Few symbols in today’s world are as laden and fraught as “sharia”—an Arabic-origin term referring to the straight path, the path God revealed for humans, the norms and rules guiding Muslims on that path, and Islamic law and normativity as enshrined in sacred texts or formal statute. Yet the ways in which Muslim men and women experience the myriad dimensions of sharia often go unnoticed and unpublicized. So too do recent historical changes in sharia judiciaries and contemporary strategies on the part of political and religious elites, social engineers, and brand stewards to shape, solidify, and rebrand these institutions.
Sharia Transformations is an ethnographic, historical, and theoretical study of the practice and lived entailments of sharia in Malaysia, arguably the most economically successful Muslim-majority nation in the world. The book focuses on the routine, everyday practices of Malaysia’s sharia courts and the changes that have occurred in the court’s discourses and practices in recent decades. Michael G. Peletz approaches Malaysia’s sharia judiciary as a global assemblage and addresses important issues in the humanistic and social-scientific literature concerning how Malays and other Muslims engage ethical norms and deal with law, social justice, and governance in a rapidly globalizing world.