Demystifying Shariah: What It Is, How It Works, And Why It’s Not Taking Over Our Country

Sumbul Ali-Karamali. Beacon, $22.95 (240p) ISBN 978-0-8070-3800-0
Lawyer Ali-Karamali (The Muslim Next Door) explains shariah in order to “unwind stereotypes [and] eliminat[e] presumptions” in this illuminating study. With clarity and wit, she describes shariah’s origins, central texts, methodologies, and schools of thought, exploring something that was never a code of law, but rather a system of interpretation designed to evolve and be flexible. Ali-Karamali explains how shariah has operated over centuries—particularly the academic, legal, and social structures that supported it—and its later appropriation and transformation by colonizing powers, especially Europeans, who felt it was likely to provide an avenue for resistance. Despite the variety of postcolonial Muslim legal frameworks that emerged in the latter part of the 20th century, Ali-Karamali argues that “the shariah-based legal system that flourished for over a thousand years” is effectively gone. Rather than making comparisons to Jewish or Christian law, she effectively uses the U.S. Constitution throughout as a touchstone, prompting readers to think critically about the stereotypes of shariah that could just as easily be attributed to their own legal system, such as “outdated statements” within the Constitution that Americans don’t demand be disavowed or completely rewritten. This is a remarkably nuanced and thought-provoking history. (Aug.)

Correction: An earlier version of this review used incorrect pronouns when referring to the book's author.

Reviewed on : 04/07/2020
Release date: 08/11/2020
Genre: Religion
Paperback - 978-0-8070-0282-7
MP3 CD - 978-1-6620-1035-4
Compact Disc - 978-1-6620-1034-7
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