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

Wednesdays 11:00-12:00 and by appointment 


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


Before coming to the University of Birmingham, I was lecturer at the University of Chester and the University of South Wales. 


I will be teaching the foundation module ‘Understanding Religion’ and contribute to the modules on ‘Religion in Public Life’ and ‘Religion in Contemporary Global Politics’.

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
  • Sunni and Shia Muslim communities in Europe
  • Transnational Islam
  • 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.


Books and editions

  • 2018: Shia Muslim Minorities in Contemporary World: Migration, Transnationalism and Multilocality, edited together with Oliver Scharbrodt, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press (in preparation).
  • 2017: Yafa Shanneik, Zahra Ali and Chris Heinhold (eds.), Journal of Muslims in Europe: Special Edition on Mapping Shia Muslim Communities in Europe: Local and Transnational Dimensions.
  • 2016: Jenny Berglund, Yafa Shanneik and Brian Bocking (eds.), Religious Education in a Global-Local World. Dordrecht: Springer.
  • 2015: Oliver Scharbrodt, Tuula Sakaranaho, Adil Hussain Khan, Vivian Ibrahim, Yafa Shanneik, Muslims in Ireland: Past and Present. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Peer-reviewed articles in journals and edited volumes

  • 2018: Yafa Shanneik, 'Islamic Studies and the Arts: New Research Methodologies in Working with Refugees in Jordan', Contemporary Levant
  • 2018: Yafa Shanneik, ‘Moving into Shia Islam: ‘Process of Subjectification’ among Shia Women Converts in London’, in: Moving Into and Out of Islam, ed. by Karin van Nieuwkerk and Egdunas Racius. Austin: University of Texas Press (forthcoming).
  • 2017: Yafa Shanneik, ‘Shia Marriage Practices: Karbala as lieux de mémoire in London’ Social Sciences. Special issue: Understanding Muslim Mobilities and Gender, 6 (3).
  • 2016: Yafa Shanneik, ‘“They aren’t Holy”: Dealing with Religious Differences in Irish Primary Schools”, in: Religious Education in a Global-Local World, ed. by Jenny Berglund, Yafa Shanneik and Brian Bocking. Dordrecht: Springer.
  • 2015: Shanneik, Yafa, “Kääntyminen ja uskonnollinen habitus: irlantilaiset islamiin kääntyneet ennen kelttiläisen tiikerin kautta”, in: Riku Hämäläinen and Heikki Pesonen (eds.), Kohtaamisia: Kirjoituksia uskonnosta, arjesta ja monikulttuurisuudesta, Helsinki: University of Helsinki.
  • 2013: Yafa Shanneik, ‘Gendering Religious Authority in the Diaspora: Shii Women in Ireland’, in: Religion, Gender and the Public Sphere, ed. by Niamh Reilly and Stacey Scriver-Furlong. New York: Routledge.
  • 2015: Yafa Shanneik, ‘Remembering Karbala in the Diaspora: Religious Rituals among Iraqi Shii Women in Ireland’, Religion, 45 (1): 89-102.
  • 2012: Yafa Shanneik, ‘Conversion to Islam in Ireland: A Post-Catholic Subjectivity’, Journal of Muslims in Europe, 2 (1): 166-188.
  • 2012: Yafa Shanneik, ‘Religion and Diasporic Dwelling: Algerian Muslim Women in Ireland’, Religion and Gender, 2 (1): 80-100.
  • 2011: Yafa Shanneik, ‘Conversion and Religious Habitus: The Experiences of Irish Women Converts to Islam in the Pre-Celtic Tiger Era’, Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs, 31 (4): 507-521.

View all publications in research portal


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