An Islamic republic can be considered a sovereign state in the form of a republic that is officially ruled by Islamic laws, contrasted to Islamic monarchy. As a name or title, three current states are Islamic republics: Iran, Mauritania and Pakistan. The term is, however, vague. Despite sharing the "Islamic republic" name, the countries differ greatly in their governments and laws, and of the three only Iran is a religious theocratic state. Additionally, Pakistan was the first to adopt the name in 1956, despite the fact Islam was not the state religion at the time. It can therefore be considered a symbolic term.[1]

As a term, it has come to mean several different things, some contradictory to others. To some Muslim religious leaders in the regions who advocate it, an Islamic republic is a state under a particular Islamic form of government. They see it as a compromise between a purely Islamic caliphate and a secular, nationalist republic. In their conception of the Islamic republic, the penal code of the state is required to be compatible with some or all laws of Sharia and the state may not be a monarchy as many Middle Eastern states are presently. Despite this, there are republics with Islam as a state religion and that are (at least partly) ruled by Islamic laws, but do not carry the "Islamic republic" name - examples include Iraq, Yemen, Algeria and Maldives.

Iran officially uses it as a 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. Unlike the others, Iran also uses the IRI acronym of the 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
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[2] Unitary Khomeinist presidential republic (de facto a theocratic-republican hybrid subject to a Supreme Leader)
 Islamic Republic of Mauritania 28 November 1958 Unitary semi-presidential republic
 Islamic Republic of Pakistan 23 March 1956 Federal parliamentary constitutional republic


See also: Politics of Iran

Two months after the Islamic Revolution in 1979, the new government held the Iranian Islamic Republic referendum on 10 and 11 Farvardin (30 and 31 March) to change the Pahlavi dynasty into an Islamic republic. On 12 Farvardin (1 April), it was announced that 98.2% of the Iranian voters wanted to establish the Islamic republic.[3][4]

Before the referendum, some political groups suggested various names for the ideology of the Iranian revolution such as the Republic (without Islam) or the Democratic Republic. Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran, asked people to vote for the name Islamic Republic, "not a word more and not a word less".[4][5]

According to the constitution, the Islamic Republic of Iran is a system based on the following beliefs:[6]

# 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;

  1. divine revelation and its fundamental role in setting forth the laws;
  2. the return to God in the Hereafter, and the constructive role of this belief in the course of man's ascent towards God;
  3. the justice of God in creation and legislation;
  4. continuous leadership and perpetual guidance, and its fundamental role in ensuring the uninterrupted process of the revolution of Islam;
  5. 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.


According to a commentary on the constitution, just as the establishment of Islamic republic system is based on the beliefs of people, namely governing of right, justice and Quran. However, its continuation lasted with the same principles and there is an important role for the beliefs of Iranian people. Furthermore, those beliefs are of complete and determinate roles in all affairs. They are considered as guidelines for governors and statesmen. There is an important role for beliefs such as the principle of unity of God and believing in it.[7] In spite of that, there are other principles are to the submission in front of Allah and His order. Therefore, legislation is limited to Allah and laws so far as correspond to divine legislation are valid. Belief in divine revelation and prophecy are essential to Islamic worldview and there are two kinds of justice. The first kind is legislative (Tashri'i) and the other kind is creative (Takivini). Creative justice is based on justice and equality. Legislative justice is respected to making divine law in Islamic society. Besides, the basis of Shia school is in terms of imamate or leadership.

According to the principle of imamate in Shia, it is indispensable to obey of the prophet of Allah and of those possessed of authority. Shia clergy believes that the conception of the term "those possessed of authority" denoted on innocent Shia imams. When the Imam is absent, the valy faghih is in charge of leadership of society. In other words, religious leaders undertake the responsibility of the imamate. There is more emphasizing on the dignity (karamat) and the high value of humans which is along with freedom and responsibility. The principle of dignity is a necessary condition of the Islamic republic in terms of existence, but there are many meanings for the term dignity. Sometimes it refers to generosity, nobleness and honor, but Islam considers it two sorts of dignity for human beings, namely essential or innate dignity and acquired dignity. According to innate dignity, human being possessed of the right of living among other creatures. The principle is also mentioned by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. On the basis of acquired dignity, the human is able to pass the degrees of perfection with the aid of actuality of his potentialities and talents.[8]


For the first time, Ruhollah Khomeini referred to the terms of Islamic republic for the Iranian people. He believes that the Iranian people want an Islamic state which is a republic. Responding to a journalist's question on the ambiguity of the term Islamic republic, 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.[9]


The Islamic Republic of Mauritania is a country in the Maghreb region of western North Africa.[10][11][12]


Pakistan 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".


Chechen Republic of Ichkeria

The Chechen Republic of Ichkeria used an Islamic republic government system from 1996 to 2000.[13]


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.[14] 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.[15] 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 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.[16] However, he later ordered all female government employees to wear headscarves[17] before rescinding the decision shortly after. The announcement of an Islamic republic has been criticized as unconstitutional by at least one opposition group.[18] After the removal of Jammeh in 2017, his successor Adama Barrow said the Gambia would no longer be an Islamic republic.[19]

See also


  1. ^ Lawrence Ziring (1984). From Islamic Republic to Islamic State in Pakistan. University of California Press.
  2. ^ "Iran Islamic Republic". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 28 December 2019.
  3. ^ "Iran Islamic Republic Day". The free dictionary by Farlex. Retrieved 17 June 2016.
  4. ^ a b "The first election held after the revolution / day when the government took the poor". Fars News Agency. 1 April 2014. Retrieved 1 March 2016.
  5. ^ "Islamic Republic Day". Islamic Revolution Document Center. Archived from the original on 14 June 2016. Retrieved 1 March 2016.
  6. ^ "Constitution of Iran". Unofficial English translation hosted at University of Bern, Switzerland (with good summaries).
  7. ^ Vakil, Amir Saeed; Askary, Pouryya (2004). Constitution in Now Law Like Order. p. 44.
  8. ^ Hashemi, Sayyed Muhammad (2013). Constitution of islamic republic of Iran. Mizan.
  9. ^ Adib-Moghaddam, Arshin (2014). A Critical Introduction to Khomeini. Cambridge University Press. p. 231. ISBN 9781107012677.
  10. ^ 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 [...].
  11. ^ 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) [...].
  12. ^ 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) [...].
  13. ^ "Конституция Чеченской Республики » Zhaina — Нахская библиотека". Archived from the original on 10 March 2016. Retrieved 1 March 2019.
  14. ^ 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.
  15. ^ "Opinion: Clear Sailing for Afghanistan?". DW. 5 January 2004.
  16. ^ "Gambia declared Islamic republic by President Yahya Jammeh". BBC. 12 December 2015. Retrieved 28 December 2019.
  17. ^ "Female government workers in the Gambia told to wear headscarves". The Guardian. 5 January 2016. Retrieved 28 December 2019.
  18. ^ Rifai, Ryan (12 December 2015). "Gambia's president declares Islamic statehood". Al-Jazeera. Retrieved 28 December 2019.
  19. ^ "The Gambia: President Adama Barrow pledges reforms". Al Jazeera. 27 January 2017. Retrieved 28 December 2019.