Egypt's Islamist-dominated Constituent Assembly debated the draft for months, until most liberal members -- and all the Christian ones -- walked out to protest what they called hard-liners' railroading of the process.
Islamists rammed through approval of the final draft in an all-night session November 30. Of the 85 members who voted, 80 percent were members of the Muslim Brotherhood or the ultraconservative movement known as Salafis, or their allies.
Some Salafis had been reluctant about the draft because they wanted more explicit commitments to Shariah. But several days before the assembly session, Borhami -- who is also an assembly member -- assured them that what they sought was there, hidden in subtler language.
He said that by defining Egypt's political system as "democracy and Shura" -- the Islamic term for "consultation" -- the draft prevents what he called an "American or European" democracy that "gives the power of legislation to people and not to God."
Before liberals and Christians quit the panel, Islamists convinced them to allow a number of crucial clauses that solidified Shariah, either because of bargaining or because they didn't realize the articles' significance, he said.
"They didn't understand it well at first," he told the clerics, according to a full video of his speech posted on YouTube. "They only got it later and that's why they said it was disastrous."
How much some of the Shariah provisions in the constitution come into effect depends on who would be implementing it. And attempts to use some of its provisions would likely bring court battles over what the constitution really allows. But Borhami expressed confidence the courts would be obliged by the charter to allow a widespread implementation of Shariah.
Three articles of the more than 230-article draft mention Shariah directly.
Article 2 states that the "principles of Shariah" are the main source of legislation, the same phrasing as past constitutions. The vague term "principles" previously gave lawmakers so much leeway that they could almost ignore tenets of Islamic law. As a result, Islamic law largely only governed rules on marriage, divorce and inheritance.
But at the insistence of Salafis, Article 219 was added, defining the principles of Shariah for the first time. It says the principles are based on "general evidence, fundamental rules of jurisprudence, and credible sources accepted in Sunni doctrines and by the larger community."