Countries With A Theocratic Government Today

These recognized sovereign states are ruled by people and/or laws considered to have divine authority.


7. Afghanistan

Afghanistan is one of the world's most notable theocracy examples. Here, Islam is the official religion of the country, with the major foundations of the political institution of Afghanistan being based on Islamic sharia law. The ultimate aim of the country’s fundamentalist regime is to unify the Afghani people under a common religious law. Political power lies almost exclusively in the hands of the religious leaders of the fundamentalist regime.

6. Iran

The Islamic Republic of Iran is a theocracy government. This means that the constitution denotes that the ruler of the state is best qualified to interpret Islam and ensure that the people of the state strictly adhere to its principles. Prior to the formation of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the country was ruled by the Shah (monarch), Muhammad Reza Pahlavi, who was well-known for his secular attitudes. In 1979, following a revolution, the Shah was overthrown from his position by the Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. As the leader of the revolution, Khomeini then became the leader of Iran’s new Islamic State. He implemented a political system in the country based on traditional Islamic beliefs. Today, that role is held by Ali Khamenei.

5. Mauritania

Mauritania, a small country in the Maghreb region of western North Africa, is an Islamic republic with a theocratic government. The legal system of the country is based on sharia law, and most of its national symbols, including the national flag, incorporate symbols of Islam. Although in its initial days Mauritania had a Western-styled government structure and a relatively liberal disposition, situations changed in the 1980s. At that time, Colonel Mohammed Khouna Ould Heydallah, the military head of the country, enhanced the country’s orientation towards sharia law, with the introduction of strict Islamic jurisprudence.

4. Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia, an Islamic theocratic monarchy, has one of the most tightly controlled governments in the world. The country is also home to two of Islam’s most holy sites, the cities of Mecca and Medina. Since 1932, the land has been ruled exclusively by the House of Saud. The Holy Quran and the Sunni School of Islam serve as the country’s constitution. Although law does not directly forbid other religions to be practiced in the country, the practice of religions other than Islam is abhorred by the Saudis' Islamic-dominant society. Anyone in the country caught in an attempt to insult Islam or promoting any other faith there is subjected to strict punishment, which may go as far as death.

3. Sudan

In Sudan, the theocratic rule of the Sudanese Government, and the establishment of a legal system based on Islamic laws, are primarily used as tools by the country’s leaders to manipulate and conform the Muslim population of the country, which forms about 97% of the total population. Even though the constitution of the country mentions the sharia-derived laws, it also leaves space for a more liberal attitude towards people of other beliefs than Islam. This allows the Government punish anyone when deemed necessary as per the dictates of the sharia law, while at the same time protecting itself from allegations of religious intolerance.

2. Vatican City

Though all the other discussed countries are ruled in some form by a theocratic Islamic Government, the Vatican City is the only country in the world with an absolute theocratic elective monarchy that is guided by the principles of a Christian religious school of thought. The Pope is the supreme power in the country, and leads the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of the Vatican government. This is also perhaps the only monarchy in the world that is non-hereditary in nature.

1. Yemen

Yemen, like most of the other mentioned countries, is also based on theocratic governance with Islamic sharia law dictating the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of the government. Recently, Yemen has also been going through a period of intense political turmoil, wherein conflicts between several different political groups have led to a civil war type of situation in the country. The main forces in the fight involve the Zaidi Shia rebels (or Houthis) against the loyalists of the displaced President of Yemen, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi.

Which Countries Have a Theocratic Government?

Some of the countries with a theocratic government include Yemen, Vatican City, Sudan, and Mauritania.


Your MLA Citation

Your APA Citation

Your Chicago Citation

Your Harvard Citation

Remember to italicize the title of this article in your Harvard citation.


More in Politics