A Journey Through Shari’a Law From the Deserts of Ancient Arabia to the Streets of the Modern Muslim World

Mohamad Bazzi in the New York Times Book Review:

Heaven-on-earth-imageIn recent years, America has succumbed to a peculiar form of Shariah-phobia. According to this narrative, covert jihadis are working to usurp the law of the land and replace it with Islamic rule. A caliphate will rise on the ashes of the Constitution, Americans will be forced to pray in mosques and judges will mete out stonings and amputations. “Stealth jihadis use political, cultural, societal, religious, intellectual tools; violent jihadis use violence,” Newt Gingrich told the American Enterprise Institute in July 2010. “But in fact they’re both engaged in jihad, and they’re both seeking to impose the same end state, which is to replace Western civilization with a radical imposition of Shariah.” During the Republican presidential primaries, every candidate weighed in on the Shariah threat. In November 2010, Oklahoma voters approved a constitutional amendment banning the use of Islamic law in court. A federal appeals court blocked the amendment, but more than two dozen other states have considered legislation to restrict judges from consulting foreign and religious laws.

To Gingrich and his supporters, Shariah is a monolithic system of medieval codes, set in stone and bent on world domination. But in “Heaven on Earth,” a carefully researched history of how Islamic jurisprudence has evolved since the seventh century, Sadakat Kadri challenges the notion that Shariah is based solely on cruelty and punishment. He explains how the body of law developed alongside different strains of Islamic thought — tolerance versus intolerance, forgiveness versus punishment, innovative versus literalist. Kadri argues that over the past 40 years, governments that aspired to instill an Islamic identity have imposed austere interpretations of Shariah, ones that run counter to a millennium of transformation and universality.

More here. Also see 3QD's Feisal Naqvi's take here in the Express Tribune.