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Heaven on Earth: A Journey Through Shari'a Law from the Deserts of Ancient Arabia to the Streets of the Modern Muslim Worldby Sadakat Kadri
Synopses & Reviews
Some fourteen hundred years after the Prophet Muhammad first articulated Gods law—the shari‘a—its earthly interpreters are still arguing about what it means. Hard-liners reduce it to amputations, veiling, holy war, and stonings. Others say that it is humanitys only guarantee of a just society. And as colossal acts of terrorism made the word “shari‘a” more controversial than ever during the past decade, the legal historian and human rights lawyer Sadakat Kadri realized that many people in the West harbored ideas about Islamic law that were hazy or simply wrong. Heaven on Earth describes his journey, through ancient texts and across modern borders, in search of the facts behind the myths.
Kadri brings lucid analysis and enlivening wit to the turbulent story of Islams foundation and expansion, showing how the Prophet Muhammads teachings evolved gradually into concepts of justice. Traveling the Muslim world to see the shari‘as principles in action, he encounters a cacophony of legal claims. At the ancient Indian grave of his Sufi ancestor, unruly jinns are exorcised in the name of the shari‘a. In Pakistans madrasas, stern scholars ridicule his talk of human rights and demand explanations for NATO drone attacks in Afghanistan. In Iran, he hears that God is forgiving enough to subsidize sex-change operations—but requires the execution of Muslims who change religion. Yet the stories of compulsion and violence are only part of a picture that also emphasizes compassion and equity. Many of Islams first judges refused even to rule on cases for fear that a mistake would damn them, and scholars from Delhi to Cairo maintain that governments have no business enforcing faith.
The shari‘a continues to shape explosive political events and the daily lives of more than a billion Muslims. Heaven on Earth is a brilliantly iconoclastic tour through one of humanitys great collective intellectual achievements—and an essential guide to one of the most disputed but least understood controversies of modern times.
Ever since 9/11, fears about the shari‘a—Islamic law—have been spreading. A word that originally conveyed nothing more sinister than a direct path to water has become associated not with salvation but with brutality and compulsion. And as the legal historian and human rights lawyer Sadakat Kadri realized when he began writing this book, we are all worse off for not knowing its true meaning.
In Heaven on Earth, Kadri recounts Islams thrilling and turbulent history with wit and precision and shows how fourteen hundred years of tradition have been turned upside down in just forty years by hard-line extremists. Traveling through more than half a dozen countries, he explores how the shari‘a is currently perceived—by scholars, critics, and ordinary believers alike.
Heaven on Earth is a brilliantly iconoclastic tour through one of humanitys great collective intellectual achievements. At a time when the shari‘a is shaping political crises and the lives of more than a billion Muslims worldwide, Kadri clarifies the realities of modern Islam—and helps us anticipate how it is going to look in the future.
A vivid, essential exploration of the shari‘a, the contested and often misunderstood code of Islamic justice
In the wake of the colossal acts of terrorism of the last decade, the legal historian and human rights lawyer Sadakat Kadri realized that many people in the West had ideas about the origins and implications of the shari‘a, or Islamic law, that were hazy, contradictory, or simply wrong. Even as “shari‘a” became a loaded word and an all-encompassing explanation, most of us remained ignorant of its true meaning. And we were doing this at our peril.
In Heaven on Earth, Kadri brings lucid wit and analytical skill to the thrilling and turbulent story of Islams foundation and expansion, and explains how, just in the last forty years, the shari‘a has been appropriated and transformed by hard-liners desperate to impose their oppressive vision. In the second half of the book, Kadri takes us on an extraordinary journey through more than half a dozen countries in the Islamic world, where he explores, in striking detail, how the shari‘a is taught, read, reinterpreted, reverenced, and challenged.
Heaven on Earth is a brilliantly iconoclastic tour through one of historys great collective intellectual achievements, as complex as the religion that brought it to life. The shari‘a continues to shape both explosive political circumstances and the daily life of more than a billion Muslims, and Kadri has given us a compelling and clarifying portrait of a changeable world of faith, reason, and justice.
About the Author
Sadakat Kadri is a criminal and human rights barrister and the author of The Trial: A History from Socrates to O.J. Simpson. He has contributed to The Guardian, The Times of London, and the London Review of Books, and he is the winner of the 1998 /Shiva Naipaul Travel Writing Prize. He lives in London.
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