In the West, 'sharia' often calls to mind antiquated laws founded upon gender discrimination and barbaric punishments. In the East, for some it means the ideal standards by which Muslims strive to live; for others, it is the greatest obstacle to modernisation of their societies. These clashing views sometimes lead to violence. Clarification of the term has therefore become an urgent necessity. Sharia is all of these things and much more. It is the legal system of Islam, a series of guidelines and prohibitions. But it is also a concept invested with a whole range of meanings, from the virtuous attributes of an 'ideal' society, to the confinement of particular elements to otherness and adversity. Moving through history, society and Islamic thought to explore the sources of sharia law, Baudouin Dupret gets to the heart of its uses and abuses in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. This short, accessible book provides an invaluable guide for those seeking to understand a matter more complex and pressing today than ever before.