Religious Legal Systems in Comparative Law: A Guide to Introductory Research


By Marylin Johnson Raisch


Marylin Johnson Raisch is the Librarian for International and Foreign Law at the John Wolff International and Comparative Law Library of the Georgetown Law Center. She received her J.D. from Tulane University School of Law (1980) with work both in civil and common law courses as well as international law and Roman law. She holds degrees in English literature from Smith College (B.A. magna cum laude, 1973) and St. Hugh's College, Oxford (M.Litt., 1978). She received her M.L.S. degree from Columbia University School of Library Service in 1988 and has worked as a law librarian for over twenty years, ten of which were at Columbia University School of Law as International and Foreign Law Librarian. Marylin has served as moderator or panelist in several continuing education programs at the annual meetings of the American Association of Law Libraries on such topics as effective quick reference in international and foreign law, foreign law in English, and a 2005 workshop on European Union law. She has also presented talks on web access to foreign and international materials for the International Association of Law Libraries, has co-directed one of a series of special four-day institutes on "Training the Next Generation" of international and foreign law librarians, and has edited (with Roberta I. Shaffer) the resulting volume of proceedings, Transnational Legal Transactions (Oceana, 1995). Marylin is the author of several articles, reviews, and web guides on international and foreign legal research, such as "The European Union: A Selective Research Guide," 1 Columbia Journal of European Law 149 (1994/95), and hyperlinked web guides published from 2001 through 2003 on research in treaties and public international law, European Union law, and international family law. Her most recent publication is Code and Hypertext: The Intertextuality of International an Comparative Law, 35 Syracuse J. Int’l L. & Com. 309 (2008).


Acknowledgments and sources: Reynolds, Thomas H. and Arturo A. Flores. Foreign law guide: current sources of codes and basic legislation in jurisdictions of the world. Berkeley, Calif.: University of California, 2000-[electronic format]; The World Factbook 2005.  Washington, D.C.: Central Intelligence Agency, 2005 [electronic web version].  Solomon Ebere, J.D. cand., Georgetown Law Center, assisted with research and updating.


Published February 2006
Please, Read the Update!


Table of Contents



     Religious legal systems

     General sources


Islamic Law

     Essential Facts

     Basic sources and their descriptions




          Islamic law in general


          Comparative law

Jewish Law

     Essential Facts

     Basic sources and their descriptions




Christian Canon Law (Roman Catholic Church)

     Essential Facts

     Basic sources and their descriptions




Hindu Law

     Essential Facts

     Basic sources and their descriptions




Buddhist Law and Legal Theory

     Essential Facts

     Basic sources and their descriptions




Confucian Law and Legal Theory

     Essential Facts

     Basic sources and their descriptions




Implementation of religious law in several jurisdictions (CHART)

General Law and Religion: Selective Bibliography




[Note: transliterations used are those found in the cited texts and are not consistent since even modern religious law relies frequently on ancient texts using older forms of language or modes of transliteration now common in scholarly references.  The western Christian calendar is used for all dates with the awareness that each of these systems uses its own calendar; dates before the birth of Christ are designated B.C. and dates after that event bear no designation, since the Christian era neither denotes a commonly accepted divinity nor a common era].




Religious legal systems

Religious law emanates from the sacred texts of religious traditions and in most cases purports to cover all aspects of life as a seamless part of devotional obligations to a transcendent, imminent, or deep philosophical reality, either personal or cosmological. Religion for law must be defined broadly but its truth value need not and ought not to be addressed. Most religious law gradually came to apply in its most institutional form to its own organizations and to familial or contractual matters. Application to ritual is a gray area but generally excluded from discussion and classification.


Religious law in this guide is seen as a branch of comparative law and legal study. Further, it is argued here that comparative law itself may most usefully be seen as part of the tradition of legal philosophy. Far from being wholly academic, however, comparative law is a practical approach in the service of 1) legal education 2) the appreciation of treaty implementation and 3) choice of law in the new world of public/private international law known as transnational law. At the conclusion of this guide to sources is a brief discussion of this approach to comparative law.


After the events of September 11, 2001, academic interest in Islamic law and countries governed by its principles as implemented along with secular positive law grew in an attempt both to understand the legal culture of middle eastern conflicts and to explore ways to address issues arising in multicultural jurisdictions with greater understanding. It is clear that in areas of private law such as family law, inheritance, and in come commercial transactions, several religious systems influence secular law or are incorporated as a regime which may or must be applied in those areas or to members of certain religious communities. As sources for legal research in these areas are inter-disciplinary and often less known in the world of legal research, an overview of the major world systems, and where and how they are implemented, is offered.


General sources


Constitutions, sources of texts: essential for determining if religious law applies in certain legal systems and in what areas of law

·        World Legal Systems, University of Ottawa, contains excellent maps; overview of all traditions in jurisdictions of the world however in this area exercise caution: information for the legal system of Israel indicates the application of Talmudic law. This is not actually the case; Israel is a secular state applying many kinds of religious law in certain areas for certain communities, only one of which is Jewish. Islamic and other religious law also may be an option for religious communities in Israel.

·        Berkley Center for Religion and World Affairs at Georgetown University, Religious Perspectives Database. From the web site: "The Religious Perspectives Database allows users to compare and contrast key scriptural passages across five traditions [Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism] and five themes [inside/outside, justice/injustice, health/illness, wealth/poverty, and peace/violence]. The column and row headers point to introductory essays by Georgetown professors. Behind the individual cells of the grid you will find short essays on how each tradition approaches each theme, and links to key scriptural passages." Direct link:

·        Traditions- legal anthropology, links to ancient law, semiotics , and hermeneutics:

·       Alan Watson Foundation, / (Roman law and legal transplants; Prof. Watson’s bibliography is especially useful for canon law studies)

·       World Digital Library, (LOC, Alexandria Egypt), /

·       Famous World Trials,  (trials of Jesus, Galileo, Salem witches)


·       Church and State- AcademicInfo, Law and Legal Research: Law and Religion - U.S.-based site for  links relating to church/state issue, Native American religious issues, and U.S. Supreme Court cases.

·        General humanities guide to research on world religions (print and electronic, such as CD ROM encyclopedias of Judaism and Islam, free and paid databases and text archives)

·        General comparative religion - U.K. site for resources on world religions

·        British Academy Portal - follow the 'Theology and Religious Studies' link from the home page


Comparative law treatises with treatment of religious law:



Aaron Kuperman, cataloger in the Library of Congress Social Science Cataloging Division, Law Team, has observed that "'Religious law' is a square peg that doesn't fit well in the round hole of American law."  Ritual traditions and modern legal anthropology create most of the blurred distinctions between legal and non-legal classification decisions in particular collections. Mr. Kuperman, along with Jolande Goldberg, Senior Cataloging Policy Specialist in the Cataloging Policy & Support Office at the Library of Congress, as well as Lesley Wilkins and the Islamic Legal Studies program at Harvard Law School, have worked on the development of the LC classification schedules for religious legal systems:


For LC Subject Heading access, the above descriptors, adding only Buddhist law, work well either as actual broader term headings (which will require a limit with a term, say "women," especially for Islamic law) or as keyword searches.


For Confucian "law" it is necessary to use e.g., Philosophy, Confucian-[country name] or Confucian as a keyword with "ethics" or "law."



Religious legal systems: Outline. Each religious system will be presented in two sections:


Subject headings: Books and Articles

Please note that for this guide, very few monographs are listed. This is a selection intended to suggest further searches under the subject headings discussed above under "classification." Articles are drawn mainly from legal periodical indexing for two reasons, 1) to demonstrate the existence of this narrower subject area in that literature, and 2) to exclude the wider and very numerous publications in legal anthropology, a closely-related discipline which should be researched in a thorough scholarly exposition of the entire field. It is, however, beyond the scope of this guide.  Extensive resources are available through Google Books and Google Scholar.


Islamic Law

Essential Facts

According to the excellent outline provided by Irshad Abdal-Haqq in Islamic Law: An Overview of Its Origin and Elements, 7 J. Islamic L. & Culture 27 (2002) ( Reprinted with author's permission in the same journal from its first appearance in 1996), Islamic law might refer to all the law and jurisprudence of Islam and includes


(1) the primary sources of law (Shari'ah)

      Shari'ah has two main sources:

·        the Qur'an and

·        the Sunnah (traditions of Muhammad ibn Abdullah, the last prophet of Islam), which means

o   the things he said, i.e. hadith,

o   the way he lived his life,  his conduct



(2) the subordinate sources of law and the methods used to discover and apply the law (Islamic jurisprudence or fiqh), described by Mr. Abdal-Haqq as follows:


"While the principles and injunctions of the Shari'ah are infallible and not subject to amendment, fiqh-based standards may change according to the circumstances.

Four methods, often called sources of law by Muslim writers, for deducing and establishing fiqh-based law are universally recognized by Islamic jurists.

. the extraction of Qur'anic injunctions and principles based on interpretations of it;

. the application of the principles reflected through the Hadith of Prophet Muhammad;

. the consensus of opinion from among the companions of Muhammad or the learned scholars (ijma);

. analogical deduction (qiyas). .


Nineteen schools of fiqh (fiqh madhhabs) developed during the first four centuries of Islam. By the fall of Baghdad (in 1258 C.E. to the Mongols, that is- not to be confused with modern events) the number of major madhhabs had dwindled to five (four sunni and one shia). At present, the four major schools of fiqh among the sunni Muslims are: (1) Hanafi, (2) Maliki, (3) Shafi'i, and (4) Hanbali. Among the shia, the Jafari school predominates."

                              Abdal-Haqq, Islamic Law supra at 36


Judges also use individual judgment and reasoning, known as ijtihad (can include reasoning from analogy), but greatly varying over time. His excellent article goes on to distinguish each school or madhab by the relative importance each attaches to the authority of sources of law in on pages 67-75.


Finally, author Abdal-Haqq observes at pages 68-69


"Currently, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Iran stand alone as those countries that fully recognize the Shari'ah as the official law of the land. Qatar, the two Yemens, Kuwait and Bahrain also acknowledge Shari'ah principles but to a lesser degree. All other legal systems in the Muslim world are hybrids of Islamic and European law."


On the same subject of the lack of "pure" Islamic law today, note the article below by Professor Lama Abu-Odeh, The Politics Of (Mis)Recognition: Islamic Law Pedagogy In American Academia, 52 Am. J. Comp. L. 789 (2004) and see below in this guide under Implementation of religious law in several jurisdictions.


Basic Sources and their descriptions:






Articles and Journals

Islamic Law in general



Family Law


Commercial Law

Euromoney: according to their web site, they will soon be available electronically.

·      Harvard Islamic Finance Project, Islamic Legal Studies Program, Harvard Law School: publications listed and linked at 

Comparative Law


Jewish Law

Essential facts

"Jewish law is the legal system of the Jewish people as it has developed from Biblical times to the present." This definition by Phyllis Weisbrod in Basic books and periodicals on Jewish law: a guide for law librarians, 82 Law Libr. J. 519 (1990) summarizes a complex written, oral, and oral-as-written textual history of sources for Jewish law.  Torah is the term used for the divine source of wisdom relating to all of creation, so to work towards a definition that relates to the narrower scope of its application as law, or halakhah, begins with the Torah in a more literal sense, namely, the first five books of what the Christian western tradition calls the Pentateuch or first five books of what came to be the Bible. While the status in Biblical and form-based criticism of the ancient compilers of this narrative is beyond the scope of this guide, an oral history of commentary on the Torah arose and became written down as the Mishnah in approximately the year 200.  Talmud and Torah also contain non-legal teachings bound up with legend, myth and philosophy, referred to as aggadah.


Learned opinions based on this addition to the divine tradition were recorded as a commentary on the Mishnah and became known as the Talmud or "study." The Jerusalem Talmud (or Gemarah in Aramaic) dates from the fifth century after Christ and approximately 100 years later there appeared the Babylonian Talmud, a more authoritative text.  Other sources of the "oral" law include the Tosefta and the Midrashe Halakhah. After the fall of the Second Temple in 70 and the ending of the assembly of elders known as the Sanhedrin, interpretation fell to the institution of a bet din or rabbinical court of three rabbis. Such a court continued through the diaspora wherever there was a Jewish population. There is no appeal or stare decisis; one can ask the court to correct an erroneous judgment or re-open a criminal case. The tradition is much closer to that of the European civil law in that regard.


Codes of restatement also appeared over time; the codes of Moses Maimonides in the 12th century and of Joseph Karo in the 16th century are considered authoritative. As those rabbis learned in the law applied it in opinions, these became written down as answers and advice known as response, and these constitute a living law.


Archaeological research and scroll discoveries have also added to the wealth of study and potential sources for Jewish law. See Baumgarten, J. "The Laws of the Damascus Document in Current Research," The Damascus Document Reconsidered (ed. M. Brosh). Jerusalem, 1992. In 1896, noted Talmud scholar and educator Solomon Schechter discovered evidence of sectarian Jewish documents which later were found to be medieval versions of the Damascus Document fifty years before the Qumran discoveries.


On the difficulties of separating legal and non-legal treatments of Jewish daily ritual life as well as commercial and family law areas to which it also applies, and the impact on law cataloging, see Kuperman, Aaron, Technical Services Law Librarian, Volume 25, No. 1 (September 1999)


Jewish law is now applied in personal law (such as marriage and family) in Israel and Morocco and others which recognize such applications to religious communities; see below in this guide under Implementation of religious law in several jurisdictions.


Basic sources and their descriptions: internet, books, articles


Books (includes some primary texts)

A.Philip and Muriel Berman, eds. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1994.



            In general:

                For abstracts, articles or chapters-JLA’s web site, at   . Some journals are online for free from the publisher. The JLA Newsletter cites, The Journal of Torah and Scholarship.

•                RAMBI - the Index of Articles on Jewish Studies, is a multi-lingual bibliography of selected articles on Jewish studies.

•                The Library of the Faculty of Law at Bar Ilan University maintains its own Index to Articles, written in Hebrew or English, that address matters of Jewish law.  This index can be found by going to  choosing the hyperlink at the top left for English and then Index to Articles


Christian Canon Law (Roman Catholic Church)

Essential facts

The canon law of the Roman Catholic Church began to develop alongside Roman law and indigenous law in Europe after the end of the Roman Empire and the retreat of ancient Roman law. Gradually canon law and its Roman law elements would develop into a body of law that could challenge emerging monarchies to develop a coherent national law or the civil law code tradition of secular law in most of Europe today.


From the Catholic Encyclopedia online via New Advent (see link) we have the following definitions and description:


Canon law is the body of laws and regulations made by or adopted by ecclesiastical authority, for the government of the Christian organization and its members.. but the expression "canon law" (jus canonicum) becomes current only about the beginning of the twelfth century, being used in contrast with the "civil law" (jus civile), and later we have the "Corpus juris canonici", as we have the "Corpus juris Civilis". Canon law is also called "ecclesiastical law" (jus ecclesiasticum); however, strictly speaking, there is a slight difference of meaning between the two expressions: canon law denotes in particular the law of the "Corpus Juris", including the regulations borrowed from Roman law; whereas ecclesiastical law refers to all laws made by the ecclesiastical authorities as such, including those made after the compiling of the "Corpus Juris".


By the twelfth century the mass of laws or canons were systematized and rationalized by canonist Gratian in the "decretals" or Concordance of Discordant Canons near the same time as the revived study of ancient Roman law began at the university at Bologna, but further work was done to create the decretals of Pope Gregory IX in 1234 and so by the end of the 13th century, the Corpus Iurus Canonici consisted of the following texts:


(1) the "Decretals" of Gregory IX;

(2) those of Boniface VIII (Sixth Book of the Decretals);

(3) those of Clement V (Clementinæ) i. e. the collections which at that time, with the "Decree" of Gratian, were taught and explained at the universities. (Catholic Encyclopedia online)


Ecumenical councils of the church, the Pope and Apostolic Letters such as bulls or briefs, decrees of the Roman Curia or Acts of the Holy See also form part of canon law.


The Roman Curia or departments of the Holy See consist of Roman Congregations, the tribunals, and the offices of Curia.


The Tribunals consist of the Sacred Penitentiaria, the Sacred Roman Rota, and the Apostolic Signatura. The Sacred Roman Rota consists of auditors who hear contentious cases and are doctors of canon law and theology. They take appeals from the episcopal tribunals of first instance or may be of the first instance for some matters. Cases may be criminal or regarding ordination or matrimony, involving a defender of the bond (of marriage). Advisory opinions may be requested as well.  Conclusions of the court must be accompanied by reasons.


A common type of case in canon law relates to requests to grant an annulment of marriage after a civil divorce, since the doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church does not recognize divorce. It is a matter of controversy as to whether there have been in fact ecclesiastical "divorces" for influential persons or under experimental canons used in the United States before the latest Code of Canon Law, promulgated in 1983 (and as amended by Pope John Paul II in Ad tuendam fidem, apostolic letter motu proprio) but no Catholic theologian or canon lawyer would ever admit to such. The annulment concept came into secular law to void forced marriages and in several other instances, and in both religious and secular arenas, the court declares that no marriage ever existed and so it cannot be dissolved.


Basic sources and their descriptions: internet, books, articles






·       Young, Stephen and Alson Shea, Separating State from Church: A Research Guide to the Law of the Vatican City State 99 Law Libr. J. ,  589,-610 ( 2007 ).


Hindu Law

Essential facts

From an ancient time, 2000-1500 B.C., the Vedic literature existed, and while  it  informs a tradition of gods,  the literature  points to the concept of the One as interpreted by the Brahmans, these teachers also used the sutras or memorized books (like textbooks) of law or dharma (in one of its meanings; closer to "way of life").


The Laws of Manu, a mythical author, of circa 200 B.C. shows the beginnings of the legal tradition of great variety although he focus was family, property, and succession law. This early Sanskrit literature was replaced gradually in the colonial period when the British substituted their own translations and understanding in place of what came before; Anglo-Indian law preserved family law areas (five elements of family law - marriage, child marriage, polygamy, divorce, and maintenance) as Hindu personal law and replaced the rest with colonial British law. It was a judge made law. The Hindu Code of independence became one among other personal codes and preserved much of the British innovation. Custom and local tradition could prevail over sacred texts even in the time of classical Indian law. According to the Laws of Manu, there are four sources of dharma: 1) the Vedas, 2) tradition, especially as set forth in treatises like Dharmasastras, 3) customary laws created by local or regional communities, and 4) personal preference.


The important post-colonial acts of Parliament for the Hindu Code include: the Hindu Marriage Act No. XXV of 1955, Hindu Code (1955); the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act 78 of 1956, Hindu Code (1956); the Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act No. 32 of 1956, Hindu Code (1956); the Hindu Succession Act No. XXX of 1956, Hindu Code (1956); and the Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act No. XXXIX of 2005.


Basic sources and their descriptions: internet, books, articles


Internet Sacred Text Archive for the Vedas and Laws of Manu (older translations only).




Note: Titles in this area abound from Indian publishers over many decades and the list is selective based on citation frequency observed (not analyzed) in scholarly legal writing.




Buddhist Law and Legal Theory

Essential Facts

Tibet 1940-1959 is the most illustrative jurisdiction for an examination of what followers of the Buddha in an authentic Buddhist culture regard as the source of laws and rules that govern a monastically inclined community as well as householders' obligations.


According to Rebecca French,


"There are five major sources for Tibetan legal concepts: (1) religious source material such as the Vinaya which is a canonical text outlining the rules for the monks to follow as Buddha spoke them case by case; (2) Extant official documents which include administrative law books, edicts, decision documents, treatises, government contracts, estate record books, tax records and deeds to land; (3) documents issued by non-governmental institutions such as monastic constitutions, private leases and private contract documents; (4) law codes; and (5) written and oral statements describing the legal system." The Case of the Missing Discipline: Finding Buddhist Legal Studies 52 Buffalo L. Rev. 679, 682-684, fn 4


Dhammasattha is the Pali term for the genre of legal literature which may be examined in relationship to householders and communities or sanghas used by such communities in Laos, Myanmar (Burma) and Thailand and this literature probably dates from the first millennium.  Courts of law in colonial times used "Acts of Truth" in Sri Lanka's Sinhala Buddhist community for proof in judicial proceedings. These were oaths taken upon consequences to be observed as between truth-tellers and others.  In Thailand, legal proceedings that replace informal "injury narratives" in tort cases (or events which may or may not result in a case) appear less effective in resolution of claims than the traditional methods under Buddhist obligations (see Engel article cited below).  These exercises in legal history and anthropology bear on modern developments in criminal law and restorative justice as well.


Basic sources and their descriptions: internet, books, articles







Confucian Law and Legal Theory

Essential Facts

The teachings of K'ung-tzu (older form Kong fou-tseu) known in the west as Confucius bear on the informal legal tradition of the Chinese jurisdictions where the rite and custom of persuasive example or li has been an alternative even within that culture to legalistic codes or more positive law (fa). Penal and administrative law has been more prominent than any private law and so the influence as of other religious systems on family law or obligations is not seen in the positive law.  Confucianism is often seen as a philosophy and not a religion, but it is included here as a basis for law as a means of social control and reinforcing roles, similar in some ways to ancient Roman law. 


Research for western legal scholars is dependent upon scholarship in a difficult language transliterated differently over the years using Wade-Giles or pinyin systems. As a guide, these textual problems are described as quoted below from an article by Janet E. Ainsworth, Interpreting Sacred Texts: Preliminary Reflections On Constitutional Discourse in China,  43 Hastings L.J. 273 (1992):


"The Confucian Classics are a collection of writings said to date from the late Chou Dynasty (1122 - 221 B.C.).  In accord with the Chinese cultural penchant for enumeration, they are referred to as either the Five Classics or the Six Classics.  Some years later, certain scholars claimed to have discovered surviving copies of the Classics which had ostensibly escaped the Ch'in burning decree -- texts written using the ancient style characters of the Chou Dynasty.  For a brief time, the two rival sets of texts, the "New Texts" (chin wen) in contemporary Han Dynasty script and the "Old Texts" (ku wen) in ancient script, vied for dominance among Confucian scholars.  By the closing years of the Han Dynasty, however, the Old Text versions of the Classics prevailed over the New Texts.  Nevertheless, the episode of the book-burning shaped the Confucian attitude towards the Classics, fueling a perpetual insecurity that the canon which survived was in some way defective or incomplete.  That fear was to provide the justification for revising and reconstructing the canon throughout Chinese history..

Classical scholars over the centuries felt free to propose additions or deletions to the Confucian canon.  The Book of Rites, for example, was originally supposed to have contained 204 chapters.  Later scholars whittled it down to eighty-five, then to forty-nine chapters.  Confucius himself provided a precedent for such wholesale revision of the classical texts, in that he traditionally was credited with excising major portions of the Book of Poetry, and perhaps the Book of Documents as well. .

The contestability of the classical Confucian texts was to have dramatic political consequences in late imperial China.  During the late Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644), a .Using sophisticated philological techniques, these scholars exposed a number of these classical texts as forgeries.  They therefore advocated going back to the so-called New Text versions of the Classics, which Han Dynasty scholars had reconstructed from memory."  pp. 286-290


Basic sources and their descriptions: internet, books, articles







Implementation of religious law in several jurisdictions.

See also the Religion and Law-International Documents database created by Brigham Young University International Center for Law and Religion Studies for purely informational links at





Religious System

Areas of Law Affected

Relevant Legal Texts or Institutions



Islamic state; Shari'a (Hanafi school) for Sunnis; Shia for that community

Personal relations, inheritance, criminal law, some aspects of land tenure

Arts. 130-131, Const. 16 of Jan 2004


Mainly Islamic population in secular state; some Christian groups w. local control; some customary law

Local matters



Islamic law, Maliki school (custom of Medina prevails over Hadith); history of French code influence

Personal law, criminal law and procedure

1996 Const.


Canon law when custom silent

Family law, domestic relationships

Const.*, Codex iuris canonici of 1983



Shari'a, w. British common law as applied in India; Sunni schools apply to Shi'ite unless both parties of that sect

Personal relationships, non-commercial

Const. 2002, Commercial code 1987 allows interest; preferred over Shari'a in that area


Islamic & common law structures; some Hindu

Personal to a given community

Const. through 2004


Separate system of Shari'a courts


Const.: about its provisions and Religious Council (no English text available); see also Ann Black, Survival or Extinction? Animistic Dispute Resolution in the Sultanate of Brunei, 13 Willamette Jour. Int'l Law & Dispute Resolution 1-25 (2005).

Burkina Faso


Customary and Islamic law, Maliki school in French context

Based on status

Const through 2002,  (in French),  reforms re modern civil law


Customary and Islamic law, Maliki school: north; Christian and animist south

Based on status

Const. - Unified court system with civil and customary law. Text available through Constitutions of the Countries of the World Online through the OceanaOnline service of Oxford University Press (fee based).


Shari'a, Hanafi school emerging within French civil and commercial law

Personal status

Const. 1980 - Shari'a is source of legislation and religion of the state. English trans. Medina project.  Amendments proposed,


Shari'a and Ethiopian Orthodox practice

Family law



Shari'a for Muslims

Matrimonial law

Const. 1992


Holy See (Vatican State)


Canon law and some civil status laws


All areas, Lateran Pacts


Codex iuris canonici of 1983 (Code of Canon law)


Carry-over of laws for Hindu and Muslim communities from British colonial codes and acts

personal, succession, contract and land laws

Muslim personal law application act 26 of 1937. the Hindu Marriage Act No. XXV of 1955, Hindu Code (1955), the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act 78 of 1956, Hindu Code (1956), the Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act No. 32 of 1956, Hindu Code (1956), and the Hindu Succession Act No. XXX of 1956, Hindu Code (1956).  Full current texts;




Islam as practiced by Muslims and Hindu-influenced Java

Matrimonial law, inheritance and religious foundations (waqf)

Const. text 1945, 1989- 2006 ; 1992 compilation of Islamic laws; religious courts


Islamic Republic under Shiite Shari'a law

civil, penal, financial, administrative, military and other public laws must conform to Islam

Islamic law superior to the constitution if they conflict

w. Const. of 1979, text through 1992.


Shia are majority; Sunni apply many schools

Const.Article (2): 1st - Islam is the official religion of the state and is a basic source of legislation:

(a) No law can be passed that contradicts the undisputed rules of Islam.

Draft Republic of Iraq Const. updated as of Oct 26, 2005


Jewish law ,  Islamic law,  Canon law for each community

personal status and family law

Religious courts for each community or sect, such as Druze, and in many areas applies if both parties are of same religious group, mixed with secular law;

Basic Laws







Islamic law

Mixed laws



Const. 1952, Two Court systems for Muslim and non-Muslim


Islamic and Hindu

Private, non-commercial law (family, inheritance, property)

Const. through 1997,


Republic of (south)

Confucian philosophy mixed with civil law and US influences

Social norms

Const., 1987 amended through 2008


Islamic law

Hanafi with Maliki school followed in personal status

Const. 1962


Islam and European models

Personal status, family law other than property

Const. through 1990 - Recognition of Catholic sects, Jewish community and three Islamic sects with laws and tribunals especially for domestic relations and inheritance


Secular Islamic state

Personal law is Islamic

Const. through 1992 - Religious and secular courts; Islamic courts deal with the personal status as to marriage and inheritance


Islamic, Chinese classical and vestiges of Hindu law

Family law both Islamic and secular in a common law context

Federal law and state laws try to codify and make uniform the mixed family law -

Department of Islamic Development


Muslim population

Shari'a of Maliki school applied in general courts

New codes embody both religious and secular law, Const (in French)


Sunni Islam

Islamic law applies in personal law and form commercial law model

Const.1991;  Mainly Islamic court system


Islamic civil code universal

Personal, criminal law

Const 1996 - Maliki school applies codes in all but commercial areas; Jewish rabbinical courts; French contract and property law.


Buddhist law after repression, Theravada school

marriage, personal status, succession

Burmese Collections and drafting project, treatises on dhamma


Islamic shari'a courts, northern region

Muslim personal law, Maliki school; penal law

Const.1999 - Shari'a court of appeal in each state; final unless federal constitutional questions arise;problem of separate Shari'a penal codes 12  states in north such as Zamfara, enforced by separate courts;

Oba,A.A., The Shari'a Court of Appeal in Northern Nigeria, 52  Am. .J. Comp. L. 859 (2004)


Islamic Shari'a, Sunni Ibadi school

Covers private and commercial law, latter  Hanbali or Maliki

Const. 1996, and there is Shari'a court of appeal


Islamic republic

Covers private, penal and  economic


Const. orders (1973 document frequently suspended) ; Muslim Family Laws ordinance



Islamic law in Mindinao;

older canon law code influences

Where recognized, Islamic personal law for Muslims

Const.; Shari'a courts established for Muslims, family law


Shari'a, Hanbali school

Family and personal law but

not commercial

Const 2003., legislation mixed with non-Islamic commercial sources

Saudi Arabia

Shari'a applied to entire legal system, Hanbali school

Personal, penal and commercial as supplemented by decrees conforming to superior Shari'a

Qu'ran, royal decrees, and Shari'a opinions of judges; a 1992 set of basic laws forms the constitutional framework


Islamic law family area

Family code departs from other codes that are on French model

French: Const.

Serbia & Montenegro*

(Cultural, not legal arrangements)

Orthodox Christian and Muslim conflicts

Informal and non-Constitutional traditions

Const. 2003


Islam Sunni Muslim

All areas

Shari'a courts still operate with own enforcement

Sri Lanka

Islamic, customary and religious laws recognized; Buddhist Sinhalese

Family law

Const. through 2000, Special courts for Islamic law as applied to that community; Ministry of Buddhist Affairs


Shari'a; factions and some instability; Sunni

Applied where legislation silent

Const. 1998; Shari'a section of the High Court and lower Islamic courts


Laws for Islamic, Hindu and Asian groups

Matrimonial and property laws

Const. through 1992  (English and Dutch) -there are separate laws re marriage and property.




Shari'a of Hanafi school main source of law

Family law, codified

Const. 1973; Personal status laws; religious courts for sects of Druze, Syrian Christians, Jews re personal status, inheritance, family law


Confucian and legalist traditions

All laws incorporate traditional Chinese norms

Const of secular state


Islamic law in Tanganyika and Zanzibar

Applied to Muslim states, groups

Const. through 1998  




From Hindu to Buddhist norms


Buddhist customary community and practices


Const. 1997;

Informal dispute resolution for religious practitioners;



Islam; Sunni Shari'a of Maliki and Hanafi schools

Personal status, property and obligations on Islamic basis

Islamic and civil law for private law and Const 1991


Islamic heritage only; Muslim population

Private and commercial law uses European models or adoptions

Const through 2002; European Union accession discussions notably drive away from explicit Shari'a but fundamentalism growing politically

United Arab Emirates

Shari'a Hanafi school

Personal,penal but not commercial

Const summarized;   Shari'a principal source but not applied in economic and business areas (interest allowed); Islamic jurisprudence


General Law and Religion: Selective Bibliography