Bahrain, State of


*Please note this is just a draft and all contents are still under revision.*


 

Legal Table
Legal Text

Legal System/History

 

Bahrain had long exposure to British legal system. Mixed legal system drawing from English common law, codified systems and Islamic law. Full independence from Britain gained in August 1971. Since then Bahraini law has followed similar pattern to other Arab states’ legislation, particularly Egyptian codes. Personal law remains uncodified, administered by shari’a courts regulated by Judicature Law 1971. Judicature Law directs judges to have recourse to following residuary sources of law, in following order of precedence: principles of shari’a; custom; natural law or principles of equity and good conscience.

School(s) of Fiqh

Ja`fari majority, Shafi`i and Maliki minorities

Constitutional Status of Islam(ic Law)

Constitution adopted 26th May 1973. Article 1(a) states "Bahrain is an Arab Islamic State". Article 2 affirms Islam as official religion and identifies the shari’a as a main source of legislation.

Court System

 

Bahraini judiciary divided into secular and shari’a courts regulated by Bahrain Judicature Law 1971. Shari’a courts divided into Sunni and Shi’i departments, with jurisdiction over all disputes relating to Muslim personal status (except disputes over estates). Three levels of Shari’a Courts (Sunni and Ja’fari Departments) competent to hear personal status cases: Junior and Senior Shari’a Courts and High Shari’a Court of Appeal having ultimate appellate jurisdiction.

Relevant Legislation

Judicature Law (no. 13/1971)

Personal status law remains uncodified.

Notable Features

The shari’a courts apply classical Islamic personal status law.

Law/Case Reporting System

Case reporting restricted to Court of Cassation (highest court) judgements. Court of Cassation has jurisdiction over civil, commercial, and non-Muslim non-Bahraini personal status matters. No officially published Shari’a Court judgements available.

International Conventions (with Relevant Reservations)

CRC – accession 1992 without reservations

Legal History: Bahrain has had a long exposure to the British legal system and has a mixed legal system drawing from both English common law and codified systems and from Islamic law. The Ottoman Empire lost control over Bahrain in 1861; the territory became a British protectorate in 1880. Bahrain gained full independence from its protectorate status in August 1971. Upon independence, a Legislative Committee was appointed to establish an independent legal system. Since that time, Bahraini law has followed a similar pattern to other Arab states’ legislation, particularly Egyptian codes.

Personal law remains uncodified, and is administered by shari’a courts regulated by the Bahrain Courts Law 1971. The Judicature Law also indicates the residuary sources of law in the absence of applicable provisions of law: judgements are to be derived from principals of the shari’a; in the absence of applicable shar’i provisions, on custom (with particular customs having precedence over general customs); and final resort is to natural law or the principles of equity and good conscience. The National Assembly was dissolved in 1975, and the Amir has ruled by decree since that time. 

Schools of Fiqh: The Ja’fari school is the predominant madhhab in Bahrain, and there are significant Sunni minorities following either the Shafi’i or Maliki school.  

Constitutional Status of Islam(ic Law): The Constitution of the State of Bahrain was adopted 26 May 1973. Article 1(a) affirms that "Bahrain is an Arab Islamic State". Article 2 affirms Islam as the religion of the State and identifies the shari’a as a main source of legislation.  

Court System: The judiciary is divided into regular and shari’a courts. The shari’a courts are divided into Shi’i and Sunni departments applying Ja’fari and Shafi’i or Maliki fiqh, respectively. These courts have jurisdiction over all disputes relating to Muslim personal status, except disputes over estates. Disputes over estates fall under the jurisdiction of the competent civil courts, though those courts are obliged to divide estates in accordance with Islamic law. The Junior Shari’a Courts (Ja’fari and Sunni Departments) hear personal status cases in the first instance. The High Shari’a Court of Appeal (Ja’fari and Sunni Courts) has appellate jurisdiction over Senior Shari’a Court decisions. Each High Shari’a Court consists of a president and a number of judges; sittings are validly held in the presence of 2 judges, one of whom must be the President of the Court or his deputy. A Decree Law (no. 8) 1989 establishing the Court of Cassation also directs that this Court has exclusive jurisdiction to decide cases filed simultaneously in the civil and shari’a courts or before two shari’a courts or to settle any dispute arising from conflicting judgements between such courts, as well as jurisdiction over civil and commercial matters and personal status suits involving non-Muslim non-Bahrainis.  

Notable Features: Personal status law remains unlegislated. The shari’a courts apply classical Islamic personal status law to Muslims without reference to state law.

Law/Case Reporting System: Laws are published in the Official Gazette. Case reporting is restricted to the judgements of the Court of Cassation, the highest court in Bahrain. There are no official publications of Shari’a Court decisions. 

International Conventions (with Relevant Reservations): Bahrain acceded to the CRC in 1992 without submitting any reservations. 

Background and Sources: Amin, Middle East Legal Systems. Glasgow: Royston Ltd., 1985; El Alami and Hinchcliffe, Islamic Marriage and Divorce Laws of the Arab World, London, 1996; Ballantyne, Commercial Law in the Arab Middle East: The Gulf States, London, 1986; Mahmood, "Gulf" in Statutes of Personal Law in Islamic Countries, New Delhi, 1995; Redden, ‘Bahrain’ in Modern Legal Systems Cyclopedia, vol. 5, Buffalo, NY, 1990.