A man who attempted to attack an imam at Makkah's Grand Mosque last week is a Saudi national who claimed to be the awaited Imam Mehdi, Saudi media reported on Sunday.
The armed man, in his 40s, was seen on live television charging towards the imam's pulpit on Friday but was intercepted by fast-acting security officers and subsequently arrested.
Initial investigations by police revealed that the attacker claimed to be Imam Mehdi (messiah), Arab News reported.
The imam, Sheikh Bandar Baleelah, continued delivering the Friday sermon as the attacker, dressed in ihram, was tackled and removed from the mosque, Islam's holiest site.
The man has also been medically examined to gauge his mental ability, according to a Gulf News report.
In Islamic belief, Imam Mehdi (Arabic: “guided one”) is "a messianic deliverer who will fill earth with justice and equity, restore true religion, and usher in a short golden age lasting seven, eight, or nine years before" the Day of Judgement, according to Encyclopaedia Britannica.
Throughout history, a number of people have claimed to be Islam’s redeemer. In the most high-profile such incident to have occurred to date, a preacher named Juhayman Al-Otaibi and his brother-in-law Mohammed Al-Qahtani, who claimed to be the Mehdi, took hundreds of pilgrims hostage at the Grand Mosque in 1979.
The siege lasted more than two weeks before security forces broke into the mosque, killing the self-proclaimed messiah and hundreds of his followers.
In March this year, a knife-wielding man shouting slogans in support of terrorist outfits was arrested after being spotted on the first floor of the Grand Mosque.