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Imamate (Arabic: إمامة‎‎ imāmah) is a word derived from imam and meaning "leadership". Its use in theology is confined to Shia. An imam is the head or leader of an imamate and is similar to a caliph or khalifah with one major difference: While a caliph is more of a political head of a state, the imam (in imamate) is a religious head of a group of people. While the caliph cannot change the religious laws and their jurisprudence, an imam can change the religious laws as per need.

Theological usage[edit]

The term caliphate, a romanization of the Arabic word khalifah "succession", is often used interchangeably with the term imamate. Both terms, not always but most often, refer to the position of succeeding and leading the Muslim community after the death of Muhammad.

Historical usage[edit]