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Imam

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Imam

An imam (/ɪˈmɑːm/; Arabic: إمام‎‎ imām, plural: أئمة aʼimmah; Persian: امام‎‎) is an Islamic leadership position. It is most commonly in the context of a worship leader of a mosque and Muslim community by Sunni Muslims. In this context, imams may lead Islamic worship services, serve as community leaders, and provide religious guidance. For Shi'a Muslims, the imam has a more central meaning and role in Islam through the concept of Imamah; the term is only applicable to those members of the house of the prophet ahl al-Bayt, designated as infallibles.

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Sunni imams

The Sunni branch of Islam does not have imams in the same sense as the Shi'a, an important distinction often overlooked by those outside of the Islamic faith. In everyday terms, the imam for Sunni Muslims is the one who leads Islamic formal (Fard) prayers, even in locations besides the mosque, whenever prayers are done in a group of two or more with one person leading (imam) and the others following by copying his ritual actions of worship. Friday sermon is most often given by an appointed imam. All mosques have an imam to lead the (congregational) prayers, even though it may sometimes just be a member from the gathered congregation rather than an officially appointed salaried person. Women imams may only lead amongst female-only congregations. The person that should be chosen according to Hadith is one who has most knowledge of the Quran, and Sunnah (prophetic tradition) and is of good character; the age being irrelevant.

The term is also used for a recognized religious scholar or authority in Islam, often for the founding scholars of the four Sunni madhhabs, or schools of jurisprudence (fiqh). It may also refer to the Muslim scholars who created the analytical sciences related to Hadith or it may refer to the heads of the Prophet Muhammad's family in their generational times.

The following table shows the considered imams in the context of scholarly authority by Sunni Muslims:

Shi'a imams

In the Shi'a context, Imam is not only presented as the man of God par excellence but as participating fully in the names, attributes, and acts that theology usually reserves for God alone. Imams have a meaning more central to belief, referring to leaders of the community. Twelver and Ismaili Shi'a believe that these imams are chosen by God to be perfect examples for the faithful and to lead all humanity in all aspects of life. They also believe that all the imams chosen are free from committing any sin, impeccability which is called ismah. These leaders must be followed since they are appointed by God.

Twelver

Here follows a list of the Twelvers imams:

Fatimah, also Fatimah al-Zahraa, daughter of Muhammed (615–632), is also considered infallible but not an Imam. Shi'a believe that the last Imam will one day return.

Ismaili

See Imamah (Ismaili doctrine) and List of Ismaili imams for Ismaili imams.

Imams as secular rulers

At times, imams have held both secular and religious authority. This was the case in Oman among the Kharijite or Ibadi sects. At times, the imams were elected. At other times the position was inherited, as with the Yaruba dynasty from 1624 and 1742. The Imamate of Futa Jallon (1727-1896) was a Fulani state in West Africa where secular power alternated between two lines of hereditary Imams, or almami. In the Zaidi Shiite sect, imams were secular as well as spiritual leaders who held power in Yemen for more than a thousand years. In 897, a Zaidi ruler, al-Hadi ila'l-Haqq Yahya, founded a line of such imams, a theocratic form of government which survived until the second half of the 20th century. (See details under Zaidiyyah, History of Yemen, Imams of Yemen.)

Ruhollah Khomeini and his successor Ali Khamenei are officially referred to as Imams in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Several Iranian places and institutions are named "Imam Khomeini", including a city, an international airport, a hospital, and a university.

References

Imam Wikipedia


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