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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature


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or Imai is the title of a person belonging to a class of the Mohammedan Ulema (q.v.) or priestly body, but not set apart from the rest of the world like the clergy or priesthood, with whom he is usually classed. He is not ordained, nor is any sacred character conferred upon him. The name is Arabic, and signifies "he who is at the head." In this sense it is applied even to the sultan, "Imaum ul-Muslemin," or simply "Imaum," and is given to the most honored teachers of Mohammedanism, who in the first centuries of the Hegira developed and settled the opinion and law of Islam, as "those whose teachings are followed." The imaum, whose instruction generally extends only to the understanding of the Koran, calls the Moslem to prayer from the top of minarets, performs the rites of circumcision, marriage, burial, etc., and presides over the assembly of the faithful at prayers, except at the solemn noon prayers on Friday, which are under the superintendence of the khatib, a higher minister ("who is also called, from that circumstance, the Irnaumn ul-Jumuc, or Friday Iman"). He is elected to his office by the people, and confirmed by the authorities, to whom he remains subject in all civil and criminal matters; but he certainly enjoys many privileges; among others, he cannot be made to suffer death punishment as long as he retains his office as imaum. In spiritual affairs he becomes independent. He can resign his office and return to the laity whenever he chooses. The imaums are greatly revered by the people. For striking an imaum a Turkish layman is punished with the loss of one of his hands, but a Christian with death. In dress he is distinguished from the laity by a turban somewhat broader, made of different material, by a long beard, and by long sleeves in his coat (tunic). See Taylor, History of Mohammedanism, ch. 8; Pierer, Univ. Lex. 8:830. (J. H.W.)

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Imaum'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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