‘God is the Light of the heavens and the earth…’ (Quran, 24:35.) This article sheds light on the modalities of authority that exist in a traditional religious seminary or Dar al-Uloom (hereon abbreviated to DU) in modern Britain. Based on unprecedented insider access and detailed ethnography, the paper considers how two groups of teachers, the senior and the younger generation, acquire and shine their authoritative light in unique ways. The article asserts that within the senior teachers an elect group of ‘luminaries’ exemplify a deep level of learning combined with practice and embodiment, while the remaining teachers are granted authority by virtue of the Prophetic light, or Hadith, they radiate. The younger generation of British-born teachers, however, are the torchbearers at the leading edge of directing the DU. While it may take time for them to acquire the social and symbolic capital of the senior teachers, operationally, they are the ones illuminating the way forward. The paper discusses the implications of the changing nature of authority within the DU is likely to have for Muslims in Britain.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.