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Hisbah (Arabic: حسبةḥisbah) is an Islamic doctrine which means "accountability".[1] Hisbah is the divinely-sanctioned duty of the ruler (government) to intervene and coercively "enjoining good and forbidding wrong" in order to keep everything in order according to sharia (Islamic law).[2] The doctrine is based on an expression from the Quran (الأمر بالمَعْرُوف والنَهي عن المُنْكَر).[1][3][page needed] Clear procedures are required to be followed in order to enact punishment under sharia,[4] however Al-Jama'a al-Islamiyya (considered a terrorist organization) suggests that it is the sacred duty of all Muslims, not just rulers.[2]


The Hisbah has the following major aspects:[5]

  • 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 (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.[6]

In a minority of Islamic states, namely Saudi Arabia, Sudan, the 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.[7][8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Sami Zubaida (2005), Law and Power in the Islamic World, ISBN 978-1850439349, pages 58-60
  2. ^ a b 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. ^ Open Letter to Al-Baghdadi Accessed 16 February 2017.
  5. ^ Michael Cook (2003), Forbidding Wrong in Islam. Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-82913-5
  6. ^ Sherifa Zuhur (2012), Saudi Arabia, ISBN 978-1598845716, pages 431-432
  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

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