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Features of Constitution1

Is there a constitution? Yes
Does the constitution provide for freedom of religion? Yes


Constitution Year 2002
Last Amended not amended
Source International Constitutional Law (ICL)
Translation Source is an English translation
Current as of May 11, 2011

Constitution Excerpts (clauses that reference religion)2

[Preamble] Foreword to the Constitution

In the name of God on high, and with His blessing, and with His help, we Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, Sovereign of the Kingdom of Bahrain, in line with our determination, certainty, faith, and awareness of our national, pan-Arab and international responsibilities; and in acknowledgment of our obligations to God, our obligations to the homeland and the citizens, and our commitment to fundamental principles and our responsibility to Mankind,
And in implementation of the popular will expressed in the principles enshrined in the National Action Charter; pursuant to the authority entrusted to us by our great people to amend the Constitution; out of our desire to complete the requirements of the democratic system of government for our beloved nation; striving for a better future in which the homeland and the citizen will enjoy greater welfare, progress, development, stability and prosperity through earnest and constructive cooperation between government and citizens which will remove the obstacles to progress; and out of a conviction that the future and working for the future is what all of us seek in the coming stage; and in view of our belief that such an objective requires the exertion of efforts; and in order to complete the march, we have amended the existing Constitution.
This amendment has taken account of all the lofty values and the great human principles enshrined in the National Action Charter. These values and principles confirm that the people of Bahrain surge ahead in their triumphant march towards a bright future, God willing, a future in which the efforts of all parties and individuals unite, and the authorities in their new garb devote themselves to achieve the hopes and aspirations under his tolerant rule, declaring their adherence to Islam as a faith, a code of laws and a way of life, with their affiliation to the great Arab nation, and their association with the Gulf Cooperation Council now and in the future, and their striving for everything that will achieve justice, good and peace for the whole of Mankind.
The amendments to the Constitution proceed from the premise that the noble people of Bahrain believe that Islam brings salvation in this world and the next, and that Islam means neither inertness nor fanaticism but explicitly states that wisdom is the goal of the believer wherever he finds it he should take it, and that the Qur'an has been remiss in nothing.
In order to achieve this goal, it is essential that we listen and look to the whole of the human heritage in both East and West, adopting that which we consider to be beneficial and suitable and consistent with our religion, values and traditions and is appropriate to our circumstances, in the conviction that social and human systems are not inflexible tools and instruments which can be moved unchanged from place to place, but are messages conveyed to the mind, spirit and conscience of Man and are influenced by his reactions and the circumstances of his society.
Thus these constitutional amendments are representative of the advanced cultural thought of our beloved nation. They base our political system on a constitutional monarchy founded on counsel [shura], which in Islam is the highest model for governance, and on the people's participation in the exercise of power, which is the foundation of modern political thought. The Ruler, with his perspicacity, chooses certain experienced people to constitute the Consultative Council (Majlis al-Shura), and the aware, free and loyal people choose through elections those who make up the Chamber of Deputies (Majlis al-Nuwwab), and thus the two chambers together achieve the popular will represented by the National Assembly (Al-Majlis al-Watani).
These constitutional amendments undoubtedly reflect the joint will of the King and the people, and achieve for everyone the lofty ideals and the great humanitarian principles contained in the National Action Charter, and ensure that the people will advance to the high position for which their ability and preparedness qualify them, and which accords with the greatness of their history, and allows them to occupy their appropriate place among the civilized nations of the world.
This constitution that we have promulgated contains the amendments that have been carried out in accordance with the provisions of the National Action Charter and that complement all the unamended texts.
We have attached an explanation memorandum which will be used to explain its judgment.

Article 1 [Sovereignty, Constitutional Monarchy]

a. The Kingdom of Bahrain is a fully sovereign, independent Islamic Arab State whose population is part of the Arab nation and whose territory is part of the great Arab homeland. Its sovereignty may not be assigned or any of its territory abandoned.

Article 2 [State Religion, Shari'a, Official Language]

The religion of the State is Islam. The Islamic Shari'a is a principal source for legislation. The official language is Arabic.

Article 5 [Family]

a. The family is the basis of society, deriving its strength from religion, morality and love of the homeland. The law preserves its lawful entity, strengthens its bonds and values, under its aegis extends protection to mothers and children, tends the young and protects them from exploitation and safeguards them against moral, bodily and spiritual neglect. The State cares in particular for the physical, moral and intellectual development of the young.
b. The State guarantees reconciling the duties of women towards the family with their work in society, and their equality with men in political, social, cultural, and economic spheres without breaching the provisions of Islamic canon law (Shari'a).
c. The State guarantees the requisite social security for its citizens in old age, sickness, disability, orphanhood, widowhood or unemployment, and also provides them with social insurance and healthcare services. It strives to safeguard them against ignorance, fear and poverty.
d. Inheritance is a guaranteed right governed by the Islamic Shari'a.

Article 6 [Arab and Islamic Heritage]

The State safeguards the Arab and Islamic heritage. It contributes to the advancement of human civilization and strives to strengthen the bonds between the Islamic countries, and to achieve the aspirations of the Arab nation for unity and progress.

Article 7 [Education]

a. The State sponsors the sciences, humanities and the arts, and encourages scientific research. The State also guarantees educational and cultural services to its citizens. Education is compulsory and free in the early stages as specified and provided by law. The necessary plan to combat illiteracy is laid down by law.
b. The law regulates care for religious and national instruction in the various stages and forms of education, and at all stages is concerned to develop the citizen's personality and his pride in his Arabism.
c. Individuals and bodies may establish private schools and universities under the supervision of the State and in accordance with the law.
d. The State guarantees the inviolability of the places of learning.

Article 9 [Property]

a. Ownership, capital and work -- in accordance with the principles of Islamic justice -- are basic constituents of the social entity of the State and the national wealth, and are all individual rights with a social function regulated by law.

Article 18 [Human Dignity, Equality]

People are equal in human dignity, and citizens are equal before the law in public rights and duties. There shall be no discrimination among them on the basis of sex, origin, language, religion or creed.

Article 22 [Conscience, Religion]

Freedom of conscience is absolute. The State guarantees the inviolability of worship, and the freedom to perform religious rites and hold religious parades and meetings in accordance with the customs observed in the country.

Article 23 [Expression]

Freedom of opinion and scientific research is guaranteed. Everyone has the right to express his opinion and publish it by word of mouth, in writing or otherwise under the rules and conditions laid down by law, provided that the fundamental beliefs of Islamic doctrine are not infringed, the unity of the people is not prejudiced, and discord or sectarianism is not aroused.

Article 27 [Associations, Trade Unions]

The freedom to form associations and unions on national principles, for lawful objectives and by peaceful means is guaranteed under the rules and conditions laid down by law, provided that the fundamentals of the religion and public order are not infringed. No one can be forced to join any association or union or to continue as a member.

Article 33 [Head of State, Powers]

a. The King is Head of State, and its nominal representative, and his person is inviolate. He is the loyal protector of the religion and the homeland, and the symbol of national unity.
1. On ascending the throne, the King takes the following oath at a special meeting of the National Assembly:
"I swear by Almighty God that I shall respect the Constitution and the laws of the State, that I shall defend the freedoms, interests and assets of the people, and that I shall safeguard the independence of the nation and the integrity of its territories."

Article 78 [Oath of Office]

Every member of the Consultative Council or the Chamber of Deputies shall take the following oath in public session, prior to pursuing their work in the Chamber or its committees:
"I swear by Almighty God that I shall be loyal to the country and the King, shall respect the Constitution and the laws of the State, shall defend the freedoms, interests and assets of the people, and shall perform my work honestly and sincerely."

Article 89 [Representation, Immunity]

(1) a. A member of either the Consultative Council or the Chamber of Deputies represents the people and cares for public interest. He shall not come under the sway of any authority in his work in the either chamber or its committees.
b. No member of the Consultative Council or the Chamber of Deputies shall be called to account for expressing his opinions or ideas in the Council or its committees unless the opinion expressed is prejudicial to the fundamentals of the religion or the unity of the nation, or the mandatory respect for the King, or is defamatory of the personal life of any person.


1.  Data under the "Features of Constitution" heading are drawn from coding of the U.S. State Department's 2008 International Religious Freedom Reports conducted by researchers at the Association of Religion Data Archives. The article by Brian Grim and Roger Finke describes the coding of the International Religious Freedom reports. A dataset with these and the other international measures highlighted on the country pages can be downloaded from this website. Used with permission.

2.  The constitutional excerpts shown above are reproduced from the websites given in the "Source" field; the links to these websites were active as of May 2011. Where the constitutional text shown on these websites was provided in a language other than English, this text was translated to English by ARDA staff with assistance from web-based translation utilities such as Google Translate and Yahoo! Babel Fish. Constitutional text was converted to American English where applicable. Constitutional clauses were judged to contain religious content based largely on the standards used in the construction of the Religion and State Constitutions Dataset collected by Jonathan Fox. Emphases were added to the text by ARDA staff to highlight religious content in articles that also contain content that does not pertain to matters of religion. The data on this page were correct to the best of the knowledge of the ARDA as of the date listed in the "Current as of" field shown above. Please contact us at if you are aware of any incorrect information provided on this page.

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