Professor Sophie Gilliat-Ray

Professor Sophie Gilliat-Ray

Professor of Religious & Theological Studies at Cardiff University and the Founding Director of the Islam-UK Centre. I have written numerous articles and books about Islam and Muslims in Britain.

Location Cardiff

Activity

  • Hello Julia. The question of music is interesting and there are in fact a range of views. This is evident in the fact that the well-known British Muslim, Yusuf Islam (formerly Cat Stevens) has returned to recording 'Islamic' music again, and there are many other well-known Muslim artists and singers. Any music in a mosque would tend to be 'religious' or...

  • There is a women's section at this mosque - and lots of women's activities. There were just limits on how much we could fit into the video! You will meet some very interesting Muslim women later in the course.

  • While it is possible for a Muslim to perform their prayer in any mosque, most Muslims tend to prefer to pray with people from their own ethnic group or 'school of thought'. To take an analogy: Christians sometimes worship in churches that are a different denomination from the one they normally worship in, or were brought up in, perhaps if they are traveling...

  • Yes Bisma - the larger and better funded mosques have become very entrepreneurial spaces! But there are still many smaller 'house mosques' that serve simply for prayer, which is fine.

  • I enjoyed listening to this.

  • Yes - Joanna - many UK mosques now have 'Open Days' for anyone to go along. Look out for information

  • Welcome Yvonne! I too am based in rural Herefordshire!

  • Hi Mary. If you are based in mid-Wales, you may like to come along to a talk that I am giving in New Radnor in April. Email me separately @ gilliat-rays@cardiff.ac.uk if you want more details.

  • Dear Alison. Welcome. I hope that you might enjoy meeting some of the British Muslim healthcare chaplains who feature in the course!

  • Very pleased to welcome you to the course Natasha, and I hope you enjoy it.

  • Dear Andrew. Cardiff has one of the oldest Muslim communities in Britain...and now is home to around 24,000 Muslims. The history of Muslims in Britain is mapped out on streets just a few miles from the university...so this is a great place from which to think about Muslim communities in Britain! Each city has a slightly different demographic - so Leeds...

  • Thank you for your support!

  • I think I can answer this question. Mr Jameel is an educational philanthropist, who supports graduate scholarship programmes in various world-leading universities (including Oxford and Cambridge). He is interested in supporting scholarship that will 'make a difference' to human flourishing.

  • Dear Abdullah. Very glad to have you with us. You clearly have some insights and experiences that we can all learn from.

  • Dear Sameena. Delighted you have joined us, and we look forward to your contributions based on your experiences.

  • Thank you for all your introductions. A very warm welcome to the course. Please feel free to share your ideas and thoughts, as we go along.

  • Hello Grace. Welcome to the course! I was interested to hear that you are considering applying for our MA Islam in Britain programme here at Cardiff. This MOOC will certainly give you a 'taster' of the things that fascinate us! If you want to find out more we have course webpage: http://courses.cardiff.ac.uk/postgraduate/course/detail/p168.html and you...

  • Hi Delyth. Great to hear that you were at the lecture in person on Tuesday. It was a truly memorable occasion, not only for the quality of Dr Allen's lecture, but also because of the very wide variety of people attending from so many faiths and spheres of public life.

  • Many thanks to those of you who have commented on the course and your experiences of learning new things about Islam and Muslims in Britain. The production team have thoroughly enjoyed reading your questions, thereby gaining a sense of what you find most interesting and/or challenging. We hope this course might be the beginning of new avenues of exploration...

  • I just wanted to clarify some details about the production of this course. Those of us most closely involved with its development first started conversations with Cardiff University about running a MOOC about 18 months ago. The bulk of the articles were written just over a year ago in time for the first delivery of the course in March 2014. We used feedback...

  • Just following up on Celia's query, not all Muslims would say that "Islam has saints". The recognition of particular individuals as having 'saintly' qualities is dependent upon context, history, tradition, religious lineage, and so on. Leaving that complex question aside for the moment, there is rather more recognition of 'scholars' within the Islamic...

  • The subject of dress has stirred up some lively debate which is great! I have been fascinated by the development of the Islamic 'fashion' industry in Britain (and further afield) recent years. There has been some interesting academic research on this subject, and this short vimeo clip reflects the work of the anthropologist Emma Tarlo: ...

  • Hello Steven. I think I can help here! It is certainly true that there is an increasing identification with the worldwide Muslim community and with Muslim religious identity itself, but the way in which this might take expression will reflect the context in which Muslims find themselves. For example, I recently saw a poster produced by a local mosque in...

  • I am liking the nuanced discussions going on about research methodologies, and the strengths and weaknesses of qualitative and quantitative approaches. Over the last four or five decades, I think there has been increasing debate and scrutiny about research methodology in a range of social scientific fields, and a healthy skepticism about the 'who' and the...

  • The increase in the Muslim population rests upon a range of factors, these being higher birth rates among a 'demographically young' population and the more effective transmission of Islam across the generations.

  • Professor Sophie Gilliat-Ray replied to [Learner left FutureLearn]

    Quite right! Well observed. One of the things we want to stress in the course is the individuality of Muslims in Britain, and the fact there isn't a homogeneous 'community'.

  • I am pleased to read such a wide ranging and varied set of comments about the course, so far. Thank you. It is fascinating to get a better understanding of how complex and sometimes difficult issues about religion and faith are discussed online....and thinking about how comments or posts would be different if made face-to-face?

  • When we think about the settlement of Muslims in Britain, it may be helpful to take account of the very complex and varied circumstances that have brought Muslims into this country, both historically and in the contemporary period. They might have arrived as traumatised refugees who have escaped persecution or warfare that are unimaginable to many of us; as...

  • I am pleased that learners have been stimulated by the 1961 film - we were delighted to get permission to use it for this course. Part of the reason is that Sheikh Saeed who is interviewed is probably the longest-serving Imam in Britain. I asked Prof Ansari if he would concur with that view when he came to Cardiff on Tuesday for the lecture, and he could not...

  • I am very pleased that most learners are enjoying the course. There are obvious limits on what can be covered in a short 4-week course, and we try to offer both depth and breadth as far as we possibly can! Not easy! There are so many topics we would have liked to explore in more depth, and issues that, ideally, would have had much more substantial...

  • I hope this course will encourage and inspire some of our learners to get to know British Muslims better, in the workplace, in the neighbourhood, or via other channels, once the course is complete. Then the really rich stories and mutual sharing will happen in depth.

  • Katherine - yes - those households displaced by the dam construction were compensated and this helped to fund their travel to Britain.

  • I am delighted to find that so many of you have enjoyed the footage of Sheikh Saeed and the experiences of Muslims in Cardiff in the 1960s. This film was discovered by one of our former MA students a few years ago, and we are very happy that we managed to get permission to use it here for the first time!

  • Dear Ursula. Thanks for your comment. The Islam-UK Centre did some research a few years ago with 60 Muslim families in Cardiff about their experiences of living in the city, and raising there children here. They recounted many positive things about being Welsh Muslims, despite the very changed socio-political circumstances that we live in today. Here is a...

  • Hello Noel. The course team come from a wide range of academic backgrounds (especially social science and anthropology) but we share a broad 'Religious Studies' approach which tries to appreciate the meaning, significance and implications that beliefs have for those that adhere to them. For a more theological perspective, perhaps have a look at other courses?

  • It is worth noting that Professor Ansari also has expertise in relation to Islam and Muslims in Britain today, so I am sure he will be able to answer questions that range over a considerable time period.

  • Hello Mary. I quite agree with you that things will have changed, but the historical background to Islam in Britain is quite important to recognise in order to track changes over time, and for our appreciation of the contemporary period.

  • Thank you for this suggestion Delyth.

  • Thank you for this reading suggestion Anne. Novels are another interesting way of thinking about British Muslim experiences. Works by Leila Aboulela are worth borrowing from your local library.

  • The architecture of mosques in Britain is highly variable. Some 'house mosques' are hardly recognisable as places of worship, while London Central Mosque in Regent's Park is a wonderful building that is unmistakably a mosque with its dome and minaret. Well worth a visit if you can.

  • Sharon - mosque building is perhaps becoming less controversial now, as the Muslim population of the UK becomes more established in British society. But it was not always the case! Herefordshire is the last English county without a mosque, and plans to establish one in the last few years have been quite controversial!

  • So, yes, the Graeme Davies you refer to is the author of 'The Dragon and the Crescent'. You can listen to a lecture by Graham, delivered as one of our 'Public Lectures' at the Islam-UK Centre at Cardiff University in 2009:
    https://vimeo.com/77173877

  • Hello Margaret. There isn't a book list to accompany the course, but if you message me off the course site (Gilliat-Rays@cardiff.ac.uk) I would be happy to suggest things you might find helpful. We are not able to point learners to material for purchase.

  • Hamad - I am glad you have learned something new from the course - we hope that the depth and range of material we cover will make the course informative to a wide range of learners.

  • I am delighted you are finding the material useful! Thank you.

  • Hello Delyth. I am glad you find the course of potential use as an RE teaching resource. Please do 'spread the word' among the RE teaching community!

  • Hello Gary. I hope we are educating, not proselytizing, though I won't apologise for our enthusiasm about the material and the subject matter we are covering in the course!

  • Lovely to hear your enthusiasm Ann.

  • I hope so Celia! We like to relate history to actual lived experiences. Let us know how you get on!

  • Thanks to Abdul-Azim, we now have a translation of the Shahadah in Welsh! Here it is:
    Yr wyf yn tystio fod yna neb teilwng am addoliad ag duw ac y mae Muhammad yw'r caethwas a negesydd olaf.

  • Edis - this is an interesting question! I think the signage in the mosque (English and Welsh) is quite unusual...but certainly conveys a sense that the Muslims there see themselves as being rooted in their local context. I will try to find out what the Shahadah would look like in Welsh!

  • Aundrea - yes - the separation of men and women for prayer is for reasons of dignity, but also to avoid the distractions of watching (or being watched by) those of the opposite gender.

  • For sure - in addition to the 5 daily prayers (which are spaced to reflect the natural work/rest 'intervals' of the day) Muslims will offer prayer whenever they feel the need. During our research with Muslim chaplains, I was present when chaplains offered spontaneous prayers with hospital patients and prisoners worried about their health or their...

  • Hester - the transmission of Islam across the generations seem to rest upon a convergence of influences, not just the teaching in the mosque and madrassah. As you point out, the family is vitally important, both nuclear and extended, especially in the years before children start school or madrassah. It is in the years up to the age of 5 that children begin...

  • Hello Graham. The acronym PBUH is derived from 'Peace Be Upon Him' (English translation of the Arabic - see below) and it is a way of conveying respect not only to the Prophet Muhammad, but to the Prophets before him as well. Muslims will often refer to Jesus (Isa) and use the same phrase to indicate respect.

  • Thank you for the discussions so far. It is wonderful to find learners posting such helpful replies to questions, and engaging in such collaborative learning.

  • Hello Sophie! Thank you for that additional point....which we can extend to children, the elderly, travellers, pregnant and breastfeeding mothers....all of whom are exempt from fasting on account of their circumstances. Many Muslims regard this as a reflection of God's mercy.

  • That's lovely to hear - thank you for sharing that!

  • Yes, ideally, the water should be running, on the assumption that water left 'sitting' becomes stagnant and more likely to be polluted.

  • I am pleased you enjoyed this. When I was doing some research in different parts of Pakistan back in the early 1990s, the adhan was like a thread, linking all the different places I went, from small villages to large cities. It was audible wherever I went, and I missed it when I came back to the UK!

  • Hello Judy. Just to be clear, there are both the specific ritual prayers that take place 5 times a day, as well as prayers or supplications for specific occasions such as starting a journey or beginning a meal. And many Muslims will also pray about things going on in their lives, such as exams, their health and well-being (or that of others).

    As other...

  • Dear Natalie. One of my research students is currently doing her doctorate on this very question! But one of the things to note immediately, is that quite often Muslim women will be involved in various forms of 'unseen' work, such as helping in a family business...so getting accurate data can sometimes be difficult. There is also some variation across the...

  • I am so pleased to hear you have been enjoying this - we like it too!

  • I am just kicking off the comments here with a question - what you have enjoyed (or not?!) about the material in this section so far?

  • I was interested to read the comments about the involvement of women (or not) in communal prayers in the mosque. There are all sorts of variations in practice among Muslim communities in Britain, much depending on available facilities/space. In the early house-mosques, there was simply not enough space for the male congregation, so women prayed at home. But...

  • Hello Natalie. Most mosques in the UK welcome visitors, but some are better equipped to do so than others. For example, some mosques really are just places for prayer, and in between prayer times, there may not be anyone around. But the larger mosques in the UK will probably have an administrator or other member of staff who could show you around. The...

  • Even though performance of hajj is obviously an individual experience, it is important to appreciate that very often it becomes a collective one too. Those who cannot afford to go nevertheless pray for, and often feel involved if a member of their family, or a friend from their mosque do go on hajj. In recent years, Dr Sean McLoughlin at Leeds University has...

  • Thank you for your question Mary. It is important to understand that the Qur'an is primarily an oral experience and has most resonance for Muslims when it is recited aloud; and yes, Muslim children learn to read the Qur'an in Arabic...the language in which it was revealed.

  • I am glad you enjoyed the recitation from the Qur'an. There are some world-famous Qur'an reciters, and Muslims often come to prefer particular reciters if they listen to audio-recordings.

  • Hello Linda. As one of the researchers on the 'Muslim Childhood' project conducted at Cardiff 2008-2011, I just wanted to comment on your concerns about the use of the word 'successful' in relation to the inter-generational transmission of Islam across the generations. I wonder if you can think of a better word for it? We did both quantitative and...

  • I would like to clarify the answer to a question posed by Linda just now, about the person of the Prophet Muhammad, and the relationship between the Prophet and God (Allah). To answer your first question...Muslims believe in both God AND the Prophet. Secondly, Muslims believe in Muhammad as the last of the Prophets...the first being Adam, Moses, Abraham,...

  • Thanks for the comments so far. I'm delighted that our emphasis on the 'everyday' and lived religious experience of Muslims in Britain is striking a chord with what so many learners seem to be looking for. I hope we meet your expectations!

  • Thanks all of you, for your comments. It is interesting that the gender balance of the educator team has arisen so early! As the lead educator for the course, I can say with confidence that all the members of the team are very sensitive (in a positive way!) to gender issues, and we have tried to involve lots of women in the making of the course. You will...

  • Hello Sue. I am a woman! I am also the lead academic for this course, and have tried to bring my distinctive feminine approaches and perspectives to the programme!! Please let me know if I have succeeded, or not!

  • Thanks to those of you who have introduced yourselves and shared some of your reasons for joining the course. Welcome! It is fascinating to hear the very wide range of experiences and motivations you each bring, and the sense that many of you want to move away from negative media stereotypes about Islam and Muslims. I hope that the remainder of the course...

  • That is an interesting question, that a Muslim psychiatrist from the Midlands addressed in a public lecture at the Islam-UK Centre here in Cardiff last year. We hope to get that lecture uploaded to Vimeo shortly. During our research on Muslim chaplaincy, we met several Muslim chaplains working in the field of mental health - recognising it for what it is -...

  • As it happens, Ali Omar has worked as a chaplain in the NHS, in HM Prisons and now the military...so quite experienced.

  • I'm not sure the pictures were intended to 'prove' anything really - just provide some alternative images to those we tend to see in the paper and on news channels. What is extremely hard to do via a course like this, is to show the 'everyday' and the 'ordinary' (whatever those are!) but I think that over the years of doing research with and about Muslims in...

  • Yes, I saw 'Rev' last week - thought it was GREAT!

  • You have touched on a really complex issue, which is good in many ways. Firstly, generating a consensual definition of integration is nearly impossible (let alone measuring it)! Into what are we - or anybody else - expected to integrate? What yardstick should we use? What criteria would be applied? Who would get to define 'what counts' as integration...and...

  • Thank you!

  • Dear Alan. To answer your question...what this means is that over the years, many Muslims in Britain have increasingly foregrounded their religious identity - as Muslims - as opposed to defining themselves as, say, British-Pakistani, or British-Arab. It is their religious identity that has become prominent, for many. Amid the diversity of cultures,...

  • Hi Carole. As an 'educator', I'm not sorry to hear that the course is throwing up more questions than answers for you! Not only are we now in the part of the course where there often isn't a clear 'answer' (but rather perspectives, views, contested debates)...but as an introductory course, we precisely hope that we will have encouraged learners to develop...

  • Can you be specific Maggie, about which youth organisations you have in mind here? Do you mean Muslim ones? If so, an example might be the Muslim Youth Helpline: http://www.myh.org.uk/. There also also lots of specialist Muslim professional associations in Britain, e.g. for doctors, academics, chaplains (of course!) teachers, lawyers, and so on. In recent...

  • Hi Chris. There are numerous institutions for training imams here in Britain, via boarding schools and day-schools. The training usually takes 6-7 years. These institutions reflect some of the diversity within Muslim communities (e.g. Sunni/Shia/Sufi etc), and in some ways mirror the pattern of training in 'parent' institutions in the Islamic world. The...

  • If I can qualify this slightly, Muslim women can be imams (leaders of prayer) for female-only congregations. We had a wonderful lecture this week by Mufti Muhammad ibn Adam from Leicester (soon to be available on Vimeo) and he amplified the fact that Muslim women can perform exactly the same religious roles as men...except that according to orthodox opinion...

  • Dear Viv. In relation to housing, the 2001 Census data showed that Muslims in Britain tend (on average) to have far larger families both as a result of higher birth-rates, but also due to the practice of extended family living where 3 (or possibly more) generations may live in one household. In light of this, local authorities need to consider the supply of...