The making of the Mariam Mosque: Serendipities and structures in the production of female authority in Denmark

Jesper Petersen

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)


This dissertation defines a number of new concepts, such as pop-up mosque, social media adhan, non-Muslim Islam, and warping, to give a detailed description how the Mariam Mosque (with female imams) was established and the kind of phenomenon it is. The latter concept (warping) plays an important role as the dissertation argues that, while Islams may be presented in a certain way, obeying rules such as scriptural accountability and claims of continuity with tradition, these are merely the form Islams take in spaces structured by power. That is, Islams are – irrespective of how they were originally produced – warped when presented in structured spaces, and thus, sampling strategies need to take the power dynamics of the spaces within which they are applied into account. Warped samples on Islams say something about the power dynamics of the space within which they are collected, but the production of these Islams may be erased due to the warping. This dissertation attempts to sample in “pre-warped” spaces and study the transition into warped spaces.

I argue that the production of Islams takes place within structures and is often serendipitous, and from an etic perspective these two – structures and serendipities – can be considered sources of Islams in addition to for example the Quran and hadiths. Furthermore, the production of Islams is confined by contemporary discursivities, and thus, any claim to continuity or belief in previous generations’ Islam should be considered emic claims, and thus, studied as such. That is, the Islamic tradition is something simultaneously appropriated and produced in the present; from an etic perspective, it is ruptured, even if it, from an emic perspective, is produced as being a continuation of tradition. In short, Islams are products of human creativity formulated within discursivities that encompass the idea that Islam is singular and, when produced by Muslims in their role as believers, it is regularly claimed to exist independently of human communication and interaction.

The Mariam Mosque is a pop-up mosque that calls social media adhans online. Although both concepts demonstrate the rupture, they are produced as part of the so-called Islamic tradition. Thus, even though the Mariam Mosque is not a building it has mosque in its name, and even though the social media adhan is not an actual soundwave – or use the words of an adhan – it has replaced the traditional adhan. The traditional adhan, called publicly, that throughout history has been used to call Muslims to the mosque (a building) is now called within the mosque spaces as part of a ritual sequence (in addition to the iqama).This means that only Muslims who have already arrived to the mosque can hear the adhan, and thus it has fundamentally changed. This dissertation focuses on this kind of ruptures and argues that they are caused by structures and serendipities rather than engagement with scripture.

Interestingly, even if pop-up mosques are not mosques in the conventional sense of the word, they produce Islamic authorities; the Mariam Mosque produced Sherin Khankan and other women as female imams. In her capacity as imam, Khankan performs rituals such as conversions, aqiqah (name giving), women only Friday prayer, and nikah (Islamic marriage) between Muslim women and non-Muslim men, which is commonly seen as forbidden. These rituals – even if they are new and closely connected to the Danish context – are all produced as in compliance with and a continuation of the Islamic tradition. I argue that creativity and thus rupture is the norm in the production of Islams.

The dissertation argues that non-Muslims also produce Islam and that these are productions in their own right and should be taken seriously as objects of study. Non-Muslims’ production of Islams are often oriented towards political goals or play an important role as an “Other” in the construction of non-Muslim identities. That is, while these Islams may not be oriented towards belief in Allah and salvation, they play important roles for non-Muslim identities and they significantly influence Muslims’ production of Islams.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Centre for Theology and Religious Studies
  • Otterbeck, Jonas, Supervisor, External person
  • Cato, Johan, Assistant supervisor
  • Jacobsen, Brian Arly, Assistant supervisor, External person
Award date2020 Nov 27
Place of PublicationLund
ISBN (Print)9789189213319
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Oct 29

Bibliographical note

Defence details
Date: 2020-11-27
Place: will be announced at
External reviewer
Name: Lene Kühle
Title: professor MSO
Affiliation: Aarhus universitet

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • History of Religions

Free keywords

  • pop-up mosque
  • Female imams
  • SoMe adhan
  • non-Muslim Islam
  • non-Muslim Islamic authority
  • Islamic studies
  • History of Religions
  • Islam in Denmark
  • Islamic feminism
  • Sherin Khankan
  • Anthropology of Islam


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