Sharia has been a source of misunderstanding and misconception in both the Muslim and non-Muslim worlds.
Understanding Sharia: Islamic Law in a Globalised World sets out to explore the reality of sharia, contextualising its development in the early centuries of Islam and showing how it evolved in line with historical and social circumstances. The authors, Raficq S. Abdulla and Mohamed M. Keshavjee, both British-trained lawyers, argue that sharia and the positive law flowing from it, known as fiqh, have never been an exclusive legal system or a fixed set of beliefs.
In addition to tracing the history of sharia, the book offers a critique concerning its status today. Sharia is examined with regard to particular issues that are of paramount importance in the contemporary world, such as human rights and criminal penalties, including those dealing with apostasy, blasphemy and adultery, commercial transactions, and bio-medical ethics, amongst other subjects. The authors show that sharia is a legal system underpinned by ethical principles and is open to change in different circumstances and contexts, notwithstanding the claims for ‘transcendental permanence’ made by Islamists.
This book encourages new thinking about the history of sharia and its role in the modern world.
‘A valuable work, elegantly written, raising issues which help to explain the ethical underpinnings of sharia and its workings in the modern world. It’s a book that should be read and reflected upon by both Muslims and non-Muslims.’
Dr Maulana Shahid Raza Naeemi, OBE Chair of MINAB (The Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board) and Executive Secretary and Registrar of Muslim Law Shariah Council (UK)
‘I loved this book. It gives the reader an introduction to the thinking behind sharia, and the evolutionary nature of its interpretation. And it makes clear how different authorities at different times in history have had wholly different approaches. The fact that the law is not a terrifying, immutable, and uncompromising whole, but has to be interpreted by human beings, is strongly emphasised, and changes in interpretation and practice are well laid out. Everyone, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, can learn from this elegantly written, well-researched volume.’
Rabbi The Rt Hon The Baroness Neuberger DBE
‘Understanding Sharia is a thought-provoking yet accessible overview of one of the most misunderstood and contested concepts of our time. The authors raise the kinds of questions that can open a much-needed conversation and show why and how sharia is always work in progress.’
Dr Ziba Mir-Hosseini, Legal Anthropologist and Activist
‘Accessible, informative and wonderfully enlightening, this book is a must-read for anyone, Muslim and non-Muslim, who wants to acquire an unprejudiced perspective on the meaning of sharia for today. The authors, refusing slavery to either lifeless literalism or unthinking relativism, introduce the reader to sharia’s contested origins and multiple cultural embodiments. They also point out continuing misapplications and relevancies for committed Islamic and wider critical consciousness. The book concludes with a trenchant plea for fresh thinking which has the potential for engaging sharia more flexibly and productively in the light of the many hitherto unimagined issues that are emerging in our globalised and interdependent world.’
Revd Dr Alan Race, Theologian and Interfaith Specialist