Demystifying Sharia with Sumbul Ali-Karamali


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This week we are joined by author, former lawyer, and expert on Islamic law, Sumbul Ali-Karamali, to discuss the decidedly unscary Sharia law.

Sharia is essentially a mass of religious guidelines, meaning the path to the watering place literally and the path to righteousness religiously. Essentially, early Muslims interpreted their holy text, the Quran, to determine rules for how to live, called fatwas. The collection of fatwas (fiqh) along with the Quran and Sunnah (practices of Muhammad) equal Sharia. Like many religious texts it is ancient, up to interpretation, and complex, even to our dear host and many other Muslims. Given that scholars interpreting the texts were not governing the people, it was never rigid top-down rules from those in power. (Wager a guess at how often Islamic legal scholars have reached a consensus on the interpretation of religious text as it relates to law.)

Sumbul, who recently published her third book, Demystifying Shari’ah, shares the inspiration for the book (with a cameo by Rush Limbaugh) and the co-occurring explosion of anti-Sharia sentiment in public discourse. She breaks down the key facts in a digestible manner, including the fluidity of Sharia, the five pillars, the immutable goals that every Islamic law has to comply with—which closely resemble our far subsequent Bill of Rights—and the important revelation that no religious law can ever take over the United States because of our Constitution.

We touch on Sharia as it relates to modesty/dress, the colonization of Muslim lands, and behaviors like prayer, divorce, and murder, which are actually ranked by levels of allowance. Asad and Sumbul share the common ground of their parents effectively being the ones to lay down the law when growing up, something most children can relate to. We are surprised to learn that even nonfiction authors can get heckled at public readings. We are not surprised to hear about Fear, Inc., the extreme right-wing lawyer responsible for anti-Sharia legislation in 14 states, and the co-opting of Islamic terms by the mainstream media. Naturally, there’s an aside on Star Trek (check out our most recent blog post for more on that!).

Find out more about Sumbul on her site and get answers to all the questions you’ve ever had about Sharia in Demystifying Shari'ah: What It Is, How It Works, and Why It's Not Taking Over Our Country. Also check our her first two books, the post-9/11 award-winning The Muslim Next Door: the Qur’an, the Media, and that Veil Thing and Growing up Muslim: Understanding the Beliefs and Practices of Islam for ages 10 & up.
American Muslim Project is a production of Rifelion, LLC.
Writer and Researcher: Lindsy Gamble
Show Edited by Mark Annotto and Asad Butt
Music by Simon Hutchinson
Hosted by Asad Butt

43 episodes