Heaven On Earth: A Journey Through Shari'a Law from the Deserts of Ancient Arabia to the Streets of the Modern Muslim World
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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 World

3.91 of 5 stars 3.91  ·  rating details  ·  131 ratings  ·  37 reviews

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

Published June 1st 2011 by Random House Export (first published January 1st 2011)
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The book falls into two parts. The first is historical, concentrating on the rise of Islam until about the 14th century, and thereafter skipping quickly to the present; the second is thematic, distilling the experiences of the author's extensive travels in the Islamic world, with chapters focusing on modernity, criminal law and punishment, religious tolerance, and I'm not sure exactly what the topic of the final chapter is.

The book is engagingly written and informative. I'm happy to have read it...more
Justin Evans
Not really what the subtitle promised. Kadri writes very well, and seems to have a good command over the subject matter, but it really only skims the surface of actual legal matters. On the other hand, if you know very little about Islam in general, this would be an ideal one stop shop: there's plenty of stuff on the early history, some slightly convoluted/compressed bits, some very well done. I can know name the four traditional schools, at least (Hanafite, Malikite, Shafi'ite, Hanbalite) and h...more
I'm not going to lie, the book was boring as all get out and really hard to read. That said. I felt that it was kind of important to get the sweeping notions of Shari'a law in order to understand all the Fox news hoopla. I guess I am kind of behind on this, I suppose this would have better served me a year ago. Anyhoo... So here is what I have gleaned. It started out as something good and was basterdized to sever the puropses of a few. Then, through propoganda was morphed - for some - into somet...more
Apr 16, 2012 Juliana marked it as to-read
April 16, 2012 - "Interpreting Shariah Law Across The Centuries" on NPR
This book has been really hard to read but worth it. If you would like to know more about the basis in law for jihad or for some of the things that are happening in the Middle East now, this would be a good book to read. You may find, as I did, that you will have to reread bits a couple of times before you really comprehend how different Shari'a law is from our familiar legal systems and what has happened to the interpretations of the Qu'ran and the interpretations of the law since the Qu'ran wa...more
Tariq Mahmood
It's a must read for details on the Indian and Pakistani Muslim scene. The author is not shy to exploit his own heritage by extensively touring both India and Pakistan in his quest to understand Sharia through the ages. I particularly liked the Iranian Shiah angle and the Saudi take on Wahabism. I loved it when he topped the discussion off by covering the UK Muslim approach to Islam as well. Some bits get a bit tiresome when he goes into lengthy discussions on the finer points of Sharia but I gu...more
Luna Hasani
This is one of the few books out there that deserve six stars. Sadakat Kadri is a good writer and an magnificent historian. The effort he put into writing this book shows as you flip through the pages.

Sadakat Kadri undertakes a very objective approach to explain the evolution of Shari'a law. The book starts by talking about the early stages of Islam, when Muhammad, peace be upon him, received his first revelation and how he transferred the Arabian Peninsula. Then it swiftly turns to explain the...more
Ezra Mayzane
The history of the Sharia law has baffled me ever since. What constitutes Sharia law? Is it just the hadd offence? Is it the purported authoritarian state? or even the punishment judged by a group of clerics and muftis? the history of islamic law has always been a fuzzy one. Since the death of the Prophet (peace be upon him) has led the Islamic community during the time of Sahabah into a time of turmoil especially during the reign of Caliph Ali. The sectarian divide of the supporters of Ali, lat...more
I first saw this book advertised for the FirstReads giveaway, although I did not win, the title intrigued me enough that I went to Amazon and ordered it anyway. While law in general is not a subject particularly known for its thrilling subject matter, sharia has entered the American conscious more in recent years as the country has become more involved in the Islamic world. One prominent example that comes to mind is Oklahoma's recent ballot measures on whether to ban the use of "foreign law" in...more
A frankly amazing and lucid illustration of Islamic culture and the role (disputes over) sharia plays in it. The first section, a history of Islam from Mohammed's inital experiences through Afghanistan in the eighties, tells a fairly familiar story, but Kadri is self-aware enough to stud his story with exmaples and anecdotes both representative and exemplary, and throughout he keeps a strong sense of narrative-- so we get chapters that cover a chunk of history, but they are organized, for exampl...more
I thought this a timely read given current developments around efforts (and, I don't think I need to use adjectives like misguided, misinformed, misdirected, bigoted) to ban use of Shari'a law in the US. It generally confirmed what I suspected about shari'a: as with anything so intrinsically linked to religion, there is no single, consistent thing that is or can be identified as shari'a law. As Kadri points out in the book, "Every faith community in the United States, from the Amish to the Zoroa...more
A well-written and, overall, excellent book -- one I will recommend to my friends who want to learn about the evolution of Shari'a law.

Part I provides a concise journey through the history of Shari'a law. The author covers the main developments in the Islamic jurisprudence and puts those developments in their historical and political context. He makes a compelling point for not limiting our opinions and treatment of Shari'a law to what we know about it based on the past few decades.

Part II of th...more
A wonderful read, unless you are in a rush, which would be a pity.

Kadri takes his time, which is just as well, as he is exploring an enormous mess of more-or-less related stories, over a long time span. And you can't hurry when dealing with mountains of Islamic names!

He is a good writer, with a skilful turn of phrase. Intelligent rather than blandly moderate, and of course, pretty expert when it comes to legal matters.

But also, he seems able to span cultures and mind-sets with considerable sensi...more
Azhar Ali
This book is a good read for anyone who wants to know about the evolution of Shari'a law. Kadri neither dismisses the Shari'a as outdated and irrelevant to current times, nor does he find himself in agreement with the orthodoxists who understand and define Shari'a as it has been shared through generations.

Kadri's detailed accounts of seasoned scholars such as Al-Ghazali and Ibn Tayyim is noteworthy. I gotta know a lot about these both scholars. However, the book is too short for such a great su...more
Disappointing -- the first section (of two) is not an overview of shari'a, but a general history of Islam and the environment that in which shari'a arose. It's a lot of material that's available elsewhere, when I was looking for a more systematic examination of Islamic religious law. The second section is an examination of how shari'a has been interpreted in the last three decades (Kadri argues that the way it's been implemented in Saudi Arabia and Iran is without precedent in the history of Isl...more
So hard to read--I could only get through about twenty pages at a time which left me feeling like a dunce while I was reading it, but I took a lot of notes for it, which is more than I do for most books. I expected to be treated to an introductory-level exploration of the legal tradition in Islam and how it contributes to the cultural and political climate of the middle east, and it that respect it did not disappoint! 4 stars for the overall quality (met expectations), 3 stars because it's prett...more
Thorn MotherIssues
Fantastic on the basic history of shari'a law and its modern applications, but I think it might be hard for people who aren't already at least vaguely aware of terms like "jahiliya," "Mutazilites," things/groups that are discussed within the text but will get discussed again later and could be confusing for casual readers. That's in no way meant to deter readers, though. I loved this, but I also know a lot of Islamic history already.
Mr. Kadri provides a pretty thorough historical overview of the development of Sharia from India to the US. My lawyer friends will enjoy it a lot, I think, and I am going to recommend it to them. I certainly learned a lot about the historical development and present logical confusion. Just tonight we heard on the news about a man who lost his hand to a judgment of "sharia" by a group of insurgents, who sound perfectly lawless.
Hard to get started reading it but once into to it it moves along. There are alot of Arabic terms which are a bit hard to keep up with
but tolerable.....I have simpathy for anyone living under a legal
system where a judges piety influences the outcome. I now have
a better understand of the rules....Its Jerry Fallell/Pat Robertson with a sword
Vikas Datta
A wonderfully engrossing account of the development of Islamic jurisprudence in light of historical and social factors, leavening the subject matter with a rare wit. Should be required reading for anyone who wants to understand the subject - or even for those who want an example of how to deal with any subject in an engrossing way
This book was very enlightening. It explained how many changes the Islamic interpretation of the faith has gone through since its beginning. I learned a lot from it. The author encourages respect for all faiths and shows how the actions of radical extremists have hurt Islam. I won this book through Goodreads.
Kevin William
In just 280 pages, I feel as though I've been brought up to speed on the glories and pitfalls of an entire civilization spanning 1400 years. And, now, capable of seeing modern day Islam with that rarest of things: perspective. Which is to say: read this book.
Raza Syed
This is a well written book on the evolution of Sharia Law. This book is not and does not try to explain things in great detail. It is a good introduction to the evolution of Sharia over the last 14 hundred years. I learned a lot and enjoyed reading it.
Saad Rashid
Good historical construct of Sharia while taking the context of culture and situational circumstances into the development of different strands of Islamic laws. Provokes much over-due debates on some hidden corners of Islamic jurisprudence.
Brilliant combination of history and analysis that could have cut 20 pages of conversations with students and been perfect. Excellent introduction to Islamic culture, and Kadri does a fantastic job of extending his analysis beyond the Arab world.
Carolyn Thomas
The term shari'a law conjures up pictures of extremism at its worst, but in this book Mr. Kadri clearly explains the origin and evolution of the law and what, in his view, has gone so wrong in recent years. Well worth reading.
The book doesn't aim to be a detailed, scholarly exploration of shari'a-- but ably achieves its goal of delivering a general understanding of the history of the concept and its multiple roles, places, and interpretations.
I enjoyed this book. I learned a lot. I definitely read it too quickly, however, and I'd like to look it over again with a closer reading some other time.
I browsed through this densely written history book & learned a few things about the history of Shari'a law. But I'm not going to read it all the way through.
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Aslan Media Book ...: Misunderstood? 1 3 Jun 22, 2012 08:23AM  
Aslan Media Book ...: Shifting Perspectives of Islamic Law 1 8 Jun 04, 2012 07:07PM  
Aslan Media Book ...: Using History to find Rationality in Sharia Law 1 6 Jun 04, 2012 07:01PM  
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