Whose Sharia is it anyway?

Over the weekend Tahrir Square was home to what liberals here have taken to calling, in anxiety and contempt, a "Kandahar Friday." Islamist groups (but interestingly not the Islamist parties who are currently in government) organized a demonstration calling for the application of Sharia.

As we discuss in our last podcast, the role of Sharia in Egypt's new draft constitution is a polarizing issue. It's also worth noting that the seemingly simple calls to "apply" Sharia are actually anything but, as Sharia is an ideal whose evolving and contested application has encompassed much more than just law over the history of Muslim communities (for a nuanced, engaging, very readable general history of Sharia, see Sadakat Kadri's recent book "Heaven on Earth: A Journey Through Islamic Shari'a.") So the question nowadays should be: which Sharia? as interpreted by whom? as implemented how? 

I did a piece on this last month for The World, which just scatched the surface of this complex issue. Also, don't miss historian Khaled Fahmy's informative polemics against the contemporary Islamist understanding of Sharia, running in El Shorouq newspaper. 

Ursula Lindsey

Ursula Lindsey is the managing editor of the Arabist blog. She writes about culture, education and politics in the Arab world. She lived in Cairo from 2002 to 2013 and got her start at the ground-breaking independent magazine Cairo Times. She was the culture editor of Cairo magazine in 2005-2006 and served as special projects editor at the independent news site Mada Masr in 2013-2014. She is the Chronicle of Higher Education's Middle East correspondent. She contributes to the BBC-PRI radio program The World, and has written for Newsweek, The New York Times, The New Yorker online, Bookforum and the blog of the London Review of Books.