Friday, August 20, 2010
Why are two witnesses who are women, equivalent to only one witness who is a man?
EQUALITY OF WITNESSES
It is not true that two female witnesses are always considered as equal to only one male witness. It is true only in certain cases. There are about five verses in the Qur’an that mention witnesses, without specifying male or female. There is only one verse in the Qur’an, that says two female witnesses are equal to one male witness. This verse is Surah Baqarah, chapter 2 verse 282. This is the longest verse in the Qur’an and deals with financial transactions. It says:
"Oh! ye who believe!
When ye deal with each other,
in transactions involving future obligation
in a fixed period of time
reduce them to writing and get two witnesses
out of your own men and if there are not two men,
then a man and two women, such as ye choose,
for witnesses so that if one of them errs
the other can remind her."
This verse of the Qur’an deals only with financial transactions. In such cases, it is advised to make an agreement in writing between the parties and take two witnesses, preferably both of which should be men only. In case you cannot find two men, then one man and two women would suffice.
For instance, suppose a person wants to undergo an operation for a particular ailment. To confirm the treatment, he would prefer taking references from two qualified surgeons. In case he is unable to find two surgeons, his second option would be one surgeon and two general practitioners who are plain MBBS doctors.
Similarly in financial transactions, two men are preferred. Islam expects men to be the breadwinners of their families. Since financial responsibility is shouldered by men, they are expected to be well versed in financial transactions as compared to women. As a second option, the witness can be one man and two women, so that if one of the women errs the other can remind her. The Arabic word used in the Qur’an is ‘Tazil’ which means ‘confused’ or ‘to err’. Many have wrongly translated this word as ‘to forget’. Thus financial transactions constitute the only case in which two female witnesses are equal to one male witness.
There are about five verses in the Qur’an which speak about witnesses without specifying man or woman.
While making a will of inheritance, two just persons are required as witnesses. In Surah Maidah chapter 5 verse 106, the Glorious Qur’an says:
"Oh you who believe!
When death approaches any of you,
(take) witnesses among yourself when making bequests."
two just persons of your own (brotherhood)
or other from outside if you are journeying
through the earth and the chance of death befalls you."
Two persons endued with justice in case of talaq.
"Four witnesses are required
in case of charge against chaste women,
The seeming inequality of male and female witnesses in financial transactions is not due to any inequality of the sexes in Islam. It is only due to the different natures and roles of men and women in society as envisaged by Islam.