What is all this with “Imams” these days? Nowadays it seems Muslim Imams are coming out of the woodwork. Suddenly I found out a few weeks ago that Shaikh Yusuf Al Qaradawi is calling himself Imam on his website. Now. More recently, they are calling the Shaikh of Al Azhar the Imam, nay the Grand Imam no less, of Al Azhar. Ali Al Sistani in Najaf does not yet call himself Grand Imam, and I hope he does not. Nor does the Saudi Mufti Shaikh Al, yet. but It is probably coming.
Historically and traditionally anyone who leads people in prayer, prays in front of them, is called Imam. That is what the Arabic “Imam” word means, someone who leads in prayer. It can imply wisdom and experience, but obviously not necessarily so. Even Generalissimo Al Sisi of Egypt can be called Imam one of these days if he leads people in prayer. He just might do that someday if things get tough in Cairo. Dr. Mohamed Morsi never did and we know where he is now. Mr. Erdogan of Turkey has not taken that plunge yet. Bashar Al Assad would never consider it: he knows it won’t work in Syria.
This “Imam” business is becoming a fad. Soon the former Shaikh of Bahrain, now self-styled King, will start calling himself Imam. Or maybe the prime minister will. King Abdullah may start calling himself Imam, although he does not lead in prayer. No, not Abdullah of Jordan, the other Abdullah. It will be a problem in the UAE: the rulers of the seven emirates can’t all be Imams. Most likely one of the Al Nahayan brothers. I was just thinking of the goateed Saad Hariri of Lebanon and…………never mind.