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1. And when his Lord tried Abraham with certain words, he fulfilled them. He said, Surely I will make thee a leader (imâm) of men. Abraham, said, And of my offspring? My covenant does not include the unjust, said He." (2: 124.) Imâm is literally one who is imitated or whose example is followed from i'tamma bi-hî, he followed or imitated him. It generally means a head or a chief or a leader whether he follows the right way or not. In relation to congregational prayers, the imâm is the person who leads the prayer. Abraham is spoken of as having been made an imâm because he fulfilled the Divine commandments--and every imâm should try to follow his example; and an unjust person did not deserve to be made a leader--even though he may be of high parentage (v. 1). That the man who leads the prayers is called an imâm shows that he should be one occupying the highest place of honour in his community on account of his righteousness. While alive, the Holy Prophet himself acted as imâm; and when he was unable during his last illness to perform that function, he ordered that Abû Bakr should act as imâm (h. 1). The honour of acting as an imâm should be conferred upon the man who occupies the highest place of honour in a community (h. 1): it is further laid down that the man having the greatest knowledge of the Qur'ân should be chosen as imâm (hh. 2, 3), even though he be a slave (h. 4). He should not be paid any remuneration for leading prayers (H. vi:12), It is not, however, prohibited to say prayers behind an imâm who is either a usurper (h. 5) or an unrighteous person (b. 6). A blind man is not unfit to lead the prayers (h. 7), nor is a woman (h. 8). The imâm should have regard for the weak and the sick among those who follow him (h. 9). Those who follow the imâm shall not anticipate him in any movement (h. 10). When a person joins the congregational service, he should start his prayer where he finds the imâm (h. 11). The position which the imâm occupies in relation to the congregation is explained in hh. 12-14. There is no harm if a wall intervenes between the imâm and the congregation (b. 15). 1 Abû Mûsâ said, The Prophet, peace and blessings of Allâh be on him, fell ill and his illness became severe; so he said: "Tell Abû Bakr that he should lead the prayer for the people."[1] ... So the messenger came to him, and he (Abû Bakr) led the prayer for the people in the lifetime of the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allâh be on him. (B. 10:46.) 2 Abû Mas'ûd said, The Messenger of Allâh, peace and blessings of Allâh be on him, said "The man who knows most the Book of Allâh shall act as imâm of a people;[2] and if there are persons equal in their knowledge of the Qur'ân, then he who has greater knowledge of [1. While alive, the Holy Prophet himself acted as imâm and led the prayers. During his last illness he became too weak to leave his bed and to go out to pray in congregation; so he directed that Abû Bakr should lead the prayers. This Hadîth, along with the Holy Prophet's practice, is conclusive proof that the man who held the highest place of honour in the community on account of his righteousness acted as imâm, for after the Holy Prophet Abû Bakr was admittedly the most excellent of his followers. 2. Evidently what is meant is excellence in knowledge of the Holy Qur'ân. not merely its recitation.] the Sunnah; and if they are equal in their knowledge of the Sunnah, then he who is first in hijrah; [3] and if they are equal in hijrah, then he who is older in years; and a man shall not lead another in prayer in the place where he (the latter) is in authority,[4] and no one shall occupy the place of honour in another man's house except with his permission. (M-Msh. 4:26.) 3 Ibn 'Abbâs said, The Messenger of Allâh, peace and blessings of Allâh be on him, said: "The most virtuous among you shall deliver the adhân, and those having most knowledge of the Qur'ân shall act as imams."[5] (AD-Msh 4:26.) 4 Ibn 'Umar said, When the first emigrants [3. Precedence in hijrah was an indication of precedence in sacrifices for Islâm. 4. Thus the master of the house or the imâm of a particular mosque has a greater right to lead the prayers there than a mere visitor. 5. The mu'adhdhin and the imâm, the two office-bearers of the mosque, are thus to be chosen for their moral excellence and knowledge of the Qur'ân.] came to 'Usbah, a place in Qubâ', before the coming of the Messenger of Allâh, peace and blessings of Allâh be on him, the slave of Abu Hudhaifah, used to act as their imâm, and he had the greatest knowledge of the Qur'ân.[6] (B. 10: 54) 5 'Ubaid Allâh reported that He entered upon 'Uthmân ibn 'Affân and he was then besieged (by the rebels). He said, Thou art the imâm of the people and to thee has happened what thou seest, and the rebel imâm leads our prayers and we consider this to be a sin. He said, Prayer is the best of things which people do; so when people do a good work, do thou also do the good with them, and when they do evil, do thou shun their evil. (B. 10:56.) [6. A slave became the imâm because he excelled others in knowledge.] 6 Abû Hurairah said, The Messenger of Allâh, peace and blessings of Allâh be on him, said: "Jihâd is incumbent on you under every commander whether he is virtuous or wicked, even though he be guilty of heinous sins and prayer is incumbent on you behind every Muslim whether he is virtuous or wicked, even though he be guilty of heinous sins;[7] and the holding of a (funeral) service on every Muslim is incumbent whether he is virtuous or wicked, even though he be guilty of heinous sins." (AD-Msh. 4:26) 7 Anas reported that The Prophet, peace and blessings of Allâh be on him, left Ibn Umm Maktûm after him to act as imâm of the people, and he [7. No one can be chosen as imâm for carrying on jihâd or for leading prayers unless he possesses the requisite qualifications. and, therefore, a man who is guilty of heinous sins cannot be chosen for either purpose. But if such a {footnote } man is chosen by mistake or if he commits such a sin after he has been chosen, he must be followed so long as he is not removed from that office, as no organization can be maintained otherwise.] was a blind man. (AD. 2:64.) 8 It is reported about Umm Waraqah who had learned the Qur'ân by heart that The Prophet, peace and blessings of Allâh be on him, commanded her that she should act as imâm of the people of her house, and she had a mu'adhdhin and she used to act as imâm of the people of her house.[8] (Ah. VI, 405) 9 Abû Hurairah reported that The Messenger of Allâh, peace and blessings of Allâh be on him, said: "When one of you leads the prayer for the people, he should lighten it, for among them is the weak one and the sick one and the old one; and when one [8. This shows that a woman may act as imâm. There is nothing to show that there were no males among the people of her house; on the other hand. it is clearly stated that she had a mu'adhdhin who was evidently a male.] of you prays alone, he may lengthen (it) as he likes." (B. 10:62.) 10 Barâ' said, It was the practice that when the Messenger of Allâh, peace and blessings of Allâh be on him, said sami' Allâhu li-man hamidahû, none of us bent down his back (for falling down in prostration) until the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allâh be on him, fell down in prostration, and then we fell down in prostration after him." (B. 10:52.) 11 Abû Hurairah said, The Messenger of Allâh, peace and blessings of Allâh be on him, said: "When you come to prayer, and we have fallen down in prostration, fall down in prostration and do not count it as anything, and whoever joins in one rak'ah joins the prayers."[9] (AD-Msh. 4:28.) [9. If a man joins the congregational service in sajdah, it should not be counted as a rak'ah, from which it follows that if he joins it in rukû', it shall be counted as a rak'ah.] 12 Samurah said, The Messenger of Allâh, peace and blessings of Allâh be on him, commanded us that when we were three, one of us should stand in the front. (Tr-Msh. 4:25.) 13 Abû Hurairah said, The Messenger of Allâh, peace and blessings of Allâh be on him, said: "Keep the imâm in the middle and close the openings."[10] (AD-Msh. 4:24.) 14 Ibn 'Abbâs said, I said my prayers with the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allâh be on him, on a certain night and 1 stood on his left, and the Messenger of Allâh, peace and blessings of Allâh be on him, took hold of my head from, behind me and placed me on his right [10. Hh. 12, 13 give the position of the imâm. He should stand in the front, forming a row by himself, and he should also be in the middle, so that the rows behind him should have an equal number of men on his right and left.] hand, then he said prayers.[11] (B. 10:77.) 15 'Â'ishah said, The Messenger of Allâh, peace and blessings of Allâh be on him, used to say his prayers at night in his enclosure, and the wall of the enclosure was low, so the people saw the person of the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allâh be on him, (standing in prayers), and some people got up and followed him in his prayers.[12] (B. 10:80) [11. If there are only two men in a congregational service, they should stand in the same row. the imâm standing on the left. If, however, a third man joins later, either the imâm should go forward and stand in front, or the first follower should step behind, forming with the new-comer a row behind the imâm. 12. This was the Holy Prophet's tahajjud prayer in the mosque during Ramadzân. The enclosure was made of mats. The hadîth shows that there is harm if anything intervenes between the imâm and the congregation.]

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1 Sahil Badruddin = ""The first Pillar, and the first distinctly Muslim practice enacted by Muhammad in Mecca, is salat, or ritual prayer. There are two kinds of prayer in Islam: du‘a, which refers to individual, informal communication between the believer and God; and salat, which is the ritualized, obligatory prayer performed five times a day: sunrise, noon, afternoon, sunset, and evening. Salat, which means “to bow, bend, or stretch,” is composed of a series of yogic movements that include standing, bowing, rising, sitting, turning east and west, and falling prostrate, all repeated in cycles, and accompanied by specific verses from the Quran."-Reza Aslan, No god but God "
2 Enakshi Ganguly = ""In addition to being a prayer leader, the imam may also serve as a member of the larger leadership team in a Muslim community. As a respected member of the community, the imam's counseling may be sought in personal or religious issues. One may ask him for spiritual advice, help with a family issue, or in other times of need."Source: http://islam.about.com/od/prayer/tp/Imam.htm"
3 Enakshi Ganguly = ""Abu Bakr's daughter, Ayesha, was married to Muhammad, and she was one of his many wives in Medina."Source: http://www.al-islam.org/restatement-history-islam-and-muslims-sayyid-ali-ashgar-razwy/abu-bakr-first-khalifa-muslims"
4 Enakshi Ganguly = "“Muhammad by his life showed that amongst Muslims there should be perfect equality and brotherhood. There was no question of race, caste, creed, colour, or sex. The Sultan of Turkey may buy a Negro from the mart of Africa, and bring him in chains to Turkey; but should he become a Muslim and have sufficient merit and abilities, he might even marry the daughter of the Sultan. Compare this with the way in which the Negroes and the American Indians are treated in this country! And what do Hindus do? If one of your missionaries chance to touch the food of an orthodox Hindu, the Hindu would throw it away. Notwithstanding our grand philosophy, you note our weakness in practice; but there you see the greatness of the Muslim beyond other races, showing itself in equality, perfect equality regardless of race or colour.”— Swami Vivekananda"