Basic Law of Saudi Arabia

Basic Law of Saudi Arabia

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The Basic Law
Basic Law
The term basic law is used in some places as an alternative to "constitution", implying it is a temporary but necessary measure without formal enactment of constitution. A basic law is either a codified constitution, or in countries with uncodified constitutions, a law given to have constitution...

 of Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia , commonly known in British English as Saudi Arabia and in Arabic as as-Sa‘ūdiyyah , is the largest state in Western Asia by land area, constituting the bulk of the Arabian Peninsula, and the second-largest in the Arab World...

(Alternative name: Basic System of Governance) is a constitution
Constitution
A constitution is a set of fundamental principles or established precedents according to which a state or other organization is governed. These rules together make up, i.e. constitute, what the entity is...

-like charter divided into nine chapters, consisting of 83 articles. It is in accordance with the Salafi
Salafi
A Salafi come from Sunni Islam is a follower of an Islamic movement, Salafiyyah, that is supposed to take the Salaf who lived during the patristic period of early Islam as model examples...

 understanding of Sharia
Sharia
Sharia law, is the moral code and religious law of Islam. Sharia is derived from two primary sources of Islamic law: the precepts set forth in the Quran, and the example set by the Islamic prophet Muhammad in the Sunnah. Fiqh jurisprudence interprets and extends the application of sharia to...

 and does not override Islamic laws.

History


Following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and the First Gulf War, late King Fahd issued a royal decree that was officially published in official television channels and newspapers on the 31st of January 1992. The Decree stated the following:
Royal Decree No. A/90
27/8/1412 AH

By the Help of Allah
Allah
Allah is a word for God used in the context of Islam. In Arabic, the word means simply "God". It is used primarily by Muslims and Bahá'ís, and often, albeit not exclusively, used by Arabic-speaking Eastern Catholic Christians, Maltese Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox Christians, Mizrahi Jews and...

,
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.


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

The Saudi cultural and religious views stigmatize any reference to "Constitution" other than the Qur'an
Qur'an
The Quran , also transliterated Qur'an, Koran, Alcoran, Qur’ān, Coran, Kuran, and al-Qur’ān, is the central religious text of Islam, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God . It is regarded widely as the finest piece of literature in the Arabic language...

 itself and the practice of the Islamic prophet Muhammad
Muhammad
Muhammad |ligature]] at U+FDF4 ;Arabic pronunciation varies regionally; the first vowel ranges from ~~; the second and the last vowel: ~~~. There are dialects which have no stress. In Egypt, it is pronounced not in religious contexts...

. Article 1 of the Basic Law emphasize that "God's Book (Qur'an) and the Sunnah
Sunnah
The word literally means a clear, well trodden, busy and plain surfaced road. In the discussion of the sources of religion, Sunnah denotes the practice of Prophet Muhammad that he taught and practically instituted as a teacher of the sharī‘ah and the best exemplar...

 of His Prophet (Muhammad), are its (Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia , commonly known in British English as Saudi Arabia and in Arabic as as-Sa‘ūdiyyah , is the largest state in Western Asia by land area, constituting the bulk of the Arabian Peninsula, and the second-largest in the Arab World...

) constitution".
As the prince Talal bin Abdul Aziz puts it, who's referred to as the "red prince" and the "free prince" among other nicknames for his liberal views, there cannot be a "a constitution, a regulation, or a law that runs counter to the Islamic Shari'a" in Saudi Arabia

Chapter 1: General Principles


Article 1 states that "God's Book and the Sunnah 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 Shari'ah.

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
Private property
Private property is the right of persons and firms to obtain, own, control, employ, dispose of, and bequeath land, capital, and other forms of property. Private property is distinguishable from public property, which refers to assets owned by a state, community or government rather than by...

 of citizens.

Article 21 calls for an "alms tax
Zakat
Zakāt , one of the Five Pillars of Islam, is the giving of a fixed portion of one's wealth to charity, generally to the poor and needy.-History:Zakat, a practice initiated by Muhammed himself, has played an important role throughout Islamic history...

".

Chapter 5: Rights and Duties


Article 27 establishes a "system of social security" that has made Saudi Arabia a welfare state
Welfare state
A welfare state is a "concept of government in which the state plays a key role in the protection and promotion of the economic and social well-being of its citizens. It is based on the principles of equality of opportunity, equitable distribution of wealth, and public responsibility for those...

. It has become feasible without expropriation and high taxes due to the large supplies of oil and a population of fewer than 30 million people.

Chapter 6: The Authorities of the State


Islam as cornerstone of governance


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

According to Article 55, the king has to "rule according to the rulings of Islam and shall supervise the application of Shari'ah." Article 56 states that the king is the prime minister
Prime minister
A prime minister is the most senior minister of cabinet in the executive branch of government in a parliamentary system. In many systems, the prime minister selects and may dismiss other members of the cabinet, and allocates posts to members within the government. In most systems, the prime...

 as well. Article 57 makes it clear that the king's cabinet
Cabinet (government)
A Cabinet is a body of high ranking government officials, typically representing the executive branch. It can also sometimes be referred to as the Council of Ministers, an Executive Council, or an Executive Committee.- Overview :...

 and other lower-ranking officials must follow Islam. Those who deviate from this can be dismissed or punished.

Military


Articles 60-62: The king is the commander-in-chief
Commander-in-Chief
A commander-in-chief is the commander of a nation's military forces or significant element of those forces. In the latter case, the force element may be defined as those forces within a particular region or those forces which are associated by function. As a practical term it refers to the military...

 and is endowed with powers concerning war and the national security of the country

Chapter 7: Financial Affairs


Article 71 specifies that revenue
Revenue
In business, revenue is income that a company receives from its normal business activities, usually from the sale of goods and services to customers. In many countries, such as the United Kingdom, revenue is referred to as turnover....

 is entered and spent according to rules of statute
Statute
A statute is a formal written enactment of a legislative authority that governs a state, city, or county. Typically, statutes command or prohibit something, or declare policy. The word is often used to distinguish law made by legislative bodies from case law, decided by courts, and regulations...

s which will be published regularly in the Official Gazette per Article 70.

Chapter 8: Control Bodies



Chapter 9: General Provisions


Article 82 makes it clear that a temporary state of emergency
State of emergency
A state of emergency is a governmental declaration that may suspend some normal functions of the executive, legislative and judicial powers, alert citizens to change their normal behaviours, or order government agencies to implement emergency preparedness plans. It can also be used as a rationale...

 during turmoil cannot violate Article 7 (Quran and sunnah
Sunnah
The word literally means a clear, well trodden, busy and plain surfaced road. In the discussion of the sources of religion, Sunnah denotes the practice of Prophet Muhammad that he taught and practically instituted as a teacher of the sharī‘ah and the best exemplar...

).

Criticism


The Basic Law was drafted by an ad hoc
Ad hoc
Ad hoc is a Latin phrase meaning "for this". It generally signifies a solution designed for a specific problem or task, non-generalizable, and not intended to be able to be adapted to other purposes. Compare A priori....

 committee of the interior ministry, which Human Rights Watch accuses of egregious violations of human rights.

In the eighteenth century Muhammad bin Saud
Muhammad bin Saud
*Abdul Aziz*Faysal*Saud*Ali*AbdallahMuhammad ibn Saud , also known as Ibn Saud, was the emir of Al-Dir'iyyah and is considered the founder of the first Saudi dynasty, which is technically named for his father – Saud ibn Muhammad ibn Migrin...

 and Muhammad bin Abdul Wahhab integrated all the political and religious institutions into one governing body. The government of Saudi Arabia reserves numerous jobs for the clergy that range from preaching to judge
Judge
A judge is a person who presides over court proceedings, either alone or as part of a panel of judges. The powers, functions, method of appointment, discipline, and training of judges vary widely across different jurisdictions. The judge is supposed to conduct the trial impartially and in an open...

ships.

Islamic clergy (ulema) like mufti
Mufti
A mufti is a Sunni Islamic scholar who is an interpreter or expounder of Islamic law . In religious administrative terms, a mufti is roughly equivalent to a deacon to a Sunni population...

s and sheikhs who dominate the Saudi Arabian legal positions make use of the Basic Law in addition to the Quran, hadith
Hadith
The term Hadīth is used to denote a saying or an act or tacit approval or criticism ascribed either validly or invalidly to the Islamic prophet Muhammad....

, sunnah
Sunnah
The word literally means a clear, well trodden, busy and plain surfaced road. In the discussion of the sources of religion, Sunnah denotes the practice of Prophet Muhammad that he taught and practically instituted as a teacher of the sharī‘ah and the best exemplar...

, and Islamic jurisprudence which all falls within sharia
Sharia
Sharia law, is the moral code and religious law of Islam. Sharia is derived from two primary sources of Islamic law: the precepts set forth in the Quran, and the example set by the Islamic prophet Muhammad in the Sunnah. Fiqh jurisprudence interprets and extends the application of sharia to...

.

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

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.


Saudi writer and Journalist Wajeha Al-Huwaider
Wajeha al-Huwaider
Wajeha al-Huwaider is a female Saudi activist and writer. She is a co-founder of The Association for the Protection and Defense of Women's Rights in Saudi Arabia....

 writes that "Saudi women are weak, no matter how high their status, even the 'pampered' ones among them - because they have no law to protect them from attack by anyone. The oppression of women and the effacement of their selfhood is a flaw affecting most homes in Saudi Arabia."

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