Jordan, Hashemite Kingdom of

*Please note this is just a draft and all contents are still under revision.*

Legal Table
Legal Text

Legal System/ History

Sources of law are legislation, constitutional law, Islamic law and custom.

Jordan was a part of the Ottoman Empire until WWI, then under indirect British rule, and attained full independence in 1947. The Ottoman legacy was influential even after the dissolution of the Empire. Jordanian legislation and the legal system are also influenced by European legal systems as well as by Egyptian and Syrian developments and reforms, particularly in personal status matters.

School(s) of Fiqh


(Sunni Muslim 96%, Christian 4% [1997 est.])

Constitutional Status of Islam(ic Law)

The 1952 Constitution declares Islam to be the religion of the State, and also provides for the establishment of separate civil and shari'a courts.

Court System

Religious Courts are divided into Shari'a Courts and tribunals of other religious communities. Shari'a Courts have jurisdiction over personal status matters relating to Muslims, as well as cases involving blood money where parties are Muslim or where one party is Muslim and the other agrees to the jurisdiction of the Shari'a Court. Appeals lie with the Shari'a Court of Appeal in Amman.

Relevant Legislation

Courts Establishment Law 1951

Law on Shari'a Lawyers 1952

Law on Structure of Shari'a Courts 1972

Law of Personal Status 1976

Civil Code 1976

Notable Features

Marriage Age: 16 for males and 15 for females, lunar calandar; court permission required for females under 18 to marry men older by 20 years or more.

Guardianship: guardian's consent is required for marriage of a female under 18 years, but not for a divorcee or widow over 18 years

Registration: penal sanctions for those in violation of the mandatory registration requirements for marriage and divorce

Polygamy: no constraints aside from classical injunctions that a man must treat all co-wives equitably and provide them with separate dwellings; man must declare his social status in marriage contract.

Obedience/Maintenance: institution of 'house of obedience' is maintained in legislation, but without any forcible execution.

Talaq: talaq uttered while asleep, drunk, in a faint, overwhelmed (madhush), or under coercion have no effect; oaths on talaq and conditional talaq intended to coerce someone into committing or refraining from a particular act are invalid; talaq accompanied by a number in word or gesture, or repeated in a single session, gives rise to a single revocable repudiation.

Judicial Divorce: grounds on which women may seek divorce include: failure to maintain, physical desertion or husband's absence for one year or more, husband's prison sentence of three years or more; both spouses may petition on grounds of 'discord and strife', breach of a binding stipulation of the marriage contract, and various grounds associated with spouse's mental and physical health.

Post-Divorce maintenance/financial arrangements: compensation for arbitrary talaq of a maximum of one year's maintenance; classical rules requiring former husband to pay the divorcee for breastfeeding and undertaking custody of their children are maintained

Child Custody: divorcee is entitled to custody of her children until they reach puberty, subject to classical conditions; other custodians till 9 and 11 males and females.

Succession: changes to classical Hanafi law allow for spouse relict to be included in the radd of the estate; 'obligatory bequests' in favour of orphaned grandchildren is restricted to children of predeceased sons and not daughters

Notable Cases

1989 apostasy case unsuccessfully brought by private petitioners against the journalist and parliamentary candidate Toujan al-Faisal in first instance Shari'a Court, inter alia seeking that she be divorced from her husband as an apostate.

Case Reporting System

Official Gazette.

Practitioners' collections of principles of Shari'a Court of Appeal.

International Conventions (with Relevant Reservations) & Reports to Treaty Governing Bodies

ICCPR- signature 1972, ratification 1975

ICESCR- signature 1972, ratification 1975

CEDAW- signed 1980, ratified 1992 with reservations to Art. 9(2) Art. 15(4) Art. 16,(1)(c), (d) & (g)

CRC- signature 1990, ratification 1991 with reservation re: Arts. 14, 20 and 21

Convention to Consent to Marriage, Minimum Age for Marriage and Registration of Marriage – accession July 1992.

Legal History:

Jordan remained a part of the Ottoman Empire (see further: Turkey) until World War I and was then placed under an indirect form of British Mandate rule. The Ottoman legal system was retained; in 1927 many Ottoman laws (including the Ottoman Law of Family Rights 1917) were re-enacted with some alterations. The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan was established as a fully independent state in 1947, with Islam as the state religion. The first Constitution was adopted the following year, and the state embarked on the process of developing a national legal system to replace the vestiges of Ottoman rule.

In 1947, a provisional Law of Family Rights was enacted and remained in force until it was replaced in 1951 by the new Law of Family Rights, Largely following the form of the OLFR, while some of the Egyptian reforms- notably regarding divorce- of the 1920s, the JLFR 1951 was the first in a series of codifications of Islamic family law issued in the 1950s by the national legislatures of newly independent Arab states. A new Constitution was adopted in 1952, retaining the religious and communal basis of jurisdiction in personal status matters. By this time, the Palestinian territory of the West Bank had come under Jordanian rule, including East Jerusalem, and until 1994, even during the Israeli occupation from 1967, the shari`a courts of the West Bank were under the authority of the Jordanian Qadi al-Quda and applied Jordanian law (see further: Palestinian territories).

A Civil Code and Civil Procedure Code were enacted in 1952 and 1953, the former replacing the Ottoman Majalla of 1876. The 1952 Civil Code was replaced in 1976, the new Code drawing from Syrian legislation (which in turn was modelled on the Egyptian Civil Code of 1948). The same year, the Jordanian Law of Personal Status replaced the 1951 JLFR. The JLPS revises the JLFR in a number of significant ways, providing for a more comprehensive code, while retaining reference to the classical Hanafi rules in the absence of a specific reference in the text. Discussions continue on the draft text of a new personal status law.

Court System: The Jordanian legal system draws from the Ottoman heritage in the communal jurisdiction of the religious courts of different communities over matters of personal status. In its civil court system it follows the French model. The shari`a courts are established in the Constitution along with the religious tribunals of other recognised communities and include first instance courts with a single qadi and the Shari`a Court of Appeal. The other two categories of courts established in the Constitution are the civil or regular courts (nizamiyya) and 'special tribunals'. The Constitution grants the shari`a courts exclusive jurisdiction in matters of Muslim personal status. Precise jurisdiction of and procedure in the shari`a courts is defined in the Law of Shar`i Procedure 1959; the rules governing qualification and functions of shar`i qadis and lawyers are to be found in the Law of Organisation of Shari`a Courts 1972 and the Law of Shar`i Advocates 1952 respectively, both of which have been amended a number of times.

Schools of Fiqh: The Hanafi madhhab is the dominant school in Jordanian law.

Constitutional Status of Islam(ic law):  The 1952 Constitution declares Islam to be the state religion. It does not specify the sources of legislation as a whole, although in regard to the shari`a courts it states that "the shari`a courts in the exercise of their jurisdiction shall apply the rulings of the shari`a law."

Notable Features:  The minimum marriage age is 16 for men and 15 for women (all ages in the personal status law are calculated by the lunar calendar) and the Penal Code provides penalties for all those involved in carrying out underage marriages. An underage marriage can nevertheless be recognised as valid if the wife has fallen pregnant or given birth by the time of a suit to dissolve their marriage coming to court, or if both spouses have by that time reached the minimum age. In the event of a contract between a woman aged under 18 and a man 20 years or more her senior, the qadi is required to ascertain that the bride has freely given her consent to the marriage and that it is in her interest. The consent of the guardian is required for a female aged under 18 to marry, but not for a divorcée or widow aged over 18; the law thus implicitly requires the consent of the guardian to the first marriage of a woman of any age, although the qadi can over-ride the wali's refusal if it has no justification in law. Criminal sanctions are provided for those violating the mandatory registration requirements for marriage and divorce.

There are no constraints on polygamy beyond the classical injunctions that a man must treat co-wives equitably and provide them with separate dwellings.  The registration fee for a polygamous contract of marriage is higher than that for a monogamous union.  The marriage contract requires a man to disclose his social status to the woman he is marrying, but there is no requirement that an existing wife be notified of a subsequent polygamous marriage by her husband.

The institution of the "house of obedience" is maintained but without forcible execution of an "obedience" ruling made against the wife beyond disqualifying her from maintenance rights against her husband.

As elsewhere in the region, talaq uttered by a man who is drunk, asleep, in a faint, coerced, or 'overwhelmed' (madhush) has no effect, while oaths on talaq and conditional talaq do not give rise to talaq if the intention was to get someone to do or not do something. A "triple talaq" as in talaq accompanied by a number in word or sign or- significantly- repeated in a single session has the effect of a single revocable talaq only.  To give rise to the greater finality of irrevocable talaq, three talaqs must be pronounced not only separately but in three separate sessions. 

Grounds for which the wife may petition for divorce are similar to those introduced elsewhere in the region from the time of the OLFR.  They include failure to maintain, physical desertion or the absence of the husband for a year or more, a prison sentence of three years or more, "discord and strife", breach of a binding stipulation in the marriage contract, and various grounds associated with the mental and physical health of the husband (the latter also being entitled to petition for divorce on similar health grounds). The law allows either party to insert stipulations into the contract and to sue for dissolution if they are broken. Either spouse may also petition for divorce on the grounds of discord and strife.

The law provides for compensation for arbitrary talaq up to a maximum of the equivalent of a year's maintenance for the wife divorced 'without legitimate cause' and retains the classical rules requiring the ex-husband to pay for his divorced wife breastfeeding and undertaking custody of their children. A divorced mother is entitled to custody of her children until they reach puberty, subject to the classical conditions. During marriage, the wife has no financial obligations for her own upkeep and her medical expenses are included in the maintenance she is due from her husband. In the area of succession, changes to classical Hanafi law have been made in allowing the spouse relict to share in the radd or proportional return of the remainder of the estate to those holding fixed shares, should circumstances so permit; and in providing for the 'obligatory bequest' (al-wasiya al-wajiba) to orphaned grandchildren, although restricting this to the grandchildren through predeceased sons, not daughters.

Notable Cases: In 1989, an apostasy case against Toujan al-Faisal, journalist and parliamentary candidate, was heard in the first instance shari`a Court of south Amman. Jordan has no apostasy law but the petitioners sought that she should be declared an apostate, and divorced from her husband. Al-Faisal was standing in the elections at the time; the court eventually ruled no jurisdiction and on appeal in 1990 the shari`a court of appeal, which had agreed to hear the section of the petition relating to divorce on the grounds of alleged apostasy, found that there was no evidence of apostasy and dismissed the case.

Law Reporting: The Official Gazette. Practitioners' collections of principles of shari`a appeal court decisions.

International Conventions and Reports to Treaty Governing Bodies: Jordan is a party to both International Covenants. It signed the CEDAW in 1980 and ratified it in 1992 with the following reservations: Art. 9(2) regarding equal nationality rights for men and women, particularly in marriage; Art. 15(4) on equal rights regarding freedom of movement and choice of domicile (because "a wife's residence is with her husband"); and Art. 16(1) on equal rights in marriage and family relations. Jordan signed the CRC in 1990 and ratified it in 1991, with reservations to Articles 14, 20 and 22 concerning adoption and children's rights to freedom of choice of religion.  Accession to Convention to Consent to Marriage, Minimum Age for Marriage and Registration of Marriage in July 1992.


Background and Sources: Redden, "Jordan" in The Modern Legal Systems Cyclopedia, volume 5, Buffalo NY 1990; Amin, "Jordan" in Middle East Legal Systems, Glasgow 1985; Mahmood, "Jordan" in Statutes of Personal Law in Islamic Countries, New Delhi 1995; Hinchcliffe and Alami, "Jordan" pages 79-114 in Islamic Marriage and Divorce Laws of the Arab World, London 1996; Welchman, "The Development of Islamic Family Law in the Legal System of Jordan," ICLQ 37 1988 868- 886; Gallagher, "Women's Human Rights on Trial in Jordan: The Triumph of Toujan al-Faisal," pages 209-231 and appended translation of article by Toujan al-Faisal, "They Insult Us... and We Elect Them!" pages 232-237, in Afkhami, Faith and Freedom, London 1995.