This Country Profile provides a basic overview of the legal history and institutional structures of the The People's Republic of Bangladesh (Gana Prajatantri Bangladesh), based on research produced by GlobaLex at NYU Law School and the Library of Congress. Under Bangladesh's Constitution, Islamic law (sharīʿa or fiqh) has no legal status.
Bangladesh is located in South Asia, bordering the Bay of Bengal. It is bounded by Bhutan, India, Myanmar (Burma), Nepal, and China. The capital of Bangladesh is Dhaka. The official language is Bangla (also referred to as Bengali). The country's population in 2016 was approximately 157.8 million people. Bangladesh is a predominantly Muslim country, with about 89% of the population Muslim and 10% Christian. During the 1947 Partition of India, Bangladesh was partitioned off as East Pakistan, while modern-day Pakistan was referred to as West Pakistan. However, after years of repression and genocide from West Pakistan, Bangladesh gained its independence and separated from modern-day Pakistan following the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971. Bangladesh is a member state of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.
Constitution & Legal Structure
Bangladesh is referred to as a parliamentary republic. The system of government is based on principles of separation and checks and balances and has three branches—legislative, executive, and judicial—and is largely based on a Westernized system of governance. The Constitution of Bangladesh was adopted in 1972 and has undergone 15 amendments to date. In 1972, an amendment was adopted that set Islam as the state religion of Bangladesh. The legal system of Bangladesh is a mixed legal system of mostly English common law and Islamic law.
Constitutional Status of Islamic Law
In 1972, Article 2A of the Constitution was amended to specify that Islam was the state religion of Bangladesh, while also providing that the government "shall ensure equal status and equal right in the practice of the Hindu, Buddhist, Christian and other religions."
Jurisdiction(s) of Islamic Law
Islamic law has no official jurisdiction of operation in Bangladesh. However, Islamic law applies in personal status issues (such as marriage, divorce, inheritance, and child custody). This is only true for Muslims living in Bangladesh, as such laws do not apply for Hindus, Christians, Buddhists, etc., living in Bangladesh.
Dominant School of Islamic Law
Bangladesh has no official school of Islamic law, though the majority of the Muslim population in the country is Sunnī (adhering to the Ḥanafī school). Sufism has a significant influence on Islam in Bangladesh, and in fact, along with India, Bangladesh is considered one of the five great centers of Sufism in the world.
Sources of Law for Legal Research
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].