Before Jones confesses his crimes to Imam Ahmad, he should be clear on the duties and role of the imam of a mosque. The imam's duties usually consist of leading prayers and providing advice and assistance to those in the community who seek them. Imams are chosen for their knowledge in matters of religion. It is possible, however, that the community has more knowledgeable persons within it who are not interested in the position of imam. In such cases, when a more knowledgeable person visits the mosque, the Muslims present at that time, including the imam, may choose that visitor to lead the prayers. The absence of a hierarchical clerical structure in Islam makes it possible for every Muslim to have a voice in religious debates on issues about which they are knowledgeable.
Azizah al-Hibri, The Muslim Perspective on the Clergy-Penitent Privilege, 29 Loy. L. A. L. Rev.1723 (1996).