An imam is a leader, in either of two senses:
1) One who leads others in prayer.
2) One who leads the Muslim community. Shi`ites emphasize a succession of Imams traced back to `Ali, with different groups adhering to different lines of succession. Shi`ite imams are considered infallible; their interpretations of revelation, and even statements on matters not addressed by revelation, are absolutely authoritative. (Sunnis do not ascribe such authority to any individual after the Prophet Muhammad, but vest authority instead in the Muslim community as a whole.)
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