Public Choice

, Volume 162, Issue 3–4, pp 351–380 | Cite as

The rule of law and constitutionalism in Muslim countries

  • Jerg Gutmann
  • Stefan Voigt


Recently, several Muslim countries have ratified new constitutions. In this paper, we ask two questions: first, whether Muslim influence has a discernible impact on the content of such constitutions and, second, whether it has an impact on constitutional reality. More precisely, we are interested in the consequences of Islam for institutions securing the rule of law, while taking competing socioeconomic, geographic, and historical explanations explicitly into account. To this end, we construct a new Islamic State Index to measure the influence that Islam has on a society and its political and legal system. We find that Muslim influence is in conflict with the independence of the judiciary and nondiscriminatory legal institutions with respect to gender. Yet, parliamentary power as well as the protection of property rights and religious minorities are not significantly more constrained in Islamic states after we control for alternative explanations. Competing explanations such as the size of oil rents fare rather poorly in explaining differences in important aspects of the rule of law.


Islam Shari’a Rule of law Constitutionalism Endogenous constitutions Muslim countries 

JEL classification

B41 C81/82 H11 K00 O17 O43 O57 



The authors thank three anonymous referees, Peter Leeson and Bill Shughart from this journal, Christian Bjørnskov, Sebastian Conrad, Matthias Dauner, Nora El-Bialy, Noha Farrag, Mohammad Farzanagan, Moamen Gouda, Mirjam Künkler, Timur Kuran, Tilman Seidensticker, the participants of the workshops on “Constitutional Issues in a Changing Arab World” (May 2012, Vienna), “Law and Institutional Economics of Revolutions” (November 2013, Hamburg), “Institutional Impediments to Transition in Arabic Spring Countries” (March 2014, Tunis) and “Religion and Human Rights in State Constitutions” at ZIF Bielefeld (July 2014), as well as participants of the 2014 meeting of the European Public Choice Society, for constructive critique and suggestions.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 34 kb)
11127_2015_237_MOESM2_ESM.dta (29 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DTA 30 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Law & EconomicsUniversity of HamburgHamburgGermany
  2. 2.Institute of Law & EconomicsUniversity of Hamburg and CESifoHamburgGermany

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