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I am not a Muslim, but I have visited a mosque before and enjoyed the service. When I visited, the local imam approached me and we talked a little about questions that I had regarding the service.

I understand that imams have a very special position in the community.

  • Is there a special way to address an imam to show respect?
  • Also, is there a special way to talk about an imam with friends?

I found this question on Yahoo Answers particularly interesting, but the accepted answer seemed like a better fit for a first-time visitor. I'm hesitant to use Arabic phrases that a Muslim would use because I don't want to sound like I'm mocking him.

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

There is really nothing special beyond being generally respectful, and that's the respect you'd give to any human being who has put in the time and effort to excel in his/her field. Imams do have a special position in the community, but its a position of respect for the time that they spent studying the sciences of the religion and the knowledge that they have. There's nothing that's sacred or mystical about it.

If you just address them as "Imam" or "Shaykh" or something that should be fine. I can't think of anything else. It's the same as when you go to a doctor or councilman or whatever - you typically don't call them by their first name unless you know them personally. Same here.

There is no special way to talk about imams with friends either. Like I said above, just a respect for their position is all that you need in any interaction with them or about them.

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As I understand, talking about a Prophet or Allah requires different speech patterns. Does this mean that an Imam is just a normal teacher, so the normal rules of respect apply? –  tjameson Nov 27 '12 at 21:43
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@tjameson Yes pretty much. As a non-Muslim I doubt anyone would get offended if you spoke about Allah or His Prophets in the normal (but respectful) "speech pattern." They might appreciate it if you followed a Prophet's name with a prayer for peace upon him but it's hardly offensive if you don't. Re. imams and such, yes, normal rules of respect. If it was a well-known scholar of the past, a Muslim might make a prayer (may God have mercy on him) or some such, but again, not expected or required of a non-Muslim :) Plenty of non-Muslim academics write about Islam. –  Ansari Nov 27 '12 at 21:50
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