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

By Marylin Johnson Raisch

Marylin Johnson Raisch is the Associate Director for Research and Collection Development at the Georgetown Law Center. She received her J.D. from Tulane University School of Law. She holds degrees in English literature from Smith College and St. Hugh's College, Oxford. She received her M.L.S. degree from Columbia University School of Library Service. Marylin is the author, co-author, or editor of several articles, reviews, and web guides on international and foreign legal research, including the current ASIL European Union Research Guide; the annual book and web surveys for the Journal of International Economic Law; Code and Hypertext: The Intertextuality of International and Comparative Law, 35 Syracuse J. Int'l L. & Com. 309 (2008), and chapters on UK Legal Research and UK implementation of EU law (in Legal Research Handbook [D.T. MacEllven], Neil A. Campbell and John N. Davis, eds., 6th ed., LexisNexis Canada, 2013). Marylin has served as moderator or panelist in several continuing education programs at the annual meetings of the American Association of Law Libraries and is past Chair of its Foreign, International, and Comparative Law Special Interest Section.

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]; and HeinOnline, World Constitutions Illustrated [electronic resource]. Zach Bench, J.D. Georgetown University students Jessica Flakne and Anna-Lena Nadler and staff member Kaitlyn Barr assisted with updating this 2016 version.

Published April 2017
(Previously updated in July 2009 and August 2013)
See the Archive Version!

Table of Contents

[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].

1. Introduction

1.1. 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 needs not, and ought not, be addressed. Most religious law gradually came to apply in its most institutional form, and even then, only to its own organizations and to familial or contractual matters for its adherents. 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.

1.2. General Internet Sources

1.2.1. Constitutions, Sources of Texts

Constitutional texts are essential for determining if religious law applies in certain legal systems and in what areas of law:

1.2.2. Comparative Law Treatises with Treatment of Religious Law

1.2.3. Comparative Law Journals, General and Religious Law Content:

1.3. Classification

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."

1.4. Religious Legal Systems: Outline

Each religious system will be presented in two sections:

1.5. Subject Headings: Books and Articles

Please note that for this guide, very few journal articles are listed. The monograph selection is intended to suggest further searches under the subject headings discussed above under "classification." Articles are now available electronically through Google Books and Google Scholar and from within many academic and public catalogs enabling article discovery. Keyword searching in religious law should enable the researcher to 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.

2. Islamic Law

2.1. 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:


(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.

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, supraat 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."

See below in this guide under Implementation of Religious Law in Several Jurisdictions.

2.2. Basic Sources and Their Descriptions

2.2.1. Internet

2.2.2. Qur'an at Internet Sacred Text Archive, and Hadith (Older Translations in the Public Domain) Books

Note: Publisher Brill has a Middle East and Islamic Studies collection and newsletter available electronically.

2.2.3. Articles and Journals Islamic Law in General

Presented here is a separate section on journals, as there are several devoted to Islamic law. Searches on Google Scholar using the phrase Islamic law should be filtered by year of publication or addition of narrower terms; for a collection of classic articles on the topical areas of Islamic family law and commercial law, please see the 2009 version of this guide.

Selected Articles

Note: a large volume of articles in scholarly journals address issues in Islamic law from the philosophical to very specific topics tailored to the many schools and jurisdictions. "Islamic law" works well even as a broad search term. Therefore, only a recent sample and book of collected essays is cited below. Islamic Finance Comparative Law in Context

3. Jewish Law

3.1. 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.

3.2 Basic Sources and Their Descriptions: Internet, Books, Articles

3.2.1. Internet/Electronic

3.2.2. Books Primary Texts Books and Commentary

3.2.3. Selected Articles and Journals

In general:

For abstracts, articles or chapters-the Jewish Law Association site contains articles and links. website. Some journals are online for free from the publisher.

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 here choosing the hyperlink at the top left for English and then Index to Articles.

4. Christian Canon Law (Roman Catholic Church)

4.1 Essential Facts

(For a more detailed treatment of this subject beyond the brief overview below, and including additional related traditions, see the GlobaLex Canon Law Research Guide article by Don Ford. Some of the materials listed in this overview below are historical).

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. 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.

4.2. Basic Sources and Their Descriptions: Internet, Books, Articles

4.2.1. Internet

4.2.2. Books

English Canon Law of the Anglican Church (Church of England):

Eastern Orthodox Canon Law:

4.2.3. Selected Articles and Journals

5. Hindu Law

5.1. 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 his 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.

5.2. Basic Sources and Their Descriptions: Internet, Books, Articles

5.2.1. Internet

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

5.2.2. Books



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.

5.2.3. Articles

6. Buddhist Law and Legal Theory

6.1. 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 Studies52 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.

6.2. Basic Sources and Their Descriptions: Internet, Books, Articles

6.2.1. Internet

6.2.2. Books

6.2.3. Selected Articles and Journals

7. Confucian Law and Legal Theory

7.1. 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 lihas 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. Many of the articles below also consider the influence of the Tao, another major philosophical and ritual influence on society and legal thinking.

The contestability of the classical Confucian texts was to have dramatic political consequences in late imperial China. During the late Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644), 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

7.2. Basic Sources and Their Descriptions: Internet, Books, Articles

7.2.1. Internet/Electronic

7.2.2. Books

7.2.3. Selected Articles and Journals

8. 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. For links to the constitutions of the world in a reliable internet source, and with a superb comparative chart feature for areas of constitutional law to view parallel topics as treated in two different countries' constitutions, the best current source is Constitute, or the Constitute Project produced by the Comparative Constitutions Project at the University of Texas at Austin. Countries listed below are those listed in the Constitute database under either "status of religious law" or "establishment of religious courts." Free exercise and even official religion are common constitutional norms and as such do not always indicate presence of the religious law that is the topic of this guide and so constitutional systems listing those principles alone are not included.

(Const. = constitution)


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

Const. 2004


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

Local matters

Const.1998 (rev. 2012)


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

Personal law, criminal law and procedure

Const. (reinst. 1996, rev. 2008)


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 (rev. 2012), Commercial code 1987 allows interest; preferred over Shari'a in that area


Islamic & common law structures; some Hindu

Personal to a given community

Constitution amended through 2004

text amended through 2011 available via World Constitutions Illustrated (fee based)


Separate system of Shari'a courts


Const. 1959 (rev. 2006): about its provisions and Religious Council ); 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 2002reforms re modern civil law




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


Autocephalous Greek-Orthodox Church of Cyprus; Muslim Turkish Cypriots

Based on status

Principles of Islam in Preamble

Status of Greek church; mosque property

Const. amended to 1996; through 2005 available via World Constitutions Illustrated (fee based) - Unified court system with civil and customary law. (fee based).

Const. 2001 (rev. 2009)

Const. 1960 (rev. 2013): articles in Part V


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

Personal status

Const. 2014, Art. 2 "Islam is the religion of the state…the principles of Islamic law form the main source of legislation."



Shari'a and Ethiopian Orthodox practice

Shari'a for Muslims

Family law

Marriage, divorce, inheritance

Const.1994/1995 -draft now adopted

Const. 1996 (rev. 2004)


Shari'a for Muslims

Matrimonial law

Const. 1992 (as amended to 1996 at World Constitutions Illustrated)

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; Const. 1949 (rev. 2015)


Islam as practiced by Muslims and Hindu-influenced Java

Matrimonial law, inheritance and religious foundations (waqf)

Const. Indonesia 1945 (reinst. 1959, rev. 2002)


Islamic Republic under Shiite Shari'a law

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

Const. Iran 1979 (rev. 1989)


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.

Const. Iraq 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; Const. 1958 (rev. 2013)


Islamic law

Mixed laws

Const. 1952 (rev. 2014), Two Court systems for Muslim and non-Muslim


Islamic and Hindu

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

Const. 2010


Republic of (south)

Confucian philosophy mixed with civil law and US influences

Social norms

Const. Rep. of Korea 1948 (rev. 1987)


Islamic law

Hanafi with Maliki school followed in personal status

Const. 1962 (reinst. 1992)


Islam and European models

Personal status, family law other than property

Const. 1926 (rev. 2004) - Arabic amended to 2004, World Constitutions Illustrated (fee based). 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

Interim Const. 2011 (rev. 2012) Traditionally, 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 ; Const. 1957 (rev. 2007)


Muslim population

Shari'a of Maliki school applied in general courts

New codes embody both religious and secular law, Const. 1992



Sunni Islam


Islamic law applies in personal law and form commercial law model

Law must be consistent with Shari'a; judges must consider it when constitution or law is silent

Const.1991 (rev. 2012); Mainly Islamic court system

Const. 2008


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.


Christian with large Muslim minority

Freedom of religion

Constitution 2007


Buddhist law after repression, Theravada school

Marriage, personal status, succession

Constitution 2008; art. 361 special position of Buddhism as majority faith


Islamic shari'a courts, northern region

Muslim personal law, Maliki school; penal law

Const.1999 (as amended to 2011 via World Constitutions Illustrated (fee based)- 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. Oman 1996 (rev. 2011)


Islamic republic

Covers private, penal and economic


Const. 1973 (reinst. 2002, rev. 2015), orders (1973 document frequently suspended); Muslim Family Laws ordinance; family law


Islamic law in Mindinao;

older canon law code influences

Where recognized, Islamic personal law for Muslims

Const. 1987; Shari'a courts established for Muslims


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 (rev. 2013) set of basic laws forms the constitutional framework


Islamic law family area

Family code departs from other codes that are on French model

Const. 2001 (rev. 2009)


Orthodox Christian and Muslim conflicts

Informal and non-Constitutional traditions

Const. 2006


Islam Sunni Muslim

All areas

Draft Const. Federal Review Committee, 2012

Sri Lanka

Islamic, customary and religious laws recognized; Buddhist Sinhalese

Family law

Const. 1978 (rev. 2015), 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

Interim Framework agreements and Interim Constitution 2005


Laws for Islamic, Hindu and Asian groups

Matrimonial and property laws

Const. 1987 (rev. 1992) - there are separate laws re marriage and property.


Shari'a of Hanafi school main source of law

Family law, codified

Const. 1973; amendments through 2012 via World Constitutions Illustration (fee based); 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. 1947 (rev. 2005)


Islamic law in Tanganyika and Zanzibar

Applied to Muslim states, groups

Const. through 1995


From Hindu to Buddhist norms

Buddhist customary community and practices

Const. 2014;

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. 2014



Islamic heritage only; Muslim population

Islam, Quadis' (or Kadhis') courts

Private and commercial law uses European models or adoptions

Courts established for Muslim community for marriage, divorce, inheritance, guardianship

Const. 1982 (rev. 2011); European Union accession discussions notably drive away from explicit Shari'a but fundamentalism growing politically

Const. 1995 (rev. 2005)

United Arab Emirates


Shari'a Hanafi school


Personal, penal but not commercial

Shari'a is source of all legislation

Const. 1971 (rev. 2009); Shari'a principal source but not applied in economic and business areas (interest allowed); Islamic jurisprudence

Const. 1991 (rev. 2001)