According to Wikipedia, backed by a couple of sources, Iran and Saudi Arabia share the same age of majority: 8 for girls, 14 for boys.

Now, according to the sources, this is due to Sharia law.

However, I find this puzzling for some reasons:

  1. There are many countries with Sharia law, yet only Iran and Saudi Arabia use this law, apparently.
  2. Iran and Saudi Arabia are one Shia and one Sunni country. They are the biggest Sunni and the biggest Shia country in Middle East, and they are rivals because of that

So, how and why did it happen that those two rivals, and only them, chose to apply this specific law, which has instead been ignored by every other Sharia country?

Hardly a coincidence, but I'm completely clueless about what could be the reason.

Edit: This, however, disagrees with the original German wiki article from which this one was translated. Also, while the source for Iran apparently is ok, I couldn't find in the source for Saudi Arabia any information about that.

I would then put all the blame on Wikipedia and consider the case closed, but if someone knows better, I'd gladly hear his answer.

  • 1
    the biggest Sunni country in Middle East : Wouldn't that be Egypt rather than Saudi Arabia ?
    – Evargalo
    Aug 5, 2019 at 14:40

3 Answers 3


Some remarks:

  • First: It is not "8 for girls, 14 for boys"; It is 9 for girls and 15 for boys (Lunar year).

  • Second: It is not true that "only Iran and Saudi Arabia use this law", So does Yemen.

  • Third: In Iran, although the age of majority is 15 for boys and 9 for girls, this is for religious obligations, such as fast. For social activities like driving licence and elections, the age is 18 for both girls and boys.

Now the answer for your question:

The answer is within your question: "this is due to Sharia law."

Note that the government in most of countries with majority of Muslim people are secular, e.g. Turkey, or secular in some parts e.g. Syria. Maybe it is a surprise for some people when they hear Political forms of Islam are not tolerated by the government in Syria. (Syria has separate secular and religious courts. Civil and criminal cases are heard in secular courts, while the Sharia courts handle personal, family, and religious matters in cases between Muslims or between Muslims and non-Muslims. Non-Muslim communities have their own religious courts using their own religious law)

So they don't apply "Sharia law".

  • 1
    Care to add some references for all the points you make? And who said what you quote at the end? Apr 11, 2016 at 6:51
  • For 1st and 2nd see the OP's link. for 3rd the link added in answer. about "quote " i added a link as an example.
    – user 1
    Apr 14, 2016 at 6:47
  • I am not sure Turkey is a good example to what most of the countries with a Muslim majority do. And regardless, the question was specifically about Iran and Saudi Arabia. Apr 14, 2016 at 7:14
  • 2
    @bilbo_pingouin No the question is not about Iran and Saudi Arabia. OP highlights by and only by Iran and SA. (see the comment for Relaxed 's answer). So OP asks why Iran and Saudi Arabia do so and why others do not.
    – user 1
    Apr 14, 2016 at 7:19

Sharia law is not a single well-defined body of rules. It's a set of traditions, with several major schools of jurisprudence. Even if strongly religious people might themselves want to deny that (i.e. argue that their particular interpretation is the one true law created by God and not an “interpretation” at all), it's actually quite diverse and flexible.

It has also become a rhetorical device, both in muslim countries (where some leaders or parties want to associate themselves with Islam) and outside (where “sharia law” is often used as a straw man and object of hate or scare). Consequently, it's not surprising to come across many differences between systems that are claimed to be grounded in Sharia law.

Note that beyond the sharia/islam-related aspect, Iran and Saudi Arabia are also among the few countries that routinely execute criminals so the apparent convergence could also be the result of the general conservative and authoritarian nature of their respective regimes.

  • 1
    I understand and this is interesting, however here the question was specifically why this specific piece of law was adopted by and only by Iran and SA.
    – o0'.
    Dec 11, 2014 at 17:02
  • 8
    @Lohoris Well, you're the judge of what you actually want to know but the way you wrote the question, you seemed to imply that since this particular rule is claimed to derive from “sharia law”, the fact that other muslim countries do not have it is somehow puzzling and that it was what you were asking about. I explained why it isn't so, which would seem to explain away the discrepancy.
    – Relaxed
    Dec 12, 2014 at 12:20

Most other Islamic countries were not able to implement these kinds of laws in the 19th-20th century.

In the 19th–20th centuries, many heavily-Muslim nations were not able to implement their own laws. Russia (later the Soviet Union) controlled what is now Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikstan, and Uzbekistan. Turkestan (now Xinjiang) was invaded by China, and Islam suppressed.

Russia (and the Soviet Union) continued a policy of suppressing Islam within its borders. Afghanistan, Pakistan, and other areas were variously dominated by the UK or Russia as part of the great game.

Laws in colonies in Africa were controlled by their parent states in Europe. For example, Algeria was colonized by France and was ruled by French law (which was not Islamic).

In contrast, Saudi Arabia was unified in 1902 and its independence was protected by the Allies since World War 1. Iran was briefly occupied by the Soviet Union, but was able to control its own social policy. In Iran at least, Islamic laws became popular in the 1970's as a reaction to the Russification policies of the Soviet Union.

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