi, al-Mahdi's successor, or his descendants.

This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
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