Saturday, December 1, 2012

How does Islam view a woman's testimony?


Respected scholars, as-salamu `alaykum. Does Islam regard the testimony of women as half of a man's just in cases of transactions or in every case? Who are the scholars that maintain the first view? What is the evidence of those scholars saying that her testimony is not accepted in cases of murder and adultery? Jazakum Allahu khayran.


Wa `alaykum as-salam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh.

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.

Sister, first of all, we would like to say that we are impressed by your question, which emanates from a thoughtful heart. May Almighty Allah help us all adhere to the principles of this true religion, Islam, and enable us to be among the dwellers of Paradise in the Hereafter, amen.

In Islam, woman is not considered as an inferior gender and most Qur'anic references to testimony do not make any reference to gender. Some references fully equate the testimony of males and females. No reference is made to the inferiority or superiority of one gender's witness or the other's.

In his response to your question, Dr. Muzammil H. Siddiqi, president of the Fiqh Council of North America, states,
The word shahadah in its various forms has occurred in the Qur'an about 156 times. There is only one case (Al-Baqarah 2:282) where there is a reference to gender. Apart from this one reference, there is no other place where the issue of gender is brought in the context of testimony. According to the Qur'an, it does not make any difference whether the person testifying is a male or female; the only objective is to ascertain accuracy and to establish justice and fairness. In one place in the Qur'an, there is an explicit reference that equates the testimonies of the male and female (See Surat An-Nur 24:6-9).

Only in the context of business transactions and loan contracts, it is mentioned that if two men are not available for testimony, then one man and two women are to be provided for that particular purpose (See Surat Al-Baqarah 2:282). The reason is not because of gender; it is given in the Qur'anic verse: If one errs, the other may remind her. Some scholars have suggested that this was due to the fact that most women in the past and even now were not involved in the intricate business dealings. So the Qur'an accepted their testimony, but to insure justice indicated that there should be two.

It is also important to note that the Shari`ah emphasizes that we follow the law exactly in the matters of worship; in economic dealings, however, the issue of justice is the main factor. If a judge sees that there is a woman who is very qualified and has good understanding of business transactions, the judge may consider her testimony equal to the testimony of a man. This will not be against the teachings of the Qur'an.

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