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Hisbah (Arabic: ??isbah) is an Islamic doctrine which means "accountability".[1] Hisbah is an individual or collective duty (depending on the school of law) to intervene and "enjoin good and forbid wrong" in order to maintain the norms of sharia (Islamic law). The doctrine is based on an expression from the Quran ( ? ). Differences in scholarly debates over the duty to "command right and forbid wrong" stemmed from the positions taken by jurists (?ulam) on questions regarding who precisely was responsible for carrying out the duty, to whom it was to be directed, and what its performance entailed. Often, these debates were framed according to what Michael Cook calls the "three modes" tradition, a tradition based on a prophetic hadith which identifies the "heart" (qalb), "tongue" (lis?n), and "hand" (yad) as the three proper "modes" by which one should fulfill the obligation. Depending on a number of factors both intrinsic and extrinsic to their legal schools, scholars apportioned this labor in differing ways, some reserving the execution of the duty by "tongue" for the scholars and by "hand" for the political authorities or those, such as the mu?tasib, invested with the authority to carry out the duty on their behalf, and others arguing that these modes extended to all qualified believers. [1][2]


The Hisbah has the following major aspects:[3]

  • An obligation of a Muslim.
  • An obligation of a state to ensure its citizens comply with hisbah such as sharia.
  • In a broader sense, hisbah also refers to the practice of supervision of commercial, guild, and other secular affairs. Traditionally, a muhtasib was appointed by the caliph to oversee the order in marketplaces, in businesses, in medical occupations, etc. The position of muhtasib may be approximately rendered as "inspector". See hisbah (business accountability) for this aspect.

For example, in Saudi Arabia, the state establishment responsible for hisbah is the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, or hay'a.[4]

In a minority of Islamic states, namely Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Aceh province of Indonesia, and Iran, there is an establishment of Islamic religious police. In some places, it is state-established; in others, it is independent of the state.

Hisbah doctrine has been invoked by Islamic prosecutors in cases of apostasy and acts of blasphemy. For example, in Egypt, Nasr Abu Zayd, a Muslim scholar "critical of old and modern Islamic thought" was prosecuted under the doctrine when his academic work was held to be evidence of apostasy.[5][6]

See also


  1. ^ a b Sami Zubaida (2005), Law and Power in the Islamic World, ISBN 978-1850439349, pages 58-60
  2. ^ Michael Cook: Commanding right and forbidding wrong in Islamic thought. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge 2000, pp. 32-47 ISBN 0-521-66174-9
  3. ^ Michael Cook (2003), Forbidding Wrong in Islam. Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-82913-5
  4. ^ Sherifa Zuhur (2012), Saudi Arabia, ISBN 978-1598845716, pages 431-432
  5. ^ M. Berger, Apostasy and Public Policy in Contemporary Egypt: An Evaluation of Recent Cases from Egypt's Highest Courts, Human Rights Quarterly, Volume 25, Number 3, August 2003, pages 720-740
  6. ^ Olsson, S. (2008), Apostasy in Egypt: Contemporary Cases of ?isbah. The Muslim World, 98(1): 95-115

External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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