Muslims agree that Shari’a is God’s law. But the mysticism surrounding Prophet Muhammed’s nearly 1,400-year-old words has solidified to a point where finding a consensus on the particulars of Shari’a is difficult. The debate has now saturated modern politics and pop-culture around the globe. London-born Sadakat Kadri, human rights Lawyer, travel writer, and journalist, took on this collective confusion in his new book Heaven on Earth: A Journey Through Shari’a Law from the Deserts of Ancient Arabia to the Streets of the Modern Muslin World. As he traveled through South Asia and the Middle East to conduct research, Kadri began untangling the edicts of Shari’a and its interpretations, which could allow for a sex change but not apostasy. His finished product, full of travel experiences, written through the lens of his knowledge of the law and his connection to the subject matter, “provides a compelling overview of the historical events that shaped Islamic law,” wrote Ian Critchley, in the Sunday Times, and delivers “an admirably even-handed account of [Islamic law’s] often fraught position today.” At Asia House this February, Kadri sat with Mishal Husain to discuss Heaven on Earth, the history of Islamic law, and Islam’s interaction with the religious present—both Muslim and non-Muslim. Kadri earned a Master’s from Harvard Law and spent time in Prague during the 1989 Velvet Revolution. He has written a travel guide to Prague as well as the book The Trial: A History from Socrates to O.J. Simpson (2005), after his experience moving to New York City just before 9/11. He currently writes a column for the New Statesman. Mishal Husain was born in England and grew up in both the Middle East and the UK. She received a law degree from Cambridge and works as a BBC international news presenter on Impact Asia, BBC World News, as well as other programs.
—The following is an edited transcript of a conversation between Mishal Husain and Sadakat Kadri, published here courtesy of Asia House London.