Religious Studies Postgraduates

REF 2021

1st in the UK

Divinity at the University of Aberdeen was ranked 1st in the UK for overall quality of research

Religious Studies Postgraduates

Our PhD students conduct research in a wide variety of subject areas--to find out more about their work click on the tabs below.

Abdullah Alghamdi

Thesis title: How can dialogue resolve sectarian conflicts in Saudi Arabia


About: Lecturer at King Faisal University in Saudi

BA in "Islamic Culture" from Imam Mohammed Bin Saud University

MA in "Intercultural Studies" from Om Alqura University

MA in "Arts" from Manchester University

PhD student in "Dialogue" at Aberdeen University 


Revd Canon Lynsay M. Downs

What did you study before coming to Aberdeen, and how does it feed into your current programme? I studied for my first degree at Hull, with a year at JATE, in Szeged, Hungary (1996-7). This was languages, politics, history and economics with a distinctly European focus. A particular experience from my year abroad remains a core reflection for my current research. In September 1996, I entered Szeged’s Votive Cathedral, on my way to university, just as worship was beginning. People were gathered in the central nave and two priests emerged from the vestry, one attired in the Roman Catholic style and the other according to the Eastern Orthodox tradition. The gathered people peeled off behind their chosen priests, with the Catholics heading towards the sanctuary and the Orthodox worshippers to a side chapel. Having been entranced by Orthodox worship in the Kremlin five years earlier, I followed the orthodox group, standing at the back of their worship space. I had been learning Hungarian for approximately six weeks, so was surprised when the priest began to conduct the service in Serbian. I thought about leaving, I had no hope of understanding the service. At that moment people began to prostrate themselves. I realised that this was asking for forgiveness and did likewise. I thought about the colours of the vestments and inhaled incense. I made the sign of the cross, indicating my willingness to receive blessing, whenever the priest drew a cross in the air. I listened to the chanting, concentrating on the various tones; I knew the different tones expressed different meanings, so I tried to discern them. Eventually I was offered bread; I believed I was taking communion (it was probably Antidoran) and returned every week, slowly becoming familiar with the service. I learned to worship without words. After completing my degree in Hull, then living and working in Hungary for three more years, I returned to the UK, married, pregnant with my first child and selected for training as a priest in the Church of England. I studied Theology at Oxford through Ripon College Cuddesdon. This was a fulltime course undertaken whilst living according to a monastic routine of worship and work. I was pregnant or nursing for the first two years, leaving with my degree and two sons to begin life as an ordained deacon. My studies included New and Old Testament, Pastoral Theology, Mission and Ministry, Pastoral skills, Doctrine, Ethics, Liturgy and Church History. I also undertook year-long Name Revd Canon Lynsay M. Downs Programme/Research title More than Words: learning to love and be loved in return through participation in Holy Communion. Date your studies/research commenced September 2021 Previous qualifications BAhons European Studies; BTh Oxon Home country UK Today’s date 21/3/2022 placements as chaplain to the Oxford Bus Company and as an assistant to a local class of Special Needs children on their swimming afternoon. I have now been an ordained priest for 16 years, have three children and have discovered that each of them, as well as myself, belong to that part of the neuro-diverse community known as Autistic.

What are you studying/researching (details about your project are very welcome)? Please let us know who your supervisor is as well. My research focuses attention on the experience of non-verbal worshippers and those who worship alongside them. Supervised by Professor Brian Brock, I will be asking where the attention is drawn when the words of the liturgy are unavailable to a worshipper? In what moments or aspects is the non-verbal worshipper an active participant in communal worship? What gifts and insights are brought to communities blessed by the presence of non-verbal individuals in their midst? In seeking answers to these questions experience will be in conversation with Biblical stories of creation as well as theological musings from many centuries concerning the power of God's Word; divine communication and the image of God in human beings and human speech. This is a project first and foremost concerned with a theology of identity. At its simplest level it is asking: Do you love me? God asks this question of each of us. We come warily to worship echoing back to God, do you love me? Even if... in Derrida's apostrophe, the question hangs in the air, asking the human congregation: Do you love me, even if I have no words?

What do you hope to do after finishing your programme? I will continue working as a priest, but hope that my voice might be better heard by others when discussing the importance of non-verbal, liturgical theology.

What do you enjoy most about living and studying in Aberdeen? I live outside the city on Royal Deeside and love the opportunities for being outdoors in the Cairngorms, on Coastlands and along Royal Deeside. The Divinity department here is truly international, ensuring that questions arise in most discussions that I would never have imagined alone.

Huzaifa Aliyu Jangebe

Thesis tittle: Islāh and tajdīd on Matters of ʿibādāt twentieth century Northern Nigeria: A Special Reference to the Selected Books of Abubakar Gumi (1924- 1992)

Research: Tajdīd was not a new phenomenon in Northern Nigeria. It was a continuation of the process began with the advent of Islam in the area. The first proponent of tajdīd in Northern Nigeria was the famous North African scholar and theologian, Muhammad Abdulkarīm al-Maghīlī (d. 1504/5) in the fifteenth century. Then, in the eighteenth centuries, came the tajdīd period of Shehu ibn Foduye (d. 1817); Shehu was a jihadist and mujaddid (revivalist) who fought to reform the lax Muslims in Northern Nigeria. However, in the twentieth century, Abubakar Gumi carried the flag of tajdīd in the area. He articulated and emerged his islāh activities to revive the practices of Muslims and was regarded as one of the mujaddids of his period. His most outstanding efforts within the Northern Nigerian community of his time was the tajdīd in ʿibādāt practices. The reawakening of the spirit of islāh and tajdīd by Gumi, has yielded various outcomes in the history of Islam in Northern Nigeria.

In this regard, my research examines tajdīd ideas brought by Gumi to revive the ʿibādāt practices in Northern Nigeria. In so doing, his ideas would be analysed as an individual thinker rather than a school of thought, even though his views have persuaded the emergence of an Islamic movement in the region. Thus, to achieve the set objectives of my research, some selected works of Gumi has been identified as a case study, under the supervision of Dr. Zohar Hadromi-Allouche and Dr. Dawoud El-Alami.

Daniel Rempel

What did you study before coming to Aberdeen, and how does it feed into your current programme? Prior to studying at Aberdeen, I completed an MA in Theological Studies at Canadian Mennonite University in Winnipeg, Canada. My MA thesis was on Karl Barth’s theological anthropology and its implications for people with intellectual disabilities. Throughout this research, I discovered Barth’s theology of witness via Stanley Hauerwas’ Gifford Lectures, and became fascinated with it. Additionally, I felt like I hadn’t written anything “practical” about the lives people with intellectual disabilities lead. These two things were the spark for me to continue researching at Aberdeen.

What are you studying/researching (details about your project are very welcome)? Please let us know who your supervisor is as well. My research, supervised by Brian Brock, is on the Christian witness of people with intellectual disabilities. Deploying Barth’s theology of witness, which suggests that the whole of the Christian life is simply to live as a witness to the God who is the beginning and end of all that is, I argue that people with intellectual disabilities are capable of functioning as Christian witness. My research details how these moments of witness come about, and what that means for our conceptions of people with intellectual disabilities more broadly speaking.

Justyn Towler

PgDip Theology and Disability

“The programme so far has been excellent - I have really enjoyed how the lecturer has presented the content, but also then directed us to relevant reading material and guided us in group discussions.

In a very short space of time, I have been exposed to some of the main themes and issues in the area of disability and theology, things I have never considered or even been aware of before, but I have been able to grapple with it quite quickly due to excellent guidance, input and well facilitated group discussions and lectures.

I have really enjoyed and appreciated the studies so far; they have already got me thinking about my own work/ministry context in far deeper ways than previously - I am already looking forward to the next module and even the next assignment.”