as-Sikka السكة
The Online Journal of The Islamic Coins Group 
as-Sikka is a peer reviewed publication
ISSN 1496-4414 

Winter 2000AD / 1421AH       Vol. 2.3


"Nihayat al-Rutba Fi Talab al-Hisba",By Abd al-Rahman Bin Nasir al-Shayzari
A translation
by Fawzan Barrage

A translation of a book about the duties of a Prefect in controlling the market place may not be the first item one thinks of when opening a numismatic review. I have chosen to start this translation with the chapters related to Money Changers and understanding weights and market measures, in the hope that these two chapters will attract attention to the rest of the book.

Al-Shayzari was a contemporary of al-Nasir Yussuf Salah al-Din and indeed dedicated his book “Nahj al-Suluk Fi Siyasat al-Muluk”, to him.  A Judge, by most accounts[1], he was commissioned to write “Nihayat al-Ritba”, detailing the duties of a market prefect presumably by a member of the Ayyubid Dynasty. This book addresses in forty two chapters, every aspect of the then market place. It details the inner workings of each profession and trade and educates the prefect about the potential misconduct of every one from Pharmacists to Grocers to tailors and bakers.

What makes this book of utmost importance in deciphering the state of the market place in the Islamic near east is that it was the first book to address this subject exclusively and in detail.  al-Shayzari was writing in the Sixth Hijri Century, and while al-Mawardi and al-Gahzali both addressed the subject in the fourth and fifth Hijri centuries respectively, their mention of the subject was tangential to their main subjects of Fiqh.

As to Ibn al-Ikhwa and his book “Ma’alim al-Kirba Fi Ahkam al-Hisba”, and Ibn Bassam’s book “Nihayat al-Ritba Fi Talab al-Hisba”, both of these have been well documented as having plagiarized al-Shayzari’s work which preceded them.[2] 

I propose to translate two to three chapters for each issue of as-Sikka and in the end compile these into a separate webpage in the group’s website. I would welcome any feedback about this undertaking and it’s suitability in this forum.

Chapter 30

Controls for the Moneychangers

The profession of the moneychanger is religiously dangerous to its practitioner. As a matter of fact, religion is non-existent with the moneychanger if he is ignorant of the Shari'a and unfamiliar with the laws regarding usury. It is imperative that no one undertakes such a profession until they have learned the Shar' to avoid falling into the prohibited in its codes. It is also the controller's duty to monitor the market and spy on their activities. If he finds someone charging usury or is acting against the Shari'a, he is to rebuke and removed him from the market -

He is to do that after he enlightens them in the principles of usury and that it is not permitted for anyone to sell gold for gold or silver for silver except in an equal manner. Hand in hand. If the moneychanger takes more, or if they (The moneychanger and the customer) separate before payment is made, that is blasphemous.

As to the sale of gold in silver, there it is permitted to have a disparity (Arbitrage), but it is prohibited to have deferred payment and the separation before payment is made. It is also prohibited for one to sell the pure for the counterfeit, or to sell the counterfeit for the counterfeit of the gold and silver such as the sale of the Egyptian Dinars for Dinars of Tyre[3] or those of Tyre for those of Tyre, or the Ahadiyya dirhams for the Quarawiyya Dirhams[4] all because there is an ignorance of their purity and the lack of equity between them.

It is also not permitted to exchange the full dinar with fractions[5] because of the difference in their values. Nor is it allowed for the moneychanger to exchange the Kishani Dinars for those of Sabur[6] due to the difference in their purity.

It is also prohibited to sell a dinar and a cloth for 2 dinars. Some moneychangers and textile merchants may do otherwise, giving the buyer a dinar as a loan and then selling him some textile for 2 dinars so that he owes 3 dinars - for reasons that are well known - and he confirms this on him in total. That is also blasphemous. It is not permitted to make a loan of this kind because it is a loan that has forced a sale (or profit). If he hadn't loaned him the Dinar he would not have bought the cloth from him for 2 dinars. (presumably overpriced).

There are some also who would buy the Dinars for Silver Dirhams or Frankish Qirtas[7] and say to the moneychanger: ”Use these to pay back a loan so you are relieved from cashing them or weighing them yourself, or take them from me a bit at a time.” And the moneychanger agrees to that due to his lack of knowledge.

This is all Blasphemous and should not be done. It is the duty of the controller to keep a watch on all the activities that we mentioned here and elsewhere. It has been said that if the weight of four ‘mithqal’s if it were weighed separately it would show a marked disparity. That is why Moneychangers dislike taking such payments for themselves. If they owe someone more than four Dinars, they would pay the four dinars thus and promise payment on the rest at a later time.

As to their weights and scales, these have been discussed earlier And only God is all knowing.

Chapter 3

Understanding the Qanatir, Artal and the weights and Dirhams

As this is the basis of exchange and with it is measured the trade, it is imperative on the controller to understand it and verify its value so that its use in trade is not deceptive to the people.

The conventions of weights (artaal) used in trade differ in each provinces of the realm especially in Bilad al-Sham. I will address here what the controller cannot ignore in order to understand the difference in pricing.

The Qanaatir that were mentioned by God almighty in his gracious book, were said by Ma’ath bin Jibil to weigh 1100 Awquiya, and by Abu Sa’id al-Khadri to weigh a hide-full worth of gold”.

As to the Qintar that is conventionally used, it is 100 Ratil. The Ratil is 684 Dirham and also 12 Awqiya   and the Awqiya is 57 Dirham. That is the Shayzari Ratil which banu Munqith have set.

As to the Ratil of Halab it is 724 Dirham and its Awquiya is 60 and one third Dirhams
The Ratil of Dimashq is 600 Dirham and its Awquiya is 50 Dirhams
The Ratil of Hama is 650 Dirhams and its Awquiya is 55 Dirhams
The Ratil of al-Ma’arra is equal to that of Hims.
The Ratil of Misr - May God Gard her[8]- is 144 Dirham, and its Awquiya 12 Dirhams
The Manna[9] is 260 Dirhams and the Ratil of Baghdad is half a Manna.

As to the Mithqal it is a Dirham and two and a half Daniqs[10]. It is also equal to 24 Quirat and also equal to 58 habbas. The Damascan Dirham is 60 Habbas.

The weights of Bilad al-Sham are varied. The Mithqal of Shayzar is half a quirat more than that of Halab. The Mithqal of Hama is equal to that of Shayzar. The Mithqal of Dimashq is more than that of Shayzar and that of al-Ma’arra is like that of Dimashq.

The Qafzan[11] and its units also vary. The Qufayz of Shayzar  equals sixteen Sunbuls[12], and is a well known weight unit there. It is also equal to one and one half Ratils in Shayzar. The Qufayz of Hama is two Sunbuls less than that of Shayzar, and that of Hims is the same as that of Hama.

The Makkuk[13] of Halab is 3 Sunbuls more than that of Shayzar, and that of al-Ma’arra is the same as that of Halab. They are also equal to four Marazibs[14] and each Mirzab is four Akyal[15] in Halab. Also, the Ghazara[16] of Dimashq is equal to three Makakik in Halab.

All that I have mentioned is not constant over time. People have used different norms during the reigns of different Sultans and have changed these norms with the changing of the Sultans and only God is all knowing.

Foot Notes:
[1] Ibn Kadi Shahbat: “al-Kawakib al-Durriya Fi al-Sira al-Nuriya”, p 47.
[2] Ruben Levi, Gibb Memorial New Series. Vol XII, Cambridge, 1938.
[3] The Egyptian Dinars here refer to those of the Fatimids while the Tyre Dinars refer to the Crusader imitation of Fatimid Dinars.
[4] The author is probably comparing the Umayyad dirhams (Ahadiyya in reference to Ayat al-Ikhlas on them these coins), to those that were circulating in Sind (probably pre-reform Drachms).
[5] Fractions are meant literally as halved coins or portions thereof and are not to be confused with official fractional Dinars.
[6] Dirhams of Kashan and Sabur are compared during the Seljuk period.
The Qirtas or "Qaratees" was a common name given to Crusaders billon deniers and also to Byzantine copper coins and copper coins in general that circulated in the region at the time. In this instance it is clear that the author is referring to the Crusader deniers when he uses the term Qaratees Ifranjuyya
[8] The writer may have been writing during one of the early attempts by the Crusaders to attack Misr.
[9] Manna is equal to two Ratils.
[10] A Daniq is equal to 10 habbas of Barley or 40 Habbas of Rice (al-Maqrizi Ighathat al-Umma Bi-Kashf al Ghumma p. 10.
[11] The Qufzan (singular = Qufayz) is a weight used primarily for dry goods.
[12] A Sunbul is an ear of corn. I didn’t want to translate the term to maintain it’s non-literal reference.
[13] Another weight unit used for liquid goods.
[14] Marazib (singular = Mirzab) is a weight used primarily for grains.
[15] Akyal (singular = Kayl) Another unit used for liquid goods.
[16] Ghazara: another weight used primarily for grains



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