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HISBAH. The word hisbah literally means “sum” or “reward.” Technically, however, it connotes the state institution to promote what is proper and forbid what is improper (al-amr bi-al-ma’ruf wa-al-nahy `an almunkar). Although the Qur’an visualizes every Muslim in roles that lead to the propagation of good and the suppression of evil (surah 3.110), the state is empowered to institute arrangements to oversee the implementation of this injunction (surah 3.104). The function of hisbah, therefore, consists in maintaining public law and order and supervising the behavior of buyers and sellers in the market with a view to ensure right conduct. The Prophet took care to institutionalize the perpetuation of this code by enjoining on everyone to engage in amr bil ma’ruf wa nahi `and munkar. In this regard, the Prophet has been termed the first muhtasib (person responsible for the maintenance of the institution of hisbah), although subsequently others were appointed (Sa’id ibn al-‘As in Mecca and `Umar ibn al-Khattab in Medina). The functions of the muhtasib cover the rights of God and the people (duties regarding prayers, mosque maintenance, community matters, market dealings, etc). As stated by Ibn Taymiyah, the qualities of a muhtasib of leading importance were knowledge, kindness, and patience. A separate department of hisbah, with a full-time muhtasib, was first introduced by the `Abbasid caliph Abfi Ja’far al-Mansur in AH 157/773 CE. Although the institution of hisbah remained in practice during the early period of Islamic history, with the advent of Western colonialism, the hisbah disintegrated into a number of secular departments, either discarding its religious content as irrelevant or relegating it to secondary positions.

[See also Muhtasib.]


Ibn Murshid, `Abd al= Aziz ibn Muhammad. Nizam al-hisbah ft alIslam: dirdsah muqdranah. Riyadh, 1973.

Ibn Taymiyah. Al-hisbah ft al-Islam. Translated by Muhtar Holland as Public Duties in Islam: The Institution of the Hisbah. Leicester, 1982.


Azhar Niaz Article's Source: http://islamicus.org/hisbah/

  • writerPosted On: June 10, 2013
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