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Bahrain: Legal System
Country Study > Chapter 5 > Government and Politics > Legal System


The legal system of Bahrain in 1993 was based on several sources, including customary tribal law (urf), three separate schools of Islamic sharia law, and civil law as embodied in codes, ordinances, and regulations. Sharia law includes the Maliki school of Islamic law (from Abd Allah Malik ibn Anas, an eighth-century Muslim jurist from Medina) and the Shafii school of Islamic law (from Muhammad ibn Idris ash Shafii, a late eighth-century Muslim jurist from Mecca). Both of these schools are recognized by Sunni Muslims. Civil law is heavily influenced by British common law, inasmuch as it was developed by British legal advisers beginning in the 1920s and continuing up to the eve of independence in 1971.

According to the constitution of 1973, the judiciary is an independent and separate branch of government. However, the highest judicial authority, the minister of justice and Islamic affairs, is appointed by, and responsible to, the prime minister. The amir, who retains the power of pardon, is at the pinnacle of the judicial system.

Bahrain has a dual court system, consisting of civil and sharia courts. Sharia courts deal primarily with personal status matters (such as marriage, divorce, and inheritance). Sharia courts of first instance are located in all communities. A single sharia Court of Appeal sits at Manama. Appeals beyond the jurisdiction of the sharia Court of Appeal are taken to the Supreme Court of Appeal, which is part of the civil system

The civil court system consists of summary courts and a supreme court. Summary courts of first instance are located in all communities and include separate urf, civil, and criminal sections. The supreme courts hear appeals from the summary courts. The Supreme Court of Appeal is the highest appellate court in the country. The Supreme Court of Appeal also decides on the constitutionality of laws and regulations.

Data as of January 1993

Last Updated: January 1993

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Bahrain was first published in 1993. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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Section 39 of 54


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