The Institution of Hisbah and Demand for its Revival

The Institution of Hisbah and Demand for its Revival

In the recent past H{isbah Bill, passed by the Provincial Assembly of North West Frontier Province was such an example. Apart from criticism of the secular lobby, against H{isbah Bill, the Bill ignored that several functions of the h{isbah were already being performed by different departments of the state. In case of the implementation of the H{isbah Bill, clash between the new set up, as proposed in the Bill, and the existing one was inevitable.


[The state and society of Pakistan is supposed to be shaped in accordance with the injunctions of the Qur’an and Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) since Pakistan is a constitutionally declared Islamic republic, but progress to this end remained slow. One of the difficulties in the way is the mindset that considers the format of certain institutions of the medieval Islamic state as the Islamic. In the recent past H{isbah Bill, passed by the Provincial Assembly of North West Frontier Province was such an example. Apart from criticism of the secular lobby, against H{isbah Bill, the Bill ignored that several functions of the h{isbah were already being performed by different departments of the state. In case of the implementation of the H{isbah Bill, clash between the new set up, as proposed in the Bill, and the existing one was inevitable. The problem, faced by Pakistan state and society is rather ineffectiveness of state apparatus. The only function that has not been properly taken carefully is the performance of the congregational prayers. While the state functionaries need to be revamped, there is no need to have a parallel institution. – Author]


The medieval Islamic state developed three institutions of judicial and quasi-judicial nature i.e. qazā, (judiciary), mazālim and hisbah or ih}tisāb. Hisbah or ih}tisāb was by and large a practical form of the Qur’ānic injunctions of da‘wah ila al-khayr (call to the good) and amr bi al-ma‘rūf wa-nnahī ‘an al-munkar (enjoining the doing of all that is ma‘rūf and forbidding all that is munkar).
What is meant by ma‘rūf and munkar? Both the words are repeatedly used in Qur’ān. By examining all the verses, where these words are used , one may deduct that ma‘rūf is an act or a process considered right and just by the common sense of a person of integrity and upright character, and munkar is something opposite to it.

Every Muslim is supposed to perform the duty of da‘wah ila al-khair and amr bi al-ma‘rūf wa-nnahī ‘an al-munkar in his or her individual and social capacities. Da‘wah (call or invitation) to the good may be extended to anyone irrespective of one’s status, albeit within the limits of social norms. It does not need any authoritative force but so far as amr bi al-ma‘rūf wa-nnahī ‘an al-munkar is concerned, it does need one or the other sort of enforcing authority. The parents exercise moral, social and upto certain extent even economic levers to induce the children to follow certain acts and not indulge in some others. The executives enjoy administrative powers to bring their subordinates in line. The social relationship of the teacher-students or elder-youngsters may work for compliance of certain orders, but when it comes to the general public where no such official or social bonds exist, the injunctions of amr bi al ma‘rūf wa-nnahī ‘an al-munkar failto materialize. In cognizance of such situation, the medieval Islamic state evolved the institution of hisbah or ih}tisāb from the time of second rightly-guided caliph ‘Umar, the Great’.

Scope and functions of the institution

The institution was developed over the centuries. The scope of the institution and the functions of its chief i.e. the muh}tasib were gradually established. Nevertheless, historical and juristic studies of the institution show that its scope never remained fixed; it is all but natural. The Islamic societies from Indonesia to Morocco differed in their composition and complexities, and faced different kinds of problems. Moreover even the society of a region or a country did not remain static, so the nature of the steps taken by the h}isbah functionaries continued to change. Duties performed by the functionaries of the medieval Islamic state under the institution of h}isbah were sometimes transferred to the judiciary and some other times to the police.
Apart from gradual development of the institution it, by and large, covered the following areas from the 1st Century AH/7th Century CE onward:

Supervision of markets: It was the foremost area of h}isbah. The earliest available writing in the form of a book (Ah}kām al-Sūq ) on the hisbah is by the third century Andalusian jurist Yah}yā b. ‘Umar Kinānī (213-289 AH/828-902 CE). With respect to market supervision, the person in charge was named as s}āhib al-sūq. He was supposed to ensure the use of standard weights and measures. He used to ensure that commodities were sold at approved prices and prohibited practices like sale of wine, indulgence in usury and gambling were not committed. He had to look after the interests of all those concerned in trade and business and to ensure no one was duped or illegally benefited. That is why, the h}isbah manuals prepared from time to time included chapters on the malpractices used in manufacturing and sale of goods. Muh}tasib was therefore considered to be a person equipped among other things with sufficient knowledge of trade rules and regulations. He was also entitled to appoint professional experts for his assistance to detect the malpractices in manufacturing of goods.

Performance of Congregational Prayers and payment of Zakāh: The institution was meant to ensure that people were regular in offering five-times obligatory prayers at proper timings. In this respect ensuring of maintenance of mosques, cleanliness around them and the appointment of mu’azzins (persons who call to the congregational Prayers) etc. were among the duties of muh}tasib. Similarly the observance of Friday congregational prayer and Eids (two annual festivals, one at the end of the month of fasting, and the other on the 10th of the last month of the Muslim lunar calendar). Prayers were to be ensured where those prayers were theologically obligatory. Along with prayers, the payment of zakāh by those who owned financial assets up to the level of nis}āb (the minimum amount of wealth in form of cash and kind fixed for the payment of zakah) was to be ensured by the muh}tasib.

Taking care of public interests: The h}isbah was to guard the public interest as well. By curbing the malpractices of the market, like hoarding and adulteration, public interest was served. The rights of weaker sections of society (daily wage-earners, children etc.) were to be looked after by the muh}tasib against the excesses of the rich and powerful. The muh}tasib was also empowered to admonish those who committed cruelty to animals. 


Institution of Hisbah in the subcontinent

In the context of the subcontinent, ‘Umar b. Muhammad al-Sunāmī, an 8th Century AH/14th century (C.E.) muh}tasib of Tughlaq dynasty (1320 to 1413 C.E.) discussed in detail the functions of muhtasib in his Nis}āb al-Ih}tisāb, a manual of h}isbah.

‘Umar b. Muhmmad al-Sunāmī, in the background of his own time, emphasized the eradication of all those additions and bid‘ahs [innovations in Muslim beliefs and practices that were not sanctioned by the Qur’ān and the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)]. He points out that swearing in the name of someone or something other than God is reprehensible since it is shirk (association of others with God in His divinity). The inscription of talismans, the practices of sorcerers, soothsayers, astrologers and the magicians are discussed and judgments are strictly made in accordance with the Qur’ān and Sunnah. The thrust of the author is to practice Sunnah, and reject the practices based on bid‘ah. Apart from condemnation of bid‘ah in general terms, bid‘ahs connected with funerals and marriages are elaborately discussed. Al-Sunāmī also discusses the importance of the observance of congregational prayers, and takes it as the foremost duty of the muh}tasib to be accomplished. Along with all these duties with respect to eliminate munkar, he talks about the prohibition of gambling, and consumption of wine, drugs and all h}arām ( religiously prohibited) things. Al-Sunāmī talks about the games, dress code and hair styles of the people in the context what is ma‘rūf and what is munkar.

The institution of h}isbah in the subcontinent lost its vitality as the political incompetence and moral degeneration set in during the Mughal dynasty in the 12th century AH/18th century CE, followed by British colonial rule. During the colonial rule (1170-1367 AH/1757-1947 CE) the Muslim institutions became almost defunct.



Pakistan’s Journey towards Islamic State

The colonial rule ended in 1947 with the emergence of India and Pakistan as two independent states. Pakistan, a separate homeland for Muslims, came into being with sheer commitment of the subcontinent Muslims to shape their lives in accordance with Islam. The journey towards realization of the objectives of the achievement of Pakistan started with the passage of the Objectives Resolution (12 March 1949) being the first major step. It was a guideline by the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan for the future constitution of the state. The process slowly went on, but often it was derailed.

After the lapse of about nine years, the constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan was framed (23rd March 1956) with the Objectives Resolution as its preamble, but the forces, unwilling to honour the will of masses hatched conspiracies to obstruct the democratic process. Martial Law was imposed on 8th October 1958 and the Constitution was abrogated. A new constitution was drafted by the Martial Law regime with all powerful indirectly-elected President and void of Islamic emphasis of the previous constitution (1st March 1962). Now Pakistan’s official name was Republic of Pakistan instead of Islamic Republic of Pakistan. The compilers of the constitution did not qualify Islam with the words of the Qur’ān and Sunnah. In short the thrust for Islamic cause was diluted.

With the promulgation of the new constitution, Martial Law was lifted and Chief Martial Law Administrator Muhammad Ayub Khan took the oath as the President of Pakistan on October 27, 1958. The masses of the country ventilated their anger against the modernist compilers of the constitution and demanded the restoration of Islamic thrust and commitment in the constitution. The President had to accept the masses’ demand, but their strength had been nipped with the introduction of Basic Democracies system, in which they were deprived of the right to elect their legislative representatives and the President of the country. The masses were to elect 80 thousand members of the Basic Democracies (BDs) and in turn they were supposed to elect the president and the members of National and Provincial assemblies from respective constituencies. The sitting President manipulated the system in his favour in 1964 to continue the office, but the popular movement prior to the presidential elections of 1969 forced him not to contest the next election of the President. He left the office in the wake of the second country-wide Martial Law imposed (28th March 1969) by General Muhammad Yahya Khan, a trusted fellow of Muhammad Ayub Khan.

Muhammad Yahya Khan promulgated Legal Framework Order and made some constitutional decisions of crucial nature, such as the dissolution of One Unit, that resulted in the revival of the previous four provinces in West Pakistan. He annulled the parity between the two wings of Pakistan maintained in the constitutions of 1956 and 1962 respectively with the introduction of the principle of one man one vote. Under his rule, general elections were held (December 1970) but the results were not of his choice. He did not like to hand over power to the elected leader of the majority party in the National Assembly, the Awami League of Shaikh Mujib ur Rahman from East Pakistan. The situation of law and order deteriorated in East Pakistan. Muhammad Yahya Khan opted for an army action to quell the uprising but he failed.

On the secession of East Pakistan, Muhammad Yahya Khan was forced by his follow generals to hand over power to Z. A. Bhutto, whose party had won majority in National Assembly from West Pakistan in December 1970 election. Z. A. Bhutto faced the task of the constitution-making. In spite of all of his liberalism and commitment to socialism, the constitution under him not only retained all the Islamic clauses of the previous constitutions of 1956 and 1962, but it went ahead even to declare Islam as the state religion. The constitution was formally adopted unanimously by the National Assembly (14th August 1973).

So far as the journey towards the transformation of Pakistan into Islamic state was concerned, it did not go beyond the constitutional declarations. Experimentation of prevailing ideologies of different sorts failed to deliver good to the people of Pakistan. Their social and economic problems aggravated and the rhetoric of the rulers failed to pacify them.

That was the perspective that a protest movement against rigging of the general elections of 1977 turned into Nizām-i-Mustafa (The Order of Prophet Muhammad Mustafa [PBUH]) Movement. It was an expression of the masses but their desire was shattered when democratic process was once more halted by Martial Law (5th July 1977). The leaders of Nizām-i-Mustafa Movementfailed to take the country ahead as they had talked, but the military ruler posed himself as the true servant of Islamic cause. There may be two opinions, but it is a fact that the military ruler took a few steps towards application of Sharī‘ah . Questions about what must be done to shape Pakistan’s state and society in accordance with Islam and the material that the intellectuals, from pre-independence days to 1977 contributed on the nature of the Islamic state and its institutions in historical and juristic background became an important subject in the political debates and academic discourse.

The Hisbah Institution: Establishment of the institution of h}isbah and its working also came up as an important element of Islamization among other things. The military regime established the office of the ombudsman. (8th August 1983). Such institutions are working in several Western countries. The ombudsman was also called the Wifāqī Muh}tasib, but it fell short of the traditional concept of muh}tasib, emerging from historical studies. The jurisdiction of the Wifāqī Muh}tasib is to rectify the excesses of the government functionaries against the public, due to interpretation of rules and regulations.

What is being delivered by the ombudsman now is just a part of the traditional Muh}tasib’s functions. The office of the ombudsman has nothing to do with functions such as inculcation of proper belief system, the eradication of bid‘ahs related to marriages or funerals, the regularity of congregational prayers, maintenance of the mosques, and superintending public moral conduct in daily life.

Why were these and such other functions left out of the ombudsman’s jurisdiction? The simple answer is that the concept of the office of ombudsman was taken from the West with its specific functions.

The military regime took the issue of the regularity in performance of obligatory prayers separately. The heads of the government offices were instructed to take care of the performance of prayers during office timings. Outside the government offices s}alāt} committees were formed on voluntary basis at the level of neighborhood to persuade people to be regular in their obligatory congregational prayers.

Functions of h}isbah pertaining to purely religious matters and moral conduct of the people were not directly touched. In this respect media, print and electronic, was instructed to present Islamic morals, and itself to follow a code of conduct. It was supposed to get the desired results in matters of morality through persuasion. It did work to an extent, but the political change at the top in 1988, with a different agenda upset whatever was in place. The s}alāt}committees were no more there, and the dress code (for example prescribed for the artists, program producers and telecasters) became redundant. On the other hand liberal and secular values were encouraged through media, especially through television, and sports etc, and the debate and development, whatsoever, was about the role of ombudsman or h{isbah institution went to the back burner.

What could not be done by the liberal governments of the country was duly completed by the media revolution of 1990s. The culture of dish antenna and unchecked internet services promoted liberal and sometimes quite immoral attitude from Islamic perspectives that started to reflect in society through different means from national media to roadside billboards. Above it, the autocratic regime of Pervez Musharraf (12th October 1999 – 18th August 2008) was bent upon shattering the ideological image of Pakistan through his secular agenda, later camouflaged as ‘Enlightened Moderation’.

Hisbah Bill 2002: That was the perspective in which MMA (Muttah}idah Majlis-i-‘Amal) formed the provincial government in North West Frontier Province, (NWFP) one of the provinces of Pakistan, adjacent to war-torn Afghanistan, in 2002. MMA was seriously concerned with the deteriorating Islamic social norms and encroachment of liberal values in society. It stood for enabling Muslim citizens to live in accordance with Sharī‘ah as envisaged in the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan. It came out to replicate the institution of h}isbah of the medieval era as a part of its strategy for application of sharī’ah. With the assistance of a committee of ‘ulamā‘(the religious scholars) that was later duly approved and notified by NWFP government, first a Sharī‘ah Bill was proposed and unanimously adopted by the NWFP assembly (2nd June 2003). The Bill was a renewed declaration of intent thrice expressed at the national level, though half way by the rightist military and democratic regimes in the past. On the eve of the presentation of Sharī‘ah Bill Malik Zafar Azam, the Provincial Law Minister, made it public that a H}isbah Bill would be tabled in the assembly for the eradication of social evils and moral laxities. The sections 9 and 23 of the draft of the Bill envisaged the duties and powers of the muh}tasib. The section 23 went as under:

  • To execute adherence to moral values of Islam at public places;


  • To discourage exhibition of extravagance (isrāf and tabdhīr) particularly at the time of weddings and other family functions;
  • To follow Islamic norms in giving dowry;


  • To discourage beggary;
  • To execute adherence to Islamic norms and to comply with respect and regard of Islamic values at the time of ift{ār and trāwīh{;


  • To discourage entertainment shows and business transactions at the time of Eids and Friday congregational Prayers around mosques where such Prayers are being performed;
  • To remove the causes of laxity in performance and proper administration of Eids and Friday congregational Prayers;


  • To discourage child labour;
  • To remove unnecessary delay in discharge of civil liability that is not disputed between the parties;


  • To prevent cruelty to animals;
  • To remove causes of negligence in maintenance of mosques;


  • To execute observance of Islamic norms at the time of Āzān (call for obligatory congregational prayers);
  • To prevent speeches meant to create hatred among sects and misuse of loud-speakers,


  • To discourage un-Islamic social etiquettes;
  • To check the tendency of indecent behaviour at public places,


  • To prevent dissoluteness;
  • To eradicate the practices of tawīdh-selling, palmistry and magic;


  • To protect the rights of minorities, particularly with regard to the sanctity of places and sites where they perform ceremonies of religious nature;
  • To eliminate un-Islamic practices, that negatively affect the rights of women, particularly to take measures against their murder in the name of honour, to remove the tendency of depriving them of their right of inheritance, to eliminate the practice of Swara and to ensure their rights guaranteed by Sharī‘ah;


  • To execute standard weights and measures and to eliminate adulteration;
  • To have check on artificial price hike;


  • To protect government properties;
  • To eliminate bribery from government offices;


  • To instil feelings of service to people at large amongst government functionaries;
  • To admonish those who are disobedient to their parents;


  • To perform any other function or functions that the Provincial Muh{tasib determines from time to time in consultation with the Advisory Council;
  • (a) To provide justice to the affected party in undisputed fiscal matters; (b) To mediate amongst parties and tribes in matters pertaining to murder, attempt to murder and such other crimes threatening the law and order situation.


By going through this section of the proposed draft of the H{isbah Bill, one may conclude that mind-set working behind the Bill is to replicate the institution of medieval era, with the exception of the elimination of bid‘ahs irrespective of what is already in practice. Skipping the application of Sunnah and the elimination of bid‘ah in the Bill, once an important part of the h}isbah functions, appeared to be calculated step of practical nature. The constituent parties of MMA had conflicting views on some of the practices of purely religious nature.

Having a look at the proposed functions of the muhtasib in the bill there appears to be an overlapping with other government departments and functionaries. Police is supposed to take care of the functions mentioned as items iii, iv, viii, xv, xvi and xvii. Similarly the market officer has in the jurisdiction of his job to execute the functions mentioned as items xx and xxi. It is the sole duly of the anti-corruption department to eliminate bribery from government offices (item xiii). The training institutes and academies at national and provincial levels are meant to instill feelings of service to people amongst government functionaries (item xxiv). A full fledged ministry is devoted to take care of the problems faced by the minorities. Other ministries, as of human rights and welfare of women are equally entitled to take steps related to any violation of human rights (item xviii). Prevention of cruelty to animals is also on the book of statutes. Government functionaries, especially for this job used to be appointed by the municipal authorities in the past when most of the transportation was by the animals. Now the traffic police is supposed to do the job by monitoring overloading of animal driven carts (item x). The cruelty to animals, in form of their captivity or their fight (dogs’ fight or fight between dogs and bear) for entertainment needs to be prohibited under law and duly implemented.

The rest of the functions are either pertaining to morality or the observance of the congregational Prayers, fasting and maintenance of the mosques. Problem mentioned in item v is by and large non-existing since no one is going to disrupt ift}ār or trāwīh}.

As to the implementation mechanism, the Bill sought the establishment of the institution with Chief Muh}tasib at the top (Provincial level) to the Tah}s}īl Muh}tasib at the bottom, would also have Advisory Councils and h}isbah force to accomplish the task.

In short, the passage of the H}isbah Bill in its totality meant to give the same authority in certain areas which is already exercised by other government departments. The question, therefore, was raised by many whether there would not be a chaos by such steps.

The draft of the H{isbah Bill was referred by the NWFP governor to the Council of Islamic Ideology, prior to its submission in the assembly for debate and passage. The Council submitted in its advice:

By inclusion of moral and especially such matters that are not ma‘rūf and people do not agree on their validity, the institution of h}isbah would become entangled in minor issues instead of achieving its prime objective i.e. to ensure just governance. Most of the 27 functions, mentioned in article 23 of the proposed H}isbah Bill are not specific and vivid, and they do not fulfill the definitions of ma‘rūf and munkar. … The definitions of ma‘rūf and munkar in Council’s opinion should be such an exposition in the light of the Qur’ān and Sunnah that is considered valid and is well known by different sects.

The Council did not challenge the concept of h}isbah, dinor did it bother to provide the alternative definitions of ma‘rūf and munkar; it, however, rejected the draft of H}isbah Bill on the pretext of invalidity of the definition of ma‘rūf and munkar. The Question whether the establishment of the obligatory congregational prayers by each and every adult Muslim is one of the executive functions of the Islamic state or not was also not touched. Moreover, Council equated the institution of h}isbah with the office of the ombudsman, therefore, it was suggested to have provincial ombudsman in NWFP instead of going for something new.

It is interesting to note that the Council had opined a decade earlier that the ombudsman’s office is wrongly equated with h}isbah, therefore it emphasized the revival of the institution of h}isbah, and suggested a blue-print for the purpose. Functions and powers of the Muh}tasib enumerated in the blue-print form about two thirds of the functions mentioned in the section 23 of the H}isbah Bill. What had been suggested by Council earlier, was totally rejected by itself.

The draft of the H{isbah Bill got the support from religious circles close to MMA but it was bitterly criticized by the liberal and secular sections of the national press. The liberals and secularists do not consider Islam as the ideology of Pakistan, therefore, they oppose every move that highlights Islam as the ideology. Apart from basic stand of the liberals and secularists, the H{isbah Bill was criticized by them on the following grounds:

  • No provincial assembly is entitled to interfere in the constitutional domain of the state. The passage of the H{isbah Bill will give the muh{tasib overruling powers to the existing laws related to bribery in government offices, child labour and adherence to law and order in public places;


  • Muh{tasib’s functions contradict basic human rights, for instance, if a young fellow, man or women, takes any step against parents’ desire, he or she would be compelled to obey the parents;
  • The functions of the muh{tasib mentioned as items i and xiv are ambiguous. The discouragement of the un-Islamic social etiquettes means that the h}isbah functionaries would tell Muslim citizens what to wear, how to have meals, and how to serve the guests or how to treat non-Muslims.


The MMA provincial government published the draft of the bill, and tabled it in the NWFP assembly. It was duly passed (14th July 2005), but due to short of the constitutional approval of the NWFP governor, it could not become an act of the legal code.


In the perspective of the historical legacy of the h{isbah institution and the debate generated first at the time of the Islamization agenda of the military regime of General Zia al-Haq and then on the H{isbah Bill of the MMA’s provincial government of NWFP, it seems pertinent to ponder on the following points.

  • Islam instructs its followers to perform certain duties at social and political levels, but it does not prescribe a specific structure or format for their realization. The format has to be changed in accordance with the social conditions. A society or locality develops its schemes of water management or sanitation differently according to its topography and needs, but with a single aim shared by other societies and localities that is the provision of enough amount of water to the people and maintenance of cleanliness. On the same lines, Muslim societies are given the liberty to evolve formats and structures to apply the divine instruction and resultantly achieve the objectives. Amr bi al-ma‘rūf wa-nnahī ‘an al-munkar is also such an instruction. The Islamic medieval state evolved the institution of h{isbah as a format to obey the divine order. The format of the past may or may not be adopted; it is not the objective in itself. The objective is the realization of the divine teachings so that a true Muslim society may emerge where each and every person, Muslim or non-Muslim, man or woman may live in peace and tranquility.


  • It is already mentioned that most of the functions of the h{isbah, referred above under the sub-headings ¾ supervision of markets and taking care of public interest ¾ are performed under jurisdiction of different agencies and departments. The issues involved in the functions of medieval muh}tasib are no more simple. For instance, in the 21st century the running of the markets is not just limited to checking of the quality of commodities, weights and measures, hygienic conditions of butchers’ shops and restaurants etc. Running of the economy has become a very complex affair, that was not even imagined by the h{isbah functionaries of medieval times. For the purpose of economic and fiscal planning to enhance trade and commerce, full fledged ministries are now formed. Same is the case with all those matters of public interest that were in the jurisdiction of the muh}tasib in the past.

Only those functions of the h{isbah are not being applied that are pertaining to Prayers, strict adherence to Sunnah, and certain issues of morality. We shall discuss more about this aspect later.

  • The problem faced by the state and society of Pakistan is by and large failure of all those departments and agencies that are responsible to run the affairs properly. Malpractices in trade, violation of public interest by persons belonging to influential sections of the society, injustices to the weaker strata, the inefficiency of government offices and such other phenomenon agitate the mind. Perhaps that is the sole reason behind the demand for the revival of the institution of h{isbah.

In the prevailing situation would it be better to dismantle the existing framework and to introduce a new one? The answer is in affirmative if a format of the past is the end in itself. But this is not the case. The objective is to achieve the goals, once achieved by the institution of h{isbah. For this purpose, the foremost need is to have a better political leadership with the real urge to serve the society. If this is achieved, it would be easier to revamp the training paraphernalia for inculcating the true Islamic spirit in the functionaries of the government. Along with it, formal education from primary level to the highest degree would help to instill moral values. The judiciary would contribute its share by its efficiency in promoting justice.

Contrary to the above suggested scenario, it is important to analyze probable the situation if a new format, as suggested in the Hisbah Bill, is introduced. To begin with, there would be two parallel forces, i.e. the police and the h{isbah force, and there will be no real difference if the existing force is supposed to cooperate with muh{tasib. It is genuine to know whether it is good to spend more resources on establishment instead of development. Extracting optimum benefits out of the already established mechanism with the minimum expenditure appears to be a better option. Moreover, the people, who are supposed to run h{isbah institution, would be from this very society, and there would not be much difference in the outcome with creating a new institution. It looks appropriate to focus on the first option.

Having said that, it is now easier to look at h{isbah’s moral, purely religious matters and organization of the prayers. These are important aspects of Sharī‘ah and need to be applied. Whether this end must be achieved through coercive means or persuasion? The use of the coercive means may lead to a danger of clash and disharmony in the society.

The history of world religions shows that every religious community remained well united during the life time of its founder but after his demise the differences of interpretation of religious dogma and practices resulted in the division of the community. The history of Muslim ummah is not different from other religious communities. There are several issues of theological nature, (some of them are very trivial) that have divided and sub-divided the Muslim community of Pakistan. Each of the groups adhering to its theological approach is not going to budge under any political coercion. That is why the H{isbah Bill is silent about the bid‘ah’s etc. Nevertheless, this aspect must not be ignored. After all it is the belief system and religious practices that give the Muslims their identity as the obedient servant of God in this world and necessary for salvation in the hereafter. This end would be better achieved through voluntary bodies.

It may be deduced from the above discussion that there is a genuine urge in the people to see the society mold itself into a truly Islamic one. In the past, hisbah was one of the institutions used to achieve this objective. Most of the functions of h{isbah have been delegated to different departments of current establishment, and they need to be revamped with a new vigor. For the purpose of partial aspects of the h{isbah such as establishment of prayers, there is no need to have a parallel institution to the existing ones. It is better to have s}alāt committees or such other voluntary bodies to persuade the lax Muslims to be punctual in their Prayers etc. Moreover, the education system needs to be effective to instill Islamic values and character in the society.














Ahmad, Ishtiaq. The Concept of an Islamic State: An Analysis of the Ideological Controversy in Pakistan, London: Frances Pinter.

Council of Islamic Ideology. 2006. Annual Report 2004-2005 (Urdu). Islamabad: Council of Islamic Ideology, pp. 51-53.

—. 1993. Raport Mu‘āsharati Is}lāh}āt, Islamabad: Council of Islamic Ideology, pp. 108-125

al-Ghazzālī, Abu H}amid Muhammad. (d. 505 AH/1111 CE). Ih}yā-i ‘Ulūm al-Dīn and Kīmyā-i Sa‘ādat

al-Husainī, Ish}āq Musa. (translated by Abdul H}amīd S}iddiquī). 1996. “Islam main Niz}ām-i-Ihtisāb, Tarjumān al-Qur’ān. (Vol. 65, No. 3. May and Vol. 65, No. 4 June). Lahore.

Husaini, S. A. Q. 1949. (1st ed.). Arab Administration. Lahore: Sh. Muhammad Ashraf.

––-. 1954. The Constitution of the Arab Empire. Lahore: Oriantalia.

Ibn Khaldūn, Abdul al-Rahman. Muqaddamah.

Kennedy, Charles. 1996. Islamization of Laws and Economy in Pakistan. Islamabad: Institute of Policy Studies.

Munir, Muhammad. 1978. From Jinnah to Zia. Lahore: Vanguard.

al-Māwardī, Abul H}assan Ali b. Muh}ammad. (d. 450AH/1058 CE). al-Ah}kam al-Sult}āniyyah.

Naz, M. S. 1999. Islāmī Riyāsat main Muh}tasib kā Kirdār. Islamabad: Idārah Tah}qīqāt-i Islāmī.

Qureshi, Ishtiaq Hassain. 1958. Administration of the Sultanate of Delhi. Karachi: Pakistan Historical Society.

––-. 1996. The Administration of Mughal Empire. Karachi: University of Karachi.

Rahman, I. A. 2003. “H}isbah Act kā abhī Jā‘izah laine kī D{arūrat Hay”, Juhd-i-H{aq (Vol. 10, No. 9, September). Lahore.

S}iddiquī, Sājid al-Rahmān. 1987. Islam main Polīs awr Ih}tisāb kā Niz}ām (Urdu), Lahore: Markaz-i Tah}qīq. Dayāl Singh Trust Library.

Sherwani, Haroon Khan. 1963 (4th ed. 1st edition 1942). Studies in Muslim Political Thought and Administration. Lahore: Sh. Muhammad Ashraf.

al-Sunāmī, ‘Umar b. Muh}ammad. 1406 A.H. Nis}āb al-Ih{tisāb (ed. Marizan Sa‘īd ‘Asīrī), Ma-kkah: Maktabat al-Tālib al-Jāmi‘ī. p.325.

‘Umarī, Sayyid Jalaluddīn. 1992. Ma‘rūf w Munkar (Urdu), Delhi: Markazi Maktabah Islami.

The institution of maz}ālim was somewhat between judiciary and administrative department. It used to take action on the complaints of the victims against those perpetrators of injustices who enjoyed support in the state apparatus due to their position. Governors of the provinces, tax-collectors, judges and the relatives of such office holders were among the people against whom complaints were usually heard.

“And from amongst you there must be a party, will call people to all that is good and will enjoin the doing of all that is right and will forbid the doing of all that is wrong.” (Āl-‘Imrān 3: 104).

  • “You are now the best nation brought forth for mankind. You enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong and believe in Allah.” (Āl-‘Imrān 3: 110).
  • “The believers, both men and women, are allies of one another. They enjoin good, forbid evil, establish Prayer, pay Zakāh, and obey Allah and His Messenger.” (al-Tawbah 9:71).
  • “(Allah will certainly help), those who, were We to bestow authority on them in the land, will establish Prayers, render Zakāh, enjoin good, and forbid evil.” (Al-H{ajj 22: 41).

See for the word ma‘rūf: al-Baqarah 2: 178, 180, 228-229, 231-234, 236, 240-241, 263; Āl ‘Imrān 3:104, 110,114; al-Nisā’, 4: 6, 19, 25, 114; al- A‘rāf 7: 157; al-Tawbah 9: 67, 71, 112; al-H{ajj 22: 41; Luqmān 31: 17; Muh{ammad 47:21; al-Mumtah{inah 60: 12; al-T{alāq 65: 2, 6.
See for the word munkar: al-Baqarah 2: 58; Āl-‘Imrān 3:104, 110, 114; al-Mā’idah 5: 79; al- A‘rāf 7: 157; al-Tawbah 9: 67, 71, 112; al-Nah{l 16: 90; al-H{ajj 22: 41, 72; al-Nūr 24: 21; al-‘Ankabūt 29: 29, 45; Luqmān 31: 17.

For detailed exposition of the words see ‘Umarī, 1992.

al-Sunāmī, 1406 A.H. p.325.

During Umayyad caliphate, the functions of muh}tasib were performed by the Governors of the provinces through police department. Abbasids introduced a host of administrative reforms. The functions of h}isbah were given to a separate department during the time of Mahdi (158-169 AH/775-785 CE) and this arrangement continued till the debacle of Baghdad (656 AH/1258 CE). In Andalus (Muslim Spain) h}isbah was part of judiciary. A municipal judge used to appoint a muh}tasib in the city who functioned as an appointee of the judge.
Besides the difference in administrative set up the differences in practices were there due to local customs of the people. (See: Ali Muhsin Siddiqui, Maqālāt-i-Tārīkhī, Karachi: Qirtās, 2004, pp. 153-169; S.M. Imamuddin, al-H}isbah in Muslim Spain, Islamic Culture (Hyderabad, India), January 1963, pp. 25-29).
The differences may be noted through comparative studies of the h}isbah texts of Syrian jurist Ibn Taymiyyah (661-728 AH/1263-1328 CE) and the Indian muh}tasib, ‘Umar b. Muh}ammad al-Sunāmī, (8th Century AH/14th Century CE).

Nis}āb al-Ih{tisāb is an outstanding contribution to the h{isbah literature. It is the only text of a H{anafīte jurist on h{isbah, starting from the first available text i.e. Ah{kām al-Sūq to al-Taysīr fi Ah{kām al-Tas‘īr by Ahmad b. Sa‘īd al-Mujaylidī of the 11th / 17th century. A large number of its manuscripts (in original Arabic as well as of translations in Persian) speak loudly for its popularity wherever H{anafītes enjoyed majority and their rites were in practice. In spite of the popularity of the text, the identity of the author remained cloudy and misconceptions were rampant. It was first published in Calcutta in 1830s with the name of Muhammad b. ‘Umar al-Shāmī, by A. Sprenger, the German orientalist, who lived in India for sometime and served the Delhi College as Principal. After a long time, the interest in Nisāb was renewed in the beginning of the 15th century A.H. Its Arabic text was edited and later published in Makkah as mentioned in note 5. An abridged and partially selected English translation with a scholarly preface was also later prepared and published. (M. Izzi Dien, The Theory and the Practice of Market Law in Medieval Islam: Study of Kitāb Nisāb al-Ih{tisāb of ‘Umar b. Muhammad al-Sunāmī, London E.J.W. Gibb Memorial Trust, 1997.)

For detailed discussion see Kennedy, 1996.

The classic texts that mentioned the institution of h}isbah included works by al-Māwardī, (d. 450AH/1058 CE), al-Ghazzālī, ( d. 505 AH/1111 CE) and Ibn Khaldūn in their original languages as well as in Urdu translations were available to the scholars. The books, contributed by the scholars of Pakistan and India, had also given importance to h}isbah in their discussions of Islamic state. See: Sherwani, 1963; Husaini, 1949 and 1954; S}iddiquī, 1987; Qureshi, 1958 and 1996. A few studies were translated from Arabic to Urdu as well, for instance: al-Husainī, 1966.

A coalition of six religious-political parties, namely Jamī‘at ul-‘ulmā’-i Islam (Fazlur-Rahman Group), Jamī‘-i ul-‘ulmā’ Islam (Sam‘ī ul-H}aq Group), Jamā‘at Islāmī Pakistan, Jamī‘at ul-‘ulmā’-i Pakistan (Nūrānī Group), Markazī Jamī‘at Ahl-i-H{adīth Pakistan and Tah{rīk-i-Islāmī Pakistan. It was founded in June 2002 to contest the general elections (October 2002) as a single party. The performance of MMA in NWFP and Baluchistan was astonishing. In NWFP MMA bagged 52 out of 99 seats of provincial assembly and 29 out of 35 national assembly seats where in Balochistan it was able to win 14 out of 51 seats of provincial assembly and 6 out of 13 national assembly seats. As a result of this success MMA formed its government in NWFP, and became a coalition partner in the government of Baluchistan.

Government of Pakistan, The Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, Islamabad, Federal Judicial Academy, 1989, Article 31, p.22.

It is interesting to note that the studies made on the institution of h}isbah, generally traced its history and highlighted the functions of the muhtasib and his qualifications etc. For instance see: S}iddiquī, 1987 and Naz, 1999. The authors do not discuss what functions of the hisbah institution of the medieval period are currently in practice, and how rest of the functions may be performed. A report on social reforms, prepared by the Council of Islamic Ideology made a proposal to have a Wifāqī H}isbah Authority inter alia other suggestions. The proposal was in form of a draft. See: Council of Islamic Ideology, 1993, pp. 108-125. The proposal envisaged the revival of h}isbah with most of the functions, irrespective of what is already in practice.

Salient features of the Sharī‘ah Bill were as follow:
The bill was not applicable to non-Muslims’ freedom, customs and tradition. … Constitution of three commissions was proposed that were to recommend proposals within a month for bringing Judiciary, Education and Economic systems of the province at par with Islamic teachings and obligations. The terms of reference for the Economic Reforms Commission included to suggest proposals with regard to prevailing taxation, insurance and banking, either it were Islamic or not, suggesting proposals for elimination of ribā and alternate proposals. The Commission was also supposed to present its proposals from time to time to the government. Similarly Judicial Reforms Commission was supposed to review the prevailing system in the Provincially Administered Tribal Areas (PATA), besides pointing out loopholes in the current laws and alternate suggestions. (The News International, Islamabad, June 3, 2003). Appropriate steps were to be taken for education and training in Islamic Sharī‘ah. Islamic Fiqh was to be included in the syllabus of all the law colleges of the province besides Arabic language and its education.

General Muhammad Zia al-Haq promulgated a Sharī‘ah Ordinance declaring Sharī‘ah supreme law of the land (16 June 1988). It lapsed with the passage of time. Again Nawaz Sharif’s government got a Sharī‘ah Bill passed by the National Assembly (16 May 1991). Similarly another Sharī‘ah Bill was passed during Nawaz Sharif’s second tenure by the National Assembly (9 October 1998).

Daily Nawā-i Waqt, Islamabad, May 27, 2003.

The practice of giving young girls into marriage to settle disputes.

Translation from Urdu is by the writer. See: Council of Islamic Ideology, Annual Report 2004-2005 (Urdu), Islamabad: Council of Islamic Ideology, 2006, pp. 51-53.

For example mīlād (the celebration of the Prophet’s birthday) is considered bid‘ah by Jam‘īat ‘Ulamā’-i Islām of the Deobandi school of thought, while it is an act of devotion to the Prophet (PBUH) in the eyes of Jam‘īat’ ‘Ulamā’-i Pakistan.

Translation from Urdu is by the writer. Council of Islamic Ideology, Annual Report 2004-2005, op. cit., pp.249-250

Council of Islamic Ideology, Raport Mu‘āsharatī Is}lāh}āt, Islamabad: Council of Islamic Ideology, Government of Pakistan, 1993, pp. 108-125.

For the viewpoint of the secularist lobby, see: Munir, 1978 and Ahmad, 1987.

Rahman, 2003.

Share this post