Islam and the Quran

Testimony Of Women

The Almighty God attaches great importance to human testimony. He bears people witness even to their own beliefs (see A’raf 7:172).  Therefore,  he requires to have eyewitnesses during important events, such as marriage, divorce, criminal court cases, debt agreements, inheritance issues, etc.
When witnessing, it is required to be fair. Rightfulness must be taken as a basis even if to the detriment of parents, close relatives, and the wealthy. Whoever we face, it is necessary to avoid emotional behavior and to act with justice:
“You who believe, for the sake of God be constant in your devotion and bear witness rightfully. Do not let the hatred of others lead you away from justice, but adhere to justice, for that is nearer to refraining from wrongs. Refrain from doing wrong (in the matters) regarding God. God is well aware of all that you do.” (al-Maidah 5:8)”
The ruling on the testimony of women is frequently asked, and almost always misused to damage the dignity of believing women. Although the Qur’an does not discriminate between women’s and men’s testimony in general, traditional Islamic jurisprudence has discriminated against women and rejected the testimony of women even in Hudud and Qisas cases. Traditionally, in those cases, all witnesses are required to be men, and in other cases, one man and two women witnesses suffice.
Let us see the relevant verses in the Quran, but first, you need to be aware of the method of analyzing a matter according to the method of the Quran:
 There are two verses in the Quran that compare the types of testimony and number of witnesses :


“Oh, you who believe! When you contract a debt for a stated term, write it down. Let a scribe justly write in your presence. The scribe must not refuse to write down (the debt) in the way God has taught (in this verse). So let him write, and let the debtor dictate. The debtor must refrain from doing wrong (in matters) regarding God, his Master, and diminish nothing from it. If the debtor is immature, weak, or unable to dictate, then let his guardian dictate justly. Also, call to witness two men from among you. If two men are not available, then (call) one man and two women. Let the witnesses be from among those whose testimony is acceptable to all. If one of the women forgets or errs, the other one can remind her. The witnesses must not resist coming when called upon. Do not loath to write down the debt including the payment due date, whether the amount is small or great. That is more rightful in the sight of God, firmer for testimony, and more appropriate to prevent doubt. In case of a spot (in cash) trade between you, there is no sin upon you if you do not write it down. Let there be witnesses whenever you make a contract, and let neither the scribe nor the witness be afflicted. If you do (afflict them), it is deviance of yours. Refrain from doing wrong  (in matters) regarding God. God teaches this to you. God knows everything.” (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:
“Do not loath to write down the debt including the payment due date, whether the amount is small or great. That is more rightful in the sight of God, firmer for testimony, and more appropriate to prevent doubt.
The word “that” in the expression ‘That is …firmer for testimony …” can be taken as corresponding to ‘writing the loan’ or to ‘the witnesses’ mentioned in the previous sentence. 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 still considered firm.


The verses about testimony for inheritance demonstrate that the previous command was related to both the writing of evidence and to the testimonies. The Glorified Allah commands:
Oh, you who believe! Call to witness two trustworthy witnesses among you when death approaches one of you at the time of bequest or two others from outside if you are traveling through the land and the disaster of death should strike you. Detain them after the prayer and let them both swear by Allah if you doubt [about their testimony, saying], “We will not exchange our oath for any price, even if the one should be the closest relative, and we will not withhold the testimony that is done for the sake of Allah. Indeed, we would then 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 have been considered as essential without any gender difference being prescribed. In case of a journey the heritage will be 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 (fulfilling) the testimony.” (Maide/The Feast 5:108).
If we consider this sentence together 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 the minimum required type of testimony, but it is the type of testimony better than two arbitrary witnesses, that would be either one man and one woman, or two women.
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.

 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 punishment of “false accusation of indecency” crime.
Every phrase “I bear Allah to witness that most surely my husband is lying” is a testimony; each repetition of the phrase refutes each repetition of man’s testimony. So, 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 only difference is that the man’s statement is positive, while the woman’s 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 in the indecency trial. This manifests the fact that the testimony of the woman is equivalent to the testimony of man in the indecency trial.

 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.
 The Example of  Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)
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 traditional jurisprudence, in order to approve the ‘milk kinship’[2], the 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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