An addendum to Webster 1913: When uncapitalized, the leader of daily prayers in any Muslim community. Not a priest or minister, since Islam has no ordained clergy. When capitalized, a direct blood-line descendant of The Prophet, through Ali, who is entitled by his blood to serve as the leader of all of the Islamic world. The capitalized sort of Imam is recognized only by shi'i Muslims, and never sunnis. The closest sunni equivalent might be a caliph.

I*mam" (?), I*man" (?), I*maum" (?), n. [Ar. imam.]

1.

Among the Mohammedans, a minister or priest who performs the regular service of the mosque.

2.

A Mohammedan prince who, as a successor of Mohammed, unites in his person supreme spiritual and temporal power.

 

© Webster 1913.

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