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Testimony of Women

Allah, the Exalted, stated in the Glorious Qur'an:

(And get two witnesses out of your own men. And if there are not two men (available), then a man and two women, such as you agree for witnesses, so that if one of them (two women) errs, the other can remind her.)

[2:282]

Allah clarifies to assure the rights of others that testimonies will not be valid unless two men, or one man and two women offer them.

Divine wisdom has granted women, in general, very sensitive emotions, tender feelings, and a predisposition towards care and love of other members of the family. This makes a woman capable of her natural task of childbearing, nursing, taking care of all the needs of the young child, etc. Based on these emotional characteristics of the woman, she might very well follow her emotional inclinations and swerve from harsh realities due to an emotional involvement in a case. A woman's loving and kind feelings might overcome what she has witnessed, and thus she may distort the story of her witness and testimony. At the same time the biological changes that occur in her body due to menses, pregnancy, child-birth and post-natal conditions reduce the sharpness of her memory and may make her forget the details of the issue.

Therefore, a divine precautionary measure was established to eliminate any shortcoming on a woman's part in any case of testimony. We would like to point out here one of the essential principles of the legal and judicial system in Islam, which states that the case is not valid for proceedings if a doubt arises in the case. Therefore, the strength of two female witnesses is intended to eliminate this doubt.

Besides testimony that involves other people's rights, Islam has granted women full financial freedom in terms of independence and financial decision-making, and made her exactly equal to men in that regard. However, woman's natural role in life, in raising children and caring for the family requires her to stay in the home for longer and extended periods in comparison to men, thus limiting her knowledge and experience to the affairs she stays involved in most of her life.

It is a false accusation to say that making the testimonies and witnesses of two women equal to one man in certain cases is an insult to the woman's intelligence and a dishonor to her integrity. If that were the case, a single woman's testimony would, likewise, not be acceptable in the other affairs of women. Islamic jurisprudence accepts a woman's testimony in all affairs that are private like in confirming the virginity of a woman, delivery of a child, clarification of female sexual defects, and other matters that mandate examination due to a dispute. At the same time, it must be remembered that Islamic law rejects a man's lone testimony in the least significant financial matters such as lending or borrowing funds and other transactions, since there must be two. The critically serious cases, wherein a woman's testimony must be doubled, is established in order to preserve and prove the rights of individuals in the society based on the reliability and irrefutability of that testimony.

Note that testimony in the Islamic law in itself is not a privilege but a burden that many attempt to avoid, and for this reason Allah (The Almighty) commanded people to offer their testimonies and not to seek to escape or withhold it. Allah (The Almighty) stated in the Glorious Qur'an:

(And the witnesses should not refuse when they are called on (for evidence).)

[2:281]

The address here is general for both male and female. Many people all over the world try to avoid becoming a witness, and attempt to escape involvement in offering testimonies, because one is required to go to the court, sit on the witness stand, take an oath to tell the truth, be cross-examined and many other burdens. Financial and physical burdens or threats may result from being a witness and offering testimony. Islam therefore aims at eliminating many of these burdens from the woman, unless she has a partner who witnesses as she does, in matters involving many forms of testimony.

A man's single testimony is not acceptable in financial matters, since there must be two male witnesses to prove the financial right of a claimant, or one man and two women. We have never heard that anyone considered this requirement an insult to man's intelligence or contrary to his rights. This proves that the requirement is for the protection against false accusations and mistakes. There are some cases when the testimony of each is totally equal. For instance, the testimony of a wife is exactly equal to the testimony of her husband when a husband accuses his wife of committing adultery and he has no evidence to prove his claim. Allah (The Almighty) stated in the Glorious Qur'an:

(As for those who accuse their wives, but have no witnesses except themselves, let them present their testimony four times, that by Allah he is one of those who speak the truth. By the fifth (testimony, he invokes) the Curse of Allah on himself, if he is of those who tell a lie (against her) . She will avert the punishment (of stoning to death) from her if she bears witness four times by Allah, that he (her husband) is telling a lie. And the fifth (testimony) should be that the Wrath of Allah be upon her if he (her husband) is speaking the truth.)

[24:6-9]