Country Profile: Spain

This Country Profile provides a basic overview of the legal history and institutional structures of the Kingdom of Spain (Reino de Espana)based on research produced by GlobaLex at NYU Law School and the Library of Congress. Under Spain's Constitution, Islamic law (sharīʿa or fiqh) has no legal status.

Country Background

Spain is located in Western Europe, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean, Bay of Biscay, and Mediterranean Sea. It is bounded by France to the northeast and Portugal to the west. The capital of Spain is Madrid. The official languages are Castilian Spanish (nationwide), Catalan (official in Catalonia, the Balearic Islands, and the Valencian Community, where it is known as Valencian), Galician (official in Galicia), Basque (official in Basque Country and in the Basque-speaking area of Navarre), Aranese (official in the northwest corner of CataloniaVall d'Aranalong with Catalan). The country’s population in 2016 was approximately 48.5 million. Spain is a predominantly Christian country, with about 68% of the population Roman Catholic. Islam is a minority religion in Spain, and Muslims make up about 4% of the country's population. 

Constitution & Legal Structure

Spain is referred to as a parliamentary constitutional monarchy. It is a civil law system based on West European legal systems. There are three branches of government: executive, legislative, and judicial. The King is the Head of State and exercises only those functions expressly attributed to him by the Constitution and the laws (article 56.1 SC). Even though the Constitution defines Spain as unitary and indissoluble, it also recognizes and guarantees the principle of autonomy of nationalities and regions (article 2 SC)

The Constitution, adopted in 1978, contains the basic principles of the political system and is the supreme rule of the legal system. It has been amended twice, first in 1992 to establish passive suffrage in the local elections for nationals from other European Union countries who have their residence in Spain, and second in 2011 to introduce a limit to public deficit for the central and regional governments according mainly to the principles set forth at the European level.

Constitutional Status of Islamic Law

Islamic law has no constitutional status in Spain.

Jurisdiction(s) of Islamic Law

Islamic law has no official jurisdiction of operation in Spain.

Dominant School of Islamic Law

Spain has no official school of Islamic law. 

Sources of Law for Legal Research

Official Publications

 Unofficial Databases


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 and Arabic 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].