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Misconceptions About Women in Islam
  Why Two Women Witnesses?
Author: S.M. Khan
Source: Extracted from the Book (additions/modifications A. Iyad)
Article ID : MSC030001  [25594]  
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A question that repeatedly arises is that concerning the 'position of women in Islaam'. Muslim scholars have been able with great success - despite the onslaught of distortion and mis-representation - to demonstrate the true position of Muslim women; especially of women's liberation in the advent of Islaam. The Islaamic ruling on issues such as inheritance, the right to earn, the right to own property etc. have reinforced this position and have been prescribed by Allaah - the One True God - long before western nations even thought of such concepts!

The issue of two women witnesses in place of one man is the concern of the present treatise. As will become clear to the sincere and objective reader, the intellectual status of a Muslim woman is neither marred nor degraded by the commandment that if two Muslim male witnesses are not available then one Muslim male and two Muslim females should be invited to witness. Rather, this injunction is in perfect harmony with the nature and psychology of the woman as will become evident through quotations from psychologists, psychiatrists and medical research.

The passage of the Qur'aan (Baqarah 2:282) in which the above-mentioned requirement is made has usury, capital and debtor difficulties as its theme. Allaah grants guidelines in matters relating to monetary obligations. Then business transactions are dealt with. In this section, the requirement to commit all transactions into writing is stated most emphatically (Reduce them to writing...). The section after this describes the responsibility of the scribe, or in modern parlance, the person responsible for drawing up the agreement. The following section describes the responsibility and the obligation of the person incurring the liability. The section after this explains how if the party that is liable cannot effectively draw up the contract - out of being deficient or weak mentally, or being unable to dictate - then his or her guardian should help draw out the contract and choose two suitable witnesses to observe. It must be understood that this situation arises if it is not possible for the liable party to draw out the contract by him/herself. The condition to put things into writing is still supreme.

The next section then explains that two men should be called to witness and if two men are not available (And if there are not two men...) then a man and two women. The legislation then continues and reminds most emphatically that one should not be complacent about putting ALL agreements into writing - no matter whether these agreements are major or minor as this is more JUST in the sight of Allaah and more reliable as evidence. The passage of the Qur'aan further explains that for practical reasons it may not always be possible to commit on-the-spot agreements into writing. In this case, it is also recommended that it be witnessed. The section which follows then lays down the guidelines which should be followed in the event that no witnesses are present.

The purpose in giving the above outline is to draw attention to the fact the question of women witnesses relates, in this instance, to commercial agreements and is not a STATEMENT ON THEIR STATUS.

Let's look at the section under investigation in more detail. Allaah said:

And get two witnesses of your own men, and if there are not two men then a man and two women such as you choose for witnesses - so that if one of them errs, the other can remind her... [Baqarah 2:182]

A number of questions (as well as eyebrows!) are raised when this section of the passage is read. The questions often posed include:

* Do women have weaker memories than men?
* Why should two women be needed in the place of one man?
* Are women inferior to men?

One must remember that Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) was neither a physiologist, a psychiatrist and nor a surgeon. He was an illiterate and could neither read nor write. He passed on the revelation exactly as he received it. Allaah, the Creator, with His infinite wisdom gave the directives best suited to humankind. He is the Creator, therefore, He knows man better than a man himself.

In this scientific age we can explore the significance of this legislation. A great deal has been discovered since the early days of Islaam. And each day of advancement brings about a better understanding of the the last and final revelation from the Creator, Allaah to the creation, humankind.

As women, we are aware of the cyclical psychological strains that a woman has to encounter every month. The symptoms during early pregnancy, ante-natal and post-natal depressions, the phenomenon of menopause, the physiological and psychological problems due to infertility and last but not least the psychological problems faced after miscarriage.


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