SOAS University of London

Influencing Corridors of Power

Dr Alyaa Ahmed Ebbiary

BA (Manchester) MA (Lancaster) PGCE (Cambridge) PhD (SOAS)
  • Teaching
  • Research
  • Publications


Alyaa Ebbiary
Influencing Corridors of Power


Dr Alyaa Ahmed Ebbiary
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Alyaa Ebbiary is researching Islamic education and advanced religious training institutions among Muslims of Britain, with particular attention to pedagogical practices and knowledge transmission. Her academic background is Anthropology and Middle Eastern Studies (BA, Manchester University) and Religious Studies (MA, Lancaster University), and she has also trained as a teacher (PGCE, University of Cambridge). She has been a research assistant at University of East London, Lancaster University, Lokahi Foundation and the UCL Institute of Education.

PhD Research

My PhD research is about continuity and change in Islamic higher education, in particular in institutions or seminaries that train scholars and teachers. It is about the men and women who enroll and teach at these institutions, their understanding and engagement with religious knowledge and tradition, and the forms of pedagogy that are utilised. There are a number of such Islamic colleges in the UK, mostly linked to mother institutions in India, called the Darul Uloom. However many of them end up in mosques unable to relate to the community or appeal to their peers. Consequently many of the Imams and religious teachers who serve Britain’s Muslims are considered poorly-educated or ‘out of touch’. Two colleges have emerged in the last ten years with innovative solutions to these issues. My ethnographic research focuses on these two case studies, which are innovating and pushing the boundaries in the training of religious professionals in the Muslim community. One of these is a ‘finishing school’ for students who have undertaken the traditional Indian-style Darul Uloom seminary education, allowing them to contextualize and update their knowledge. The other is a development of the Darul Uloom curriculum, streamlining and repackaging it for inner-city London. Both institutions are trying to forge a cohort of informed, active and engaged Islamic leaders, as confident as they are with the Islamic literary canon as they are with social media. I explore the personal and pedagogical experiences of the students, as well as staff, forming this emerging trend. How far do these institutions uphold and preserve the authority of the past, or innovate and adapt to the needs of the present? What constitutes ‘tradition’ in institutions of advanced religious training, and how they construct and disseminate ‘Islamic knowledge’, are key concerns of my research.


  • Book Review
    Islam is a Foreign Country: American Muslims and the Global Crisis of Authority, by Zareena Grewal. Sociology of Islam, Volume 3, Issue 3-4.
  • Book Chapter
    “Re-examining the Decline Narrative: Cambridge Muslim College and the changing face of Imam training in Britain” in Imams in Western Europe: Developments, Transformations, and Institutional Challenges (eds) M. Hashas, J. Jaap de Ruiter, N. Valdemar Vinding, and K. Hajji - to be published by Amsterdam University Press 2017
  • Journal Article
    ‘Rehab’ and Rewriting the Curriculum: Reinterpretations of the Islamic Seminary in Britain, in British Journal of Sociology of Education Special Issue “Educating British Muslims: Identity, Religion and Politics in a Neoliberal Era” (submitted Jan 2017)


  • BRISMES Annual Conference: “The Middle East in Global Perspective: Interactions Across Time and Space” 16-18th June 2014 at University of Sussex.
  • IIIT European Summer School “Muslims in Europe: Challenges of Pluralism”, at International University of Sarajevo, 23rd August – 7th September 2014.
  • MBRN Symposium, “Inside Out: Reflexivity and Methodology in Research with British Muslims”, University of Cardiff, 10th September 2014.
  • BRAIS Annual conference 13-15th April 2015 at Senate House, London. Title: “You Are What You Learn: Religiously Educating British Muslims”
  • Religion, Politics and Migration: Postgraduate Symposium, “Celebrating, Consuming, Contesting: Islam at the GPU Festival”. Co-authored paper presented with Chris Moses, 22nd June 2015, St. Edmunds College Cambridge.
  • ILM Working Group, Muslims and Islam in European Modernity, Workshop and Conference, 18th-20th August 2015 at University of Durham
  • NISIS Autumn School: Changes and Debates in the Study of Islam and Muslim Societies, 20-24th October 2015, University of Amsterdam.
  • SOAS-Nohoudh Muslim Integration Conference 2015: Engaging with the Discourse, 5th October 2015, Making Modern Mullahs in Britain, SOAS.
  • NISIS Spring School: "Reviving previous times and expanding horizons: Islam and modernity in global historical perspective”, 14-18th March 2016, Koç University Istanbul.
  • BRAIS Annual Conference Panel: Islamic Education in Regional Contexts: Challenges and Opportunities, 11-12th April 2016, Senate House, University of London.
  • Islam, Law & Modernity Research Group Workshop on Islam and Gender: “Gendering space in an Islamic seminary: exploring individual and institutional complexities through a dual-gender approach”. Co-authored paper presented with Chris Moses, 7th May 2016, University of Durham.
  • Comparative Study of Religious Seminaries Symposium, 5th October 2016, UCL Institute of Education
  • MBRN Symposium - Gender and Muslim Spaces: Community and Academic Perspectives, 29th March 2017, University of Leeds.
  • Innovative forms of Islamic Higher education in Western Europe, 3-4th April 2017, Leiden University, Netherlands
  • Producing Knowledge on Islam in Europe: Epistemology, Methodology, Reflexivity, 25th April 2017, University of Cambridge
  • Rethinking Islamic Education in Europe, 14-16th Sept 2017, Sarajevo, Bosnia


Theory in Anthropology


  • Experiences of secular and religious education
  • Understandings of religious authority 
  • Epistemological authenticity
  • Religious/ ethnic minorities
  • Religion and gender
  • Education theory / pedagogy


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