The term Islamic republic has been used in different ways. Some Muslim religious leaders have used it as the name for a theoretical form of Islamic theocratic government enforcing sharia, or laws compatible with sharia. The term has also been used for a sovereign state taking a compromise position between a purely Islamic caliphate and a secular, nationalist republic — neither an Islamic monarchy nor secular republic. In other cases it is used merely as a symbol of cultural identity.

There are also a number of states where Islam is the state religion and that are (at least partly) ruled by Islamic laws, but carry only "republic" in their official names, not "Islamic republic" — examples include Iraq, Yemen and Maldives. Other supporters of strict sharia law (such as the Taliban), prefer the title "Islamic emirate", as emirates were common throughout Islamic history and "republic" has a Western origin — coming from the Roman (from Latin res publica 'public affair') indicating that the "supreme power is held by the people and their elected representatives",[1] with no mention of obedience to Allah or sharia law.

Currently, (as of 2022), the name is used in the official title of three states — the Islamic Republics of Iran, Pakistan, and Mauritania. Pakistan first adopted the title under the constitution of 1956. Mauritania adopted it on 28 November 1958. Iran adopted it after the 1979 Iranian Revolution that overthrew the Pahlavi dynasty. Despite having similar names, the countries differ greatly in their governments and laws. Iran and Mauritania are religious theocratic states.[2] Pakistan adopted the name in 1956 before Islam was yet to be declared the state religion,[3] this happened at the adoption of the 1973 constitution.

Iran officially uses the full title in all governance names referring to the country (e.g. the Islamic Republic of Iran Army or the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting); as opposed to its equivalents in Pakistan which are called the Pakistan Armed Forces and the Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation. Also unlike the other countries, Iran uses the IRI acronym (Islamic Republic of Iran) as part of official acronyms.

List of current Islamic republics

Map showing Islamic republic countries that use the title in their official names
State Date of name adoption Government type
 Islamic Republic of Iran 1 April 1979[4] Unitary theocratic republic
 Islamic Republic of Mauritania 28 November 1958 Unitary semi-presidential republic
 Islamic Republic of Pakistan 23 March 1956 Federal parliamentary republic


See also: Politics of Iran

The creation of the Islamic Republic of Iran was a dramatic, historical event, following the overthrow of the Pahlavi dynasty in 1979 by the Islamic revolution led by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. "Islamic" in the country's title was not a symbol of cultural identity, but indicated specific governmental system based on rule by Islamic jurists enforcing Islamic law. The system was based on The Jurist's Guardianship: Islamic Government, a work of the revolution's leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, written before Khomeini came to power,[5] and known by Khomeini's followers but not by the general public.[6][7][8] It argued that rather than elections and legislators, Islam required traditional Islamic law (sharia), and proper enforcement of sharia required a leading Islamic jurist (faqih) (such as Khomeini himself, who served as the first faqih "guardian" or Supreme Leader of Iran) to provide political "guardianship" (wilayat or velayat) over the people and nation (wilayat al-faqih). All the Muslim world should be united in such a state. With it, the entire non-Muslim world will evidentially "capitulate" to its courage and vigour;[9] without it, Islam would fall victim to heresy, "obsolescence and decay".[10]

The new government held a referendum for public approval to change Iran from a monarchy to an Islamic republic in March 1979, two months after the Islamic Revolution took power. While some political groups had suggested various names for the ideology of the Iranian revolution such as the Republic (without specifying Islam) or the Democratic Republic; Khomeini called for Iranians to vote for the name Islamic Republic, "not a word more and not a word less".[11][12] When an Iranian journalist asked Khomeini what exactly Islamic Republic meant, Khomeini stated that the term republic has the same sense as other uses and Islamic republic has considered both Islamic ideology and the choice of people.[13] The day after the vote was complete, it was announced that 98.2% of the Iranian voters had voted to approve the new name.[14][11]

Unlike Khomeini's original vision, the Islamic Republic is a "republic" with elections (Khomeini had originally described his "Islamic government" as "not ... based on the approval of laws in accordance with the opinion of the majority"); it has many of the trappings of a modern state—a president, cabinet and legislature (Khomeini mentioned none of these except for the legislature, which his government would not have because "no one has the right to legislate ... except ... the Divine Legislator").[15] Some, however, have argued that the legislature (and president, etc.) has been kept in a subordinate position in keeping with Khomeini's idea of government being a guardianship by jurists.[16]

According to the constitution, the Islamic Republic of Iran is a system based on the following beliefs:[17]

  1. the One God (as stated in the phrase "There is no other god except God"), His exclusive sovereignty and right to legislate, and the necessity of submission to His commands;
  2. divine revelation and its fundamental role in setting forth the laws;
  3. the return to God in the Hereafter, and the constructive role of this belief in the course of man's ascent towards God;
  4. the justice of God in creation and legislation;
  5. continuous leadership and perpetual guidance, and its fundamental role in ensuring the uninterrupted process of the revolution of Islam;
  6. the exalted dignity and value of man, and his freedom coupled with responsibility before God; in which equity, justice, political, economic, social and cultural independence, and national solidarity are secured by recourse to:
  • continuous leadership of the holy persons, possessing necessary qualifications, exercised on the basis of the Quran and the Sunnah, upon all of whom be peace;
  • sciences and arts and the most advanced results of human experience, together with the effort to advance them further;
  • negation of all forms of oppression, both the infliction of and the submission to it, and of dominance, both its imposition and its acceptance.


The Islamic Republic of Mauritania is a country in the Maghreb region of western North Africa.[18][19][20] Mauritania was declared an independent state as the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, on November 28, 1960.[21] Its legal system is "a mix of French civil law and Sharia Law", and its Penal Code punishes crimes against religion and “good morals” with "harsh sentences". "Heresy or apostasy (including in print) are "punishable by death".[22]


Pakistan was created as a homeland for the Muslims of British India, when British India was given independence, making Islam its raison d'être. It was the first country to adopt the adjective Islamic to modify its republican status under its otherwise secular constitution in 1956. Despite this definition, the country did not have a state religion until 1973, when a new constitution, more democratic and less secular, was adopted. Pakistan only uses the Islamic name on its passports, visas and coins. Although Islamic Republic is specifically mentioned in the constitution of 1973, all government documents are prepared under the name of the Government of Pakistan. The Constitution of Pakistan, Part IX, Article 227 states: "All existing laws shall be brought in conformity with the Injunctions of Islam as laid down in the Quran and Sunnah, in this Part referred to as the Injunctions of Islam, and no law shall be enacted which is repugnant to such Injunctions".


Full Name Country Dates Government type
Bangladesh Islamic Republic of Bangladesh Bangladesh 1975 Unitary presidential Islamic Republic under a military dictatorship
Chechen Republic of Ichkeria Chechen Republic of Ichkeria Chechnya 1996–2000 Islamic republic
Federal Islamic Republic of the Comoros Comoros 1978–2001 Federal and Islamic republic
First East Turkestan Republic Turkish Islamic Republic of East Turkestan First East Turkestan Republic 1933–1934 Islamic republic
Afghanistan Republic of Afghanistan Afghanistan 1987–1992 Unitary dominant-party Islamic republic
Islamic State of Afghanistan Islamic State of Afghanistan Afghanistan 1992–1996 Unitary Islamic

provisional government

Islamic State of Afghanistan Afghan Interim Administration Afghanistan 2001–2004 Islamic republic (Transitional government)
Transitional Islamic State of Afghanistan Transitional Islamic State of Afghanistan Afghanistan 2002–2004 Islamic republic (Transitional government)
Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Afghanistan 2004–2021 Unitary presidential Islamic republic
The Gambia Islamic Republic of The Gambia The Gambia 2015–2017 Unitary presidential Islamic republic

Chechen Republic of Ichkeria

The Chechen Republic of Ichkeria used an Islamic republic government system from 1996 to 2000.[23]


Between 1978 and 2001, the Comoros was the Federal and Islamic Republic of the Comoros.

East Turkestan

The Turkic Uyghur- and Kirghiz-controlled Turkish Islamic Republic of East Turkestan was declared in 1933 as an independent Islamic republic by Sabit Damulla Abdulbaki and Muhammad Amin Bughra. However, the Chinese Muslim 36th Division of the National Revolutionary Army defeated their armies and destroyed the republic during the Battles of Kashgar, Yangi Hissar and Yarkand.[24] The Chinese Muslim Generals Ma Fuyuan and Ma Zhancang declared the destruction of the rebel forces and the return of the area to the control of the Republic of China in 1934, followed by the executions of the Turkic Muslim Emirs Abdullah Bughra and Nur Ahmad Jan Bughra. The Chinese Muslim General Ma Zhongying then entered the Id Kah Mosque in Kashgar and lectured the Turkic Muslims on being loyal to the Nationalist Government.


Afghanistan was an Islamic republic from 1990 to 1996, and from 2001 to 2021. The 1990 constitution was imposed by the Mohammad Najibullah government and eliminated communism.

The constitution formed in 2004 was very similar to the 1964 Constitution of Afghanistan, created when Afghanistan was a constitutional Islamic monarchy.[25] It consisted of three branches, the executive, the legislative and the judicial. The National Assembly was the legislature, a bicameral body having two chambers, the House of the People and the House of Elders. The Islamic prefix to Republic was considered symbolic as it was a name supported by pro-Mujahideen delegates during the assembly of forming the constitution.

From 1996 to the re-establishment of the Islamic republic in 2001, Afghanistan was ruled by the Taliban, a militant group based in Kandahar, who governed Afghanistan as an Islamic theocracy officially known as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. In 2021, the Taliban initiated a month-long insurgency to effectively end the Islamic republic and ultimately, re-establish the Islamic Emirate in August 2021. The Islamic Republic continued to be recognized by the United Nations as the legitimate government of Afghanistan both from 1996 to 2001 and from 2021 onwards.

The Gambia

In December 2015, the then-president Yahya Jammeh declared The Gambia to be an Islamic republic. Jammeh said that the move was designed to distance the West African state from its colonial past, that no dress code would be imposed and that citizens of other faiths would be allowed to practice freely.[26] However, he later ordered all female government employees to wear headscarves[27] before rescinding the decision shortly after. The announcement of an Islamic republic has been criticized as unconstitutional by at least one opposition group.[28] After the removal of Jammeh in 2017, his successor Adama Barrow said the Gambia would no longer be an Islamic republic.[29]

See also



  1. ^ "Republic | Definition of Republic by Oxford Dictionary on also meaning of Republic". Lexico Dictionaries | English. Archived from the original on 6 June 2020. Retrieved 14 January 2021.
  2. ^ "Theocracy Countries 2022". World Population Review. Archived from the original on 31 October 2022. Retrieved 5 November 2022.
  3. ^ Lawrence Ziring (1984). From Islamic Republic to Islamic State in Pakistan. University of California Press.
  4. ^ "Iran Islamic Republic" Archived 16 March 2006 at the Wayback Machine. Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 28 December 2019.
  5. ^ Iranian Government Constitution, English Text Archived 2013-08-19 at the Wayback Machine|
  6. ^ Abrahamian, Iran between two revolutions, 1982: p.478-9
  7. ^ "What Happens When Islamists Take Power? The Case of Iran - Clerics". Archived from the original on 8 July 2012. Retrieved 7 February 2023.
  8. ^ Moin, Khomeini, 1999: p.218
  9. ^ Khomeini, Islamic Government, 1981: p.121-2
  10. ^ Khomeini, Islamic Government, 1981: p.52-3
  11. ^ a b "The first election held after the revolution / day when the government took the poor". Fars News Agency. 1 April 2014. Archived from the original on 6 July 2017. Retrieved 1 March 2016.
  12. ^ "Islamic Republic Day". Islamic Revolution Document Center. Archived from the original on 14 June 2016. Retrieved 1 March 2016.
  13. ^ Adib-Moghaddam, Arshin (2014). A Critical Introduction to Khomeini. Cambridge University Press. p. 231. ISBN 9781107012677. Archived from the original on 19 January 2023. Retrieved 12 November 2020.
  14. ^ "Iran Islamic Republic Day". The free dictionary by Farlex. Archived from the original on 31 March 2019. Retrieved 17 June 2016.
  15. ^ Khomeini, Islamic Government, 1981: p.56
  16. ^ Schirazi, The Constitution of Iran (1997), p. 295.
  17. ^ "Unofficial English translation of the constitution of Iran hosted at University of Bern, Switzerland". Archived from the original on 21 August 2018. Retrieved 7 February 2023.
  18. ^ Encyclopedia of the Peoples of Africa and the Middle East. Facts On File, Inc. 2009. p. 448. ISBN 978-1438126760. The Islamic Republic of Mauritania, situated in western North Africa [...].
  19. ^ Seddon, David (2004). A Political and Economic Dictionary of the Middle East. We have, by contrast, chosen to include the predominantly Arabic-speaking countries of western North Africa (the Maghreb), including Mauritania (which is a member of the Arab Maghreb Union) [...].
  20. ^ Branine, Mohamed (2011). Managing Across Cultures: Concepts, Policies and Practices. p. 437. The Magrebian countries or the Arab countries of western North Africa (Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia) [...].
  21. ^ "History of Mauritania". Britannica. Archived from the original on 22 September 2017. Retrieved 23 July 2022.
  22. ^ "ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF MAURITANIA". PPLAAF. Archived from the original on 1 July 2022. Retrieved 23 July 2022.
  23. ^ "Конституция Чеченской Республики » Zhaina — Нахская библиотека". Archived from the original on 10 March 2016. Retrieved 1 March 2019.
  24. ^ Chahryar Adle; Madhavan K. Palat; Anara Tabyshalieva (2005). History of Civilizations of Central Asia: Towards the Contemporary Period: From the Mid-Nineteenth to the End of the Twentieth Century. UNESCO. p. 395. ISBN 92-3-103985-7. Retrieved 28 October 2010.
  25. ^ "Opinion: Clear Sailing for Afghanistan?". DW. 5 January 2004. Archived from the original on 9 August 2020. Retrieved 20 May 2020.
  26. ^ "Gambia declared Islamic republic by President Yahya Jammeh". BBC. 12 December 2015. Archived from the original on 8 November 2020. Retrieved 28 December 2019.
  27. ^ "Female government workers in the Gambia told to wear headscarves". The Guardian. 5 January 2016. Archived from the original on 8 November 2020. Retrieved 28 December 2019.
  28. ^ Rifai, Ryan (12 December 2015). "Gambia's president declares Islamic statehood". Archived from the original on 12 July 2016. Retrieved 7 February 2023.
  29. ^ "The Gambia: President Adama Barrow pledges reforms". Al Jazeera. 27 January 2017. Archived from the original on 19 February 2020. Retrieved 28 December 2019.