The legal system of Saudi Arabia is based on Sharia, Islamic law derived from the Qur'an and the Sunnah (the traditions) of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. The sources of Sharia also include Islamic scholarly consensus developed after Muhammad's death. Its interpretation by judges in Saudi Arabia is influenced by the 18th century Wahhabism. Uniquely in the Muslim world, Sharia has been adopted by Saudi Arabia in an uncodified form. This, and the lack of judicial precedent, has resulted in considerable uncertainty in the scope and content of the country's laws. The government therefore announced its intention to codify Sharia in 2010, and significant progress has been made with the publication, on January 3, 2018, of a sourcebook of legal principles and precedents. Sharia has also been supplemented by regulations (Arabic: "anzima," although translated by the Saudi Official Bureau of Translation as "Laws") issued by royal decree covering modern issues such as intellectual property and corporate law. Nevertheless, Sharia remains the primary source of law, especially in areas such as criminal, family, commercial and contract law, and the Qur'an and the Sunnah are declared to be the country's constitution. In the areas of land and energy law the extensive proprietorial rights of the Saudi state (in effect, the Saudi royal family) constitute a significant feature.
The current Saudi court system was created by King Abdul Aziz, who founded the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1932, and was introduced to the country in stages between 1927 and 1960. It comprises general and summary Sharia courts, with some administrative tribunals to deal with disputes on specific modern regulations. Trials in Saudi Arabia are bench trials. Courts in Saudi Arabia observe few formalities and the country's first criminal procedure code, issued in 2001, has been largely ignored. King Abdullah, in 2007, introduced a number of significant judicial reforms, although they are yet to be fully implemented.
Criminal law punishments in Saudi Arabia include public beheading, hanging, stoning, amputation and lashing. Serious criminal offences include not only internationally recognized crimes such as murder, rape, theft and robbery, but also apostasy, adultery, witchcraft and sorcery. In addition to the regular police force, Saudi Arabia has a secret police, the Mabahith, and "religious police", the Mutawa. The latter enforces Islamic social and moral norms, but their powers have greatly been restricted over the last few years. Western-based human rights organizations, such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have criticized the activities of both the Mabahith and the Mutawa, as well as a number of other aspects of human rights in Saudi Arabia. These include the number of executions, the range of offences which are subject to the death penalty, the lack of safeguards for the accused in the criminal justice system, the treatment of homosexuals, the use of torture, the lack of religious freedom, and the highly disadvantaged position of women. The Albert Shanker Institute and Freedom House have also reported that "Saudi Arabia's practices diverge from the concept of the rule of law.