Testimony Of Women

 Allah The Almighty commands:
“…Call in two witnesses among your men. If there are not two men, then one man and two women from among those whom you admit to be witnesses. So, if one of the two errs, the second of the two may remind the other. The witnesses should not refuse (to come) when they are summoned. Be not averse to writing the debt (whether it is) small or large, with the time of its falling due. This is more equitable in the sight of Allah, firmer for testimony and more accurate to prevent doubt between you…” (Baqara/ The Cow 2:282)
Although Qur’an does not discriminate women from men in testimony, traditional Islamic jurisprudence has discriminated women, and even has not recognized the testimony of women in hudud and qisas cases. In these cases all witnesses are required to be men. In other cases, one man and two women witnesses suffice. It is decreed in the following verse, which is about determination of judicial relations that arise debts:
“…Call in two witnesses among your men. If there are not two men, then one man and two women from among those whom you admit to be witnesses. So, if one of the two errs, the second of the two may remind the other. ” (Baqara/ The Cow 2:282)
If we do not consider other related verses, we may conclude that this verse differentiates the testimony of men from women. Therefore, the previous theologians got this idea as their starting point. The verse continues:
Be not averse to writing the debt (whether it is) small or large, with the time of its falling due. This is more equitable in the sight of Allah, firmer for testimony and more accurate to prevent doubt between you…
The expression ‘…this is firmer for testimony …” can be taken as corresponding to ‘writing the loan’ or to ‘quorum of witnesses’. The expression ‘firmer’ is the comparative form of positive degree ‘firm’. In other words, while comparing two firm things, one is firmer and the other one is less firm, though it is still ‘firm’. So if the testimony of ‘one man and two women’ is firmer, the other testimony –two men- is less firm, but is supposed to be firm.
The verses in relation to the testimony for inheritance demonstrate that the previous command was related to both the writing of evidences and to the testimonies. The Glorified Allah commands:
Oh you who believe! Call to witness two trustworthy witnessesamong you when death approaches one of you at the time of bequest or two othersfrom outside if you are traveling through the land and the disaster of deathshould strike you. Detain them after the prayer and let them both swear byAllah if you doubt [their testimony, saying], “We will not exchange ouroath for any price, even if the one should be the closest relative, and we willnot withhold the testimony that is done for the sake of Allah. Indeed, we wouldthen be of the sinful.
But if it is found out that those two were of the sinful, let two others stand in their place from the dying one’s kin  with a lawful right . And let them swear by Allah, “Our testimony is truer than their testimony, and we do not do injustice. Indeed, we would then be of the wrongdoers.”
(Maide/ The Feast 5:106-107)
In these two verses two, trustful Muslim witnesses has been considered as essential without any gender difference being prescribed. In case of a journey the heritage will made in front of two witnesses- even if they are not Muslim- has been considered as sufficient. In spite of the journey’s difficult conditions, both the witnesses can be males, females, or one man and one woman.
The sentence that is evidence to this issue is this: “This is the minimum that can be achieved for (to fulfill) the testimony principles.” (Maide/The Feast 5:108).
If we consider this sentence with the sentence of 282nd verse of Baqara “firmer for testimony”, we will notice that the gender of the witnesses –two men or one man and two women- is not one of the principles of testimony.
This is the hadith that was shown as proof to this issue: “…the testimony of two women is considered as equal to that of one man as the result of the deficiency of mind.” (Muslim, Faith 132)
The word ‘mind’ in Arabic stands for knowledge as well[1]. The expression ‘deficiency of mind’ in this quotation stands for the ‘deficiency of knowledge’. It is quite difficult to become witness of an issue you lack knowledge about, because it is difficult to utterly perceive the issue. This leads to doubts. Women usually are not interested in the law issues concerned with the loan, what makes them deficient in knowledge about this issue. So that, the hadith, in fact, explains the 282nd verse of Baqara, because the person who lacks knowledge about something, is not able to comprehend which of the things he heard and as a result witnessed is essential and which is a mere detail.
31.1 The Testimony for Indecency
None of the four sects accepts the women’s testimony in the indecency trials. However the Quran did not mention any gender difference between men and women in this issue. The Glorified Allah commands:
For those among your women who commit adultery, call to witnesses against them four (witnesses) from among you. If they bear witness confine them to the houses until death takes them away or Allah opens some way for them.” (An-Nisa/ The Women 4/15)
The verses related to lian give further explanation to the verses related to the women’s indecency. The Glorified Allah commands:
“And (as for) those who accuse their wives and have no witnesses except themselves, their testimony should be taken four times, bearing Allah to witness that he is most surely telling the truth.
The fifth (time) he wishes that the curse of Allah be on him, if he is one of the liars.
And what will avert the chastisement from her is if she testifies four times, bearing Allah to witness that her husband is most surely lying.
The fifth (time), she wishes that the wrath of Allah be on her, if he is telling the truth.”
(An-Noor/ 24/6-9)
Every phrase “I bear Allah to witness that I am most surely telling the truth” is a testimony; each repetition of the phrase is counted as a testimony to save the man from the accusation for the indecency crime.
Every phrase “I bear Allah to witness that most surely my husband is lying” is a testimony; each repetition of the phrase is counted as a testimony. The woman’s testimony has been considered equivalent to that of the man.
Both the husband and the wife use the same words in their testimony; the single difference is that the man’s statement is positive, while the woman’s one is negative.
The man: I bear Allah to witness that I am most surely telling the truth. (4 times)
The woman: I bear Allah to witness that most surely my husband is lying. (4 times)
The testimony of the woman annulled the testimony of the man.
The fifth phrases:
The man: Might the curse of Allah be upon me, if I lie.
The woman: Might the wrath of Allah be upon me, if my husband is telling the truth.
This last statement of the woman has annulled the testimony of the man and in the indecency trial, what points out to the fact that in the indecency trial the testimony of the woman is equivalent to the testimony of the man.
31.2 The Testimony in Talaq –The Divorce Pronounced by the Man-
The Glorified Allah commands:
So when they have reached their prescribed time, retain them with kindness or separate them with kindness. Call to witness two witnesses of justice from among you, give upright testimony for Allah.” (Talak/The Divorce 65:2)
There is no difference between the man’s and woman’s testimony neither in this type of trial.
31.3 The Implementation of the Prophet
Also this explanation of the Prophet shows that the opinion stated above is righteous.
“Ukba b. al-Harise had married Ummu Yahya, the daughter of Ebu Ihab. Ukba relates: “A black slave woman told me that she had breastfed both of us (him and his wife). I went and told this to the Prophet, but he looked away. Then I got in front of him and explained the situation once more. He said: “What else can it be? The woman is of the opinion that she breastfed both of you.” Then he forbade the two from getting married. (Bukhari, Testimony, 13)
Despite this expression of the Prophet, in theology in order to approve the ‘milk kinship’[2], testimony of women is considered insufficient. The statement of a well-known theologian Omer Nasuhi BILMEN in relation to this issue is:
“The adequate testimony in the issue of milk kinship is that of two reliable men or that of one reliable man and that of two reliable women. However, in this issue the testimony of a single man or only the testimony of two or more women is insufficient.[3]”

[1] Raghib al Esfahani, Mufradat, Art. عقل
[2] It’s no blood relationship, but a kinship that was produced as a result of being fed with milk by the same woman. (Translator’s note)
[3] Ömer Nasuhi BILMEN, Hukuk-u Islamiyye ve Istilahati Fikhiyye Kamusu, Ist. 1968, v.II, p. 88, par. 296.
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Date: Oct 13, 2009