A Brief Overview of the Saudi Arabian Legal System

The legal system of Saudi Arabia is based entirely on Islamic law from the Quran and Sunnah. The interpretation of laws is governed by medieval tests from the school of Islamic jurisprudence. The lack of judicial precedent and the adoption of Sharia in the laws remains the primary reason for implementing Sharia as the primary law source in Saudi Arabia. The Quran and Sunnah are also declared as the legal constitutions of the region. King Abdul Azuz created the current legal system of Saudi Arabia in 1932, the kingdom’s founder.

Sources of law in Saudi Arabia

As mentioned above, Sharia is the primary source of law in the region, derived from the Quran traditions of Muhammad in the Sunnah. The Sharia is applied in accordance with the Hanbali legal school of thought. However, the opposition to Wahhabism has recognized that the Wahhabi beliefs practiced in Saudi face divergences from the Hanbali school processes and may constitute a separate school called madhhab.

Since there is a lack of codification of Sharia in the region, it leads to a variation in its interpretation and general application in the area. Although there is a lack of a judicial system, the judges are expected to refer to the six medieval tests before reaching a decision on a matter.

The judiciary structure

Court structure

The Sharia also constitutes the basic judicial structure of the region. Apart from the legal judiciary, some religious judges follow and refer to the Sharia before a statement is imparted to a culprit.

Non-sharia courses are also present in Saudi, called the board of Grievances, created initially to deal with all the complaints against the government like forgery, bribery, etc.

Saudi Arabia

Law enforcement

Like any other country, law enforcement is followed and looked after by police officers divided into three sectors – secret police, regular police, and religious police.

Regular and secret police

Most day-to-day crimes and other matters are handled by the Department of Public Safety, which a member of the royal family heads. However, domestic and counter-intelligence-related cases are governed by the secret police.


Mutawa is the religious police who handle the code of Islamic behavior in the country. This body ensures the following:

  • Strict physical separation of men and women in public
  • Business clothes at the time of prayer
  • In some areas, make sure women do not drive cars
  • Ensure women wear traditional dresses only

Significant areas of laws in Saudi Arabia

Some of the major areas of law in the country include:

  • Constitutional law, although Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy
  • Criminal law which follows the bench trial system
  • Family law relating to matters of divorce, inheritance, etc
  • Commercial and contract law
  • Land law
  • Labor law
  • Energy law


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