Country Profile: Oman

This Country Profile provides a basic overview of the legal history and institutional structures of the Sultanate of Oman (Saltanat Uman), based on research produced by GlobaLex at NYU Law School and the Library of Congress. Under Oman's Constitution, Islamic law (sharīʿa or fiqh) is a primary source of legislation. 

Country Background

Oman is a country located in the Middle East, bordering the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Sea. It is bounded by Yemen and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The capital of Oman is Muscat. The official language is Arabic. The country's population in 2017 was approximately 3.4 million, 40% of whom are immigrants. The official religion of Oman is Islam. Oman is a predominantly Muslim country, with about 86% of the population Muslim. Oman is a member state of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and Arab League.

Constitution & Legal Structure

Oman is referred to as an absolute monarchy, in which sovereignty lies with the state. The Omani Constitution was adopted in 1991, and was most recently amended in 2011. The system of government is a hereditary sultanate in which succession passes to a male descendant of Sayyid Turki bin Said bin Sultan. There are three branches: legislative, executive, and judicial. The legislative branch consists of the Council of the State (48 members, appointed by the Sultan) and the Advisory Council (82 members, voted in by citizens for three year terms). The executive branch is headed by the Sultan, who acts as both the Head of State and Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces. He appoints all members of the Council of Ministers, including the Prime Minster (who is the head of the Council of Ministers). The judicial branch has a Higher Council that oversees the court system. For criminal, civil, or commercial cases, the Court of First Instances is the first level, followed by the Court of Appeals of Muscat, and ultimately the Supreme Court. Matters of personal status are overseen in the sharīʿa courts. Typically, military courts deal only with military crimes. However, in the case of martial law, the military court extends to all court cases. All judicial appointments are made by the Sultan. The Sultan also has the right to dismiss officials from all branches at any point. The legal system of Oman is a mixed legal system influenced by Anglo-Saxon law and Islamic legal tradition.  

Constitutional Status of Islamic Law

Islamic law has constitutional status in Oman, and is a primary source of legislation. According to Article 2 of the Constitution, "The religion of the State is Islam and Islamic Sharia is the basis for legislation." Thus, in principle, Islamic law is the foundation of all legislation and law. However, in practice, sharīʿa is applied within the realm of personal status and family law, through the sharīʿa courts. In Oman, the testimony of a man and the testimony of a woman are considered equal before the law. 

Jurisdiction(s) of Islamic Law

In Oman, sharīʿa courts review cases related to personal status and family law. Commercial law is also based primarily on sharīʿa. Criminal law is based on a combination of sharīʿa and English common law. 

Dominant School of Islamic Law

Oman has no official school of Islamic law. However, uniquely among majority Muslim nations, most of Oman's Muslim population (around three-fourths according to unofficial estimates) is Ibāḍī.

Sources of Law for Legal Research

Official Publications

  • Legislative
    • An overview of the Council of Oman, the country's bicameral parliament, can be found here on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • Executive
  • Judicial
    • Information about Oman's judiciary can be found here on the Government Portal, including a detailed description of the courts and a list of judicial laws

Unofficial Databases

  • FAOLEX: Oman (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) database of national laws and regulations on food, agriculture, and renewable natural resources.
  • NATLEX: Oman (International Labour Organization) database of national laws on labor, social security, and related human rights.
  • RefWorld Legal Information: Oman (UNHCR)
  • WIPO Lex: Oman (World Intellectual Property Organization)


For an extended list of legal resources for this country, see the Library of Congress’s Research Guide, and for a narrative review, see the GlobaLex Foreign Law Research Guide (most updated version, where available). The Constitution is available in the LOC Guide in its original language and at Constitute in English translation. For full versions of past constitutions, amendments, and related legislation, see HeinOnline World Constitutions Illustrated or Oxford Constitutions of the World [subscription required for each].