Women as witnesses
attitude to women as witnesses is one of thosesubjects which
attracted alot of attention from moderneducatedpeople, especially women.
There are two questions to ask. First, with regards to evidence, and two
woman being regarded as equal to one man. And secondly, women's evidence in
the case of Allah's Huddud (Allah's limits).
In total, the Quran mentions 6 cases where evidence would be required,
WITHOUT making any distinction between men and women.
1. "When you hand over to them (i.e. the orphans) their property, then havesome people to witness it, and Allah suffices as the Reckoner" [4:6]
2. "If any of your women be guilty of indecency, call fourwitnesses from
among yourselves to testify against them. If they give evidence and provethe guilt, then confine them to their houses until death comes to them orAllah opens some other way out for them" [4:15]
3. "O believers! when the time of death approaches any of you, and he is
going to make his will, the principle of evidence is that two just personsfrom among you should act as witnesses. Or, if you are on a journey and thecalamity of death befalls you, then two witnesses may be taken from amongthe non-Muslims" [5:109]
4. "As for those persons who charge chaste women with false accusations butdo not produce four witnesses, flog them with eighty stripes and neveraccept theirevidence afterwards, for they themselves are transgressors"[24:4]
5. "Thus when they fulfill their appointed period, eithr take them back onequitable terms or part with them on equitable terms; and take four
witnesses two persons of known truthfulness from among you, and establishthe evidence as before Allah" [65:2]
In all of these cases the Quran does NOT make a distinction between the
evidence of a man or of a woman.
The legal requirement in all of these five cases is to call for the evidenceof just and upright persons in order to establish justice for the Sake, andin the Presence of Allah. There is only ONE case where the Quran makes adistinction between the evidence of men and that of women.
"O believers! When youcontract debt for a fixed term, reduce it to writing.Let a scribe write with fairness the document for the parties. The scribewhom Allah has given the gift of literacy should not refuse to write. Lethim write and let the one under obligation dictate, and he should fear Allah, his Lord, and should not dminish or add anything to the terms which have been settled. But ifthe borrower be of low understanding, or weak or unable to dictate, then let the guardian of his interests dictate with fairness. And let two men from among you bear withess to all such documents"
"But if two men be notavailable, then let a man and two women bear witness so that if one of the women forgets anything the other may remind her" [2:282]
In this verse, the case od documents involving a loan for a fixed term, the Muslims are advised to put in writing and have two men as witnesses. And if two men are notavailable, they are advised to have one man and two women as witnesses.
This is NO WAY implies any contempt for the person of woman nor her
inferiority as compared to men, but merely makes allowances for her business related capabilities. In the historcal sense, it was obvious that as arule, women in general were less familiar with business procedures thean men, and, therefore, more liable to commit mistakes in this respect.[abridged: Muhammad Asad, The Message of the Quran p 2 note 273]
People who conscrue these words to cast a reflection on intelligence,
understanding and intellect of women and imply that one man is the
equivalent of two women are TOTALLY WRONG in understanding the
significanceof this verse as well as in theirinterpretation and judgement thereof.
This verse is neither considering here the status of women nor passing
jusdgement on her weak orinferior understanding and intellect in the sense that two women should be considered as one man. On the contrary, it is taking account of the fact that, in business matters, those who are familiar with such matters be used as witnesses.
NOTE: At the time of the Prophet there were many business women, but
business itself was a minority occupation for the women. Would you go to
court and have a man who knows nothing about international trade law
represent you? Or would you prefer to have two witnesses who know more than the one man? There are six types of verses in the Quran, the verse refers to a specific condition where women at that time were not as familiar with business as men were.
Generally women's evidence is accepted by all jurists of all schools of
thought. Sadly there is a minority who refuse to accept a woman's evidence in a Huddud case. However, they base their opinion on a hadith quoted in Ahkam al-Quran [vol 1 p 596]. However this hadith is NOT reliablebecause it'snarators were not trustworthy. ALL other jurists accept a womans evidence in huddud cases. [Mizan al-Itidal, Vol 1 p 213]
During the time of the Prophet the Huddud punishment was inclicted on the person who committed adultery on the evidence of a woman who was rapedby him. It is reported by Wail Ibn Hujr, that a woman went out in the time of the Prophet to go to prayer, and a man who met her raped her and hot his desire from her. She shouted and he went off. When a group of men came by, she said, 'That mad did such-and-such to me'. They seized him and brough him to Allah's messenger, who said to the woman, 'Go away for Allah has forgiven you' (i.e. she is not accountable as she was victim of rape), but regarding the man who raped her, he said, 'Stone him to death'. [Tirmidhi, and Abu Dawood]
This hadith shows that in the event of rape, the evidence of a SINGLE woman is sufficient to convict the rapist of the crime. Secondly that the evidence of a woman is admissiblein huddud cases.
During the period of the early Muslims, when Caliph Uthman was murdered,
only his wife Naila was present to witness the crime. All the eminent
companions of the Prophet accepted her (sole) evidence and demanded
punishment for the criminals from Ali, the fourth Caliph. Ibn Taymiyyah
argues on this basis that women's evidence is quite legal and admissible in ALL matters.[al-Tariq al-Hikmiah, p 142]
This view is quite logical because the fundamental principle involved in the evidence is the administration of justice. It is for this reason that the verse in surah al baqara about 2 women was revealed, as it reflected a condition at the time of revelation where women were not as active as men in business, and thus did not have sufficient know-how of business operations. The focus here is on justice for the plaintiff.
Imam Shafi holds the opinion about the uprightness of witnesses. He says
that whenever the Quran describes the problems of evidence,it mentions the condition of uprightedness and truthfulness of the witnesses.
[Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Vol 1, Tafsir surah al Baqarah, v 282]
If in any case professional expertise is required, then the evidence of a woman who possesses such knowledge willsupercede the testimony of one, two or more men.
When Uqbah ibn al-Harith married the daughter of Ihab ibn Aziz, a woman said that she suckled both Uqbah and the woman he married. To this Uqbah replied,'I am not aware that you suckled me, and you did not inform me'. Uqbah then went to the family of Abu Ihab and asked them, and they tol him that they did not know whether the woman had suckled their daughter. He then rode to the Prophet in Madinah and asked him. The Prophet said, 'How can youhesitate when you have been told?'. Uqbah therefore seperated from his wife, and she married another man. [Bukhari]
NOTE: According to Islamic law, anyone who has been suckled by the same
person, even though not an immediate relative, cannot marry someone else who has been suckled by the same woman.
In the opinion of Allama Abu Bakr Jassas, in all those cases where women
have the proper information, theirevidence should be accepted.
[Ahkam al-Quran, vol 1 p 594]
[above text taken from, Afzular Rahman, Role of Women in Society]
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