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Hisbah (Arabic: حسبة ḥisb(ah), or hisba) is an Islamic doctrine which means "accountability".[1] Hisbah is the divinely sanctioned duty of the ruler (government) to intervene and coercively "command right and forbid wrong" in order to keep everything in order according to Sharia, the laws of Allah.[2] This doctrine is based on the Qur'anic expression Enjoin what is good and forbid what is wrong.[1][3] Some Salafists suggest that Hisbah is the sacred duty of all Muslims, not just rulers.[2]


This doctrine of Hisba has the following major aspects:[4]

  • An obligation of a Muslim.
  • An obligation of a state to ensure its citizens comply with hisbah, in particular, the Sharia law.
  • In a broader sense, hisbah also refers to the practice of supervision of commercial, guild, and other secular affairs. Traditionally, a muhtasib (al-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 Hai'a.[5]

In a minority of Islamic states, namely Saudi Arabia, Sudan, the Aceh province of Indonesia and Iran, there is an establishment of mutaween or "religious police", as they are called in English-speaking countries. In some places, it is state-established, in others it is independent of the state.

In the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, the religious police who perform the role of enforcing strict Sharia Law are called the hisbah.[6]

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 of Hisbah, when his academic work was held to be evidence of apostasy.[7][8]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Sami Zubaida (2005), Law and Power in the Islamic World, ISBN 978-1850439349, pages 58-60
  2. 2.0 2.1 Lorenzo Vidino (2013), Hisba in Europe?, European Foundation for Democracy, Switzerland
  3. Michael Cook: Commanding right and forbidding wrong in Islamic thought. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge 2000. ISBN 0-521-66174-9
  4. Michael Cook (2003), Forbidding Wrong in Islam. Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-82913-5
  5. Sherifa Zuhur (2012), Saudi Arabia, ISBN 978-1598845716, pages 431-432
  6. https://news.vice.com/video/the-islamic-state-part-3
  7. 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
  8. Olsson, S. (2008), Apostasy in Egypt: Contemporary Cases of Ḥisbah. The Muslim World, 98(1): 95-115

External links