Application of sharia law by country

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The following is a summary of the application of sharia by country.

Since the early Islamic states of the eighth and ninth centuries, sharia always existed alongside other normative systems.[1] Most Muslim countries adopt only a few aspects of sharia, while few countries apply the entire code.[2] Many predominantly Muslim countries have not adopted hudud penalties in their criminal justice systems.[2] Ali Mazrui stated that "most Muslim countries do not use traditional classical Islamic punishments".[3] The harshest penalties are enforced with varying levels of consistency.[4] The use of flogging is more common compared to punishments like amputations.[3]


Professor Jan Michiel Otto of the Leiden University Law School[5] divides the legal systems of Muslim countries in three groups: mixed systems, classical sharia systems and secular systems.[6]

Mixed systems[edit]

Mixed systems postulate the hegemony of the national constitution and the rule of law, while allowing the rules of Islam to play a dominant role in certain areas of national law.[6]

This is the most common system in Muslim states.[7] Sharia still plays a large part, but is not the sole or even dominating aspect of the justice system.[7] These states often have written constitutions and a codified set of laws.[7]

Classical sharia systems[edit]

Classical sharia systems formally equate national law with sharia, and to a great extent national law is based on sharia; religious scholars (ulama) play a decisive role in the application and interpretation of sharia as national law, while the legal changes allowed to the ruler are limited.[6]

Only a small minority of Muslim nations institute this system.[7] These countries for the most part lack constitutions or codification of laws outside of the Sunnah and Hadith.[7] The ulama are the source of ijma (scholarly consensus) and therefore determinants of the law of the land.[7] Even the ruling parties do not have the power to institute large-scale changes because of the power of the ulama.[7]

Secular systems[edit]

Secular systems afford no recognition to religious interference in state affairs, and sharia is not recognized or applied within national law.[6]

Secular states are a minority among countries with a predominantly Muslim population.[7] In these systems, religion is deemed to be irreconcilable with the state and is not permitted to interfere with politics or the law.[7]

Sharia in the world[edit]


Use of Sharia by country.svg
  Members of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation where sharia plays no role in the judicial system.
  Countries where Sharia applies in personal status issues (such as marriage, divorce, inheritance, and child custody), but otherwise have a secular legal system.
  Countries where Sharia applies in full, covering personal status issues as well as criminal proceedings.
  Regional variations in the application of sharia


Key Country Notes
2  Algeria Article 222 of the Family Code of 1984 specifies sharia as the residuary source of laws.[8] In criminal cases the testimony of two women are equal to the testimony of one male witness.[9]
4  Benin It has a civil law system with influences from customary law.[10]
4  Burkina Faso It has a civil law system.[10]
4  Cameroon It has a mixed legal system of English common law, French civil law, and customary law.[10]
4  Chad The government is declared to be secular in the constitution.[11]
2  Comoros The legal system is based on Sharia.[12] According to the article 229-7 of the Penal Code, any Muslim who makes use of products forbidden by Islamic law can be punished by imprisonment of up to six months.[13]
4  Cote d'Ivoire It has a civil law system.[10]
2  Djibouti The Family Code is mainly derived from Islamic law and regulates personal status matters such as marriage, divorce, child custody and inheritance.[14] Sharia does not apply to criminal law.[15]
2  Egypt Sharia courts and qadis are run and licensed by the Ministry of Justice.[16] The personal status law that regulates matters such as marriage, divorce and child custody is governed by Sharia. In a family court, a woman’s testimony is worth half of a man’s testimony.[17]
2  Eritrea Sharia courts entertain cases dealing with marriage, inheritance and family of Muslims.[18]
2  Ethiopia Sharia courts have jurisdiction on cases regaring marriage, divorce, maintenance, guardianship of minors (only if both parties are Muslims). Also included are cases concerning waqfs, gifts, succession, or wills, provided that donor is a Muslim or deceased was a Muslim at time of death.[19]
4  Gabon It has a mixed legal system of French civil law and customary law.[10]
2  Gambia Article 7 of the constitution identifies sharia as source of law in matters of personal status and inheritance among members of communities to which it applies.[20]
2  Ghana Islamic law is applied by customary or traditional courts as part of customary law.[21]
4  Guinea-Bissau It has a mixed legal system of civil law and customary law.[10]
4  Guinea It has a civil law system.[11]
2  Kenya Islamic law is applied by Kadhis' Courts where "all the parties profess the Muslim religion".[22] Under article 170, section 5 of the constitution, the jurisdiction of Kadhis’ court is limited to matters relating to "personal status, marriage, divorce or inheritance in proceedings in which all the parties profess the Muslim religion and submit to the jurisdiction of the Kadhi’s courts".[23]
2  Libya Qaddafi merged civil and sharia courts in 1973. Civil courts now employ sharia judges who sit in regular courts of appeal and specialise in sharia appellate cases.[24] The personal status laws are derived from Islamic law.[25]
4  Mali It has a civil law system influenced by customary law.[10]
1  Mauritania The Penal Code contains Sharia crimes such heresy, apostasy, atheism, refusal to pray, adultery and alcoholism. Punishments include lapidation, amputation and flagellation.[26]
2  Morocco In 1956, a Code of Personal Status (Mudawana) was issued, based on dominant Maliki doctrine. Sharia sections of regional courts also hear personal status cases on appeal.[27] In matters of family law, a woman’s testimony is worth only half of that of a man.[28] The Moudawana was the subject of a wide-ranging reform in 2004.[29]
4  Mozambique Article 9 of the constitution declares it a secular state.[30]
4  Niger It has not adopted any elements of Islamic law.[31]
4  Senegal The government is declared to be secular in the constitution.[11]
4  Sierra Leone It has a common law system influenced by customary law.[10]
2  Somalia Sharia was adopted in 2009.[32] Religious law is traditionally only used to settle domestic disputes, including issues of marriage and family. Traditional law usually takes precedence on criminal matters.[33]
1  Sudan The Criminal Act of 1991 prescribes punishments which include forty lashes for drinking alcohol, amputation of the right hand for theft of a certain value and stoning for adultery.[34][35]
2  Tanzania Islamic law is applicable to Muslims under the Judicature and Applications of Laws Act, empowering courts to apply Islamic law to matters of succession in communities that generally follow Islamic law in matters of personal status and inheritance. Unlike mainland Tanzania, Zanzibar retains Islamic courts.[36]
4  Togo It has a customary law system.[10]
4  Tunisia The Law of Personal Status was inspired by unofficial draft codes of Maliki and Hanafi family law, but it bans polygamy and extrajudicial divorce. Sharia courts were abolished in 1956.[37][38]
2  Uganda Article 129 (1) (d) of the constitution allows the parliament to establish by law "Qadhi’s courts for marriage, divorce, inheritance of property and guardianship".[39]

The Americas[edit]

Key Country Notes
4  Guyana The country has a common law system.[10]
4  Suriname The country has a civil law system.[10]


Key Country Notes
1  Afghanistan Criminal law in Afghanistan continues to be governed in large part by Islamic law. The Criminal Law of September 1976 codifies sharia, and retains punishments such as the stoning to death of adulterers. However virtually all courts, including the Supreme Court of Afghanistan, rely on Islamic law directly.[40]
4  Azerbaijan The government is declared to be secular in the constitution.[11]
2  Bahrain Civil courts have jurisdiction over cases related to civil, commercial, and criminal matters, while Sharia courts are limited to personal status law issues only.[41][42] A personal status law was codified in 2009 to regulate personal status matters. It applies only to Sunni Muslims; there is no codified personal status law for Shiites. Before a Shari’a court a woman's testimony is worth half of that of a man.[43]
2  Bangladesh Marriage, divorce, alimony and property inheritance are regulated by Sharia for Muslims.[44] The Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act, 1937 (XXVI of 1937) applies to Muslims in all matters relating to Family Affairs.[45] Islamic family law is applied through the regular court system.[46] There are no limitations on interfaith marriages.[47]
1  Brunei Sharia courts decide personal status cases or cases relating to religious offences.[48] Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah declared in 2011 his wish to establish Islamic criminal law as soon as possible.[49] A new penal code enacted in May 2014 will eventually prescribe sharia punishments, including the severing of limbs for property crimes and death by stoning for adultery and homosexuality.[50]
2  Gaza Strip The Egyptian personal status law of 1954 is applied. The personal status law is based on Islamic law and regulates matters related to inheritance, marriage, divorce and child custody. Shari’a courts hear cases related to personal status. The testimony of a woman is worth only half of that of a man in cases related to marriage, divorce and child custody.[51]
2  India The Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act 1937 directs the application of Muslim Personal Law to Muslims in a number of different areas, mainly related to family law.[52]
1  Iran Article 167 of the constitution states that all judicial rulings must be based upon "authoritative Islamic sources and authentic fatwa".[53] Book 2 of the Islamic Penal Code of Iran is entirely devoted to hudud punishments, including flogging and stoning for adultery, and execution for men who have sex with men.[54]
1  Iraq Article 1 of Civil Code identifies Islamic law as a main source of legislation.[55] The 1958 Code, made polygamy extremely difficult, granted child custody to the mother in case of divorce, prohibited repudiation and marriage under the age of 16.[56] In 1995, Iraq introduced Sharia punishment for certain types of criminal offenses.[57] Iraq's legal system is based on French civil law as well as Sunni and Jafari (Shi’ite) interpretations of Sharia.[58] Article 41 of the constitution allows for personal status matters (such as marriage, divorce and inheritance) to be governed by the rules of each religious group. The article has not yet been put into effect, and a unified personal status law remains in place that builds on the 1959 personal status code.[59]
2  Israel Sharia law is one of the sources of legislation for Muslim citizens.[60] Islamic law is binding on personal law issues for Muslim citizens.[60]
2  Jordan The Family Law in force is the Personal Status Law of 1976.[56] Sharia courts have jurisdiction over personal status matters relating to Muslims.[61] In sharia courts the testimony of two women is equal to that of one man.[62]
4  Kazakhstan Islamic law was in force up until early 1920.[63] A secular state under the 1995 constitution.[64]
2  Kuwait Kuwait follows the civil law system based on French and Egyptian models.[65] Kuwait's legal system is a mix of British common law, French civil law, Egyptian civil law and Islamic law.[66] For the application of personal status laws, there are three separate sections: Sunni, Shia and non-Muslim.[67] The personal status law is based on the Maliki school of Sunni Islam. For Shiites, their own school of Islam regulates personal status matters. Before a family court the testimony of a woman is worth half of that of a man.[68]
4  Kyrgyzstan It has a civil law system.[11]
2  Lebanon Lebanon's legal system is based on a combination of Civil Law, Sharia law and Ottoman laws.[69] There are 17 official religions in Lebanon, each with its own family law and religious courts. The Law of 16 July 1962 declares that Sharia law governs personal status laws of Muslims, with Sunni and Ja'afari Shia jurisdictions.[56]
2  Malaysia Muslims are bound by Sharia on personal matters like marriage and custody rights, while members of other faiths follow civil law. In 1988 the constitution was amended to state that civil courts cannot hear matters that fall within the jurisdiction of Sharia courts.[70] Muslims are required to follow Islamic law in family, property and religious matters.[71] In 2002, the state government of Terengganu approved a bill to bring in Islamic criminal law, including death by stoning for adultery and cutting off hands and feet for theft.[72] Kelantan also enacted similar laws, but they cannot be applied as they are in conflict with the constitution.[73] Malaysian Muslims can be sentenced to caning for such offences as drinking beer,[74] and adultery.[75]
1  Maldives Article 15 of the Act Number 1/81 (Penal Code) allows for hudud punishments.[76] Article 156 of the constitution states that law includes the norms and provisions of sharia.[77]
2  Oman Provisions of the Islamic Sharia are the basis for legislation in Oman as stated in Article 2 of the Basic Law. The Personal Statute (Family) Law issued by Royal Decree 97/32 codified provisions of Sharia.[78] Sharia is the source of all legislation, and Sharia Court Departments within the civil court system are responsible for family-law matters, such as divorce and inheritance.[79] Instead of having a separate sharia court system, there is a department of sharia within all the three tiers of the country’s court system which deals with matters related to personal status. A 2008 law stipulates that the testimonies of men and women before a court are equal.[80]
1  Pakistan Until 1978 Islamic law was largely restricted to personal status issues. Zia ul Haq introduced Sharia courts and made far reaching changes in the criminal justice system.[81] Articles 203a to 203j of the constitution establish a sharia court with the power to judge any law or government actions to be against Islam, and to review court cases for adherence to Islamic law. The penal code includes elements of sharia.[82] Under article 5, section 2 of the Ordinance No. VII of 1979, whoever is guilty of zina, "if he or she is a muhsan, be stoned to death at a public place; or if he or she is not a mushan, be punished, at a public place, with whipping numbering one hundred stripes".[83] Under a 2006 law, rape cases can be heard under civil as well as Islamic law.[84]
1  Qatar Sharia is one of the main sources of legislation.[85] Codified family law was introduced in 2006. Sharia courts were abolished in 2003 but Sharia principles are still applied in matters related to personal status (such as marriage, divorce and child custody). In some cases a woman’s testimony is worth half a man’s and in some cases a female witness is not accepted at all.[86] Article 1 of the Law No. 11 Of 2004 (Penal Code) allows for the application of "sharia provisions" for the crimes of theft, adultery, defamation, drinking alcohol and apostasy if either the suspect or the victim is a Muslim.[87]
1  Saudi Arabia Saudi criminal law is based totally on sharia.[88] No codified personal status law exists, which means that judges in courts rule based on their own interpretations of sharia.[89] See Legal system of Saudi Arabia
2  Singapore Sharia courts may hear and determine actions in which all parties are Muslims or in which parties involved were married under Muslim law. Court has jurisdiction over cases related to marriage, divorce, betrothal, nullity of marriage, judicial separation, division of property on divorce, payment of dowry, maintenance, and muta.[90]
2  Sri Lanka Private matters of Muslims are governed by Muslim Law, including marriage, divorce custody and maintenance. Muslim law principles have been codified in the Act No. 13 of 1951 Marriage and Divorce (Muslim) Act; Act No. 10 of 1931 Muslim Intestate Succession Ordinance and Act No. 51 of 1956 Muslim Mosques and Charitable Trusts or Wakfs Act.[91]
2  Syria Article 3 of the 1973 Syrian constitution declares Islamic jurisprudence one of Syria's main sources of legislation.[92] The Personal Status Law 59 of 1953 (amended by Law 34 of 1975) is essentially a codified Sharia law.[93] The Code of Personal Status is applied to Muslims by Sharia courts.[94] In Sharia courts, a woman's testimony is worth only half of a man's.[95]
4  Tajikistan The government is declared to be secular in the constitution.[11]
4  Turkmenistan Article 11 of the constitution declares that religious groups are separate from the state and the state educational system.[96]
4  Uzbekistan It has a civil law system.[10]
2  West Bank The Jordanian personal status law of 1976 is applied. The personal status law is based on Islamic law and regulates matters related to inheritance, marriage, divorce and child custody. Sharia courts hear cases related to personal status. The testimony of a woman is worth only half of that of a man in cases related to marriage, divorce and child custody.[51]
1  Yemen Law 20/1992 regulates personal status. The constitution mentions sharia.[97] Penal law provides for application of hadd penalties for certain crimes, although the extent of implementation is unclear.[98] Article 263 of the 1994 penal code states that "the adulterer and adulteress without suspicion or coercion are punished with whipping by one hundred strokes as a penalty if not married. [...] If the adulterer or the adulteress are married, they are punished by stoning them to death."[99]


Key Country Notes
4  Albania It has a civil law system, except in the northern rural areas where the Code of Leke prevails.[10]
4  Bosnia It has a civil law system.[10]
4  Kosovo It has an evolving legal system; a mixture of applicable Kosovo law, UNMIK laws and regulations, and laws of former Yugoslavia.[10]
4  Turkey It abolished sharia in April 1924, with the Law Regarding the Abolition of Islamic Law Courts and Amendments Regarding the Court Organization.[100]

Regional variations[edit]

Country Key Region(s) Notes
 Indonesia 1  Aceh Aceh is the only part of Indonesia to apply Sharia in full. Islamic courts in Aceh had long handled cases of marriage, divorce and inheritance. After special autonomy legislation was passed in 2001, the reach of courts extend to criminal justice.[101] Under a 2009 law, married people convicted of adultery can be sentenced to death by stoning, while unmarried people can be sentenced to 100 lashes.[102]
3 Rest of Indonesia In other parts of Indonesia, religious courts have jurisdiction over civil cases between Muslim spouses on matters concerning marriage, divorce, reconciliation, and alimony. The competence of religious courts is not exclusive, and parties can apply to District Courts for adjudication on basis of Roman Dutch law or local adat.[103] Since 2006, a number of districts have issued local ordinances based on sharia, although many are unconstitutional.[104]
 Nigeria 1 Sharia states Until 1999, Islamic law applied primarily to civil matters, but twelve of Nigeria’s thirty-six states have since extended Sharia to criminal matters.[105] Sharia courts can order amputations, and a few have been carried out.[106] The twelve sharia states are Zamfara, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Niger, Sokoto and Yobe.[107] See also the main article, Sharia in Nigeria.
2 Borno, Gombe and Yobe Borno, Gombe and Yobe have not yet begun to apply their Sharia Penal Codes.[108]
4 Rest of Nigeria The rest of Nigeria has a mixed legal system of English common law and traditional law.[10]
 Philippines 2 Mindanao There are sharia trial and circuit trial courts in Mindanao.[109] Sharia District Courts (SDCs) and Sharia Circuit Courts (SCCs) were created in 1977 through Presidential Decree 1083, which is also known as the Code of Muslim Personal Laws.[110]
4 Rest of the Philippines The rest of the Philippines has a mixed legal system of civil, common, and customary law.[10]
 Thailand 2 Yala, Narathiwat, Pattani and Songkhla In Yala, Narathiwat, Pattani and Songkhla provinces, Islamic law is allowed for settling family and inheritance issues under a 1946 law.[111]
4 Rest of Thailand The remaining provinces of Thailand have a civil law system with common law influences.[10]
 United Arab Emirates 2 Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah are not part of the federal judicial system.[112]
1 Rest of the UAE The court system comprises Sharia courts and civil courts. The Personal Status Law, which is based on Sharia and was enacted in 2005, regulates matters such as marriage, divorce and child custody. In criminal matters a woman’s testimony is worth half of that of a man before a court.[113] Sharia courts have exclusive jurisdiction to hear family disputes, including matters involving divorce, inheritances, child custody, child abuse and guardianship of minors. Sharia courts may, at the federal level only, also hear appeals of certain criminal cases including rape, robbery, driving under the influence of alcohol and related crimes. Article 1 of the 1987 Federal Penal Code states that "provisions of the Islamic Law shall apply to the crimes of doctrinal punishment, punitive punishment and blood money."[114] The Federal Penal Code repealed only those provisions within the penal codes of individual Emirates which are contradictory to the Federal Penal Code. Hence, both are enforceable simultaneously.[115] Sharia courts sometimes impose flogging sentences for drug use, prostitution, and adultery.[116]

See also[edit]


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