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About the book
  • Published: 5 January 2012
  • ISBN: 9781409019763
  • Imprint: Vintage Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 352

Heaven on Earth

A Journey Through Shari‘a Law

Almost 1400 years after the Prophet Muhammad first articulated God’s law – the sharia – its earthly interpreters are still arguing over what it means. Hardliners reduce it to amputations, veiling, holy war and stonings. Others say that it is humanity’s only guarantee of a just society. In Heaven on Earth, Sadakat Kadri, a London-based criminal barrister and prize-winning writer, sets out to see who is right.

Travelling the Islamic world, he encounters a cacophony of legal claims. At the ancient Indian grave of his Sufi ancestor, unruly jinns are exorcised in the name of the sharia. In Pakistan’s madrasas, stern scholars ridicule his talk of human rights and demand explanations for NATO drone attacks in Afghanistan. In Iran, he hears that God is forgiving enough to subsidise sex-change operations – but requires the execution of Muslims who change religion.

All Muslims are guided by the sharia – whatever their interpretation of it – and the stories of compulsion and violence are just part of a much bigger picture. Many of Islam’s first judges refused even to decide cases for fear that a mistake would damn them, and scholars from Delhi to Cairo maintain that governments have no business enforcing faith.

In this illuminating and important book, Sadakat Kadri draws on Islam’s past and present to show us why. The promise of a perfect social order can be compelling. But reality has a habit of breaking in. When human beings attempt to apply divine justice, they risk creating not a heaven on earth – but something much closer to a hell.

  • Pub date: 5 January 2012
  • ISBN: 9781409019763
  • Imprint: Vintage Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 352

About the Author

Sadakat Kadri

Half-Finnish and half-Pakistani, Sadakat Kadri was born in London in 1964. He graduated with a first in history and law from Trinity College, Cambridge, and after taking a master's degree at Harvard Law School qualified as a barrister and New York attorney. He has been attached to London's Doughty Street Chambers since the mid-1990s, and has worked on human rights issues in several overseas jurisdictions, including Turkey and parts of the Middle East. His last book was The Trial: A History from Socrates to O.J. Simpson, he is a past winner of the Spectator/Shiva Naipaul travel writing prize, and before setting off to research the sharia, he wrote a regular column on legal questions for the New Statesman.

Praise for Heaven on Earth

“Brilliant and illuminating”

Boris Johnson, Mail on Sunday

“Greatly enriches our understanding of a much misunderstood subject”

Sunday Times

“Erudite and instructive”

The Times



“[A] lively, yet scholarly, book... Kadri is an ideally positioned guide”

Daily Telegraph

“Intellectually nimble and rigorously researched . . . admirably clear-eyed . . . Kadri is a precise and stylish writer, as good at explicating abstruse arguments as he is at conjuring vivid scenes . . . this brave and sane book could not be more timely”


“Truly penetrating and provocative”


“Learned, level-headed, engaging, Kadri's [book] deserves praise on every front”

Boyd Tonkin, Independent


Independent on Sunday

“[An] erudite and instructive book... Captivating”

The Times

“[A] fascinating journey . . . Kadri approaches his themes with unstinting humanity and intelligence, as well as great fluency”


“You will come across...a fresh eye, and a clear perspective, in Sadakat Kadri's new book, Heaven on Earth. Learned, level-headed, engaging, Kadri's "journey through Shari'a law" deserves praise on every front”


“This is an extremely valuable book...Knowing this stuff is important, and Kadri takes us through it wonderfully well. He has a great grasp of the facts and – this is my favourite thing – a good, dry sense of humour”

Nick Lezzard, Guardian

“Superb… So much discussion of sharia is marred by misinformation and paranoia: this level-headed book provides a timely corrective”

David Evans, Independent on Sunday

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