Are Muslim women at a disadvantage when they testify in court?

31 Aug

1. If somebody maintains that a Muslim woman’s testimony in court is not considered as equal to a man’s testimony, he thereby considers women to be less than men and their testimony therefore less valuable. Such misleading opinions were possible only because the general concept of giving testimony in court (schahada) had been mixed up with the special concept of the written statement (ischhad). But the following Sura of the Qur’an speaks only of the special concept ischhad: “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…. And get two witnesses, out of your own men, and if there are not two men, then a man and two women…”. (2/282) But if the matter concerns giving testimony in court (schahada), which is acceptable for the judge, then it is a question of trustworthiness of the witness – it doesn’t matter if it is a man or a woman or many people – the only important factor is that the testimony can be considered as true. Men and women are equal before the judge.
2. The above mentioned Sura of the Qur’an (2/282) is speaking about a specific case, namely that money has been lent and about this a statement has been written, and the witnesses confirm this with their signature. These witnesses have to be either two men or one man and two women, who have to remind each other if they should forget about it. The reason that in this case instead of one woman two women are being chosen has to do with the fact that at that time women had no experience with business or financial transactions. Today circumstances have changed fundamentally, and therefore women are sometimes even better informed than men. They are equal with men. This concept of the equal ability of man and woman has been supported already in earlier times by important Islamic scholars, and it has been advocated in modern times for example by Imam Ibn Teimeia, Ibn al Qajjem, Mohammed Abdu and Muhmmad Shaltut .

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