Heaven on Earth: Book summary and reviews of Heaven on Earth by Sadakat Kadri

Heaven on Earth

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

by Sadakat Kadri

Heaven on Earth by Sadakat Kadri

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Book Summary

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 remained ignorant of its true meaning. And we were doing this at our peril.

In Heaven on Earth, Kadri brings lucid wit and analytical skill to the thrilling and turbulent story of Islam's foundation and expansion. He shows how legal ideas gradually evolved out of thousands of reports about the Prophet Mohammad, most of which were not even written down until two centuries after his death. And he explains how, just in the last forty years, the shari'a has been appropriated and transformed by hardliners desperate to impose their oppressive vision. In the second half of the book, Kadri takes us on an extraordinary journey through more than half a dozen countries in the Islamic world, where he explores, in striking detail, how the shari'a is taught, read, reinterpreted, reverenced, and challenged - beginning at the eight-hundred-year old Indian grave of his Sufi mystic ancestor, and ending in Cairo's City of the Dead, where one of Islam's greatest legal scholars still gets daily requests for legal miracles twelve centuries after his death.

Heaven on Earth is a brilliantly iconoclastic tour through one of history's great collective intellectual achievements, as complex as the religion that brought it to life. The shari'a continues to shape both explosive political circumstances and the daily life of more than a billion Muslims, and Sadakat Kadri has given us a compelling and clarifying portrait of a changeable world of faith, reason, and justice.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"With occasional personal travel details added to an engaging scholarly history, Kadri offers a readable, useful companion to the Qur'an." - Kirkus Reviews

"Learned, level-headed, engaging, [Heaven on Earth] deserves praise on every front... [Kadri] finds that the kinds of shari'a now trumpeted by theocrats and militants always owe more to human arrogance than to divine inspiration." - The Independent (UK)

"Captivating... An erudite and instructive book." - The Times (UK)

"Intellectually nimble and rigorously researched... Admirably clear-eyed... Kadri is a precise and stylish writer, as good on explicating abstruse arguments as he is at conjuring vivid scenes... This brave and sane book could not be more timely." - The Scotsman (UK)

"Compelling... Admirably even-handed... [Heaven on Earth] greatly enriches our understanding of a much misunderstood subject." - The Sunday Times (UK)

"[A] fascinating journey... [Kadri] skillfully weaves history with travelogue to guide the reader into this most contentious and topical of territories... Kadri approaches these themes with unstinting humanity and intelligence, as well as great fluency." - The Spectator (UK)

"If you are about to utter the word 'Islam' or 'shari'a', stop and read this book first. It's a fascinating and often witty account of the evolution of the shari'a through the ages and the way it's practiced across the Muslim world now. I never thought legal history could be made into a page-turner. Kadri is a brilliant historian and an even better writer." - Mohammed Hanif, author of A Case of Exploding Mangoes

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Sadakat Kadri is a criminal and human rights barrister and the author of The Trial: A History from Socrates to O.J. Simpson. He has contributed to The Guardian, The Times of London, and the London Review of Books, and he is the winner of the 1998 /Shiva Naipaul Travel Writing Prize. He lives in London. Visit him online at www.sadakatkadri.com.

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