One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
Islam. Any of the inhabitants of Medina who aided Muhammad at the time of the Hegira (Muhammad's flight from Mecca to Medina in 622) and who became early converts to Islam.
2Originally: an adherent or follower of Muhammad Ahmad of Dongola in Sudan, who proclaimed himself the Mahdi in 1881; a Mahdist. Later: a member of the Islamic religious and political movement in Sudan led by the descendants of Muhammad Ahmad.
Late 17th century; earliest use found in Humphrey Prideaux (1648–1724), dean of Norwich and author. From Arabic anṣār, specific sense development of the plural of nāṣir helper, assistant from naṣara to help.
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