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The Hisba, the Muhtasib and the Struggle over Political Power and a Moral Economy: An Enquiry into Institutions

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Chapter Summary

This chapter explores the shape and values of a particular Islamic institution in its own terms rather than as an instrument to a pre-determined end. It understands the mode of stabilisation it enabled and how it reduced uncertainty for those involved with it. In doing so, the chapter shows the struggles that were part of its formulation as a particular bounded "form" of social relations which evolved in particular ways across time. It looks at the institution of the ḥisba, and in particular at its actual practice through the person/office of the muḥtasib. The chapter stresses the difference between organisations and institutions, opening a possible ground for going beyond the concept of institution. A frequent distinction between organisations and institutions is that between actual groups of persons regularly interacting in practice, and the rules, norms and codes of conduct that guide and constrain them.

Keywords: ḥisba; codes of conduct; Islamic institution; musḥtasib; organisations; social relations



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