`   `

Is the Woman’s Testimony Worth Half That of Man?

Rights of Women in Islam


Nowadays when human rights and equality between men and women are accepted by the majority of the world’s populations, the issue of the testimony of two women being equal to that of one man in the Islamic discipline is a sign of discrimination and in direct contradiction to human rights

It is said that given the fact that all household expenses are the responsibility of the man of the family, it is possible to accept, as a matter of economic principle, that woman’s inheritance be half that of man. But the issue of testimony is a human issue. How is it possible for God, the All-Knowing, to have decreed such injustice in the Qur’an?!

The root cause of such questions and instigation of invasive propaganda against Islam is mainly the actions of some of the religious figures in the judicial system, and ratification and execution of religious edicts based on which women’s rights are considered at half their value. Although such regulations are merely human judgments and presumptions (not divine commandments,) since they are carried out by religious administrators, by and large, they are perceived as having a religious base and that is cause for objections to be directed towards Islam and the Qur’an. It is warranted, therefore, to examine to see whether this issue has a basis in the Qur’an, and if such declaration does exists, examine the conditions, purpose, and method for execution of this declaration.

The fact is that the presumption of some of the religious administrators is based on a verse from the Qur’an which is relevant to a specific relation for a special social condition of a society of many centuries ago. In spite of fundamental changes and transformations having taken place in that society, the religious administrators have presumed the applicability for the verse to be fixed and eternal, and have extended the application of this decree to testimonies offered by women in all phases of life. The verse which addresses a woman’s testimony is Verse 2:282, which happens to be the longest verse in the Qur’an. This relatively long verse addresses fourteen diverse commandments regarding monetary transactions with long-term maturities in a society of illiterate people who had to employ the services of witnesses in lieu of receipts and written transactions. The spirit and aim of this verse is the registration and recordation of transactions and prevention of oblivion and possible denial on the part of the parties involved. However, in our time, with the majority of the population being literate and the existence of public institutions for maintaining records, no Muslim will seek a witness for non-monetary transactions (1), rather by using checks, promissory notes, money orders, credit cards, or even on-line transactions will implement the spirit and purpose (not the apparent meaning) of the verse.

It is astonishing that in spite of fundamental changes and transformations in the society, the shape and form of the commandments in said verse having become obsolete for this day and age, some of the religious administrators still insist on the testimony of two women being equivalent to the testimony of one man! At this point, it would be appropriate to examine the verse up to the commandments addressing the issue of testimony.

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آَمَنُوا إِذَا تَدَايَنْتُمْ بِدَيْنٍ إِلَى أَجَلٍ مُسَمًّى فَاكْتُبُوهُ وَلْيَكْتُبْ بَيْنَكُمْ كَاتِبٌ بِالْعَدْلِ وَلَا يَأْبَ كَاتِبٌ أَنْ يَكْتُبَ كَمَا عَلَّمَهُ اللَّهُ فَلْيَكْتُبْ وَلْيُمْلِلِ الَّذِي عَلَيْهِ الْحَقُّ وَلْيَتَّقِ اللَّهَ رَبَّهُ وَلَا يَبْخَسْ مِنْهُ شَيْئًا فَإِنْ كَانَ الَّذِي عَلَيْهِ الْحَقُّ سَفِيهًا أَوْ ضَعِيفًا أَوْ لَا يَسْتَطِيعُ أَنْ يُمِلَّ هُوَ فَلْيُمْلِلْ وَلِيُّهُ بِالْعَدْلِ وَاسْتَشْهِدُوا شَهِيدَيْنِ مِنْ رِجَالِكُمْ فَإِنْ لَمْ يَكُونَا رَجُلَيْنِ فَرَجُلٌ وَامْرَأَتَانِ مِمَّنْ تَرْضَوْنَ مِنَ …الشُّهَدَاءِ أَنْ تَضِلَّ إِحْدَاهُمَا فَتُذَكِّرَ إِحْدَاهُمَا الْأُخْرَى

O ye who believe! When ye deal with each other, in transactions involving future obligations in a fixed period of time, reduce them to writing Let a scribe write down faithfully as between the parties: let not the scribe refuse to write: as Allah Has taught him, so let him write. Let him who incurs the liability dictate, but let him fear His Lord Allah, and not diminish aught of what he owes. If they party liable is mentally deficient, or weak, or unable Himself to dictate, Let his guardian dictate faithfully, 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 ... (2)

The issue of testimony of two women versus that of one man, contrary to the common perception, does not have value and validity such that it would lead to inferences in lowering the stature of women. As can be seen the subject of the verse is the possibility of oblivion on the part of a witness. This point by itself may affect the question as to base on what scientific reason is a woman’s memory weaker than a man’s memory?

Among other things, experiences of life show that there is a direct and undeniable relation between one’s memory and the subjects of one’s interest. Not only men and women have different attachments, interests and tastes in different facets of individual and social life in accordance with their own natural functions, each gender has fundamental and undeniable differences among its own species.

Verse 2:282 which is about monetary transactions with long-term maturities, was revealed at a time when women spent their time a home and had no role in economic affairs and no interest or knowledge of accounting, bookkeeping, and monetary transactions. It is possible, therefore, for women to forget more so than men, details of matters in which they had no interest, knowledge, or experience. Under such circumstances the best option would be to have two witnesses in order to protect the interests of the society. However, in today’s society, when women partake in scientific and economic sectors (besides the negative aspects of their involvement in bearing a portion of the responsibilities) is their memory with regard to economic matters weaker than men’s memory? In a country where women compose sixty five percent of college students, is the testimony of two women equivalent to that of one man? God knows best (والله اعلم).


1) Clearly, if in some off-the-path parts of the world such societies exist, then the verse would be applicable just as it was at the time of its revelation

2) Qur’an 2:282