Imam and the Imamate
Muslims conquered lands from the Atlantic in North Africa to Pakistan, but the majority of people living under Muslim rule were not Muslim. The spread of Islam to majority status took from 200- 400 years to achieve. Most people in the land from Spain to Pakistan never saw an Arab. At most 1 million Arabs came out of Arabia to conquer and administer the empire.
Another concept emerged: Imam and imamah, or imamate.
Imam is another concept important to the idea of religion and politics in Islam. At a minimum, he is a leader of the Muslim community. It has two meanings at least:
1. Imam is a person who stands before the Muslims in prayer, sometimes the head of a mosque. There are many Imams.
2. Imam is also a religious leader who stands at the head of the entire Muslim community; a greater leadership question arose, whether the Imam is the same person as the Khalifah. Some agreed he is the same, while others felt he is not the same-Ali ibn Abi Talib was the Imam and the Khalifah, for example, for the Shi'i, but not other caliphs. Historical evidence has it that the khalifah led the prayer & gave the sermon on Friday, as Muhammad did, and heard religious disputes, as Muhammad had done. Those who dissented that the khalifah and the imam are not the same, focussed on Ali ibn Abi Talib and his descendants and claimed that the imamate was not the same as the khalifate.