Islam in the United Arab Emirates

Islam is the official religion of the United Arab Emirates. More than 80% of the population of the United Arab Emirates are non-citizens. Virtually all Emirati citizens are Muslims; approximately 85% are Sunni and 15% are Shi'a. There are smaller number of Ismaili Shias and Ahmadi.[1] Foreigners are predominantly from South and Southeast Asia, although there are substantial numbers from the Middle East, Europe, Central Asia, the former Commonwealth of Independent States, and North America. The Al Nahayan and Al Maktoum ruling families adhere to the Maliki school of Islamic jurisprudence from the Uyunid dynasty, whom spread of the Maliki school came by the command of Sheikh Abdullah bin Ali Al Uyuni.[2]

There are more Sunni than Shiite Muslims among the residents. There are also smaller number of Ismaili Shias and Ahmadi.[3] The UAE's judicial system is derived from the civil law system and Sharia law. The court system consists of civil courts and Sharia courts. According to Human Rights Watch, UAE's criminal and civil courts apply elements of Sharia law, codified into its criminal code and family law.

Sharia courts in the UAE have a significant amount of authority. Flogging is a punishment for criminal offences such as adultery, premarital sex and alcohol consumption.[4][5][6] Due to Sharia courts, flogging is legal with sentences ranging from 80 to 200 lashes.[7][8] Between 2007 and 2013, many people in the UAE were sentenced to 100 lashes.[9][10][11][12][13][14][15][16] In Abu Dhabi, people have been sentenced to 80 lashes for kissing in public.[17] Several Muslims in Abu Dhabi and Ajman were sentenced to 80 lashes for alcohol consumption.[18][19] An Estonian soldier in 2006 was sentenced to 40 lashes for being drunk.[20] Several people have been sentenced to 60 lashes for illicit sex.[21][22][23] Sharia courts have penalized domestic workers with floggings.[24] Under UAE law, premarital sex is punishable by 100 lashes.[25]

Shia Mosque in Dubai.

Stoning is a legal punishment in the UAE. In 2006, an expatriate was sentenced to death by stoning for committing adultery.[26] Between 2009 and 2013, several people were sentenced to death by stoning.[12][27][28] In May 2014, an Asian housemaid was sentenced to death by stoning in Abu Dhabi.[29][30][31]

Sharia law dictates the personal status law, which regulate matters such as marriage, divorce and child custody. The Sharia-based personal status law is applied to Muslims and sometimes non-Muslims.[32] Non-Muslim expatriates can be liable to Sharia rulings on marriage, divorce and child custody.[32] Sharia courts have exclusive jurisdiction over family law cases and also have jurisdiction over some criminal cases including adultery, premarital sex, robbery and related crimes.

Apostasy is a crime punishable by death in the UAE.[33][34] UAE incorporates hudud crimes of Sharia into its Penal Code – apostasy being one of them.[35] Article 1 and Article 66 of UAE's Penal Code requires hudud crimes to be punished with the death penalty,[35][36] therefore apostasy is punishable by death in the UAE.

Kissing in public is illegal and can result in deportation.[37] Expats in Dubai have been deported for kissing in public.[38][39][40] In Abu Dhabi, people have been sentenced to 80 lashes for kissing in public.[41]

Homosexuality is illegal: homosexuality is a capital offense in the UAE.[42][43] In 2013, an Emirati man was on trial for being accused of a "gay handshake".[43] Article 80 of the Abu Dhabi Penal Code makes sodomy punishable with imprisonment of up to 14 years, while article 177 of the Penal Code of Dubai imposes imprisonment of up to 10 years on consensual sodomy.[44]

Amputation is a legal punishment in the UAE due to the Sharia courts.[45][46][47][48][49] Crucifixion is a legal punishment in the UAE.[50][51][52] Article 1 of the Federal Penal Code states that "provisions of the Islamic Law shall apply to the crimes of doctrinal punishment, punitive punishment and blood money."[53] The Federal Penal Code repealed only those provisions within the penal codes of individual emirates which are contradictory to the Federal Penal Code. Hence, both are enforceable simultaneously.[54]

During the month of Ramadan, it is illegal to publicly eat, drink, or smoke between sunrise and sunset.[55] Exceptions are made for pregnant women and children. The law applies to both Muslims and non-Muslims,[55] and failure to comply may result in arrest.[56] Dancing in public is illegal in the UAE.[57][58][59]