Hisbah: its Pillars, appropriate manners, and degrees
Fatwa No: 17092

  • Fatwa Date:9-2-2012 - Rabee' Al-Awwal 17, 1433
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Question

Would you please explain what the word Hisbah means in Islam?

Answer

All perfect praise be to Allaah, The Lord of the Worlds. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allaah, and that Muhammad  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) is His slave and Messenger.

 

The word Hisbah, in the Arabic language, means seeking reward from Allaah, as in the Hadeeth on fasting in the month of Ramadan motivated by faith and seeking the reward from Allaah.

However, according to the Sharee‘ah scholars, Hisbah means encouraging someone to do good deeds when witnessing them neglect this, or encouraging someone not to do a bad deed when witnessing them committing this.

Nevertheless, the concept of encouraging good and forbidding evil is more comprehensive than Hisbah, since people may be encouraged to do good deeds even if they actually do them, and from not doing bad deeds even if they actually refrain from committing them. This is what Imaams and scholars do when they urge people to observe good deeds and to renounce evil ones. Thus, the meaning of Hisbah is exclusive, because it refers to encouraging a neglected good deed, and discouraging a committed evil deed.

The pillars of Hisbah are:

1- The doer of Hisbah;

2- The person to whom such Hisbah is done;

3- The subject about which Hisbah is done; and

4- The degrees of Hisbah.

   

The doer of Hisbah is the one who encourages good deeds and denounces bad deeds, possibly without prior permission from a higher authority, since all Muslims are ordered to correct unacceptable behaviour following a Hadeeth narrated by Muslim, on the authority of Abu Sa‘eed Al-Khudri  may  Allaah  be  pleased  with  him. Al-Qurtubi may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him conveyed a consensus on the obligation for capable Muslims to forbid unacceptable behaviour. Furthermore, an act of Hisbah may be practised against rulers, which would undoubtedly be without the rulers' permission in this regard.

For a reward to be expected from Allaah for an act of Hisbah, the one who does Hisbah must fulfil the following conditions:

-        To be a Muslim;

-        To have a sincere intention;

-        To follow the teachings of the Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) , in practising Hisbah;

-        To be knowledgeable about the deeds that he is encouraging others  to do or prevent from doing, the nature of the encouraged persons and the background of the bad deed committed; and

-        To be able to alter a bad deed using one's hand; if not, one's tongue; or if not, one's heart – and this final degree of Hisbah is that which no Muslim is exempted from.

The proper manners to be adopted by the one who does Hisbah:

-        To be lenient and able to make the right choice;

-        To begin with oneself;

-        To set priorities;

-        To follow a gradual approach;

-        To be able to weigh benefits against harms;

-        To be patient and forbearing; and

-        To provide the person encouraged with appropriate alternatives 

 

The person for whom Hisbah is performed is the person discouraged from continuing to do a bad deed, even if they are not to be judged by Allaah for committing it, for example due to incompetence, such as children and insane persons, or due to ignorance or forgetfulness.

The encouraged persons are categorized according to their relation to the Hisbah doer, their power, and the time of their embracing Islam. There is no room here for mentioning the details of every category. 

The subject about which Hisbah is done should be a commonly recognized misdeed that is apparent to the Hisbah doer, without spying. Only a misdeed or one of its preliminary acts can be subjects of Hisbah. For misdeeds committed in the past, this concerns advice and not Hisbah. The bad deed must be obvious so that the one who does Hisbah can see it, hear it, or be authentically notified of it – without spying in all cases.

The subject of Hisbah must not be been controversial among scholars of Ijtihaad (the process of deriving an Islamic ruling in the absence of a clear Islamic text on the subject).

For the degrees of Hisbah, each of them is governed by certain conditions:

The first degree is to effect change by the hand. However, one must be able to do it, with no greater harm to follow.

The second degree is to effect change by the tongue; this is resorted to when the first degree is impossible to carry out.

The third degree is to denounce a bad deed with the heart, and this is an obligation upon every Muslim. A Muslim must detest evil, because the lowest degree of faith is to forbid evil by one's heart; that is to reject and avoid it.

Allaah Knows best.

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