Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Heaven on Earth: A Journey Through Shari'a Law from the Deserts of Ancient Arabia to the Streets of the Modern Muslim World” as Want to Read:
Heaven on Earth: A Journey Through Shari'a Law from the Deserts of Ancient Arabia to the Streets of the Modern Muslim World
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

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

3.98  ·  Rating Details  ·  224 Ratings  ·  60 Reviews
Some fourteen hundred years after the Prophet Muhammad first articulated God's 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 humanity's only guarantee of a just society. And as colossal acts of terrorism made the word "shari'a" more controversial t ...more
ebook, 384 pages
Published April 10th 2012 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published January 1st 2011)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Heaven on Earth, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Heaven on Earth

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 981)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Feb 16, 2013 Simon rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 28, 2012 Jordan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Juliana Philippa
April 16, 2012 - "Interpreting Shariah Law Across The Centuries" on NPR
Aisya Rahman
Jan 02, 2015 Aisya Rahman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Mind blown. Thank you for the enlightenment, Mr Kadri. I would recommend your book to all Malaysians of the day so that we can get out this mess soon than later.
Justin Evans
May 20, 2013 Justin Evans rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history-etc
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
Tariq Mahmood
May 30, 2012 Tariq Mahmood rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: islam
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
Aug 12, 2015 Amy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a ton of history and information crammed into 300 pages. I felt like I would have benefited greatly from having some sort of name chart or graph to keep all the historical names sorted out. I'm not good with names anyway so it was hard to remember who came from which group. All that aside, this book is very informative and explains things in such a clear matter that I finally feel like a have a grasp on why some things are. It really goes a long way to explaining why some things have hap ...more
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
May 16, 2014 Luna Hasani rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: on-the-bookshelf
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
Nov 27, 2013 Ellen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 15, 2013 Robert rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 08, 2013 Matt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 19, 2014 Carisa rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Alex Marshall
If a serious book about Shari'a law can be called so, this is a breezy run through its history and modern implications. At my level of fairly profound ignorance, I found it very useful and instructive, and quite witty too. The author is a Brit (but none the worse for that) and a lawyer (ditto) on both sides of the Atlantic, and he's of Pakistani stock, so he has both a nuanced perspective on the relationship between law and religious belief, and an expert's eye for a legal chicane. You can't she ...more
Ali  M.
Jan 22, 2016 Ali M. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book has a fairly humorous tone and is a pretty easy, fast read. It can be divided into two separate parts. The first was a survey of Islamic history starting with the Prophet, going through his succession, the Abassid Caliphate, rise of the 4 Schools of Sunni thought, Ibn Taymiyya, until the modern day (the Ibn Taymiyaa to modern period was very lightly covered).

What I liked about the first part was that his tone was not excessively apologetic. Kadri tried to narrate history, not paint a p
Aug 18, 2015 TomF rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Never afraid to mock hilarious and hateful expressions of Islamic thought, this investigation still remains respectful and constructive thanks to its focus on jurisprudence. (Although as he points out, this is the only area of dogma which is really open to debate). There are surreal excerpts & edicts aplenty, from condemnation of 'frequenters of see-saws' to restrictions on non-military hair-dye, but his core aim is to trace the overarching development of the major schools of Shari'a thought ...more
Vikas Datta
Mar 02, 2013 Vikas Datta rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Ken Cook
Jan 30, 2015 Ken Cook rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Off the bat, this book was a first read win.

My first reaction was that it was a thick, large paperback on a subject I might find mildly intriguing. Wrong on all counts, practically. Less than 300 pages in a typeface that was easy to read for these older eyes, I picked it up on a Monday and finished it Friday, looking forward to returning to it each time.

Extremely well written, the narrative flows to keep interest levels high. The balanced blending of history, analysis and modern day lent the boo
Archana Sivassubramanian
I loved how Kadri has broken down all the complexities associated with Islamic History - from Prophet Mohammad to the Al-Qaeda - into easily digestible chunks, making this book a very useful primer for someone who is looking to get an overview into the story of Islam, and the much revered Shari'a. The book is also boring in parts, there are too many details (that a non-scholastic reader would find drab), and the last few chapters are reiterations of the author's lore borne out of his travels int ...more
I find this book is too academical for my liking. However, to disregard the whole thing as unreadable would be totally unfair to Mr. Kadri. He is a great author. He focused on all branches of religion and discussed matters that related with Islam in the past and the present. For some readers who are just like me (a curious Muslim whose a bit skeptical to trust local sources over their religion interpretation), this is a great start to harvest the interest in religion literature. You may find som ...more
Nallasivan V
Jun 20, 2015 Nallasivan V rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is not so much of review but a set of related book recommendations. I bought this book out of a bookstore having never heard of it or read about it. I liked the travelogue-like prologue where the author talks to a sufi mystic and broadly introduces us to what this book tries to achieve: To trace the evolution of sharia from the prophet till about 2011-12.

I read about 80 pages in my first read, confused mostly by number of historical figures I need to keep track of. I gave up. And then a ye
Apr 01, 2015 Mike rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, history
Kadri's book explores the history and development of the idea of shari'a law. It is a story filled with surprises and irony, and reveals just how misleading the portrayals of shari'a we most commonly encounter are. The propaganda image of shari'a as something firmly established in tradition, monolithic, and founded on accepted scriptures is completely undermined by Kadri's account. While radical "Islamists" and right-wing paranoiacs have vested interest in promoting the idea that shari'a is an e ...more
This is a great history of the sharia, detailing the emergence of the hadith, the four schools of Sunni jurisprudence, and the Twelver Shia. While this represents the majority of the Muslim word, important schools like the Ibadi are absent. Kadri also details the roots of some extremist Islamic thought from Hanbal to Ibn Taymiyya to Wahab through to elements of the Muslim Brotherhood to Al Qaeda. (The book was written before ISIS became a player). Fewer dots are connected in the history of Shia ...more
Josh Muhlenkamp
I received this book as part of Goodreads' First Reads program.

In America, there is a strong aversion to shari'a law in any manifestation. Much of that is a misunderstanding of what the shari'a is, characterized by an influx of negative news from various Islamic states, such as Iran or Pakistan. We hear about executions for "blasphemy," about amputations for theft, and stoning adulterers. While those have become some modern manifestations of shari'a, they are a small part, and they are a mostly
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
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.
Nov 22, 2014 Nicholas rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: goodreads-win
Goodreads win. WIll read and review once received.

I will admit this is a first book of its genre for me. I will also admit I really enjoyed this book. It was really interesting to read about the Muslim world. It gave me a newfound respect for the Muslim people, even more than I already had for them. The author did a great job at explaining many things and I learned so much that I never knew about or even heard of. I would highly recommend this book to many.
Yangchen Bhutia
Oct 09, 2014 Yangchen Bhutia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good read for anyone interested in understanding the reasons and history behind conflict that exists in the muslim world. It is a heavy read which will require patience for the information to gradually sink in.
Feb 26, 2013 Jeff rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 32 33 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
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  
  • Thomas Jefferson's Qur'an: Islam and the Founders
  • Misquoting Muhammad: The Challenge and Choices of Interpreting the Prophet's Legacy
  • Temptations of the West: How to Be Modern in India, Pakistan, Tibet, and Beyond
  • Journey into Islam: The Crisis of Globalization
  • The Muslim next door : the Qurʼan, the media, and that veil thing
  • Before European Hegemony: The World System A.D. 1250-1350
  • Peace Be upon You: The Story of Muslim, Christian, and Jewish Coexistence
  • When Baghdad Ruled the Muslim World: The Rise and Fall of Islam's Greatest Dynasty
  • Radical Reform: Islamic Ethics and Liberation
  • And God Said: How Translations Conceal the Bible's Original Meaning
  • Osman's Dream: The History of the Ottoman Empire
  • The Southern Gates of Arabia: A Journey in the Hadhramaut
  • How to Win a Cosmic War: God, Globalization, and the End of the War on Terror
  • God and Gold: Britain, America, and the Making of the Modern World
  • Holy Warriors: A Modern History of the Crusades
  • Levant: Splendour and Catastrophe on the Mediterranean
  • The Travels of Ibn Battutah
  • Kashmir: A Case of Freedom

Share This Book