Quran Facts | 2:283 – Testimony Of A Man Is Twice That Of A Women
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2:283 – Testimony Of A Man Is Twice That Of A Women

Introduction

It is alleged that the Holy Quran and the Islamic tradition is oppressive to women. Verses of the Holy Quran are showcased by detractors as promoting the inferiority of women, misogyny and abuse against women.

 

On the contrary, the Holy Quran and the Islamic tradition have probably the greatest historical legacy of the emancipation and empowerment of women. The Holy Quran unequivocally announces the equality of men and women in several verses such as 16:98– Whoso acts righteously, whether male or female and is a believer, We will surely grant him a pure life; and  We will surely bestow on such their reward according to the best of their works.

 

The Holy Prophet Muhammad (on whom be peace) had a direct hand in this legacy. One of the first acts of the Prophet Muhammad (on whom be peace) to shift attitudes towards women was halting the practice of female infanticide. He announced that daughters were a blessing upon the household they were born into: A person who is blessed with a daughter or daughters and makes no discrimination between them and his sons and brings them up with kindness and affection, will be as close to me in Paradise as my forefinger and middle finger are to each other.” (Muslim II, Section Beneficence).

 

As is sometimes alleged, Muhammad (on whom be peace) was clearly not a misogynist, rather a great benefactor in the emancipation and empowerment of women. He spent his career as a trader working for a woman named Khadijah who later became his wife. Throughout his ministry he regularly consulted her in matters and decisions as the leader of the Muslim community. Islam accorded women the right to accept or refuse a proposal for marriage, and the right to inheritance and ownership of property. While acknowledging that men and women have been endowed with different roles and functions in society, the Quran exhorts on equality between men and women in the eyes of God in that both will be rewarded solely on the basis of their deeds (see section below ‘Fundamental Teachings of Islam About Women’).

 

The women of the family of prophet Muhammad (on whom be peace) became revered figures and great examples among Muslims which aided in shifting attitudes about women. His first wife Khadijah (ra) was a business leader and his trusted advisor. His daughter Fatimah (ra), known for her piety, was a great example to the Muslim community. And his wife Ayesha (ra) came to be known as a religious and community leader.

O ye who believe! when you borrow one from another for a fixed period, then write it down. And let a scribe write it in your presence faithfully; and no scribe should refuse to write, because Allah has taught him, so let him write and let him who incurs the liability dictate; and he should fear Allah, his Lord, and not diminish anything therefrom. But if the person incurring the liability be of low understanding or be weak or be unable himself to dictate, then let someone who can watch his interest dictate with justice. And call two witnesses from among your men; and if two men be not available, then a man and two women, of such as you like as witnesses, so that if either of two women should err in memory, then one may remind the other. And the witnesses should not refuse when they are called. And do not feel weary of writing it down, whether it be small or large, along with its appointed time of payment. This is more equitable in the sight of Allah and makes testimony surer and is more likely to keep you away from doubts; therefore omit not to write except that it be ready merchandise which you give or take from hand to hand, in which case it shall be no sin for you that you write it not. And have witnesses when you sell one to another; and let no harm be done to the scribe or the witness. And if you do that, then certainly it shall be disobedience on your part. And fear Allah. And Allah grants you knowledge and Allah knows all things well. (2:283)

 

Allegation

Citing this verse of the Holy Qur’an, many have alleged the Qur’an views women as inferior in requiring either one man to give oath in a court of law, or instead two women. Most have taken this verse to mean that one woman is incapable of giving testimony in a court of law. However, a careful review of the verse reveals a real practicality with no sense of discrimination against women. In fact, it empowers women to serve as credible witnesses.

 

Context

In order to fully answer the allegation, we must understand that the Holy Qur’an is a book sent as guidance for all people and all time. This means that these teachings are not only meant for the most modern and educated people, but also for those in the small and remote villages. This verse is dealing with a particular situation of writing down the terms of commercial transactions while calling upon witnesses to attest to these terms.
 
It is crucial to note here that the reason for allowing two women to serve as witnesses instead of one man is stipulated in the verse as ‘so that if either of the women should err in memory, then one may remind the other’. The verse also stipulates that not just any witnesses should be sought but ‘as you like’ meaning it should be people familiar with the given trade, industry or locality so they can serve well as witnesses. Since men are more frequently involved in trading and commerce than women, they are more familiar with its terms and aspects and can easily recall these given the frequent exposure. A woman on the other hand may serve as a witness but then not receive much exposure to the world of trade and commerce. Subsequently, she may suffer a loss in remembering the issue as a natural consequence after a longer period of time. This could lead to the exclusion of women serving as credible witnesses. The verse states that the purpose of these provisions is to ‘‘makes testimony surer’. Therefore, the provision to have two women witnesses facilitates women in the process of serving as credible witnesses and is a factor in the empowerment of women. It also supports the process of trade and commerce.
 
The teachings of Islam are a means of empowerment and confidence for all women to live freely and to live as equal to men. Women serving as credible witnesses was a revolutionary change with the advent of Islam. The primary sources of Islam, such as the hadith (sayings of the Holy Prophet), are filled with many examples of legal cases where the testimony of one woman was used by the Prophet of Islam (saw) to decide a case.

 


Fundamental Teachings of Islam

The Holy Quran and Islamic fundamental teachings hold one of the greatest historical legacies advocating equality between men and women and according rights to women in an era wrought with misogyny. Although men and women have fundamentally different roles in life and society, the Holy Quran clearly emphasizes equality between men and women as is clear from the following verses:

Surely, men who submit themselves to God and women who submit themselves to Him, and believing men and believing women, and obedient men and obedient women, and truthful men and truthful women, and men steadfast in their faith and steadfast women, and men who are humble and women who are humble, and men who give alms and women who give alms, and men who fast and women who fast, and men who guard their chastity and women who guard their chastity and men who remember Allah much and women who remember Him – Allah has prepared for all of them forgiveness and a great reward. (33:36)

 

So their Lord answered their prayers saying, I will not allow the work of any worker from among you, whether male or female, to be lost. You are from one another. Those therefore, who have emigrated, and have been driven out from their homes, and have been persecuted in My cause, and have fought and been killed, I will surely remove from them their evils and will cause them to enter gardens through which streams flow – a reward from Allah, and with Allah is the best reward. (3:196)

 

They (your wives) are a garment to you, and you are garment to them. (2:188)

 

But whoso does good works, whether male or female, and is a believer, such shall enter Heaven, and shall not be wronged even as much as the little hollow in the back of a date-stone. (4:125)

 

And think of the day when thou wilt see the believing men and the believing women, their light running before them and on their right hands, and it will be said to them, ‘Glad tidings for you this day! Gardens through which streams flow, wherein you will abide. That is the supreme triumph. (57:13)

 

Whoso acts righteously, whether male or female and is a believer, We will surely grant him a pure life; and We will surely bestow on such their reward according to the best of their works. (16:98)

 

The following verse exhorts a gender not to covet that which, as an endowment and creation of God, makes one gender excel the other. For example, men having more physical strength than women. The verse exhorts that both men and women will be ultimately rewarded per their deeds and righteousness.

 

And covet not that whereby Allah has made some of you excel others. Men shall have a share of that which they have earned, and women a share of that which they have earned. And ask Allah of His bounty. Surely, Allah has perfect knowledge of all things. (4:33)

 

These verses make the equality of men and women abundantly clear. Males and females are repeatedly mentioned on an equal footing in attaining spirituality, the ultimate success in the eyes of God Almighty.

 

This is further reinforced in Hadith literature which are the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad (on whom be peace) such as the following examples:

 

‘It is the duty of every Muslim man and every Muslim woman to acquire knowledge’ (Ibne Majah)

 

‘The best among you is he who is best in his treatment towards his wife.’ (Abu Daud)

 

‘Paradise lies under the feet of your mother.’ (Nisai)