The Basic Law of Saudi Arabia (alternative name: Basic System of Governance; Arabic: النظام الأساسي للحكم, Al Nizam Al Asasi lil Hukm) is a constitution-like charter divided into nine chapters, consisting of 83 articles.[1] The Basic Law (in Article One) states that the constitution of Saudi Arabia is "the Holy Qur'an, and the Sunna (Traditions)" of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. However, the Basic Law contains many characteristics of what might be called a constitution in other countries ("The Law of Governance", "Rights and Duties"). The Basic Law is in accordance with a Wahhabi understanding of Islamic law.[2]


King Fahd introduced the Basic Law in 1992.

Following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and the First Gulf War, King Fahd issued a royal decree that was published in official television and newspapers on 31 January 1992.[3][4] The Decree stated the following:

Royal Decree No. A/90
27/8/1412 AH
By the Help of Allah,
We, Fahd bin Abdul Aziz, the King of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, consistent with the public interest, and in view with the development of the State in different fields, in addition to our enthusiasm to achieve our prospected objectives, we ordered the following:
First: Issue the Basic System of Governance according to the context herein below.
Second: Act in accordance with all the systems, orders, and resolutions that are currently adopted, until they are amended pursuant to the Basic System of Governance.
Third: The Basic System of Governance shall be published in the official journal and shall be enforceable as of the date of its publication.[5]

The Consultative Council also came to life about a year after in the light of the emerging conditions affecting the country after the war.[citation needed]

Saudi cultural and religious views stigmatize any reference to "Constitution" other than the Qur'an and the practice of Muhammad. Article 1 of the Basic Law emphasize that "God's Book (Qur'an) and the Sunna of his Prophet (Muhammad), are its (Saudi Arabia) constitution".[6] Prince Talal bin Abdul Aziz said that there cannot be "a constitution, a regulation, or a law that runs counter to the Islamic Sharia" in Saudi Arabia.[7]

Articles of the Basic Law of Governance

Chapter 1: General Principles

Article 1 states that "God's Book and the Sunna of His Prophet" are the country's constitution and Arabic is the official language with the capital at Riyadh.

Chapter 2: Monarchy

Article 7 proclaims the rights of the monarch. Next, per Article 8, "justice, consultation, and equality" shall be in accordance with Sharia.

Chapter 3: Features of the Saudi family

Article 9 states that all members of each family in Saudi Arabia shall be reared "on the basis of the Islamic faith."

Chapter 4: Economic Principles

Article 18 guards the private property of citizens.

Article 21 calls for an "alms tax".

Chapter 5: Rights and Duties

Article 27 establishes a "system of social security"; It has become feasible without expropriation and high taxes due to the large supplies of oil and a population of 33 million people. Article 39 requires all media outlets to conform to "the state's regulations," and explicitly forbids any act that "foster(s) sedition or division," which is often cited in censorship cases.

Chapter 6: The Authorities of the State

Islam as cornerstone of governance

Article 45 affirms that religious rulings must be in accordance with the "Holy Qur'an and the Prophet's Sunna." To this end, a panel of Islamic clergy and research group shall be established.

According to Article 55, the king must "rule according to the traditions of Islam and shall supervise the application of Sharia." Article 56 states that the king is also the prime minister. Article 57 makes it clear that the king's cabinet and other lower-ranking officials must follow Islam. Those who deviate from this can be dismissed or punished.


Articles 60–62: The king is the commander-in-chief and is endowed with powers concerning war and the national security of the country

Chapter 7: Financial Affairs

Article 71 specifies that revenue is entered and spent according to rules of statutes which will be published regularly in the Official Gazette per Article 70.

Chapter 8: Control Bodies

Article 79–80 concerns control bodies. Control bodies will be established to ensure good financial and administrative management of state assets.[8][9]

Chapter 9: General Provisions

Article 82 makes it clear that a temporary state of emergency during turmoil cannot violate Article 7 (Qur'an and sunnah).


The Basic Law was drafted by an ad hoc committee of the interior ministry, which Human Rights Watch accuses of egregious violations of human rights.[10]

In the eighteenth century Muhammad bin Saud and Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab integrated all the political and religious institutions into one governing body.[11] The government of Saudi Arabia reserves numerous jobs for the clergy that range from preaching to judgeships.

Islamic clergy (ulema) such as muftis and sheikhs, who dominate Saudi Arabian legal positions, make use of the Basic Law in addition to the Qur'an,[12] hadith, sunnah, and Islamic jurisprudence which all fall within Sharia.

The Basic Law makes no mention of women; Amnesty International write in their 2000 report on Saudi Arabia:

Discussion of discrimination against women and their status as second class citizens has for a long time been a taboo, untouchable even by the highest of state authorities in the country despite all the misery and suffering of women for no reason other than their having been born female.[13]

See also


  1. ^ "The Basic Law – SAMIRAD (Saudi Arabia Market Information Resource)". Archived from the original on 27 January 2007. Retrieved 15 February 2017.
  2. ^ Read The 'Wahhabi Myth' Online by Haneef James Oliver | Books.
  3. ^ Tschentscher, Axel. "Saudi Arabia > Constitution". International Constitutional Law (ICL) Project. Archived from the original on 26 March 2023. Retrieved 7 April 2023.
  4. ^ "Empty Reforms: Saudi Arabia's New Basic Laws". Human Rights Watch. May 1992. Archived from the original on 5 March 2016. Retrieved 15 February 2017.
  5. ^ "Mofa Ksa || وزارة الخارجية المملكة العربية السعودية". Archived from the original on 18 January 2017. Retrieved 15 February 2017.
  6. ^ "Basic Law of Saudi Arabia – Wikisource, the free online library". Archived from the original on 5 October 2016. Retrieved 15 February 2017.
  7. ^ Saudi Prince Talal bin Abd Al-'Aziz Explains the New Method of Determining Future Kings in Saudi Arabia[dead link] 12 January 2007
  8. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 25 August 2015.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  9. ^ Group, Taylor & Francis (30 October 2003). The Middle East and North Africa 2004. Psychology Press. ISBN 9781857431841.
  10. ^ Introduction to Basic Law of Saudi Arabia Archived 14 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine Human Rights Watch
  11. ^ "The Role of the Ulema (Religious Leaders) – SAMIRAD (Saudi Arabia Market Information Resource)". Archived from the original on 23 October 2016. Retrieved 15 February 2017.
  12. ^ "Digital Financial Network". Archived from the original on 4 March 2011. Retrieved 15 February 2017.
  13. ^ "Saudi Arabia: Gross human rights abuses against women". 26 September 2000. Archived from the original on 2 April 2015.