Hisba (Abstract only)

Imad Alhajj (Ruhr-Universität Bochum)

Through Islamic history, the notion of Hisba has undergone various periods of development and conceptualization. Hisba is an Arabic term that literally means “reward” (Almaany, 2020). Further, Hisba is an Islamic doctrine, based on an articulation of a Ḳur ānic verse: “Let there be one community (umma) of you, calling to good, and commanding right and forbidding wrong; those are the prosperers” (Cook, 2003, pp.11-26). Thus, Hisba relates to the sense of obligation experienced by every Muslim and the state to perform two Islamic mandatory requisites: the promotion of good and the forbidding of evil. From a social and political perspective, Hisba aims “to change” the circumstances and norms that do not conform to the socio-religious norms and practices of societies (Abdelsalam, 2005, p.548). Hisba as a practice touches on “the basic principle involved in the value is that if one encounters someone engaged in wrong doing, one should do something to stop them” (Cook, 2001, pp.561-584). However, Hisba’s virtues relate to individual freedoms or what Cook (2003) calls the “clash of the values”: stopping wrong doing is a good value, but “violat[ing] privacy” is a bad value (Cook, 2003, pp.57-64).

The practice of Hisba is carried out as monitoring regime to mediate social relationships between the parties involved through the process of “righting wrong” (Cook, 2003, cited in Abdelsalam, 2005, p.548). Islamic regimes exercise this practice in various forms of governance, institutions names and mandates. For example, in Sudan, Hisba is officially referred or called as the “Public Order Police”. While in Iran, Hisba has been established as practice and take various forms of Islamic Religious Police (or also they are better known throughout different Islamic countries—the “morality police”) (BBC Monitoring, 2020) Hisba can also be enforced through violent means. Nevertheless, Hisba as practice of control and coercion in the context of collective violence employed to garner both social and political control are rarely discussed. This paper will evaluate the links between Hisba and physical violence in the context of ISIS.


Abdelsalam, A., 2005. The practice of violence in the isba-theories. Iranian Studies, 38(4), pp. 547–54.

Almaany, 2020. Translation and Meaning of الحسبة in Almaany English Arabic Dictionary. [online]. Available at: https://www.almaany.com/en/dict/ar-en/%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AD%D8%B3%D8%A8%D8%A9/ [Accessed 27 January 2020].

BBC Monitoring, 2020. Who are Islamic ‘morality police’?. [online] Available at: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-36101150 [Accessed 29 January 2020].

Cook, M., 2003. Forbidding Wrong in Islam: An Introduction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Cook, M., 2001. Commanding Right and Forbidding Wrong in Islamic Thought. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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