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Islam, Women and Feminism (27 May 2015 NewAgeIslam.Com)


Is A Woman’s Testimony Worth Half That of A Man?



By Naseer Ahmed, New Age Islam

27 May, 2015

There is only a single verse (2:282) and context in which the Quran says that financial contracts may be witnessed by two men or a man and two women.

“O ye who believe! When ye deal with each other, in transactions involving future obligations in a fixed period of time, reduce them to writing Let a scribe write down faithfully as between the parties: let not the scribe refuse to write: as Allah Has taught him, so let him write. Let him who incurs the liability dictate, but let him fear His Lord Allah, and not diminish aught of what he owes. If they party liable is mentally deficient, or weak, or unable Himself to dictate, Let his guardian dictate faithfully, and get two witnesses, out of your own men, and if there are not two men, then a man and two women, such as ye choose, for witnesses, so that if one of them errs, the other can remind her." 

It may be noted that a contract is valid even if:

1. It Is Only A Verbal Contract

2. A Written Contract But Not Witnessed

3. A Written Contract With Only One Witness Man Or Woman Etc.

4. A Written Contract With Many Witnesses

Certainly, a written contract duly witnessed by two witnesses who will be able to testify reliably, if the need arises, is to be preferred and a woman is given the freedom to take support of another woman so that together, they can testify if the need arises. This verse is not about the admissibility of a woman's testimony but a concession to a woman witness of seeking help of another woman while witnessing and providing testimony when the need arises.

As far as providing testimony as witness to a crime is concerned, no distinction is made. A case will have to rely on the available witness male/female. If any lesson can be brought forward from 2:282 to apply to other cases, it is that a woman witness is free to take the help of another woman witness while providing testimony while a male will have to testify on his own.

Nowhere does the Quran say that a woman's testimony is worth half that of a man's. All that it says is that commercial deals be reduced to writing and duly witnessed. Even to this day, any document witnessed has two witnesses. The function of the witness is simply a safeguard against repudiation of the contract on the grounds that it was never executed and that it is a forgery. The witnesses then provide evidence that it was duly executed in their presence. The defendant and witnesses are cross examined to explore inconsistencies in their versions to try to prove that the event of execution of the document never took place. If the testimonies of the two witnesses differ, then the plaintiff has a good chance to repudiate the contract.

A witness has no role to play unless one of the executants repudiates the contract on the grounds that (s)he never executed it. There is no need for a witness to have even read the contract let alone be aware of its contents. All that is required of a witness is to testify when called upon to do so, that the signatures appearing on the document were executed in his/her presence and answer the questions that may be asked while examining/cross examining the witness. The role of the witness is limited to establishing that the contract was executed in their presence but have no role to play as far as the contents of the contract is concerned or the performance or non-performance of the obligations under the contract is concerned.We also know that witnessed contracts are almost never repudiated on the grounds that the contract was never executed since there is little chance of achieving success by making such a false allegation. However, if the plaintiff has a strong reason to believe that he could get the two witnesses to give materially varying accounts of the event of execution of the contract which can help him to repudiate the contract, then he may take his chances by denying that he executed the contract. If the witnesses were a man and a woman, then he is likely to take such a chance or if two women alone (in which case they would be giving separate testimonies) but unlikely when the witnesses are two men or one man and two women jointly.

While entering contracts, a person has the luxury of choosing witnesses and the Quranic verse is merely an advice on how to choose witnesses. In criminal cases, the law has to do with the available witnesses.

Also, it may be noted, that the two women will not testify separately but will give a single testimony jointly. If the verse had implied separate testimonies, then interpreting a woman’s testimony as half of a man’s would have been correct.  However, what the verse implies is that a woman is less likely to remember the circumstances surrounding the contract on account of which her testimony may not stand cross examination on account of which female witnesses are allowed the concession of taking the help of another woman. This is merely a concession granted to female witnesses and not a legal requirement.

If it was the intention to treat a woman’s testimony as half of that of a man, the requirement would have been for taking separate testimonies from the two women.  Doing so increases the chances that their separate versions would not match with each other or with that of the man defeating the very purpose of having contracts witnessed! The verse does not envisage the women to testify individually and independently and therefore it is not a case of two female testimonies being treated as that of one man. The verse only allows two women to give testimony together in consultation with each other.

The advice of taking two women together jointly is also based on the following:

(43:18) Is then one brought up among trinkets, and unable to give a clear account in a dispute (to be associated with Allah)?

Jointly, two women who have witnessed the same event are more likely to give a clear account consulting each other. Two separate unclear accounts however do not make for one clear account.

In a criminal case, where the requirement to prove a charge is two witnesses, the legal requirement is two clear accounts which could be provided by two males, a male and a female, two females individually, a male individually and two females jointly or one female individually and two females jointly or two sets of two females jointly. What constitutes a clear account is established through the legal process of examination and cross examination and has nothing to do with gender.

I have not seen anyone voice a similar opinion on the same subject and that is surprising. Any person with a good knowledge of the law should have come to the same conclusion. All the four imams have however erred on the subject and the classical Shariat law treats a woman’s testimony as half that of a man’s in most cases!

There are many other instances of the classical Shariat law having erred seriously incorrectly interpreting the Quran.

There is no movement however for a uniform and correct interpretation of the Quran. There has to be debate, discussion and consensus building and reaching a stage where we can have the majority of the Muslims to subscribe to the same common view and a single version of the truth.

Let us consider the verse:

(43:18) Is then one brought up among trinkets, and unable to give a clear account in a dispute (to be associated with Allah)?

It is possible today through Behavioural Studies to validate or invalidate the verse with empirical data. While generalizing for seventh century society may have been justified, we need to establish through studies whether what the verse says holds true even today. Mindlessly rejecting it however would mean that we deny female witnesses the option of giving testimony jointly. We should however bear in mind that this is an option and a concession and not a requirement and that a woman is within her rights to choose to go alone.


Naseer Ahmed is an Engineering graduate from IIT Kanpur and is an independent IT consultant after having served in both the Public and Private sector in responsible positions for over three decades. He is a frequent contributor to NewAgeIslam.com.

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islam,-women-and-feminism/naseer-ahmed,-new-age-islam/is-a-woman’s-testimony-worth-half-that-of-a-man?/d/103174





TOTAL COMMENTS:-   61


  • Rational's personal experience and disappointments are not unique. All of us have gone through something similar. A phase of improper understanding of the nature of God, a belief that He will answer all or any of our prayers followed by frustration and disappointment and disillusionment. But God is God and not subject to our faulty and illusory notions of the nature of God. We do not even begin to "experience" the true nature of God until our submission is unconditional and our acceptance of His decrees total. God is not a follower of our whims and desires nor in need of our devotions. It is our need to mould our life as Allah desires. What we ask and what we get is rarely the same unless we have reached a spiritual state where all that we desire is what Allah desires. Our faith starts off as conditional faith which Allah rejects and if we can overcome that disappointment and learn to submit unconditionally to Allah's will, we lose our way. However, we do get our opportunities to get back on track. If these are ignored then we get progressively confirmed in our disbelief.

    An estrangement and distancing with Gid on account of personal disappointments is understandable. But to turn an enemy of the religion and its followers is however not easy to understand and accept.


    By Naseer Ahmed - 6/15/2015 8:37:50 AM



  • Dear Rational Sb, I am just taking what you said at face value, even your name. I am not sure what sort of guidance you were seeking and hoping for. Anyhow we must search for reasons within us. Your parents named you after two mighty prophets of Allah have you thought about that. For years you are on this forum asking questions, do wish to return to the fold or trying to convince other people here that this is mumbo jumbo ?
    By Listener - 6/15/2015 6:24:04 AM



  • Dear Listener - 6/15/2015 1:09:26 AM
    i have thought for myself. I prefer unbelief over belief.

    By rational mohammed yunus - 6/15/2015 1:14:27 AM



  • Dear Listener

    I used to recite the verses in namaz with their meanings. I used to stand just after the Imam so that i can hear him well and pay attention t o meanings of verses he recited in travih prayers.
    i used to weep for my sins and always asked for guidance.
    what else a common person can do more than that? If there is Allah and he really listens to prayers i must have never left or question my religion.

    i never saw prayers were heard. this is my experience. this what i observe those people who pray. Since fear is seated deeply they simply don't question their beliefs.
    i could and as a result i am no more a Muslim.
    i live as Muslim to save my neck and for my family because even my family can be turned against mean.
    this is the reason stories of ex-muslims, and those who are muslims just in name hardly heard while stories of conversion into Islam are in circulation.
    Islam is a one way traffic.
    weather the Quran prescribes death for an apostate or not is a issue of debate but the truth is that apostates are killed and burned in Islam.
    Punishment of death to apostate has served Islam well.



    By rational mohammed yunus - 6/15/2015 1:12:39 AM



  • Dear Rational Sb, When faith enters our hearts we become Momin who is way above ordinary Muslim. What is faith ? you have to experience it to know what it is. Please don't dwell on others faults or shortcomings, you will not be asked about them. Just think about yourself and then your immediate family as a fist step. Please remove any ill feelings about everyone from you heart then only you can receive guidance.
    By Listener - 6/15/2015 1:09:26 AM



  • Rational,

    I am unable to understand what is biting you so much. Have I not said that Islam regressed to a position much worse than the pre-Islamic times as it concerns women empowerment? Why does this sentence not register with you? Read it 10 times. 

    Then understand that your saying  "you don't have enough examples to prove that women were in better position under Islam than jahiliya." is meaningless because I am not trying to prove that women were in a better position under Islam but have said just the opposite.

    If you still do not understand what is being said take someone else's help.

     

    By Naseer Ahmed - 6/15/2015 1:02:40 AM



  • Dear Listener - 6/15/2015 12:09:18 AM
    thanks for response.
    if the guidance is sought for and is granted then there are only few real Muslims in the world.
    you, me and majority of Muslims didn't become Muslims by seeking guidance. they are Muslims because of their parents.
    in this matter we are helpless.
    Billions of Muslims never asked for guidance. only they repeated "ihdi nas siratal mustaqeem" without any understanding?




    By rational mohammed yunus - 6/15/2015 12:47:06 AM



  • Dear Rational Sb, I have never met in person ex-muslim/apostate, so sorry I cannot relate real life story. BTW I don't think you belong in that category. But your unending questions confounds us all. Naseer Sb has been exceptionally patient in answering your questions over such a long period. I don't think even a very patient scholar would give you so much time. My last advise to you respectfully is, if you are looking for answers just sit down with a sincere heart and read the Quran. Guidance is sought from Allah only and none else.
    By Listener - 6/15/2015 12:09:18 AM



  • Naseer Ahmed saheb - 6/14/2015 5:14:53 AM
    Now you are crossing the limits by asking personal questions.
    by this you will prove the charge of secularlogic against you.
    losing patience!!!!

    my poor understanding is a loss to me. but poor understanding of Muslims in 1400 years has led to unlimited suffering to mankind because the so called book of guidance is not a guide at all.



    By rational mohammed yunus - 6/14/2015 11:57:56 PM



  • Dear Listener - 6/14/2015 9:06:30 AM
    would you like to provide the story of at least one ex-Muslim/apsotate?

    By rational mohammed yunus - 6/14/2015 11:34:14 PM



  • another example of poor condition of women comes from none other than hz hasan the grand son of the prophet.



    By rational mohammed yunus - 6/14/2015 11:32:35 PM



  • Naseer saheb
    you can say whatever you like. you can say i am deaf and dumb and mental retarded person.

    you are exhausted not because i lack in understanding but you don't have enough examples to prove that women were in better position under Islam than jahiliya.

    if i quote further Muslims will again charge me for quoting insulting material from Islamic sources.

    yes, i can provide a little better example of the courage of another Muslim lady who scolded hz umar on his spying into her house.
    Clearly Hz Umar was not happy with courage of some Muslim men, he complained and wanted strict control over women.
    of course you will not chase him because he was a rightly guided khalifa. 

    By rational mohammed yunus - 6/14/2015 11:30:49 PM



  • Naseer Ahmed saheb- 6/14/2015 5:02:42 AM
    please don't try to mask the real problem.
    No doubt hz aisha led the army, but was she not wearing the veil?
    what about the other wives of the prophet?
    if you had some brilliant examples you would have posted long series of comments.
     

    By rational mohammed yunus - 6/14/2015 11:22:18 PM



  • The following is a link to a review of James Fowler’s book on the stages of faith. The case of the Jew who went off the rails finds an explanation in Fowler's framework. The case of Rational is different because he is without a rational reason. All his questions running into several hundreds have been answered by me:

    http://www.exploring-spiritual-development.com/JamesFowlersStages.html

    Dr James Fowler's work is presented in a Judeo-Christian religious context and is based on his interviews with men, women, and children aged four to eighty-four, including Jews, Catholics, Protestants, agnostics, and atheists.

    Most people remain at stage stage 3 which is characterized as:

    “Here authority is located outside the self - in the church leaders, in the government, in the social group. Religious concepts are what Fowler calls "tacitly" held - the person is not fully conscious of having chosen to believe something. Thus the name "Synthetic" - beliefs are not the result of any type of analytical thought. Any attempts to reason with a person in this stage about his beliefs, any suggestion of demythologizing his beliefs is seen as a threat.

    Meaningful dialogue with such people beyond reiterating what they already believe to be true is difficult.

    The Agnostics and the atheists are those who went off the rails in stage 4.

     


    By Naseer Ahmed - 6/14/2015 10:46:11 AM



  • The following is a link to a review of James Fowler’s book on the stages of faith. The case of the Jew who went off the rails finds an explanation in Fowler's framework. The case of Rational is different because he is without a rational reason. All his questions running into several hundreds have been answered by me:

    http://www.exploring-spiritual-development.com/JamesFowlersStages.html

    Dr James Fowler's work is presented in a Judeo-Christian religious context and is based on his interviews with men, women, and children aged four to eighty-four, including Jews, Catholics, Protestants, agnostics, and atheists.

    Most people remain at stage stage 3 which is characterized as:

    “Here authority is located outside the self - in the church leaders, in the government, in the social group. Religious concepts are what Fowler calls "tacitly" held - the person is not fully conscious of having chosen to believe something. Thus the name "Synthetic" - beliefs are not the result of any type of analytical thought. Any attempts to reason with a person in this stage about his beliefs, any suggestion of demythologizing his beliefs is seen as a threat.

    Meaningful dialogue with such people beyond reiterating what they already believe to be true is difficult.

    The Agnostics and the atheists are those who went off the rails in stage 4.

     


    By Naseer Ahmed - 6/14/2015 10:31:28 AM



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