This short article is taken from the full article which is available here as a PDF file
On the scholarly and learning front, Malaga was amongst a number of the principal cities of Spain (that also included Cordova, Toledo, Seville and Granada) which had academies that taught mathematics, astronomy, geography and medicine. And they were staffed not only with Muslim scholars, but Christians and Jews also took part in the teaching.
Malaga produced two scholars of great renown who, through their scholarship, managed to mix science with Malaga's greatest accomplishments of commerce and farming; one, Al-Saqati, wrote an essential treatise on Hisba (roughly commercial practice and law) and the other, Ibn al-Baytar, wrote the greatest treatise of medieval times on botany and herbals.
Al-Saqati's work on hisba and the Muhtasib has been edited by G.S. Colin and Levi Provencal under the French title Un manuel hispanique de hisba (a Hispanic treatise of Hisba). This treatise of Abu Abn Allah Muhammad B. Abi Muhammad as-Saqati of Malaga deals with the inspection of corporations, the repression of fraud in Muslim Spain and includes the Arabic text, a glossary and an introduction totalling at least 700 pages altogether.
Following Levi Provencal and Colin, Chalmeta and J. D. Latham made further decisive and welcome contributions to raising the awareness of this highly important work. Thanks to Chalmeta, there is now a version of this work in a Western language. Then, in a number of essays, 1973 fwd, Latham has put at the disposal of the reading public three articles which enlighten on diverse aspects included in Al-Saqati's work.
Al-Saqati's treatise is the first treatise in the Islamic West of hisba and is a guide for the state official who is in charge of this function of Muhtassib. The author al-Saqati exerted his functions of muhtassib at Malaga towards the end of the 12th century or at the beginning of the 13th century. Latham points out that today Al-Saqati's work is of primary importance for the economic history of Spain. Latham also points to the important fact of how Al-Saqati, as the Muhtassib, commits his practical observations of his trade to paper. Indeed, both functions of Muhtassib and the information contained in this work make it a crucial element in the study of Muslim economic history in Spain and its subsequent impact on the rest of Europe.
It is important here to dwell a little on the role of the Muhtassib to explain the importance of the treatise by al-Saqati. The word hisbah is derived from the root hasaba, which means to take into account. Hisbah is a judicial system, which is based on a few broad principles and a set of jurisdiction. Glick notes that both the market and the urban artisans who produced for the market required governmental control. In the Islamic world, supervision of urban economic life gave rise to a specialized body of secular, customary law and a special jurisdiction called hisba (literally calculation) executed in Umayyad times by a Master of the Market (sâhib al-sûq) and later by a muhtasib with both deriving their authority from the qadi.
However there is another interpretation from Conrad which goes as follows: Muhtassib is the Arabic title for an official roughly equivalent to a market inspector, although this rendering is in some respects unsatisfactory. In the most general sense, a muhtasib was any Muslim whose conduct reflected hisba. In the first two centuries of Islam, it came to be closely associated with the frequent Quranic exhortation "Enjoin the good and forbid the evil." It therefore seems that as an ethical term, hisba meant the promotion of good deeds as a responsibility enjoined by God. It was in this sense that theological and hortatory literature in medieval Islam considered the duty of hisba to be incumbent on all Muslims: For the sake of his soul, every believer should do good and eschew evil, and, for the welfare of the community, should encourage others to do likewise. This latter obligation implied a notion of personal responsibility for the moral rectitude of society, the scope and extent of this responsibility depending upon the position and capacity of each individual (for instance, a slave could remonstrate with his master if the latter committed an evil act but could not try to correct him by threat or force). From this graduated concept of hisba followed that the highest responsibility and the role of primary muhtasib, as it were, should fall upon the holder of public authority. The evolution of these ideas and their development into the theoretical foundation for a specific institution took several centuries. The sources mention the muhtasib and other guarantors of public morality from earliest Islamic times. At first, regulation of public conduct and economic activity was the concern of one's kin, and personal behaviour and business practice were deemed acceptable so long as they brought no disgrace to the family or tribe. Disputes were settled within the clan and intertribal quarrels were referred either to the governor (emir) or to a mediator acceptable to all parties. The expansion of cities (especially in Iraq) soon compelled the caliphs and their governors to try to maintain urban order in some uniform fashion and, to this end, to establish and uphold certain basic standards of public conduct, especially in the marketplace which was the most important social and economic forum of the early Islamic towns. The Umayyad caliphate (661-749) marks the appearance of the sahib (or amil) al-suq (market master).
At the heart of the Muhtassib duties were the probity of weights and measures and the inspection of artisan manufactures and edible produce for adulteration; the muhtasib, thus, is pictured as making the rounds of the market with an assistant who carries a balance with which to certify that products sold by weight were accurately priced. If a fraudulent practice was discovered in the commission, the muhtasib could punish the offender summarily, typically by ordering the destruction of the bad product. The regulations, as collected in the treatises of Andalusi muhtasibs such as ibn Abdun of Seville and al-Saqati of Malaga, ranged from the general (prohibition of scandalous or irreligious behaviour in the marketplace) to very specific (stipulation of the number and kinds of thread per unit in various kinds of cloth; proportions of raw materials permissible in products containing multiple ingredients; procedures to be used in preparation and sale of meat). In the field of health sciences, for instance, Al-Saqati maintains that people are engaged in the pharmaceutical industry as professionals whose scope is very wide and whose methods are very numerous and complicated. Identification of fraud is very difficult, and the consequence of such fraud can neither be reckoned nor imagined. It is therefore essential that the muhtasib deals with such complex problems. The muhtasib also looked into violations of what would now be called building codes, particularly as regarded the disposal of market and household refuse in the streets and the overbuilding of upper stories in such a way as to occlude the sunlight, making