Sunni Muslim Religious Life in Britain


Lulu, London, 2014

  • Publication Type: Book / Research Book
  • Publication Date: 2014
  • Publisher: Lulu
  • City: London
  • Istanbul University Affiliated: Yes


This book explores Sunni Islam in the city of Leeds against the wider contexts of modernity, migration and religio-ethnic diversity in the Muslim Diaspora. In Chapter 1 I examine the well-known typology of Muslim responses to modernity which differentiates the intellectual elitism of modernism from the mass movements of Salafism/Islamism and (neo)traditionalism. In particular, I dwell upon these tendencies in colonial India and Egypt as a precursor to a discussion of their impact in Britain. In Chapter 2, I outline the key processes and stages of migration which have seen South Asian and Middle Eastern Muslims and their associated (neo) traditional and Salafi/Islamist movements established in the UK. Chapter 3 offers an account of the qualitative methodology (observation and interviewing) I used in researching the views of around 40 imams, scholars and members of the congregation across four different Sunni mosques in Leeds. In Chapter 4 I map these mosques in relation to the general history and distribution of other mosques in the city, unpacking ethnic and religious differences between them in terms of belief and practice. Chapter 5 underlines the difficulty of establishing a degree of unity amongst Sunni Muslims through case studies of the timing of the celebration of ‘Eid al-Adha and the work of Leeds Muslim Forum in communicating with the wider society. Chapter 6 turns to the pattern of religious authority among ordinary Muslims, arguing that although not always the most expert, mosque imams are the key providers of religious advice because of their everyday intimacy with their congregation. However, I also explore brief case studies of fatawa given by ulama of different tendencies. Finally, Chapter 7 suggests that while most ordinary Sunni Muslims and religious experts in Leeds assert the importance of following a school of law (taqlid) in their implementation of religious practices, they also affirm the necessity of ijtihad (independent reasoning). This leads me to a discussion of the necessary characteristics of a mujtahid (one qualified to exercise ijtihad) in the UK. Overall, my argument is that Sunni Muslim religiosity in Leeds remains deeply influenced by ethnic and sectarian tendencies.