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"Muhtasib weighs the bread", from the Rålamb Costume Book, 1657

A muḥtasib (Arabic: محتسب‎) was a supervisor of bazaars and trade in the medieval Islamic countries. His duty was to ensure that public business was conducted in accordance with the law of sharia.



In the pre-Islamic Sasanian Empire there was an official called the wāzārbed,[1] meaning "market overseer", "market inspector", or "master of the bazaar", who supervised weights and measures in the market.[2]

In medieval Muslim WorldEdit

In the reign of the Sultan Barqūq, for example, the duties of the muḥtasib of Cairo included "the regulation of weights, money, prices, public morals, and the cleanliness of public places, as well as the supervision of schools, instruction, teachers, and students, and attention to public baths, general public safety, and the circulation of traffic."[3] The muhtasib or muhtesip was authorized to audit the businesses if they were selling their products at the price limits set by the government. In addition, craftsmen and builders were usually responsible to the muhtasib for the standards of their craft.[4] The muhtasib also inspected if the food sold was safe and the measuring equipment was accurate.[5]

"The Muḥtasib also inspected public eating houses. He could order pots and pans to be re-tinned or replaced; all vessels and their contents had to be kept covered against flies and insects... The Muḥtasib was also expected to keep a close check on all doctors, surgeons, blood-letters and apothecaries."[6]

A muḥtasib often relied on manuals called ḥisba, which were written specifically for instruction and guidance in his duties; they contained practical advice on management of the marketplace, as well as other things a muhtasib needed to know — for example, manufacturing and construction standards.[7]

In the Russian EmpireEdit

Among the Tatars of the Russian Empire the möxtäsip was a Muslim functionary expected to keep vigilant watch on the execution of the Sharia. In 1920s, after the October Revolution and ban on religion, their service was abolished. Today, in Russia and a number of former Soviet republics, a muhtasib is a regional representative of a spiritual board (muftiate).[8] The office of a muhtasib is called a muhtasibat. There are about 44 muhtasibats in Tatarstan now.[9]

Family nameEdit

With variant spellings as Muhtasib, Muhtaseb, and Mohtaseb, the Muhtaseb family is a Muslim family in Palestine in the city of Hebron.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Middle Persian: wʾcʾlptwāzārbed, Parthian: wʾšrpty wāžārbed, Ancient Greek: ἀγορανόμος, all recorded in Shapur I's inscription at the Ka'ba-ye Zartosht
  2. ^ Muhtasib at Encyclopædia Iranica
  3. ^ Anne F. Broadbridge, "Academic Rivalry and the Patronage System in Fifteenth-Century Egypt", Mamluk Studies Review, vol. 3 (1999.)
  4. ^ Hill, Donald. A History of Engineering in Classical and Medieval Times, Routledge Press, NY, 1984.
  5. ^ "Language Institute of Turkey". Definition of Muhtesip. Archived from the original on 2011-07-24. Retrieved 2010-10-01.
  6. ^ Caroline Stone, "The Muhtasib", Saudi Aramco World, September/October 1977
  7. ^ Ibn al-Ukhuwwa. Ma'alim al-Qurba fi Akham al-Hisba, Gibb Memorial Series, London, 1938; Arabic text, edited and translated (in abridgement) by Reuben Levy.
  8. ^ Islam in Post-Soviet Russia: Public and Private Faces[permanent dead link]
  9. ^ (in Tatar) "Мөхтәсиб". Tatar Encyclopaedia. Kazan: The Republic of Tatarstan Academy of Sciences. Institution of the Tatar Encyclopaedia. 2002.