A majority of the Jordanian population, 95%, is Sunni Muslim. Jordan is a constitutional monarchy, in which the royal family, from which the country derives its official name, claim direct descent from Muhammad. In addition to the normative taboo of blasphemy; to disrespect religion is also to disrespect the source of monarchical legitimacy. Insult to the royal family is punishable by up to 3 years in prison. Nonetheless, “the free exercise of all forms of worship and religious rites” is protected by law, so long as this is consistent with public order and morality, and the constitution claims no discrimination based on religion.

History of Blasphemy & Apostasy Laws

The region known today as Jordan—officially, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan—exchanged hands first as stateless Ottoman territory, then as “Transjordan” under the British Mandate, until it achieved statehood in 1946.


The Islamic expansion of 636 AD brought Islam to the region, and with it, demographic change. Christians became outnumbered by the growth of the Muslim population: by the start of the 20th century, Christians in Transjordan were 15% of the population; by 2000, this fell to 5%. 

Hashemite influence combined religious character and national identity. They led the 1916 Arab revolt that emancipated them from Ottoman rule, and established the country on its track to statehood as a British protectorate in 1921. Religious law was officialized in the 1952 constitution, which designated religious courts as one of its three legislative sections. The system of applying “regular,” or civil law broadly, and religious courts for personal matters was a relic of its Ottoman history, a system introduced under tanzimat reforms, which themselves borrowed from French law.

In 1976, the Jordanian Law of Personal Status built on preceding policy, with the aim to “meet the needs of Jordanian society, drawn from Islamic jurisprudence, and various sources, and including all that is sound in the sharia laws in effect in neighboring Arab lands.”

Current Status

Islam is the religion of the state, and its monarchs derive their legitimacy from a religious basis. Today, Islam is woven into Jordan’s political character, if with fewer prosecutions than some of its neighbors. Article 2 of the Constitution demands the king must be Muslim, and articles 103-106 of the constitution delegate personal matters to religious courts. Articles 273 and 278 of the penal code codify blasphemy punishments, defined as blaspheming Islam, “demeaning” Islam, hurting Muslim feelings, or “insulting” Muhammad, with one to three years' imprisonment. A 2006 amendment to the Criminal Procedures Act allows prosecution for blasphemy in any foreign country if it affects Jordanians through the internet.

Law prohibits the publication of media items that slander or insult “founders of religion or prophets” or that are deemed contemptuous of “any of the religions whose freedom is protected by the constitution,” with a fine of up to 20,000 dinars ($28,200). Press and publications are strictly controlled by a Media Commission, which has the authority to designate content that “violate public norms and values, are religiously offensive, or are insulting” to the King; it can request a court order to prohibit the distribution of the book.

In January 2014, four students from a university in Mafraq were sentenced to one month in prison for “insulting a religious symbol.” In March 2015, Jordan imposed a ban on insulting religion or religious symbols; after international protest, the resolution was withdrawn. In 2016, Nahed Hattar, an atheist, was killed outside the courthouse where he was being tried for blasphemy.

Cases of Persecution in Jordan
Award-winning poet Islam Samhan given prison sentence for incorporating Qur'an in poetry
Writer Nahed Hattar shot outside courthouse prior to blasphemy trial