Islamic design
menu for this section of the site

Search the Islamic design study pages

The State’s administration
menu for notes relating to this section on Islamic design

An introductory paragraph to this page

Guests sitting in the desert

Caveat lector. The notes on this page – perhaps more than any others – were written many years ago and are placed here because all these notes are a background to a project I had intended to pursue later. They exist for my own benefit rather than for others. While the notes are or were, hopefully, accurate at the time of writing, the fact that they were begun in the 1980s means that some of them will be out of date or even factually wrong. So, it is not intended that they will be accurate at the time of reading, and the reader should bear this in mind. All areas need to be brought up to date.

Notes on this page might be sensibly read in conjunction with those on the page looking at pressures for change and, perhaps, the page looking at the history of Qatar.

There are also references missing that I can no longer find but are likely to have been made from the local newspapers.

go to top of page

How the State has been structured

Each of the Gulf States has a Ruling family at its head controlling a Council of Ministers. Generally there are also Advisory Councils which review issues directed to them by the Council of Ministers. Two of the Gulf States, Kuwait and Bahrein, have attempted to give a wider form of representation to the people in the form of a parliament, but both of these bodies were closed down following political activities considered by the authorities to be incompatible with the safe running of the State. This was one of the issues cited by Iraq for its attack upon Kuwait and, at the time this note was written, it was not possible to say how the problems associated with the assimilation of Kuwait into Iraq might be resolved nor, in its resolution, how the other Gulf States will be affected. In the event, of course, Kuwait was returned to some semblance of normality though tensions still exist at the head of the Gulf.

Rule in Qatar is hereditary within the ruling family – the al-Thani – who achieved dominance within the country by the late eighteenth century. The present Head of State is H.H. Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani who took over control of the State on the 27th June 1995 with the agreement and assistance of the Royal Family. Previously his father, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalif al-Thani had assumed control of the State, an action which was seen to put right an eccentricity of succession said to have been caused by British decisions some time ago.

go to top of page

The Council of Ministers

The Council of Ministers is the supreme executive authority and is presided over by H.H. The Amir who directs, supervises and co-ordinates the work of the Ministers, their Ministries and State agencies, issues instructions to the Government, and signs for and on behalf of the Council all resolutions issued by the Council. It is apparent that the Council of Ministers has been selected on the basis of family or tribal alliances and, despite vacancies, up to 1989 had not been subject to change of portfolio nor periodic replacement. As such the Council represents the embodiment of the majlis system within the State’s established structure.

The responsibilities of the Council of Ministers are extremely wide ranging, the prime one being that they should prepare a comprehensive plan to ensure that the State enjoys maximum economic, social, cultural and administrative development. Towards this end, and among other responsibilities, they are required to promulgate draft laws and statutes; endorse the regulations of individual Ministries; supervise the implementation of laws, statutes, regulations, resolutions and judgements issued by the courts; supervise the protection of the State’s interests abroad, international relations and foreign policy in accordance with the law; prepare and administer the draft State Budget in accordance with the law and the constitution; and supervise the work of the Civil Service. In all this they share collective responsibility under H.H. The Amir for carrying out general State policy.

On 19th April, 1971, the drafting committee of the Permanent Constitution issued the Constitution Provisional Amended Basic Statute that defined the system of rule in the State, organized its authorities and established the fundamental principles of its policy. But, thirty years have elapsed since the statute was issued in 1971. The H.H. Amir decree (No.11) of the year 1999 was issued for the preparation committee of the new Constitution. The Ruler was keen that the committee members were men of intellect, opinion and expertise, and was directed towards concluding the establishment of a modern State by enhancing the role of Shari’a, democracy and the popular participation of the citizen in decision making.

The Constitution provided for a:

  • Ministry of Business and Trade,
  • Ministry of Culture, Arts and Heritage,
  • Ministry of Defence,
  • Ministry of Economy and Commerce,
  • Ministry of Education and Higher Education,
  • Ministry of Energy and Industry,
  • Ministry of Environment,
  • Ministry of Finance,
  • Ministry of Foreign Affairs,
  • Ministry of Health,
  • Ministry of Interior,
  • Ministry of Justice,
  • Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, and
  • Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Agriculture.

The first Council of Ministers was established on 28th May 1970. It is possible that some of the members of the 1972 were members of the original Council, but I am unsure. This, I believe, was the composition of the 1972 Council of Ministers announced on the 19th April 1972:

Portfolio and Minister

     
  Prime Minister H.H. Sheikh Khalifa bin Hamad al-Thani
  Defence H.H. Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani
  Economy and Commerce Sheikh Nasser bin Khaled al-Thani
  Education and Youth Welfare Sheikh Muhammad bin Hamad al-Thani
  Electricity and Water Sheikh Jassim bin Muhammad bin Jassim al-Thani
  Finance and Petroleum Sheikh Abdulaziz bin Khalifa al-Thani
  Foreign Affairs Sheikh Suhaim bin Hamad al-Thani
  Health Khalid Muhammad al-Mana
  Information Dr Issa bin Ghanem al-Kuwari
  Interior Sheikh Khalid bin Hamad al-Thani
  Justice Sheikh Abdulrahman bin Saud al-Thani
  Labour and Social Affairs Ali bin Ahmad al Ansari
  Municipal Affairs and Agriculture Sheikh Muhammad bin Jabr al-Thani
  Public Works and Industry Khalid bin Abdullah al-Attiyah
  Transport and Communications Abdullah bin Nasser al Suwaidi
  Adviser to H.H. The Amir Dr. Hassan Kamel

The old Ministry of Agriculture and Industry was eliminated with its two Departments being assimilated into the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and the Ministry of Public Works respectively.

The first radical change of the Council of Ministers since 1970, took place on the 18th July 1989 under Amiri Law No. 3 for 1989, canceling Decree No. 35 of 1970 together with related Decrees. The Cabinet, which became significantly younger, was amended to:

Note

Portfolio and Minister

Note

       
  Prime Minister H.H. Sheikh Khalifa bin Hamad al-Thani **
  Defence H.H. Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani **
* Diwan al Amiri Affairs Dr. Issa bin Ghanem al-Kuwari *
  Economy and Commerce Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Hamad al-Thani  
  Education and Youth Welfare Abdulaziz bin Abdulla Turki
  Electricity and Water Mubarak bin Ali al Khater  
  Finance and Petroleum Sheikh Abdulaziz bin Khalifa al-Thani **
  Foreign Affairs Abdullah bin Khalifa al-Attiyah  
** Information and Culture Sheikh Hamad bin Suhaim al-Thani  
  Interior Sheikh Abdullah bin Khalifa al-Thani  
  Justice Sheikh Ahmed bin Saif al-Thani *
  Labour, Social Affairs and Housing Abdulrahman bin Sa’ad al Dirham  
** Municipal Affairs and Agriculture Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber al-Thani  
  Public Health Sheikh Khalid bin Muhammad bin Ali al-Thani  
** Public Works and Industry Ahmed bin Muhammad bin Ali Suba’i  
  Transport and Communications Abdullah Saleh al Man’a  
  Adviser to H.H. The Amir Dr. Hassan Kamel **
       
* New portfolio    
** Enlarged ministry    
  Minister in previous Cabinet with different portfolio   *
  Minister in previous Cabinet with the same portfolio   **

The Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs took on the additional, specific responsibility for Housing, and the portfolio for Diwan al Amiri Affairs was newly created.

The Council of Ministers was again reshuffled in September 1992 enlarging it to seventeen members. Was said to be from fifteen – though it has not been easy to confirm this.

Note

Portfolio and Minister

Note

       
  Communication and Transport Abdullah bin Saleh al Maneh **
  Defence and Deputy Commander in Chief H.H. Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani **
  Diwan al Amiri Affairs Dr. Issa bin Ghanem al-Kuwari **
  Economy and Commerce Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Hamad al-Thani **
  Education and Youth Welfare Abdulaziz bin Abdulla Turki **
  Electricity and Water Ahmed bin Muhammad Ali Suba’i *
*** Endowment and Islamic Affairs Sheikh Abdullah bin Khalid al-Thani  
** Finance, Economy and Trade Sheikh Muhammad bin Khalifa al-Thani  
  Foreign Affairs Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr al-Thani *
  Health Sheikh Hamad bin Suhaim al-Thani *
  Information and Culture Dr. Hamad bin Abdulaziz al-Kuwari  
  Interior Sheikh Abdullah bin Khalifa al-Thani **
  Justice Sheikh Ahmed bin Saif al-Thani **
  Labour and Social Affairs Abdulrahman bin Sa’ad al Dirham **
* Minister of State Mubarak Ali al Khater  
  Adviser to H.H. The Amir Dr. Hassan Kamel **
       
* New portfolio    
** Enlarged ministry    
*** New ministry    
  Minister in previous Cabinet with different portfolio   *
  Minister in previous Cabinet with the same portfolio   **

There are likely to have been a number of changes to the Council of Ministers in these intervening dates.

In the summer of 2008, an important step was taken when H.H. The Amir reshuffled the Cabinet, increasing the number of ministers to nineteen or twenty – depending upon which source you read – compared with the fourteen in the previous Cabinet, and naming a second woman to the Council of Ministers, reinstating the Ministry of Health from its status as an Agency, for her portfolio. The three new ministries were those governing the:

  • Environment,
  • Business and Trade, and
  • Culture.

although this was also reported at the time as being:

  • Environment,
  • Social Affairs, and
  • International Cooperation and Culture.

In July 2008 the Council of Ministers was announced as comprising the following members:

Note

Portfolio and Minister

Note

       
  Amir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani
  Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani  
  Deputy Prime Minister and Energy and Industry Abdullah bin Hamad al-Attiyah  
  Business and Commerce Sheikh Fahd bin Jassim bin Mohamed al-Abdulrahman al-Thani  
  Cabinet Affairs Sheikh Nasser bin Mohamed bin Abdulaziz al-Thani  
  Culture, Arts and Heritage Dr. Hamad bin Abdulaziz al-Kuwari  
  Education and Higher Education Sheikha Ahmed al-Mahmoud  
  Endowments and Islamic Affairs Ahmad bin Abdullah al-Marri  
  Environment Abdullah bin Mubarak bin Aaboud al-Midhadhi  
  Finance and Economy Youssef Hussein Kamal  
  Interior Sheikh Abdullah bin Khalid al-Thani  
  International Cooperation Khalid bin Mohamad al-Attiyah  
  Justice Hassan bin Abdullah al-Ghanem  
  Labour Dr Sultan bin Hassan al-Dhabit al-Dousari  
  Municipal Affairs and Urban Planning Sheikh Abdurrahman bin Khalifa bin Abdulaziz al-Thani  
  Public Health Sheikha Ghaliyah bint Mohamad bin Hamad al-Thani  
  Social Affairs Nasser bin Abdullah al-Hemaidi  
  State Sheikh Mohamed bin Khalid al-Thani  
  State for Energy and Industry Affairs Dr Mohamed Saleh al-Saddah  
  State for Foreign Affairs Ahmed bin Abdullah al-Mahmoud  
  State for Interior Affairs Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa al-Thani  
  State for International Cooperation Dr Khalid bin Mohamed al-Attiyah  

On the 28th April 2009, the two changes were made to the Council of Ministers with the appointment of:

  Education and Higher Education Saad bin Ibrahim al-Mahmoud  
  Public Health Abdullah bin Khalid al-Qahtani  

After April 2010 the Council of Ministers is recorded as comprising the following members:

Note

Portfolio and Minister

Note

       
  Amir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani
  Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani  
  Deputy Prime Minister, Energy and Industry, and Electricity and Water Abdullah bin Hamad al-Attiyah  
  Business and Commerce Sheikh Fahd bin Jassim bin Mohamed al-Abdulrahman al-Thani ****
  Cabinet Affairs, and Communications and Transport Sheikh Nasser bin Mohamed bin Abdulaziz al-Thani  
  Culture, Arts and Heritage Dr. Hamad bin Abdulaziz al-Kuwari  
  Education and Higher Education Saad bin Ibrahim al-Mahmoud  
  Endowments and Islamic Affairs Ahmad bin Abdullah al-Marri  
  Environment Abdullah bin Mubarak bin Aaboud al-Midhadhi  
  Finance and Economy Youssef Hussein Kamal  
  Interior Sheikh Abdullah bin Khalid al-Thani  
  Justice Hassan bin Abdullah al-Ghanem  
  Labour Dr Sultan bin Hassan al-Dhabit al-Dousari  
  Municipal Affairs and Urban Planning Sheikh Abdurrahman bin Khalifa bin Abdulaziz al-Thani  
  Public Health Abdullah bin Khalid al-Qahtani  
  Social Affairs Nasser bin Abdullah al-Hemaidi  
  State Sheikh Hamad bin Abdullah bin Mohamed al-Thani  
  State Sheikh Hamad bin Suhaim al-Thani  
  State for Energy and Industry Affairs Dr Mohamed Saleh al-Saddah  
  State for Foreign Affairs Ahmed bin Abdullah al-Mahmoud  
  State for Interior Affairs Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa al-Thani  
  State for International Cooperation Dr Khalid bin Mohamed al-Attiyah  
       
  Following the death of Sheikh Fahd bin Jassim al-Thani Sheikh Jassim bin Abdulaziz al-Thani ****

The Council of Ministers was again revised on the 26th June 2013:

Note

Portfolio and Minister

Note

       
  Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani
  Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa al-Thani
  Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of State for the Council of Ministers Affairs Ahmad bin Abdullah al-Mahmoud  
  Administrative Development Dr. Issa Saad al-Nuaimi  
  Awqaf and Islamic Affairs Dr. Ghaith bin Mubarak al-Kuwari  
  Communication and Information Technology Dr. Hessa al-Jaber  
  Culture, Arts and Heritage Dr. Hamad bin Abdulaziz al-Kuwari  
  Development Planning and Statistics Dr. Saleh Mohammad al-Nabit  
  Economy and Trade Sheikh Ahmed bin Jassim al-Thani  
  Education and Higher Education Mohammed Abdul Wahed al-Hammadi  
  Energy and Industry Dr. Mohammed Saleh al-Sada
  Environment Ahmed Amer al-Humaidi  
  Finance Ali Sharif al-Emadi  
  Foreign Affairs Dr. Khalid bin Mohammad al-Attiyah  
  Justice Dr. Hassan Lahdan al-Mohannadi  
  Labour and Social Affairs Abdullah Saleh al-Khulaifi  
  Municipal Affairs and Urban Planning Sheikh Abdulrahman bin Khalifa al-Thani  
  Public Health Abdullah bin Khalid al-Qahtani  
  State for Defence Affairs Major General Hamad bin Ali al-Attiyah  
  Transport Jassim Seif al-Sulaiti  
  Youth and Sports Salah bin Ghanem al-Ali  

The Council of Ministers was again revised in January 2016, with a reduction in the number of ministries, commentary suggesting this was part of the process of moving towards a more modern political reality as well as reflecting the need to reduce expenditures:

Note

Portfolio and Minister

Note

       
  Amir and Minister of Defence Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani
* Prime Minister and Interior Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa al-Thani  
  Advisor to the Amir for Defence Affairs with the rank of Prime Minister Major General Hamad bin Ali al-Attiyah **
* Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of State for Cabinet Affairs Ahmad bin Abdullah bin Zaid al-Mahmoud  
  Foreign Minister Sheikh Muhammad bin Abdulrahman al-Thani  
  Minister of State for Defence Affairs Dr. Khalid bin Muhammad al-Attiyah  
* Minister of Energy and Industry Dr. Muhammad bin Saleh al-Sada  
* Minister of Finance Ali Sherif al-Emadi  
  Minister of Culture and Sports Salah bin Ghanem bin Nasser al-Ali **
  Minister of Public Health Dr. Hanan bint Muhammad al-Kuwari  
* Minister of Endowments and Islamic Affairs Dr. Ghaith bin Mubarak al-Kuwari  
  Minister of Transportation and Communications Jassim Saif Ahmad al-Sulaiti **
* Minister of Economy and Commerce Sheikh Ahmad bin Jassim bin Muhammad al-Thani  
* Minister of Justice Dr. Hassan Ladan Saqr al-Muhannadi  
  Minister of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs Dr. Issa Saad al-Jafali al-Nuaimi **
  Minister of Municipality and Environment Muhammad bin Abdullah al-Rumaihi **
* Minister of Development Planning and Statistics Dr. Saleh Muhammad Salem al-Nabit  
* Minister of Education and Higher Education Muhammad Abdulwahed Ali al-Hammadi  
* unchanged new position  **

Ministers are generally supported by Under-secretaries who can be powerful in their own right and, in conjunction with their Directors, are normally responsible for the smooth running of their Ministries.

Since the above listing of ministers were written, there have been a number of changes to the Council of Ministers, and to the Advisory Council, a note on which follows.

go to top of page

The Advisory Council

The Majlis Ash Shuwra, or Advisory Council, was established under Chapter Four of the Amended Provisional Constitution of the 19th April 1972, although its present form is not that which was originally foreseen – particularly that part relating to popular representation. At its inception it was intended to be comprised of members popularly elected to it from ten districts of Qatar. The Head of State was to select two of the four elected members from each district, and might appoint three quarters of the members of the Advisory Council if he deemed it to be in the public interest so to do. A later law amended this popular organisation increasing its numbers by ten, and the present formation consists of thirty members who have been selected for their good judgement and competence to represent all sectors of society and all regions of the country. Towards the end of 1990 the Council was again reconstituted by the Emir with nineteen new members added to eleven from the previous Council. The intent again appears to have been to give a younger profile to the Council. The Advisory Council now comprises:

Status

Name

Retained from the previous Council Ali bin Khalifa al-Hitmai
  Misnad bin Saad al-Misnad
  Abdulrahman Mubarak al-Nasr
  Mohamed bin Ali al-Mu’dadi
  Haydar Suleiman Haydar
  Durkhayel bin Mohamed al-Nabiti
  Said Hamad al-Sulaiti
  Abdulatif Abdulrahman al-Mana
  Fahd Abdullah al-Hajiri
  Mohamed Nasser al-Kaabi
  Rashid bin Mohamed al-Ramzan al-Nuaimi
   
New members Abdulaziz Saad al-Saad
  Ahmed Abdulrahman al-Mana
  Mohamed Mubarak al-Kholeifi
  Mohamed Abdullah Nasser al-Attiyah
  Hamid bin Ali bin Mayqa al-Ahbabi
  Issa Rabia al-Rabia al-Kuwari
  Ahmed Abdullah Ahmed al-Malki
  Abdullah Mohamed Shamsan al-Sada
  Dr. Abdulaziz Abdulrahman Kamal
  Ahmed Mohamed Yousef Obeidan Fakhroo
  Abdulrahman Mufta al-Muftah
  Mohamed Ajaj al-Kubaisi
  Khalid Mohamed Khalid al-Khater
  Mohamed Mubarak al-Ali
  Ibrahim Mohamed Rashid al-Asiri
  Khalid Ahmed al-Suweidi
  Sultan Ahmed al-Badi
  Zabin Abdulhadi Zabin al-Dosari
  Isa bin Majid al-Ghanim

I don’t know what happened in the intervening years but, in 2012 the website of the Advisory Council stated that the ‘members are chosen for their eligibility and sound judgment and their good representation of all the regions and sectors of the population’. The site states that membership tenure in the Council is four years and its thirty-five members were listed as follows:

Members of the Advisory Council

Name

Speaker of the Advisory Council Mohamed Bin Mubarak al-Kholaifi
Deputy Speaker of the Advisory Council Issa Rubaia al-Rubaia al-Kuwari
Supervisor Dr. Youssif Ahmed Mohammed Youssif Obaidan Fakhroh
Mohammed Abdullah Nasser al-Attiyah
Hammed Ali Maygha al-Ahbabi
Abdullah Mohammed Shamsan al-Saddah
Abdulrahman Muftah al-Muftah
Mohammed Ajaj al-Kubaisi
Ibraheem Mohammed Rashed al-Assiri
Zaben Abdulhadi Zaben al-Dousri
Meghbel Ali Khalifa al-Hitmi
Hammad Rashed Boroushed al-Meadhadi
Khaled Hammad Rashed al-Lebdah
Sultan Nasser Mohammed Khalifa al-Suwaidi
Khalifa Meteab al-Rumaihi
Nasser Rashed Suraeah al-Kaabai
Mohammed Treheb Bin Nayfa
Jabor Ali al-Nuaimi
Ibraheem Mohammed al-Mesnad al-Muhanedi
Mohammed Jassem Mohammed al-Badi
Mohammed Hammam al-Abdullah
Youssif Rashed Youshif Rashed al-Khater
Mohammed Khaled Abdul Azziz al-Ghanem
Ibraheem Khalifa al-Nasser
Nasser Sulaiman Hedar
Mohammed Abdullah Al-Youssif al-Sulaiti
Khalaf Ahmad Shebeeb al-Manae
Hadi Saeed Helaet al-Khayareen
Abdullah Khaled al-Manea
Ali Hussain Zeinal
Mubarak Ghanem Buthamer al-Ali
Nasser Khalil al-Jeedah
Saeed Butti al-Suhouti
Sagher Fahad Sagher al-Muraikhi
Nasser Ahmad al-Malki

There is a general problem within the Gulf on the issue of popular representation. Bahrein and Kuwait both closed their parliaments after only a brief experiment, the specific reason being given as the exacerbation of tribal and ethnic divisions, and the abuse of power. Most of the Gulf States attempt to find a balance where the people are given a say in the running of the State, but there are very firm limits to this involvement.

Article 51 of the Amended Constitution and Amiri Decree No. 11/1975 requires the Advisory Council to debate the general policy of the State with regard to:

  • any political, economic or administrative perspective as may be referred to it by Government,
  • the social and cultural affairs of State, as well as
  • debate draft laws proposed by the Council of Ministers and prior to submission to H.H. The Amir for ratification and promulgation, together with
  • the draft budgets for major projects.

In all this debate the Advisory Council is permitted to ask for fuller information from the relevant Ministries and which falls within the Advisory Council’s responsibilities. Having reached its decisions the Advisory Council submits its opinions in the form of recommendations or wishes to the Council of Ministers. The Advisory Council is not, however, entitled to intervene in the work of the executive and judiciary, and members are immune from redress for comments and opinions expressed within Advisory Council or any of its Committee meetings provided that there is no abuse or defamation of anybody whomsoever.

Although the members are not democratically elected, the Speaker and Deputy Speaker are elected by secret ballot of the members at the first meeting of every ordinary annual session, the election being supervised by the most senior member present. The members may serve for more than one session. In addition to the Speaker and Deputy Speaker, two permanent rapporteurs are also elected by secret ballot. After these four members have met to undertake the responsibilities laid down in the constitution, elections to the five standing and other ad hoccommittees and debates may begin, the Council's deliberations being held in camera.

The five major standing committees are:

  • legal and legislative affairs,
  • financial and economic affairs,
  • public services and utilities,
  • domestic and foreign affairs, and
  • information and cultural affairs.

go to top of page

Law

An aerial view of the Ministry of Justice, viewed from the north-east in 1972

The basis of the law in Qatar was established by the Amended Provisional Constitution promulgated by H.H. The Amir on the 19th April 1972. This described the proposed development of the State, the basis upon which the Government would develop its policies, and the powers, duties and responsibilities of the Head of State. Essentially the Amended Provisional Constitution gave H.H. The Amir legislative and executive power with the assistance of the Council of Ministers and the Advisory Council.

H.H. The Amir was confirmed as the Head of State with executive powers and the right to promulgate laws and statutes. The Constitution also established a Council of Ministers to assist the Amir in the discharge of his duties and constitutional powers. The Council is responsible for ensuring that the laws of Qatar are implemented together with any regulations and orders of the Ministries and judgments of the Courts. In order to bring to the Council of Ministers the opinions of everybody within the State the Constitution also established an Advisory Council which is particularly responsible for examining draft laws proposed by the Council of Ministers before their promulgation by H.H. The Amir. An Official Gazette is issued monthly by the Government publishing those new laws which have been promulgated since publication of the previous Gazette.

There are two systems of law in Qatar: the first is that of Shari’a Law – traditional Islamic Law – which operates in the Shari’a courts. The second, the Civil and Commercial Law no. 16 of 1971, that has been developed from the Egyptian Code which, in turn, sprang from the Napoleonic Code. It also contains elements of other codified systems as well as parts which are purely Shari’a. In the Civil and Commercial Courts, and under its umbrella, the Criminal Court is maintained. It should be noted that, although there are a number of similarities with English contractual practice, one case will not form a precedent for another.

The Shari’a Court deals with the more personal issues of Muslims, in particular those related to inheritance, marriage and divorce, as well as injury and death within the State of Qatar. At one time it was responsible for a considerable amount of casework but, due to the pressure of work, the Civil and Commercial Courts have taken over in areas where the latter had specific expertise. However, consideration is at present being given to return much of the work of the Civil and Commercial Courts to the Shari’a Court, below a specified financial limit. This is likely to have a significant impact upon contracts and issues involving non-Qataris.

There is the right of appeal from a judgement of the Shari’a Court through the Shari’a Appeal Court which normally sits with between four and six Sheikhs presiding. The right of appeal from the Civil and Commercial Courts exists through the Court of First Instance which was established by Law 13 in 1971 under the jurisdiction of the Court of Appeal, and which has jurisdiction over civil, commercial and criminal matters initiated by the Court.

The Civil Courts hear legal arguments set out for them in written Arabic upon which they give their judgement, and the plaintiff or defendant has forty days in which to appeal to the Court of Appeal on an issue of law or fact. The judgement of the Court of Appeal is final.

The Civil and Commercial Court comprises two chambers:

  • the lower Court, which deals with relatively minor cases and is presided over by a single Judge, and the
  • higher Court, which deals with more serious offences, hears appeals from the lower Criminal Court and is normally presided over by three Judges.

The Civil and Commercial Court also incorporates two courts respectively dealing with Labour and the Leasing of Premises and Buildings. The Labour Court was established by Law no. 4. 1962 and has jurisdiction over all cases between employer and employee regardless of the nationality of both parties. In an attempt to provide expedient solutions to differences there is a right to have an Inspector from the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs review the case and, perhaps, resolve it prior to its going to Court. If there is no agreement by the two parties to the Inspector's decision, the Court proceeds as if the conciliation attempt had not happened.

The second court deals with all matters arising out of the leasing of premises and buildings in Qatar as specified in Law no. 2 of 1975 and amended by Law no. 5 of 1976. In the past only Qataris have been permitted to own land within Qatar, and the majority of those renting are non-Qataris. Generally the law is applied in a straightforward manner, but it is notable that a landlord is permitted, under certain conditions, to impose a rent increase every two years in accordance with a sliding scale set out in the Lease of Premises and Buildings Law.

In developing the concepts and practice of law within Qatar the State has attempted to safeguard the interests of Qataris and its economy from overseas exploitation. The most significant of these laws is Law no. 3 of 1985 which organises the participation of non-Qatari capital in the economic activity of the country. The basic principle of this law states that it is not permissible for non-Qataris, natural or juristic, to participate in commerce, importation, commercial agencies business, contractors of works or other commercial interests. Certain exceptions, particularly in the field of contracts or services which are deemed to be in the national interest or for public benefit.

An issue of note is that citizens of the Gulf Co-operation Council – essentially the other Gulf States and Saudi Arabia – now have the right of exemption from a number of requirements previously designed to protect Qataris from foreign competition. They may now take up residence in Qatar, purchase land and develop commercial opportunities which they identify.

go to top of page

The majlis system

The Ruler greeting guests at his majlis– image developed from a YouTube video

The term majlis has been used in a number of places within the pages of these notes, but it might be useful to add a note referring to its meaning here, as well as to the definition given in the glossary. The word refers both to a concept of meeting, discussion, dissemination and decision-making as well as to a physical space given over to those purposes – with more informal activities possible within such spaces.

In parallel with the law in Qatar and culturally preceding it, there has been a system of benevolent paternalism applied through the majlis system of government. The majlis operates both formally and informally with all Qataris having the right to have their individual cases heard by those in a position of power – a power derived from the social standing of the individual approached. Traditionally Rulers hold a majlis on a regular basis to which anyone may go to pay respects or ask assistance; in Qatar this event is held once a month. Informal majaalis are held anywhere at any time.

The system derives from the need in badu societies to resolve disputes quickly; policies pursued follow direction from the senior members of the community meeting together. The head of the majlis would be the head of the country, tribe or family depending upon the level at which the majlis is held, and the position is generally awarded by consent of the group supporting the head as primus inter pares – first among equals. All may, and most do have a say in policy, but it is by common agreement based on a personal assessment of the individual’s skills that the leader holds his position. From time to time external forces such as the British and Ottomans have attempted to affect succession and the activities of the State through the majlis, not always successfully.

go to top of page

Change

A majlis inside the Diwan al-Amiri, 1966 – developed from a YouTube video

The traditional system of governance common to those living in the peninsula and its hinterland changed with the increasing exposure to Western interests and developments in the twentieth century. In Qatar, as in other countries, formalised systems were established in order to administer the increasing wealth of the State as well as liaise with other countries. In most respects these systems replicated those organisations found in the West. In addition to formalising aspects of legal and religious systems, the State developed a number of ministries whose functions covered areas such as finance, policing, health, education and the like. But the process of change was not always seen to be beneficial to those individuals comfortable with the traditional majlis system.

The establishing of a ‘modern’ administrative system has been likened to a prismatic experience. The single, simple operation of organising or administering the society being split into a number of strands, each focussed on a single administrative function. This reflects the manner in which a social administrative system undergoes functional differentiation and reflects a view that there are essentially three types of society:

  • traditional agrarian societies – diffused societies,
  • developing societies, and
  • highly developed Western industrial societies – diffracted societies

whose degrees of development may be measured and compared. Their social, economic, political and communicative attributes, along with their socio-cultural concepts of individual rights will form distinct and different patterns. These will characterise each country’s administrative system and will vary and develop over time.

more to be written…

go to top of page

Administration

Government House, the centre of government, viewed from the south-east in 1972

Ministers in the Gulf are generally appointed to their administrative positions for socio-political reasons in a continuation of the traditions of the peninsula and its hinterland. One result of this was that, in Qatar, between 1972 and 1989, there was no change of Minister for reasons other than to fill a new post or one made available through the death of an incumbent.

With the exception of one or two Ministers the daily work of a Ministry is normally directed by an Under-Secretary or Director who, in the past, has been assisted by generally non-Qatari technical experts. Technically skilled expatriates are now normally only to be found at lower levels within Government and the majority of the upper ranks of Government staff are composed entirely of Qataris, though there seems to be an increasing tendency to introduce expatriates who have worked elsewhere in the world at high levels of competence or expertise. Often these are placemen brought in for the contacts and reputation they have, and the apparent integrity they can confer upon their new organisations.

The placing of staff within Government can still be a political activity and, in this, it continues the traditional Arabic practices of patronage and reward. In days gone by those who provided real help and assistance were normally rewarded by the gift of a position of power and prestige from which – provided that the rights of the donor of the position were not diminished, and that he continued to receive his rights and that the community generally were not disadvantaged – the appointee would be relatively free to operate the position as he saw fit. Where that individual was not already kin, this would commonly develop with the tying together of the families by intermarriage. At lower levels of employment there might not be that freedom of operation, but there is certainly the responsibility that devolves from the position in the family.

This characteristic of recruitment may be seen as nepotism by observers, but it is not considered wrong within the socio-cultural traditions of the region; it is seen to be a normal result of trust and understanding associated with diffused societies mentioned above. It is only when that practice is proscribed that it can be considered nepotism. Gulf States and Saudi Arabia now attempt to find candidates from their nationals who are thought to be most suited to the tasks faced, with Saudi having organisations responsible for classifying candidates by competency.

Nowadays there are more individuals from whom to select positions in government. Not only are there large numbers of university qualified Qataris available for work in the government, but many of them come from the families who are preferred for the higher levels of government though, at the highest levels, an appointee is selected for his fulfilling a number of criteria, not all of which are directly related to the ability to benefit the relative department as a working organisation.

The latest report of the Council of Ministers states that there are now 3,737 male and female graduates distributed within the Ministries and that, presumably within the 1987-88 year of the report, 778 additional new Qatari employees were given work in these Ministries. The truth is that those involved in the administration of the State have not always been the best suited to identify and resolve the problems they face. This is compounded by its being widely recognised that expatriate labour will be required for some time throughout the Gulf and that the development of the private sector is likely to encourage this as few nationals are likely to involve themselves in it.

It is important that the Peter principle is avoided in the public administrations of the Gulf. Management of these administrations will be one of the keys to the development of responses to mutual or local problems. The difficulty here is that, for an organisation to work effectively, it requires the prime loyalty of the employee to be to the professionalism of the organisation in which he operates. But personal loyalty to individuals is the widely accepted and most commonly practiced concept in the region, and the loyalty of expatriates can not always be relied upon.

This practice stems both from the traditional practice of patronage and from the traditional manner of doing business in the Gulf where the employee’s prime loyalty was required to be to the head of the company. The management culture in the Gulf is still in the grip of these practices. Where development has happened at a slower pace management culture has been able to alter in response to the varying needs which have required amended perspectives and improved functional requirements.

In the Gulf the pace of development has been so fast that this has not been possible, and the habit of focusing personal loyalty upon the head of the organisation or, in the larger organisations, on powerful middle managers rather than the organisation itself, has persisted. The result of this can be seen in the over-riding concern for job security, particularly among non-Qataris, a chronic inability to make and abide by decisions, and the political infighting which militates against a streamlined and efficient professionalism. Allied to this it might be anticipated that, with an increasing indigenous population, there will inevitably be an increase in indigenous unemployment as has already become an issue in Bahrein and Saudi Arabia.

Administration and legislation have come together to create difficulties for the smooth developing of the State in a number of areas. Specifically related to this study a range of problems exist or are anticipated in the field of environmental development. For instance already there exists a strong interest in requiring Islamic design in important and other new works of architecture. The reasons for this are many: they range from a political wish to redirect architecture away from the international styles brought in by foreign architects to a technical need to produce locally-orientated legislation in important areas of building development such as planning, building and fire codes.

However, there seems to be an extremely visual bias to many of the arguments and this, coupled with a lack of understanding in those who are responsible for the legislation and the rapid introduction of well-known Western architects, is creating difficulties for good quality Islamic design to develop in the region.

It is possible to see this difficulty in the differing attitudes towards Islamic design demonstrated by, on the one hand the committee for the Aga Khan awards and, on the other, by the committee for the Arab Towns awards. The difficulties with developments which are directed towards pan-Islamic and pan-regional aims is that they can conflict strongly with the social directions and aspirations of individual Gulf States. As such they are genuine beliefs vigorously argued by their proponents, but there remains a very strong feeling that the right issues are not being addressed, and that the result of the new requirements will be pastiche.

A Planning Council was enacted in July 1989 ‘with a brief to prepare the State’s economic and social plans and policies in accordance with the main principles guiding the State policy which are included within the basic system of the rule’. It will also follow up implementation of those policies and plans after they have been endorsed by the Cabinet.

go to top of page

The State’s administrative divisions

The original administrative organisation of the peninsula would have been considered to be related to the ownership of land by the tribes who traditionally settled in the peninsula. To some these areas still exist as physical realities and are referred to in normal conversation rather than the formal names given by the State.

The following paragraph and illustration are taken exactly from the geography page.

The municipalities of Qatar, as of 2004

For many years in Qatar the term ‘municipality’ was understood to refer to the Municipality of Doha, this being established by Law 15 in 1963, which had revised an earlier Law 11 of the same year instituting the Municipality of Qatar. In July 1972, Resolution N°. 11 created the municipalities of al-Dhakhira, al-Khor, al-Rayyan, al-Shamal, Umm Salal and al-Wakra, giving a total of seven. By 1997 these municipalities had been joined by Jariyan al-Batna, al-Jumaliya, al-Ghuwairiya and Umm Said, while al-Dhakhira was subsumed by al-Khor, revising the number to a total of ten and amending relevant borders. In 2004, Resolution N°. 13 further revised the municipalities, again amending borders and reducing them to the seven shown on the accompanying sketch – al-Daayen, Doha, al-Khor, Medinat al-Shamal, al-Rayyan, al-Wakra and Umm Salal. Note that Doha municipality also contains the Industrial Estate situated on the south side of the Salwa Road.

Notionally overlaid on this pattern of administrative boundaries are the areas that, particularly, Qatari tribes have considered to be theirs. This has much to do with the annual movements into and out of the peninsula for water and grazing, as well as with the history of the peninsula over the last two or three hundred years. While the administrative boundaries are in effect settled, some Qatari families will see certain areas they consider to be theirs by tradition overlapping these boundaries. There will have been considerable discussion in the drawing of the divisions as history continues to regret the straight lines that have divided geography to create political entities. On this scale it is perhaps not an issue; but it does come up in conversation.

The naming of places within the peninsula has much to do with both the tribes that inhabited the area both permanently, temporarily or seasonally as well as events and individuals associated with a particular place. The changing of names might be thought to carry with it the erosion of a part of the history of the peninsula.

Overlain on the nominal municipality boundaries are areas that have varied over time for political or other reasons. It is extremely difficult to understand how the variations have come about but it is a significant issue when discussing, for instance, the location of buildings.

In the 1980s a Street Naming committee was established by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs. It was successful in that a number of streets were given names, but it had difficulties that might have been anticipated. Not only were boundaries an issue, but the streets were difficult to name in some parts of the State, their spelling also being problematic, particularly in their English form.

Nominal areas of Doha in 1966

This rough sketch has been drawn over a modern map of the north-eastern part of Doha, and illustrates how the different areas were named in 1966. What I find unusual is the naming of the area known as ‘al-Rufaa’ which I can never recall hearing. Previous sketches of 1945, 1952 and 1959 showed different alignments of the boundaries, in the main dependent upon the consolidation of new roads and, perhaps, the movement of families away to the new lands and housing provided by the government.

Nevertheless families kept their association with the areas in which they had lived for some time, not only because of the increasing interest there was in the value of land but also with the identification they had with their land and, particularly, for its relationship with the sea – as was the case with the al-Hitmi, al-Sulaiti and al-Khulaifi.

go to top of page

International agencies

Historically nations treat with each other in order to achieve a variety of objectives. In particular these may draw them towards unification in the face of commonly perceived problems. These might gain mutually beneficial objectives for altruistic reasons specific to those nations or to the whole world, but there is also a tendency for links to be developed under the aegis of regional, religious or other readily encapsulating descriptions. Whatever the purpose, the administration of these inter-national links takes on two particular characteristics: firstly the adoption of an administrative system whose purpose is ostensibly to manage the achieving of the stated aims and, secondly, the propagation of the organisation as the definition of the work to be achieved naturally grows. For good or ill, this seems to be an international tendency. However such organisations often make the business of responding to perceived problems more difficult.

The Co-operation Council of the Arab Gulf States – the CCASG – perceive a number of shared concerns, and these are slowly being addressed through joint committees in order to legislate for their resolution. One of the more serious difficulties they face is the time which is taken to identify and define their problems. There is a long way to go as all the norms and standards developed in the West have to be worked out from first principles and established as legislation. Unfortunately the speed with which this is seen to need accomplishing more often than not creates systems which are not as well-considered as their authors believe, are unmanageable or unfair.

As an instance most of the Gulf States have legislation which permits only Architects holding University degrees to be registered as the manager of an architectural practice – thus disqualifying European Architects who have qualified through Diploma Schools, but which Diplomas are recognised within their countries as Degree equivalents. This is made worse when the title ‘Architect’ is not protected by law, as it is in the United Kingdom, and when professional institutional qualifications are not recognised. To some extent this can be overcome through other institutional devices but sometimes this is not possible. Bahrein, for instance, enjoys a professional society of engineers who have made considerable progress in identifying areas of concern within the constructional industry in Bahrein and, generally, within the Gulf. But Qatar does not have such a society. Few United Kingdom Architects and Planners now remain in Qatar, although there are a number of Engineers and Quantity Surveyors – the latter being the only society which, at the time of writing, takes a professional interest in the development of their members. Professionals from other countries have no cohesion.

In the crucial area of labour the CCASG initiated, in 1989, a unified work contract guide, the specification for the skills required of workers and employees, and a unified guide on labour codes. The Gulf States rely intensely upon expatriate labour at all levels, particularly manual and lower management, and they feel that it is imperative that all States treat their workers in an even-handed manner if for no other reason than that they are competing for this labour in the same countries – normally from the Third World – for which there are stated aims of adopting greater responsibility and consideration. This should work to the advantage of the Gulf as a whole, but political advances are likely be established only by the lowest common denominating country.

more to be written…

 

Pressures for change   |    top   |    Society 01

Islamic design
menu for this section of the site

Search the Islamic design study pages