Suvarna Garge (Editor)

Status of women's testimony in Islam

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The status of women's testimony in Islam is disputed.

Muzammil H. Siddiqi, a notable scholar from North America, has said the Quran makes very little reference to genders, in terms of testimony.

In cases of hudud, punishments for serious crimes, 12th-century Maliki jurist Averroes wrote that jurists disagree about the status of women's testimony. According to Averroes, most scholars say that in this case women's testimony is unacceptable regardless of whether they testify alongside male witnesses. However, he writes that the school of thought known as the Zahiris believe that if two or more women testify alongside a male witness, then (as in cases regarding financial transactions, discussed below), their testimony is acceptable. In case of witnesses for financial documents, the Qur'an asks for two men or one man and two women. It is disputed whether this means that a woman's testimony worth half that of a man either in disputes about financial transactions or as a general matter.

On the other hand, Javed Ahmed Ghamidi writes that Islam asks for two female witnesses against one male, in the case of financial transactions, because this responsibility is not very suited to their temperament, sphere of interest, and usual environment. He argues that Islam makes no claim that a woman's testimony is half in any case. He interprets the Qur'an verse as only a recommendation and argues that it will be for the court judge to decide what kind and whose evidence will be enough to prove a case. Regarding the Prophetic narration, that is used to prove half-testimony status of women, Javed Ahmed Ghamidi and members of his foundation Al-Mawrid argue against its reliability and its translation from Arabic. Ghamdi also contends that the narration cannot be used in all general cases because it is related to the Qur'an verse whose subject is related only to financial matters. Another Pakistani religious scholar Ishaq argues that acquiring conclusive evidence is important, regardless of whether it can be obtained from just one man or just one woman.

Ibn al-Qayyim also argued that the verse referred to, relates to the heavy responsibility of testifying by which an owner of wealth protects his rights, not with the decision of a court; the two are completely different from each other. It is also argued that this command shows that the Qur'an does not want to make difficulties for women. Ibn Taymiyya also reasoned the deficiency of using Qur'an 2:282 to prove evidentiary discrimination against women. However, both Ibn al-Qayyim and Ibn Taymiyya did believe in the difference of probative value of men's and women's testimony. It is argued that even though Ibn al-Qayyim believed that women were more prone to making errors, instead of concluding a general discrimination from this, women's testimony was to be treated on an individual basis. This is because Ibn al-Qayyim contended that in cases where a woman and man share all the Islamic good qualities of a witness, a woman's testimony corroborated by another woman may actually be considered stronger than the uncorroborated testimony of a man. Additionally, Ibn al-Qayyim also regarded the testimony of some exceptional women like those who transmitted Hadith as doubtlessly greater than a single man of lesser esteem.

In matters other than financial transactions, scholars differ on whether the Qur'anic verses relating to financial transactions apply. This is especially true in the case of bodily affairs like divorce, marriage, slave-emancipation and raju‘ (restitution of conjugal rights). According to Averroes, Imam Abu Hanifa believed that their testimony is acceptable in such cases. Imam Malik, on the contrary, believes that their testimony remains unacceptable. For bodily affairs about which men can have no information in ordinary circumstances, such as the physical handicaps of women and the crying of a baby at birth, the majority of scholars hold that the testimony of women alone is acceptable. But the number of women witnesses needed is debated in different Islamic schools of law. Hanafi's and Hanbali's see even one woman enough. According to Maliki's two women are required. As for Shafii's, they see that 4 women are needed.

In certain situations, the scripture accepts the testimony of a woman as equal to that of a man's and that her testimony can even invalidate his, such as when a man accuses his wife of unchastity.

Legal status

Countries where in some cases a woman's testimony is worth half of that of a man:

  • Bahrain (in Sharia courts)
  • Egypt (in family courts)
  • Iran (in most cases)
  • Iraq (in some cases)
  • Jordan (in Sharia courts)
  • Kuwait (in family courts)
  • Libya (in some cases)
  • Morocco (in family cases)
  • Palestine (in cases related to marriage, divorce and child custody)
  • Qatar (in family law matters)
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Syria (in Sharia courts)
  • United Arab Emirates (in some civil matters)
  • Yemen (not allowed to testify at all in cases of adultery and retribution)
  • OIC countries where women's testimony is known to be equal to a man's in all cases:

  • Algeria
  • Tunisia
  • Oman
  • References

    Status of women's testimony in Islam Wikipedia

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