Saudi law was greatly influenced and impacted by the discovery of oil in Saudi and its subsequent generation of vast wealth. It led to rapid urbanization, reforms, and modernization of Saudi Arabia. This greatly affected the traditional culture and values of the Kingdom.
The law of Saudi is based primarily in Shari’ah, acting as the umbrella law to all promulgated and enacted laws in Saudi Arabia. However, Shari’ah is not codified and there is no system of judicial precedent. This means that interpretation of the law lies solely on the judge deciding on a legal question or case.
Promulgation and Legislation
The promulgation of law and regulations come in the form of Royal Orders, Royal Decrees, and regulations. The king of Saudi Arabia, without any intervention of any third parties, directly issues royal orders. That power and authority comes with a monarchial form of government. Royal decrees, on the other hand, are those deliberated upon by the Saudi Council of Ministers and later signed by the King for approval.
Saudi Arabia has a sensitive and conservative culture and religion. Moreover, it is kept preserved with the observance of the laws that are inspired by religion and tradition. Prior to the legal reforms that were introduced to the Kingdom, only family law, inheritance law and criminal law are covered by the provisions of the religious law, and “Sunna”, which are traditions or habitual practices.
Because of the limited scope of Shari’ah and its restrictive application to modern topics, royal decrees and orders were issued to supplement it in areas such as investment, corporate, commercial, and labor. The law and regulations that are issued and promulgated must never contravene with the provisions and teachings of Shari’ah. Furthermore, traditional ethnic law and custom remain significant in the interpretation and application of these laws.
Reforms in Saudi law
With the world constantly changing, some law and regulations do not address the topics facing Saudi Arabia effectively anymore. This is restrictive in terms of economic and trade development of the Kingdom.
The king has positively responded and it has promulgated new laws that are designed to prepare Saudi Arabia for the modern world. The king introduced a number of economic reforms aimed at reducing the country’s dependence on oil revenue and it introduced several business incentives to attract foreign investors. The laws that were introduced were the new Foreign Investment law, Companies Law, Arbitration Law, and most recently is the Mortgage Law, which was promulgated on July 2012, and other significant laws.
One of the most noteworthy Saudi legal reforms was the introduction and promulgation of the Saudi Basic Law of Government in 1992. It technically outlined and created the structure of the system of government of Saudi Arabia. In 2007, King Abdullah issued several royal decrees that are geared toward the reformation of the judiciary and creating a new judicial system.
With the positive reforms of Saudi law, Saudi Arabia effectively braced itself to the different aspects of modernity. Just like with its Arab and Western counterparts, it has evolved to a pragmatic and efficient country with effective laws.