Heaven on Earth: A Journey Through Sharia Law
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Heaven on Earth: A Journey Through Sharia Law

3.88 of 5 stars 3.88  ·  rating details  ·  158 ratings  ·  42 reviews
* Almost 1400 years after the Prophet Muhammad first articulated God's law - the sharia - its earthly interpreters are still arguing over what it means. Hardliners reduce it to amputations, veiling, holy war and stonings. Others say that it is humanity's only guarantee of a just society. In Heaven on Earth, Sadakat Kadri, a London-based criminal barrister and prize-winning...more
Hardcover, 332 pages
Published 2011 by Bodley Head
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Simon
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
Juliana
Apr 16, 2012 Juliana marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
April 16, 2012 - "Interpreting Shariah Law Across The Centuries" on NPR
http://www.npr.org/2012/04/16/1505609...
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
Jordan
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
J
A meticulously researched history of the practice and interpretation of Islam, this is not some dry legal tome but a story, written with the sly, dry humor associated with the British. The author is a Western-trained lawyer with Muslim roots. He explores Islam from the revelations of Muhammad to the development of the various competing schools of ijtihad to how Shari'ah law is interpreted and applied in the modern world. I had expected this last part to be more comprehensive but, as I think the...more
Luna Hasani
This is one of the few books out there that deserves 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 th...more
Ellen
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
Robert
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
Matt
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
Lawrence
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
Raully
As an ignoramus about Islamic law, this book was very interesting to me. But I'm not sure it would engage someone more well versed than I am. It is very good on the history of the concept of shari'a, but as a survey of contemporary views of shari'a it is a bit lacking. The author focused on certain key sites where the concept has been radicalized with the intention of arguing against the radicalization of the concept.
SAMer
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
Jeff
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
Carisa
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
63alfred
A great romp through Middle Eastern and Islamic history, tradition, and religious thought.
Cal Owen
fascinating attempt to cram 1500 years into less than 300 pages
Cate
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.
Jacqueline
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.
Pat
Got to page 130 and just couldn't take it any more. More than half the book is devoted to a history of Islam. Way too much detail, most of which appear to not help in an understanding of sharia. I skipped ahead and saw no signs that the book would get better. Not for the casual reader who simply wants a better understanding of sharia law and modern Islamic thought,
Steve
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
Tomi
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.
!Tæmbuŝu
Sep 18, 2011 !Tæmbuŝu marked it as to-read
Shelves: history, religion, islam, law
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Reviewed by The Guardian
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.
Phil
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.
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