Dr Yafa Shanneik

Dr Yafa Shanneik

Lecturer in Islamic Studies

Contact details

256 European Research Institute
Office number G145

My research focuses on the dynamics and trajectories of gender in Islam within the context of contemporary diasporic and transnational Muslim women’s spaces. I work on Muslim women communities in Europe and their transnational links to the Middle East. I also have a particular research interest in the authority and leadership of Muslim women and the changing nature of women’s participation in religious practices in Europe and the Middle East. My current research focuses on Muslim marriage practices and policies in Europe and the Middle East.

Feedback and office hours

For any inquiries or feedback, please email me to arrange an appointment.


  • BA (Jordan)
  • MA (Germany)
  • PhD (Germany)
  • FHEA


I joined the University of Birmingham in 2017 after holding a number of academic positions at various UK and European universities. 


I teach on various topics including asylum and refugee policies in Europe and the Middle East, Muslim matrimonial practices, diasporas, transnationalism and religio-political activism, integration and citizenship, identity formations, aesthetics, ritual practices and wellbeing. Through the use of augmented and virtual reality as well as performance art, I offer novel methodological approaches to help understand the complex ways in which people navigate through and integrate into different spaces of displacement.

Postgraduate supervision

Potential research students who would like to work in any of the following areas can contact me to discuss their ideas further:

Gender and Islam
Migration and asylum
Sunni and Shia Muslim communities in Europe
Transnationalism and diaspora communities
Anthropology of religious practices and rituals among Muslims in Europe and the Middle East
Marriage and Divorce in Islam
Heritage and identity

Find out more - our PhD Theology and Religion  page has information about doctoral research at the University of Birmingham.


Negotiating Relationships and Redefining Traditions: Syrian and Iraqi Women Refugees in Jordan

Funded by British Academy Sustainable Development Programme

This project focuses on the changing nature of family structures, within sexual and conjugal relationships among Iraqi and Syrian refugee women in Jordan. It examines: a) how heritage is re-defined to empower women to gain dignity and resilience as refugees in Jordan; b) how the refugee context places women in positions of added vulnerability, subjecting them to interpersonal or structural violence; and c) what support mechanisms exist within the law, civil society and among NGOs, which are religio-culturally sensitive and can be used by women to oppose violence within their refugee context. An interdisciplinary team from the UK and Jordan will employ innovative research methods, including art and Virtual Reality (VR) technology, and offer judicial training programmes and awareness sessions for refugee women and social work students. The project seeks to improve gender socialisation among refugees in Jordan feeding into SDP Goal 5 to achieve gender equality and women’s empowerment.

Reconsidering Muslim marriage practices in Europe: the case of Iraqi and Syrian war-widows 

Funded by British Academy: Tackling the UK’s International Challenges 2017

This pilot study offers a perspectival shift on Muslim marriages by placing the experiences and voices of Muslim women at the centre of research. It focuses on Iraqi and Syrian war-widows who have settled in the UK and Germany since the toppling of Saddam Hussein in 2003 and the outbreak of the Syrian war in 2011. The project employs an innovative combination of ethnographic, legal and artistic research approaches. Life narratives will be collected and two art workshops will be conducted to examine the women’s agency in developing new forms of Muslim marriages. By analysing two recent legal case studies in each country, the project further investigates to what extent these new forms of marriages are recognised within English and German law. Finally, it examines what other alternative support mechanisms – outside of secular legal systems – exist in the two countries for women to avail of their marital rights. This project is in collaboration with Prof Annelies Moors (University of Amsterdam) and Prof Mathias Rohe (University of Erlangen-Nuremberg).

Women’s leadership and authority within communities in Europe and the Middle East:

My research combines Islamic normative discourses and their communal and individual reception among Muslim communities in Europe and the Middle East. Since 2009 I have been engaging with the Qur’anic text as well as with the diverse Sunni and Shia hadith collections in their original Arabic language and examining their interpretations by various Muslim groups in the contemporary world. I focus in particular on how these sources are used by Sunni and Shia women today to challenge traditional gender dynamics within Muslim communities in Europe and the Middle East. I analyse how community members engage with these texts and make them relevant to contemporary questions especially through the lens of ritual practices.


Recent publications


Shanneik, Y 2022, The art of resistance in Islam: the performance of politics among Shi‘i women in the Middle East and beyond. Cambridge Middle East Studies, Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/9781009030335

Shanneik, Y & Moors, A (eds) 2021, Global dynamics of Shi‘a marriages: religion, gender, and belonging. The Politics of Marriage and Gender: Global Issues in Local Contexts, Rutgers University Press. <https://www.rutgersuniversitypress.org/global-dynamics-of-shia-marriages/9781978818460>

Scharbrodt, O & Shanneik, Y 2020, Shi’a Minorities in the Contemporary World: Migration, Transnationalism and Multilocality. Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh.

Berglund, J, Shanneik, Y & Bocking, B (eds) 2016, Religious Education in a Global-Local World. Boundaries of Religious Freedom: Regulating Religion in Diverse Societies, vol. 4, 1 edn, Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-32289-6

Kitching, K & Shanneik, Y 2015, Children’s Beliefs and Belonging: A Schools and Families Report from the ‘Making Communion’ study. University College Cork, Ireland.


Shanneik, Y 2021, 'Displacement, humanitarian interventions and gender rights in the Middle East: syrian refugees in Jordan as a case study', Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, vol. 47, no. 15, pp. 3329-3344. https://doi.org/10.1080/1369183X.2021.1926944

Marei, FG & Shanneik, Y 2021, 'Lamenting Karbala in Europe: Husayni liturgy and discourses of dissent amongst diasporic Bahraini and Lebanese Shi‘is', Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations, vol. 32, no. 1, pp. 53-79. https://doi.org/10.1080/09596410.2020.1827341

Shanneik, Y 2018, 'Islamic Studies and the Arts: New Research Methodologies in Working with Refugees in Jordan', Contemporary Levant, pp. 157-162. https://doi.org/10.1080/20581831.2018.1525242

Shanneik, Y 2017, 'Shia marriage practices: Karbala as lieux de mémoire in London', Social Sciences, vol. 6, no. 3, 100. https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci6030100

Chapter (peer-reviewed)

Shanneik, Y & Vahle, S 2023, Revisiting Transnational Arranged Marriages among Syrian Refugees in Germany: A Relational Approach. in P Berta (ed.), Arranged Marriage: The Politics of Tradition, Resistance, and Change. The Politics of Marriage and Gender: Global Issues in Local Contexts, Rutgers University Press. <https://www.rutgersuniversitypress.org/arranged-marriage/9781978822825>

Shanneik, Y & Tiilikainen, M 2019, Sudanese and Somali Women in Ireland and in Finland: Material Religion and Culture in the Formation of Migrant Women’s Identities in the Diaspora. in At the Margins of Europe? Muslims in Finland, Ireland and Portugal. Brill, pp. 245.

Shanneik, Y 2018, Moving into Shi'a Islam. in K van Nieuwkerk (ed.), Moving In and Out of Islam. University of Texas Press, Austin, pp. 130-151.


Shanneik, Y 2016, 'They aren’t Holy': Dealing with Religious Differences in Irish Primary Schools. in J Berglund, Y Shanneik & B Bocking (eds), Religious Education in a Global-Local World. Boundaries of Religious Freedom: Regulating Religion in Diverse Societies, Springer, pp. 165-180. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-32289-6_11

Special issue

Shanneik, Y & Jones, J 2020, 'Reformulating Matrimony: Islamic Marriage and Divorce in the Contemporary UK and Europe', Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs.

Shanneik, Y, Heinhold, C & Ali, Z 2017, 'Mapping Shia Muslim Communities in Europe: Local and Transnational Dimensions', Journal of Muslims in Europe, vol. 6, no. 2, pp. 145-157. https://doi.org/10.1163/22117954-12341345

View all publications in research portal


  • Gender in Islam
  • Muslim marriage practices
  • Syrian and Iraqi refugee issues in the UK and Germany