The Qubaysiyyat Movement: Female Leadership and Islamic Solidarity among Syrian Refugees

The Middle East has witnessed the rise of a number Islamic movements in the latter half of the 20th century. Initiated in the early 1960s in Damascus, the revivalist group known as Qubaysiyyat developed into one of the most influential transnational Islamic movements in the region. A distinguishing feature of the Qubaysiyyat is its sole female membership with the aim to empower women religiously. At the same time, the Qubaysiyyat fosters a traditionalist understanding of Islam and seeks to cultivate a female notion of Islamic piety. The movement initially spread to other countries in the Middle East and, as a result of the displacement of a large number of Syrian refugees to Turkey and other European countries, it has expanded its transnational networks to Europe. The conflict in Syria has also led to a split within the movement with the remaining branch in Syria supporting the regime and members of the branch in Turkey opposing it. While some research has been done on the movement’s activities in Syria before 2011, its expansion outside of the Middle East has not been investigated. The project examines adaptations of the Qubaysiyyat in terms of discourses and practices and its position as a new transnational Islamic actor in Turkey. As a pilot study, leading to a larger research project on the movement, the project focuses on the following three areas. First, the transformation of the movement’s religious and gender discourses as a result of its expansion to Turkey. Second, the cultivation of sisterhood and construction of collective piety among Syrian refugee women in exile. Finally, third, the position of the movement as a new transnational actor within wider Islamic field in Turkey after its split following the Syrian war.

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