Is a Women’s Testimony Worth Half of That of a Man in Islam?

There is a misconception that a woman’s testimony is worth half of that of a man in Islam. This can be traced to Verse 2:282 in the Holy Quran, which states that two men are to be called upon to witness a financial contract; if two men are not available, then one man and two women would suffice. So, two women would testify in place of a single male witness:

“O believers! When you contract a loan for a fixed period of time, commit it to writing… Call upon two of your men to witness. If two men cannot be found, then one man and two women of your choice will witness — so if one of the women forgets the other may remind her….” (Quran 2:282)

When reading this Verse, one can conclude that a woman’s testimony is worth only half of that of a man and that women are more prone to forgetting or making errors. However, the requirement of two women to replace one man exclusively refers to the witness of financial agreements and is not meant to be a general stipulation. The ruling of substituting two women for one man is not a statement that men are superior to women but has to do with social and cultural situations at the time the Holy Quran was sent down to humanity. At the time, women were not educated to be as literate as men. They were not involved in business transactions regarding trading caravans, making them prone to forget contractual details or making administrative errors. They were not as familiar with debt contracts and did not engage in their creation as often as men.

It’s human nature to have a weak memory of a matter you are less familiar with and in which you are not frequently involved. Men once handled all business trades while women stayed home, raising children. Asking two women to testify regarding financial contracts in place of one man was vital to protecting the money involved in the financial agreement. The Holy Quran takes the protection of financial contractors seriously.

In certain circumstances, a woman might have witnessed a debt contract, but may not be able to testify in court in front of a judge due to a condition of pregnancy, nursing, childbirth, etc., so a second female witness was sent to back up her witness. The second female witness can also be there for moral support, her presence lessening the likelihood of the first witness being intimidated, strengthening and protecting the female witness.

In short, the requirement of two women to substitute for one man is not a universal rule; it applies only to financial contracts. The Holy Quran speaks about witness testimony in numerous passages, with no specification of the gender of the witness made, except for the single Verse explicitly referring to financial transactions. In other scenarios, female testimony is equal to a man’s; in some cases, a woman’s testimony is weighted more than a man’s. And sometimes, in the case of issues specific to women, only a woman’s testimony is allowed.

Regarding this matter, one must understand the difference between witnessing a contract and testifying before a judge. A witness is present during the writing of a contract. Someone giving testimony goes before a judge in the case of a dispute between the two parties involved in an agreement. The Verse in question in this chapter is about women witnessing a contract and not testifying before a judge. A woman’s testimony before a judge is equal to the worth of a man’s. This Verse only references witnessing a contract, not someone’s testimony before a judge.

By no means is this Quranic ruling devaluing the reliability of a woman’s testimony, nor does it state that a woman’s intellect is less than that of a man. In Islam, a woman’s testimony is equal to a man’s. The highest and most important form of testimony is related to religion and is far more critical than a testimony regarding a financial contract. If one witness a saying of Prophet Muhammad, PBUH, known as hadith, and passes it down, no distinction is made between men and women witnesses: their testimonies are equal. The Prophet PBUH’s Wife, Aisha, is among the top narrators of hadith, and no one ever stated that her reports were worth half of that of a man. Her narrations were valued more than that of her other companions. Indeed, Prophet Muhammad PBUH and his companions took the sole testimony of women in many matters.

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