Country Profile: Syria

This Country Profile provides a basic overview of the legal history and institutional structures of the Syrian Arab Republic (Al Jumhuriyah al Arabiyah as Suriyah), based on research produced by GlobaLex at NYU Law School and the Library of Congress. Under Syria's Constitution, Islamic law (sharīʿa or fiqh) has legal status. 

Country Background

Syria is a country located in the Middle East, bordering the Mediterranean Sea. It is bounded by Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq, Israel, the Palestinian Territories, and Jordan. The capital of Syria is Damascus. The official language is Arabic. The country's population in 2017 was approximately 18 million. Syria is a predominantly Muslim country, with about 87% of the country's population Muslim, 10% Christian, and 3% Druze. Syria was suspended from the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and Arab League in 2011.

Constitution & Legal Structure

Syria is referred to as a presidential republic, but it is a highly authoritative regime. Sovereignty belongs to the people and the Constitution is the supreme law of the land. The current Constitution of Syria was adopted in 2012. The system of government is based on principles of separation and checks and balances and has three branches: legislative, executive, and judicial. However, at present, Syria is in a state of intense conflict, and the influence/effectiveness of the government varies by region. The legal system of Syria is a mixed legal system of civil and Islamic law (for family courts). 

Constitutional Status of Islamic Law

Islamic law has constitutional status in Syria. Article 3 of the Constitution states that "Islamic jurisprudence shall be a major source of legislation." Among other things, the president of the country must be a Muslim.

Jurisdiction(s) of Islamic Law

Islamic law has official jurisdiction of operation in Syria. Its jurisdiction is limited primarily to family courts and matters of personal status. It is applicable only to the Muslim population of the country. 

Dominant School of Islamic Law

Syria has no official school of Islamic law. The majority of the Muslim population in the country is Sunnī (adhering to the Ḥanafī school), and there is a sizable Shīʿī population as well (with Alawites being the predominant group).

Sources of Law for Legal Research

Official Publications

Unofficial Databases

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