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Formation and training of British Muslim scholars (Ulama): An ethnography of a Dar al-Uloom in Britain

Sidat, Haroon 2019. Formation and training of British Muslim scholars (Ulama): An ethnography of a Dar al-Uloom in Britain. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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Abstract

This thesis provides a rich tapestry of the everyday lived reality of life in an Islamic seminary (Dar al-Uloom) in the North of England. More broadly, my work contributes to debates about the sociology of religious professionals, religious education and formation, and changing patterns of religious authority and leadership within the Islamic tradition. Though there has been a growth of interest in Islamic seminaries globally (Buang, 2007; Moosa, 2015) and more recently in the West (Bano, 2018; Scott-Baumann et al., 2017), this thesis describes for the very first time life inside a traditional Islamic seminary, or a Dar al-Uloom in Britain (hereafter abbreviated to DU). Being an alumnus, it provides a unique “insider” ethnographic account based on immersion in the seminary for one year. There are increasing numbers of young, educated British born Muslims looking to religious scholars and imams for religious guidance. In parallel, there has been an interest in DUs from many stakeholder groups from both within and outside Muslim communities. This thesis is therefore a timely exploration of one of the most under-researched British Muslim institutions. Through detailed ethnography, this thesis looks at the formation and training of British Muslim leadership. What emerges is a fascinating insight into a tradition that is experiencing evolution. This is led by a young generation of scholars acting as bricoleurs: creating new forms of hybridity while remaining within the ambit of tradition. Given the importance of religious authority in Islam, the thesis uncovers the multifaceted ways it is construed in the DU. It argues that there are many modalities of authority that both complement and interplay with each other. The thesis challenges the commonly held view that DUs are engaged primarily in producing imams while providing alternative ways of conceptualising religious leadership. Students enrol voluntarily to deepen and broaden their faith commitment and are therefore actively involved in their formation. Through this seeking of self improvement, not only are their bodies being reformed in light of the Prophetic role model, but the DU is reformed in the process. The notion of the embodied khaadim helps to bridge the “expectations gap” by clarifying what the raison d’être of a DU is: the transmission and preservation of knowledge through pious practicing Muslims. Reflective of a thinking tradition, however, the DU is engaged in a balancing act between the embodiment of piety and the production of scholarship.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Date Type: Acceptance
Status: Unpublished
Schools: History, Archaeology and Religion
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BL Religion
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BP Islam. Bahaism. Theosophy, etc
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 8 November 2019
Date of Acceptance: 30 October 2019
Last Modified: 31 Jul 2020 01:25
URI: http://orca.cf.ac.uk/id/eprint/126656

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