Muslim Chaplains Research Project
Leadership and Capacity Building in the British Muslim Community: the case of ‘Muslim Chaplains’
Muslim chaplains have been working in institutions within the UK, such as prisons, hospitals, universities and the military for over a decade now. There is no such thing as chaplaincy in the Muslim world so the emergence of Muslim chaplains in Britain has created a new kind of Muslim religious professional whose role has not yet been clearly defined. It is distinctly different from that of an Imam who is primarily an expert in Islamic law and supplier of ritual services for the Muslim community. Pastoral care and guidance, which is traditionally provided by Christian chaplains, is incorporated by Muslim chaplains with some of the duties that an Imam carries out to provide a service for Muslims within non-Muslim public institutions. However, very little is actually known about the educational and theological basis upon which Muslim chaplaincy training and discourse rests and about the people who are taking up these new roles. How much do they draw upon Christian chaplaincy practice? What Islamic traditions and scriptures are utilised in their training and practice? The project also intends to determine how Muslim chaplains conceptualise their role along with their career trajectory and prospects beyond chaplaincy. The information gained through the research will be valuable in defining the role of Muslim chaplains and their prospects as a new kind of leadership for the Muslim community in Britain.
This project is centred on four main aims/areas of investigation, and uses qualitative research methods.
The Future of Muslim Chaplaincy in Britain - one day conference 22nd September 2011
This one-day conference offers a unique opportunity to hear and discuss the main findings arising from a 28-month research project on the work of Muslims chaplains in Britain, generously funded by the AHRC/ESRC ‘Religion and Society’ Research Programme. Chaplains, policy-makers, academic researchers, and public-sector managers are warmly invited to attend. Interactive workshops will consider the key issues in contemporary chaplaincy, and will map future research agendas.
For further details and a booking form please see the document in the Related Resources section on the right of this page.
Our project will be exploring the background, training, and career trajectory of Muslim chaplains in Britain. We want to find out more about the personal, religious, and educational motivations for entering chaplaincy work. To address the research questions relating to ‘people’ we shall be conducting 65 in-depth interviews with past and present students of the ‘Certificate in Muslim Chaplaincy’ course (delivered at Markfield Institute of Higher Education, Leicester - MIHE), and with full-time serving chaplains. A proportion of interviewees will be female.
What does ‘Muslim chaplaincy’ actually involve? Our research aims to gather detailed information about Muslim chaplaincy practice through evaluation of the texts, rituals, and actions that make up ‘Muslim chaplaincy’. We aim to discover the extent to which chaplaincy practice is modeled on Christian templates, or whether a new, developing model based on Islamic traditions and scriptures is emerging. Research questions relating to ‘practice’ will be answered through follow-up observation/shadowing of half of our interviewees. We want to see them ‘at work’ and to record in detail the social, religious, and physical interactions that make up Muslim chaplaincy practice.
The development of Muslim chaplaincy has been, and continues to be, shaped by politics, power dynamics, and the demands of institutional needs and structures. Our project will enable on-going evaluation of the politics surrounding Muslim chaplaincy, especially in prisons, building upon work by Jim Beckford and Sophie Gilliat-Ray (1998). Besides Muslim chaplains themselves, there are a number of other stakeholders who are directly involved in the development of Muslim chaplaincy. We shall be conducting 10 interviews with such individuals, such as the heads of major chaplaincy branches in the UK, representatives from various professional Muslim chaplaincy associations, and staff who are engaged in the training of Muslim chaplains.
Full-time Muslim chaplains have been employed in major public institutions for at least the last decade. It is now possible to begin considering their impact and potential significance within and beyond the Muslim community. For example, are Muslim chaplains becoming sources of expertise, leadership and guidance beyond their employing institutions, in the wider British Muslim community? In order to assess the impact of Muslim chaplaincy, both for its ‘clients’ but also for the wider community, intensive fieldwork will be conducted in three prisons employing full-time Muslim chaplains. This will involve interviews with senior staff, other chaplaincy team members, and with inmates themselves. In addition, we shall be evaluating the impact of a new ‘Muslim Community Chaplaincy’ post (created to support Muslim ex-offenders at YOI Feltham), giving the opportunity to ask ‘users’ about their experiences of Muslim chaplains. Similar intensive fieldwork will also be conducted in two higher education settings, involving interviews and focus group discussions with Islamic Student society members, and with senior student support officers.
This project has been funded by the large grant scheme from the Religion and Society Research Programme which is a collaborative venture between the AHRC (Arts and Humanities Research Council) and ESRC (Economic and Social Research Council).
Recent and forthcoming conference papers:
Prison Service Chaplaincy, Annual Training Programme for Muslim Chaplains, Wakefield, 11th March 2010
AHRC/ERSC 'Religion and Society' Innovative Research Methods Conference, London, 29/30th March 2010
Royal Holloway, University of London, Muslim Youth Seminar Series, 28th April 2010
Religious Authority and Muslim Chaplaincy, Dutch Association for the Study of Religions, October 2010 (keynote lecture)
The Project Team
Dr Sophie Gilliat-Ray (Cardiff University) Principal Investigator
Prof Stephen Pattison (Birmingham University) Co-Investigator
Revd Stephen Roberts (St Michael’s College, Llandaff, Cardiff) Consultant
Dr Ataullah Siddiqui (Markfield Institute of Higher Education, Leicester) Consultant
Dr Muhammad Mansur Ali (Cardiff University)
For more details please contact:
Dr Sophie Gilliat-Ray
Centre for the Study of Islam in the UK
School of Religious and Theological Studies
Tel: 02920 876125