|| In the wake of the colossal acts of terrorism of the last decade, the author, a legal historian and human rights lawyer realized that many people in the West had ideas about the origins and implications of the shari'a, or Islamic law, that were hazy, contradictory, or simply wrong. Even as "shari'a" became a loaded word and an all-encompassing explanation, most of us remained ignorant of its true meaning. And we were doing this at our peril. In this book the author tells the story of Islam's foundation and expansion. He shows how legal ideas gradually evolved out of thousands of reports about the Prophet Mohammad, most of which were not even written down until two centuries after his death. And he explains how, just in the last forty years, the shari'a has been appropriated and transformed by hardliners desperate to impose their oppressive vision. In the second half of the book the author takes us on a journey through more than half a dozen countries in the Islamic world, where he explores how the shari'a is taught, read, reinterpreted, reverenced, and challenged, beginning at the eight-hundred-year old Indian grave of his Sufi mystic ancestor, and ending in Cairo's City of the Dead, where one of Islam's greatest legal scholars still gets daily requests for legal miracles twelve centuries after his death. This is a tour through one of history's great collective intellectual achievements, as complex as the religion that brought it to life. The shari'a continues to shape both explosive political circumstances and the daily life of more than a billion Muslims, and this author has given a portrait of a changeable world of faith, reason, and justice.