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Professor Sophie Gilliat-Ray

Professor Sophie Gilliat-Ray

Professor in Religious and Theological Studies, Head of Islam UK Centre

Media commentator


Research interests

My research focusses on the social scientific/anthropological study of religion in public life in Britain, and especially in public institutions.  I have conducted extensive research on chaplaincy, especially in prisons and hospitals, since 1994.  I am the Founding Director of the Islam-UK Centre, established in 2005, and am committed to research that promotes understanding of Islam and the life of Muslim communities in Britain.  In 2013, the Islam-UK Centre delivered Cardiff University's first 'MOOC' (Massive Open Online Course) entitled: Muslims in Britain: changes and challenges. Since 2009, the Islam-UK Centre has been in receipt of a generous donation that has enabled the establishment and growth of the Jameel Scholarship Programme.  In 2019, the Jameel Research Programme was established.  This is supporting three new projects on: Muslims, pastoral care and mental health (which will be developed into a new MOOC); the work of Imams in Britain; and, a project to develop our original MOOC material into teaching and learning resources for RE teachers.

I was appointed as an OBE in the 2020 New Year Honour's List, and in 2019, I was elected as a Fellow of the Learned Society of Wales.  In 2018, I took up my role as a member of the panel for the 2021 REF for Theology and Religious Studies.  During 2018, I was also elected as Chair of the BSA 'Sociology of Religion Study Group'.  Between 2015 and 2017, I was a Commissioner for the Citizens UK project on 'Islam, Participation and Public Life' (Chair: Rt Hon Dominic Grieve QC).


Education and qualifications

1994 Ph.D. in Religious Studies, University of Wales, Lampeter

1992 M.A. in Interfaith Studies, University of Wales, Lampeter (with Distinction)

1991 B.A. (Joint Hons) Theology & Religious Studies, University of Wales, Lampeter, (First Class)

Career overview

2013-present, Cardiff University, Professor of Religious & Theological Studies

2010 – 2013, Cardiff University, Reader in Religious & Theological Studies

2007 – 2010, Cardiff University, Senior Lecturer in Religious & Theological Studies

2005 – present,  Cardiff University, Director, Centre for the Study of Islam in the UK

2004 – 2007, Cardiff University, Lecturer in Religious & Theological Studies

1999 – 2004, Cardiff University, School of Religious and Theological Studies, Cardiff Research Fellow

1998 – University of Exeter, Research Fellow in Sociology

1994 – 1997, University of Warwick, Research Fellow, Department of Sociology and part-time tutor, Institute of Education

Honours and awards

  • 2019 - Fellow of the Learned Society of Wales
  • In March 2006, I was given an 'Award for Excellence' by The Muslim News (the largest circulation national newspaper for British Muslims) for my work in the field of 'Education'.
  • Nominee of the ‘Muslim Council of Britain’, to attend the Queen’s Garden Party, Buckingham Palace, 2009 in recognition of my research on Islam and Muslims in Britain

Professional memberships

  • Association of Muslim Social Scientists (member of the Advisory Board 1998-2002; member of the Executive Committee 2002-3)
  • Member of the editorial board for the international journal Fieldwork in Religion (2005 – present), and Contemporary Islam (2009 – present)
  • Chair of the Advisory Board, ‘Centre for Research in Ethnic Relations’ (CRER), University of Warwick, 2005 – 2011)
  • British Sociological Association ‘Sociology of Religion Study Group’, Convenor (1997-2000); Chair 2018 - present.
  • Muslims in Britain Research Network, Co-ordinator (with Professor Jorgen Nielsen, Birmingham University, and Dr Sean McLoughlin, Leeds University), 2003- 2007. Elected as Chair in 2014 for a 3 year term.
  • Trustee of ‘Cambridge Muslim College’ (directed by Abdul Hakim Murad/Tim Winter, University of Cambridge), from 2009-2015
  • Higher Education Academy Islamic Studies Network, Advisory Board member (2009 to 2012)
  • Member of the Advisory Board of the Islamic Foundation, Leicester (from 2011-2013)
  • Prize Committee, British Association for Islamic Studies (2015-)
  • Editorial Board member for Bloomsbury Series ‘Islam in the Global West’ (2015-)
  • Consultant for the NHS (E) Northern and Yorkshire Chaplains and Pastoral Care Committee document ‘A Framework for Spiritual, Faith and Related Pastoral Care’, December 1995.
  • Consultant for the National Association of Health Authorities and Trusts document Spiritual Care in the NHS, December 1996
  • Consultant for the Diocese of Birmingham (supervision of post-ordination training project)
  • Consultant for Religions in the UK - a Multi-Faith Directory, (University of Derby/Inter-Faith Network for the UK)
  • Consultant to Lincoln Theological Institute for the Study of Religion and Society, University of Sheffield for a one-year project: ‘Responding to Change: Health Care Chaplaincy in the NHS (1999-2000)
  • Consultant to Joseph Rowntree funded project, 2004-5
  • Consultant to AHRB-funded project, University of Leeds, 2005
  • Member of the Home Office Task Force on ‘Preventing Extremism’ (‘Education’ working group) (2005)
  • In 2005, I was nominated as one of 14 ‘star’ researchers in Cardiff University
  • In March 2006, I was given an ‘Award for Excellence’ by The Muslim News (the largest circulation national newspaper for British Muslims) for my work in the field of ‘Education’.
  • Member of the Steering Group for the HEFCE project on ‘Islam in Universities in England’ (The Siddiqui Report) 2007
  • Member of the national Advisory Group for the Muslim Faith Leaders Review (Communities and Local Government) 2008-9
  • Regular invitations to referee book proposals for academic publishers: SAGE (London), Ashgate (Aldershot), Palgrave-Macmillan (Basingstoke), Edinburgh University Press (Edinburgh), Routledge (London)
  • Regular invitations to referee for peer review journal articles (Journal of Contemporary Religion, British Journal of Religious Education, Review of Religious Research, Sociology, Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations, American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences)
  • Regular invitations to referee grant proposals for ESRC, AHRC, King’s Fund, Nuffield Foundation
  • Consultant to the ‘Four Generations Project’, Somali Integration Society, Cardiff (from 2009)
  • Nominee of the ‘Muslim Council of Britain’, to attend the Queen’s Garden Party, Buckingham Palace, 2009 in recognition of my research on Islam and Muslims in Britain
  • Contributions to the AHRC/ESRC ‘Religion and Society’ Programme more widely (e.g. publications arising from the Programme), participation in a doctoral training conference, advising and contributing to other Programme-related events and projects (e.g. workshops in Lancaster, Cambridge University research on University-Community engagement).
  • Reviewer of publications for REF 2014 (University of Edinburgh)
  • Peer review of major grant application for Danish Council for Independent Research (2015)
  • Commission on Islam, Participation and Public Life (Chair: Rt Hon Dominic Grieve QC) 2015-17, and Chair of the ‘Muslim Leadership’ sub-group
  • Member of the 2021 REF Panal for Theology and Religious Studies

Academic positions

Research Fellow in Sociology, University of Exeter, 1998

Research Fellow in Sociology, University of Warwick, 1994-1997

Speaking engagements

National conferences (oldest first)

Prison Service Chaplaincy Training Conference on Other Faiths, 1995, 1996

Association for Ministerial Training in a Multi-faith Society Annual Conference, Derby 1995

International Interfaith Centre Annual Conference, Oxford, 1995

BSA Sociology of Religion Study Group Conferences, 1995, 1996, 1997

Howard League for Penal Reform Annual Conference, Oxford, 1995

Paper for the ‘Islam in Britain’ lecture series at The Muslim College, London, June 1995

Staff development training on Islam and Muslims, Matthew Boulton College, Birmingham, 1997

British Association for the Study of Religions, 1995, 1997, 2004

Centre for European Studies, University of Exeter, 1997

British-American College, London, 1998

Centre for the Study of the Christian Church, University of Exeter, 1998

Inter-Disciplinary Seminars in the Study of Religion, University of Oxford, 1999

Centre for the Study of Theology, University of Essex, 1999

Lincoln Theological Institute for the Study of Religion and Society, 1999

Spiritual Care in the NHS conference, Sheffield University, November 2000 (paper published in edited volume)

Queen’s Theological College, Birmingham, 2001

Bradford University, 2002

BSA Sociology of Religion Study Group, Postgraduate Conference, 2003

Open University, February 2003

University of Central Lancashire ‘Employability’ conference 2004

Islam in Higher Education conference, (PRS-LTSN, AMSS, CSIC), 2005

Association of Muslim Professionals, 2005

Britain and the Muslim World, University of Exeter, April 2009

Integration of Muslim Communities in Germany and Great Britain, German Embassy, London, May 2009

Muslims in Britain Research Network, London, January 2010

Prison Service Chaplaincy Training Conference, Wakefield, March 2010

AHRC/ESRC ‘Innovative Methods’ conference (Religion and Society/NORFACE), London, March 2010

Association of Muslim Professionals, Cardiff, April 2010

Royal Holloway, University of London, public lecture series on Muslim Youth, April 2010

St Michael’s College, Prison Chaplaincy Conference, July 2010

Advanced Methods in Religious Studies, St Catherine’s College, Oxford, September 2010

Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, November 2010

Beyond Belief Religion and Belief in Professional Practice, Bradford, September 2011

British Muslim Youth (Religion and Society Programme), Manchester November 2011

‘New Forms of Public Religion’ (Religion and Society Programme), Cambridge, September 2012

Public lecture at the National Portrait Gallery, February 2014

Keynote plenary, British Association of Islamic Studies, 2015

Keynote lecture, BSA, Sociology of Religion Study Group, 2015

International Conferences (oldest first)

SISR Conference, Toulouse, 1997

Swiss Association for the Study of Religions, Lucerne, 2008 (keynote speaker)

I contribute to a biannual international workshop on ‘Political Islam’ held at SOAS, London, (November 2008; May 2009, November 2009, April 2010; April 2011; ).

World Botanic Gardens Congress, Dublin, June 2010 (with Mark Bryant)

International workshop on religion in prisons, Swiss Sociological Association, Lausanne, September 2010 (keynote speaker)

Dutch Association for the Study of Religions, October 2010 (keynote speaker)

International workshop on religion in prisons, École Normale Supérieure  Cachan, Paris, September 2011

‘Making European Muslims’ conference, University of Copenhagen, October 2011

‘How public institutions deal with diversity’, Social Science Research Centre, Berlin, May 2012

‘Religion in Public Institutions’, Facultat de Ciències Polítiques i Sociologia, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, June 2014 (keynote paper)

University Center Saint-Ignatius Antwerp.  Invitation to deliver a series of 4 public lectures in 4 different cities in Belgium, November 2014

International conference on pastoral care, Bern, June 2015

Committees and reviewing

2015-2016, Supporting Excellence Framework Steering Committee (Chair: Prof Elizabeth Treasure, Deputy Vice-Chancellor)

2012-2016, Postgraduate Tutor, Department of Religious & Theological Studies

2011-2014, member of School Senior Management Team, with brief for ‘Innovation and Engagement’.







  • Scourfield, J., Gilliat-Ray, S., Khan, A. and Otri, S. 2017. Learning to be a Muslim. In: Strhan, A., Parker, S. G. and Ridgely, S. B. eds. The Bloomsbury Reader in Religion and Childhood. London: Bloomsbury Academic, pp. 123-130.


  • Gilliat-Ray, S. and Arshad, M. 2015. Multifaith working. In: Swift, C., Cobb, M. and Todd, A. eds. A Handbook of Chaplaincy Studies: Understanding Spiritual Care in Public Places. Routledge Contemporary Ecclesiology Abingdon and New York: Routledge, pp. 109-122., (10.4324/9781315564784)
  • Gilliat-Ray, S. and Clines, J. 2015. Religious literacy and chaplaincy. In: Dinham, A. and Francis, M. eds. Religious Literacy in policy and practice. Policy Press, pp. 237-256.
  • Gilliat-Ray, S. 2015. The United Kingdom. In: Cesari, J. ed. The Oxford Handbook of European Islam. Oxford University Press, pp. 64-103.













  • 'Living Islam: between texts and people' (2020-21) - team taught module

Postgraduate taught programmes

Postgraduate doctoral students (completed)

  • Carl Morris - 'Sounds Islamic?  Contemporary Muslim Music in the UK'
  • Roz Warden - 'Exploring Islamic Social Work: findings from a contemporary case-study'
  • Abdul-Azim Ahmed – 'Sacred Rhythms: an ethnography of a British Mosque'
  • Riyaz Timol – 'Tablighi Jama'at in the UK'
  • Joanna Bryant - 'The Integration of Minority Faith Groups in Acute Healthcare Chaplaincy'
  • Matthew Vince - 'Muslim Identities in Contemporary Britain: the case of Muslim Religious Education Teachers'
  • Asma Khan - 'Beliefs, Choices and Constraints: Understanding and Explaining the Economic Inactivity of British Muslim Women'
  • Haroon Sidat - 'Formation and Training of British Muslim Religious Leadership:An Ethnography of a Dar al-Uloom in Britain'
  • Ayesha Khan -'Sufisticated: Exploring Contemporary Sufism amongst young British Muslims'

Current postgraduate students

  • Laura Jones - 'Ramadan in Britain'
  • Fatou Sambe - 'Converts and the next generation of British Muslims'
  • Laiqah Osman - 'Muslim Women in Britain and the authority of online Islamic content'

Research interests

I am especially interested in learning more about Islamic religious leadership in Britain, and the work of legal scholars and practitioners.

Successful recent research grant applications and projects

2017-2020 - £659,070 as CI – ESRC (with PI - Prof Helen Sampson, SIRC): ‘Religion in Multi–ethnic Contexts: the case of global seafaring’

2016-2017 - £31,384 - as CI – GW4 ‘Accelerator Fund’ (with Prof Rob Gleave, Exeter University): Understanding Religion and Law: Muslims, Fatwas and Muftis in the UK’

2009-2011 - £77,76 as CI – AHRC/ESRC (with Prof. G. Douglas): ‘Social Cohesion and Civil Law: The Family and Religious Courts’

2009-2010 - £16,000 - as PI – Botanic Gardens Conservation Int.: ‘Islamic Gardens in Britain’

2007-2012 - £270, 381 -  as PI - AHRC/ESRC (with Prof. S. Pattison): ‘Leadership and Capacity Building in British Muslim Communities: the case of Muslim chaplains’

2007-2010 - £379, 658 - as CI- AHRC/ESRC (with Dr. J. Scourfield): ‘Religious Nurture in Muslim Families’

2006-2007 - £13,136 -  as PI - Home Office (DCLG): ‘Muslims in Britain Research Network Grant’

2002-2005 - £133,250 - as PI – ESRC: ‘Genetics, Religion and Identity: Bangladeshi Muslims in Britain’

2002-2003 - £14,934 - as PI - Leverhulme Trust: ‘The Training of Imams in Britain’

2002-2003 - £1,470 - as PI - PRS-LTSN: ‘Development of Employability Skills in the Sociology of Religion’

2002-2003 - £1,250 - as PI - PRS-LTSN: ‘Theology and Religious Studies in the University of Wales’

2000 - £2,687 - as PI - Nuffield Foundation: ‘Chaplaincy at the Millennium Dome’

2000 - £3,000 - as PI - Sir Halley Stewart Trust: ‘The Faith Zone at the Millennium Dome’

1997 - £1,500 - as PI - University of Exeter Research Committee: ‘Religion in Higher Education’

1997 - £38,692 -  as CI - Leverhulme Trust: ‘The Training of Anglican Clergy for Ministry in a Multi-faith Society

1995 - £1,574 - as PI - Nuffield Foundation: ‘Chaplaincy in the United States’