Religion in the United Arab Emirates

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Religion in the United Arab Emirates (2005 census)[1]

  Islam (76%)
  Other religions (15%)
  Christianity (9%)

Islam is the majority religion in the United Arab Emirates. All Emiratis are adherents of Islam, approximately 85% are Sunni and 15% are Shi'a. There are also smaller numbers of Ismaili Shia Muslims.[2] The Al Nahayan and Al Maktoum ruling families adhere to Sunni Islam of Maliki school of jurisprudence. Many followers of the Hanbali school of Sunni Islam are found in Sharjah, Umm al-Quwain, Ras al-Khaimah and Ajman.[3] Their followers include the Al Qasimi ruling family. Other religions represented in the country including Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism and Sikhism are practiced by non-nationals.[4]


There are more Sunni than Shiite Muslims among the residents. There are also smaller number of Ismaili Shias and Ahmadi Muslims.[2] The UAE's judicial system is derived from the civil law system and Sharia law. The court system consists of civil courts and Sharia courts. According to Human Rights Watch, UAE's criminal and civil courts apply elements of Sharia law, codified into its criminal code and family law, in a way which discriminates against women.[5]

Sharia courts in the UAE have a significant amount of authority. Flogging is a punishment for criminal offences such as adultery, premarital sex and alcohol consumption.[6][7][8] Due to Sharia courts, flogging is legal with sentences ranging from 80 to 200 lashes.[9][10] Between 2007 and 2013, many people in the UAE were sentenced to 100 lashes.[11][12][13][14][15][16][17][18] In Abu Dhabi, people have been sentenced to 80 lashes for kissing in public.[19] Several Muslims in Abu Dhabi and Ajman were sentenced to 80 lashes for alcohol consumption.[20][21] An Estonian soldier in 2006 was sentenced to 40 lashes for being drunk.[22] Several people have been sentenced to 60 lashes for illicit sex.[23][24][25] Sharia courts have penalized domestic workers with floggings.[26] Under UAE law, premarital sex is punishable by 100 lashes.[27]

Stoning is a legal punishment in the UAE. In 2006, an expatriate was sentenced to death by stoning for committing adultery.[28] Between 2009 and 2013, several people were sentenced to death by stoning.[14][29][30] In May 2014, an Asian housemaid was sentenced to death by stoning in Abu Dhabi.[31][32][33]

Sharia law dictates the personal status law, which regulate matters such as marriage, divorce and child custody. The Sharia-based personal status law is applied to Muslims and sometimes non-Muslims.[34] Non-Muslim expatriates can be liable to Sharia rulings on marriage, divorce and child custody.[34] Sharia courts have exclusive jurisdiction over family law cases and also have jurisdiction over some criminal cases including adultery, premarital sex, robbery and related crimes.

Apostasy is a crime punishable by death in the UAE.[35][36] UAE incorporates hudud crimes of Sharia into its Penal Code – apostasy being one of them.[37] Article 1 and Article 66 of UAE's Penal Code requires hudud crimes to be punished with the death penalty,[37][38] therefore apostasy is punishable by death in the UAE.

Kissing in public is illegal and can result in deportation.[39] Expats in Dubai have been deported for kissing in public.[40][41][42] In Abu Dhabi, people have been sentenced to 80 lashes for kissing in public.[43]

Homosexuality is illegal: homosexuality is a capital offense in the UAE.[44][45] In 2013, an Emirati man was on trial for being accused of a "gay handshake".[45] Article 80 of the Abu Dhabi Penal Code makes sodomy punishable with imprisonment of up to 14 years, while article 177 of the Penal Code of Dubai imposes imprisonment of up to 10 years on consensual sodomy.[46]

Amputation is a legal punishment in the UAE due to the Sharia courts.[47][48][49][50][51] Crucifixion is a legal punishment in the UAE.[52][53][54] Article 1 of the Federal Penal Code states that "provisions of the Islamic Law shall apply to the crimes of doctrinal punishment, punitive punishment and blood money."[55] 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.[56]

During the month of Ramadan, it is illegal to publicly eat, drink, or smoke between sunrise and sunset.[57] Exceptions are made for pregnant women and children. The law applies to both Muslims and non-Muslims,[57] and failure to comply may result in arrest.[58] Dancing in public is illegal in the UAE.[59][60][61]


Protestants and Roman Catholics form significant proportions of the Christian minority. The country has at least 33 churches.[4] The schools in public ownership have no Christian religious education.[62] Many Christians in the United Arab Emirates are of Asian origin.[63]

Hinduism, Sikhism and Jainism[edit]

Hinduism and Jainism are practiced by a large percentage of the community of Indians and Sindhis living in the UAE. To acknowledge the contribution of the Indian business community towards the early development of Dubai as a trade port, Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum granted the permission and the land to build a temple complex in Bur Dubai. There is also a Sikh temple in Dubai.[citation needed]




See also[edit]


  1. ^ "United Arab Emirates International Religious Freedom Report". Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. Retrieved 2011-01-12. 
  2. ^ a b "The World Factbook". CIA. 
  3. ^ Barry Rubin (2009), Guide to Islamist Movements, Volume 2, ME Sharpe, ISBN 978-0765617477, p. 310
  4. ^ a b "United Arab Emirates". Retrieved 2010-11-24. 
  5. ^ "Human Rights Watch warns expat women about the UAE". 
  6. ^ "Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2008". Jeffrey T. Bergner. p. 2203. 
  7. ^ "Torture and flogging". Fanack. 
  8. ^ "U.N. Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice: United Arab Emirates". Human Rights Voices. 
  9. ^ "Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2007". p. 2092. 
  10. ^ "UAE: Judicial corporal punishment by flogging". World Corporal Punishment Research. 
  11. ^ "Pregnant maid to get 100 lashes after being found guilty of illegal affair". 9 October 2013. 
  12. ^ "Teenager to be lashed for adultery". Gulf Daily News. 
  13. ^ "Illicit lovers sentenced to 100 lashes each". Gulf News. 15 November 2010. 
  14. ^ a b "Two women sentenced to death for adultery". Khaleej Times. 25 September 2013. 
  15. ^ "Prison for couple who conceived outside of wedlock". KA, 19, Emirati, was sentenced to six months in prison. Her would-be husband, AM, Omani, was sentenced to 100 lashes and one year in prison. 
  16. ^ "Adulterer to be lashed, jailed in Sharjah". Gulf News. 9 May 2010. 
  17. ^ "UAE – Amnesty International 2007". In June, in the Emirate of Fujairah, a Shari'a (Islamic) court imposed a sentence of death by stoning on Shahin 'Abdul Rahman, a Bangladeshi national, after convicting him of adultery with Asma Bikham Bijam, a migrant domestic worker, who was sentenced to receive a flogging of 100 lashes and to be imprisoned for one year. 
  18. ^ "DUBAI: Alleged victim of gang rape sentenced to one year in prison". At that point, she was facing a penalty for extramarital sex, which is 100 lashes and a minimum of three years in prison. 
  19. ^ "Couple deny kissing on Abu Dhabi Corniche". A man jailed and sentenced to 80 lashes for drunkenly kissing his girlfriend on the Corniche. 
  20. ^ "Man to get 80 lashes for drinking alcohol in Ajman". Gulf News. 19 February 2010. 
  21. ^ "Man appeals 80 lashes for drinking alcohol in Abu Dhabi". The National. 9 August 2012. 
  22. ^ Al Jandaly, Bassma (16 April 2006). "Estonian soldier to be lashed". Gulf News. 
  23. ^ "Girl to receive 60 lashes for illicit sex". Gulf News. 20 June 2007. 
  24. ^ "Two sex workers are sentenced to lashes". Khaleej Times. 3 July 2006. 
  25. ^ "Indian lover in UAE sentenced to 60 lashes". 
  26. ^ "VI. Charges and Penalties against Domestic Workers". Human Rights Watch. 2014. 
  27. ^ "Woman denies affair after hearing she faces stoning". Under the same law, premarital sex is punishable by 100 lashes. 
  28. ^ "UAE: Death by stoning/ flogging". Amnesty International. 
  29. ^ "Man faces stoning in UAE for incest". 
  30. ^ "Woman denies affair after hearing she faces stoning". The National. 29 July 2009. 
  31. ^ "Expat faces death by stoning after admitting in court to cheating on husband". 
  32. ^ "Woman Sentenced to Death by Stoning in UAE". 
  33. ^ "Asian housemaid gets death for adultery in Abu Dhabi". 
  34. ^ a b "Britons 'liable to Sharia divorces' in UAE". BBC. 
  35. ^ "Atheists face death in 13 countries, global discrimination: study". 
  36. ^ "The International Briefing: Persecution of Atheists and Apostates". 
  37. ^ a b Butti Sultan Butti Ali Al-Muhairi (1996). "The Islamisation of Laws in the UAE: The Case of the Penal Code". Arab Law Quarterly. 11 (4): 350–371. JSTOR 3381546. 
  38. ^ Al-Muhairi (1997), Conclusion to the Series of Articles on the UAE Penal Law. Arab Law Quarterly, Vol. 12, No. 4
  39. ^ "Public kissing can lead to deportation". The National. 
  40. ^ "Jailed Dubai kissing pair lose appeal over conviction". 
  41. ^ "Women get jail and deportation for kissing on Dubai public beach". Gulf News. 25 May 2008. 
  42. ^ "London man tells of 'shock' jailing in Dubai over kiss". 
  43. ^ "Couple deny kissing on Abu Dhabi Corniche". A man jailed and sentenced to 80 lashes for drunkenly kissing his girlfriend on the Corniche 
  44. ^ "United Arab Emirates". Facts as drug trafficking, homosexual behaviour, and apostasy are liable to capital punishment. 
  45. ^ a b "Man Accused of 'Gay Handshake' Stands Trial in Dubai". 
  46. ^ "Federal criminal statute In UAE". Sodomylaws.Org. Archived from the original on 14 June 2006. 
  47. ^ "Amnesty International Report 1999 – United Arab Emirates". 
  48. ^ "United Arab Emirates: Briefing for the Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review" (PDF). p. 3. 
  49. ^ "United Arab Emirates – Global Progress". Punishments include flogging, amputation, and – as retaliation – injury similar to that for which the offender has been convicted of inflicting on the victim. 
  50. ^ "United Arab Emirates – Country Reports on Human Rights Practices". In February an Indonesian woman convicted of adultery by the Shari'a court in the Emirate of Fujairah, was sentenced to death by stoning after she purportedly insisted on such punishment. The sentence was commuted on appeal to 1 year in prison, followed by deportation. In June 1998, the Shari'a court in Fujairah sentenced three Omani nationals convicted of robbery to have their right hands amputated. The Fujairah prosecutor's office instead commuted the sentence to a term of imprisonment. 
  51. ^ "Defining Sharia's role in the UAE's legal foundation". The National. 
  52. ^ "Crucifixion for UAE murderers". The Independent. 
  53. ^ "UAE: Further information on fear of imminent crucifixion and execution". Amnesty International. September 1997. 
  54. ^ "UAE: Fear of imminent crucifixion and execution". Amnesty International. September 1997. 
  55. ^ "Federal Law No (3) of 1987 on Issuance of the Penal Code". United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. 
  56. ^ "Measures Against Corruptibility, Gifts and Gratification – Bribery in the Middle East" (PDF). Arab Law Quarterly. 
  57. ^ a b "Sharia law and Westerners in Dubai: should non-Muslims in UAE be made to face Islamic justice?". 
  58. ^ Riazat Butt (31 July 2011). "Britons warned to respect Ramadan while holidaying in Dubai". The Guardian. London, UK. OCLC 60623878. 
  59. ^ "Criminal Law of Dubai". 
  60. ^ "Dubai bans shisha tobacco smoking, dancing and holding hands". Al-Shorfa. 
  61. ^ "No dancing in public: Dubai". Arab News. 
  62. ^ John Pike (2006-04-17). "United Arab Emirates-Religion". Retrieved 2010-11-24. 
  63. ^ "Groeiende en vitale kerk in Arabische Golf - Nieuws - Reformatorisch Dagblad". Retrieved 2010-11-24.