Imam (Arabic, “be secure,” “trust”), is the Muslim word for trust in Allah, and in the Prophet Muhammad, and thus in the content of his message. In the Qur’an, therefore, Imam is sometimes synonymous with islam (allegiance to God). Based upon this tenet, the following question arose: Is imam all-important in relation to salvation, and that when one makes the profession of imam will he be saved regardless of his works, or deeds? (This is a similar problem as in Christianity, faith versus deeds.) The Kharijites declared that imam accompanied by evil works designates such a person to be no longer a Muslim, and is to be treated as such. However, the Murji’ites postponed the decision until Allah reveals all secrets, and therefore treating such persons as Muslims, all who perform the salat facing the qibla. A.G.H.
Bowker, John, The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions, New York, Oxford University Press, 1997, p. 469