CLERGY. The Christian clergy are mentioned in the Qur’an with expressions of comparative praise. Surah v. 85: “Then wilt surely find in enmity against those who believe are the Jews and the idolaters; and thou wilt find those to be nearest in affection to them who say ‘We are Christians’; that is because there are among them priests (qissisin) and monks and because they are not proud.”
The Muslims have no class of people occupying the precise position of priest or clergy, although the Imams, or leaders of prayers in the public assembly, are persons of learning appointed by the congregation. In Central Asia, it is usual to set apart a learned man (well skilled in theology) by binding the turban round his head, the act being performed by a leading maulawi or scholar.
In Turkey and the western portion of Islam, those who are qualified to give an opinion in religious matters, and to take the lead in guiding the people in spiritual affairs, are called `uluma’ (pl, of `alim), a term which has, in Hindustan and Central Asia, assumed the form of maulawi, a word derived from maula, “lord.”
The recognised offices in Islam corresponding to that of a priest or religious teacher, are, Imam, Mufti, and Qazi. Imam (in addition to its being used for the Khalifah, or Caliph, in the Traditions), is the person who leads the public prayers, an office answering to the Latin Antistes. This official is appointed either by the congregation, or by the parish or section of the town or village, who frequent the mosque in which he leads the prayers. Mufti is the legal adviser, who decides difficult religious questions, and assists the Qazi, or judge. Qazi is the judge and the administrator of the law. The appointments of Mufti and Qazi are in the hands of the Muslim government of the place. It is usual for the Qazi to take the lead in prayers at funerals, whilst the Imam of the parish generally performs the nikah, or religious service at marriages. [MARRIAGE.]
These offices are not necessarily hereditary, but is usual in Muslim countries for them to pass from father to son. In India at the present time there are families who retain the title of Mufti and Qazi, although the duties connected with those offices are no longer performed by them.
Based on Hughes, Dictionary of Islam