Shariah: What Everyone Needs to Know

John L. Esposito and Natana J. DeLong-Bas. Oxford Univ., $16.95 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-0-19-932506-1
Esposito, professor of Islamic Studies at Georgetown, and Delong-Bas, professor of theology at Boston College, aim to correct widespread misconceptions of and fears about sharia, or Islamic law, by effectively outlining its history, prescriptions, and applications. The authors balance a big-picture perspective of the origins and place of sharia in Muslim societies with details of the actual prohibitions and punishments outlined in the Qur’an. Some of the best sections discuss the similarities and differences among the five major Islamic legal schools of interpretation, a look into contemporary polling data on Muslim opinions, and a broad review of how injunctions from scripture and tradition have been applied or misapplied around the world. Sections on honor killings and female genital mutilation are particularly illuminating as they debunk widely held myths. Laypeople will find the first half a valuable overview, but the level of detail in the topic-based chapters of the second half (covering gender and family law, criminal justice, and Islamic finance) will be tough going for readers not well versed in the fundamentals of the faith. Though the volume doesn’t work for all readers as an end-to-end reading experience, the clear writing and solid scholarship make it a valuable reference work. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 02/12/2018
Release date: 04/01/2018
Genre: Nonfiction
Hardcover - 320 pages - 978-0-19-932505-4
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