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Two Women Witnesses in place of One Man

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The issue of two women witnesses in place of one man is a topic much discussed online and off. Questions and statements such as the following abound....


Why Two Women Witnesses?

Are two women equal to one man in Islam?

A woman's witness testimony is half of that of a man's


It is the following verse of the Noble Qur'an which the critics of Islam say implies that two women are worth one man. According to them it is proof of the low status Islam grants women.




يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِذَا تَدَايَنْتُمْ بِدَيْنٍ إِلَىٰ 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 الْأُخْرَىٰ ۚ وَلَا يَأْبَ الشُّهَدَاءُ إِذَا مَا دُعُوا ۚ وَلَا تَسْأَمُوا أَنْ تَكْتُبُوهُ صَغِيرًا أَوْ كَبِيرًا إِلَىٰ أَجَلِهِ ۚ ذَٰلِكُمْ أَقْسَطُ عِنْدَ اللَّهِ وَأَقْوَمُ لِلشَّهَادَةِ وَأَدْنَىٰ أَلَّا تَرْتَابُوا ۖ إِلَّا أَنْ تَكُونَ تِجَارَةً حَاضِرَةً تُدِيرُونَهَا بَيْنَكُمْ فَلَيْسَ عَلَيْكُمْ جُنَاحٌ أَلَّا تَكْتُبُوهَا ۗ وَأَشْهِدُوا إِذَا تَبَايَعْتُمْ ۚ وَلَا يُضَارَّ كَاتِبٌ وَلَا شَهِيدٌ ۚ وَإِنْ تَفْعَلُوا فَإِنَّهُ فُسُوقٌ بِكُمْ ۗ وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ ۖ وَيُعَلِّمُكُمُ اللَّهُ ۗ وَاللَّهُ بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ عَلِيمٌ




O ye who believe! When ye contract a debt for a fixed term, record it in writing. Let a scribe record it in writing between you in (terms of) equity. No scribe should refuse to write as Allah hath taught him, so let him write, and let him who incurreth the debt dictate, and let him observe his duty to Allah his Lord, and diminish naught thereof. But if he who oweth the debt is of low understanding, or weak, or unable himself to dictate, then let the guardian of his interests dictate in (terms of) equity. And call to witness, from among your men, two witnesses. And if two men be not (at hand) then a man and two women, of such as ye approve as witnesses, so that if the one erreth (through forgetfulness) the other will remember. And the witnesses must not refuse when they are summoned. Be not averse to writing down (the contract) whether it be small or great, with (record of) the term thereof. That is more equitable in the sight of Allah and more sure for testimony, and the best way of avoiding doubt between you; save only in the case when it is actual merchandise which ye transfer among yourselves from hand to hand. In that case it is no sin for you if ye write it not. And have witnesses when ye sell one to another, and let no harm be done to scribe or witness. If ye do (harm to them) lo! it is a sin in you. Observe your duty to Allah. Allah is teaching you. And Allah is knowerof all things.

(Qur'an 2:282)

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An Important Point

One must remember that Prophet Muhammad sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam was neither a physiologist, a psychiatrist or a surgeon. He was illiterate and could neither read nor write. He passed on the revelation exactly as he received it. Allah, 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. From "Why Two Witnesses"



The Assumptions of the Critics

They (The critics of Islam) claim  that since the above passage commands the Muslims to get one male witness, and TWO female witnesses, this means that a female is worth half a man.


Nowhere in the above verse does it say you should get two female witnesses because a female is worth half a man, or that two females equal the worth of one man



Many people tend to denounce Islamic principles as unjust to women. They tend to interpret this requirement (of having two women witness) as proof of men's superiority over women. This assumption is not true. In fact, various psychological and biological studies conducted on the psyche and hormonal functions of women, have proved that men generally tend to react more rationally and less emotionally, than women.


In cases of crime, for example, torn bodies and pouring blood are more likely to spur an emotional reaction among women than among men. This reaction is alone capable of distorting the female's perception and/or memory.


On the other hand, men are also bound by rules concerning their testimony. For instance, they must not be parents, friends or enemies of the accused. Can we then conclude that, if it was the case for women, that male parents and friends of the accused must be considered inferior too? Of course, they are not.



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Two Women against one Man as witness: Inequality?

Part of Q/A at askimam.org



In regards to the claim of inequality between the witnessing of men and women, it is also unsound and contrary to the physical and psychological make-up of the human body. How can it be considered as inequality when the two, men and women, constitute completely dissimilar species and entities? Inequality would only arise if there were a disparity of rights concerning the same species of individuals. For example, if a father favors one son over another, this will be inequality since the sons are of the same genus. On the contrary, if the father favors his own son over his nephew, could this be considered inequality? If any impartial and unbiased medical expert is consulted, he / she will attest to the fact that men and women are different, physically and psychologically. Any neurologist will attest to the fact that the brain of a woman functions differently from that of a man. Consider the following research conducted by the neurobiological researchers of the University of California:


“Larry Cahill, an associate professor of neurobiology and behavior, and Lisa Kilpatrick, a former postdoctoral fellow in his laboratory, have found that the amygdala, an almond-shaped structure found on both sides of the brain, behaves very differently in males and females while the subjects are at rest. In men, the right amygdala is more active and shows more connections with other regions of the brain, even when there is no outside stimulus. Conversely, in women, the left amygdala is more connected with other regions of the brain. In addition, the regions of the brain with which the amygdala communicates while a subject is at rest are different in men and women.”


“The researchers used Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scans to analyze the brains of 72 healthy, right-handed adults (36 men and 36 women). The subjects were instructed to relax with their eyes closed while being scanned. When the scans were later studied, researchers found that not only was there a difference between the men and women as to which hemisphere's amygdala was more active, but also that the regions of the brain that the amygdala "talked" with were also quite different. In men, the right-hemisphere amygdala showed more connectivity with brain regions such as the visual cortex and the striatum. In contrast, the left amygdala in women was more connected to regions such as the insular cortex and the hypothalamus.


The finding led to an unexpected discovery: Many brain areas communicating with the amygdala in men are engaged with and responding to the external environment. For example, the visual cortex is responsible for vision, while the striatum coordinates motor actions. Conversely, many regions connected to the left-hemisphere amygdala in women control aspects of the environment within the body. Both the insular cortex and the hypothalamus, for example, receive strong input from the sensors inside the body.”


“… Cahill has led the way in exploring gender-related differences in the brain. In a 2001 study, he showed that the sexes use different sides of their brains to process and store long-term memories. In another study in 2002, he demonstrated how a particular drug, propranolol, can block memory differently in men and women.”

In another neurological article entitled, ‘Men and Women Really Do Think Differently’ Bjorn Carey mentions;

“Psychology professor Richard Haier of the University of California, Irvine led the research along with colleagues from the University of New Mexico. Their findings show that in general, men have nearly 6.5 times the amount of gray matter related to general intelligence compared with women, whereas women have nearly 10 times the amount of white matter related to intelligence compared to men.”


“In human brains, gray matter represents information processing centers, whereas white matter works to network these processing centers.


The results from this study may help explain why men and women excel at different types of tasks, said co-author and neuropsychologist Rex Jung of the University of New Mexico. For example, men tend to do better with tasks requiring more localized processing, such as mathematics, Jung said, while women are better at integrating and assimilating information from distributed gray-matter regions of the brain, which aids language skills.”


To lend further support on how the disproportion of grey and white matter between men and women affect the disparity and inequality of intrinsic sensory capabilities between men and women, which generally forms the basis of witnessing, the following passage will prove beneficial;


·         Grey matter – closely packed neuron cell bodies form the grey matter of the brain. The grey matter includes regions of the brain involved in muscle control, sensory perceptions, such as seeing and hearing, memory, emotions and speech.


·         White matter – neuronal tissue containing mainly long, myelinated axons , is known as white matter  or the diencephalon. Situated between the brainstem and cerebellum, the white matter consists of structures at the core of the brain such as the thalamus  and hypothalamus . The nuclei of the white matter are involved in the relay of sensory information from the rest of the body to the cerebral cortex, as well as in the regulation of autonomic (unconscious) functions such as body temperature, heart rate and blood pressure. Certain nuclei within the white matter are involved in the expression of emotions, the release of hormones from the pituitary gland, and in the regulation of food and water intake. These nuclei are generally considered part of the limbic system .


As the above articles mention, the regions of the brain involved in sensory perceptions, such as seeing, hearing and memory, is approximately 6.5 times greater in men. Thus, neurobiology in its latest researches conducted by the world’s best researches attest to the fact that men make stronger and more reliable witnesses than women due to their greater sensory perception. This ought to serve as lucid testimony to the authenticity of the message of Islam. Allah Ta’ala had revealed the Holy Quran over 1400 years ago alluding to such neurobiological facts which the scientists are only uncovering today. As Muslims, we might not have known of the facts of this new research, but our faith and conviction in the Holy Quran has driven us to accept the word of Allah as true even before the discoveries of such studies. Therefore, we are not surprised by such research, but it should strengthen our conviction. This research also lends credence to the undeniable fact that women are different from men. Would it be logical to accept two separate beings as being equal when in fact that are completely different from one another? Aristotle, the famous Greek philosopher duly mentioned, “The worst form of inequality is to try to make unequal things equal.”   


In conclusion, it should be noted that being disparate does not necessitate one specie being better than the other. As previously stated, equality only applies to homogenous items of the same species. On the contrary, male chauvinists claim that men are superior and women are inferior. The feminists claim that women are exacts equals of men. In reality, both groups are wrong in their radical views. The correct position is that men and women are completely separate heterogeneous creations of Allah that complement one another in their dissimilarities. This phenomenon is witnessed on a daily basis throughout the creation of Allah Ta’ala for example, the sun and the moon, despite their dissimilarity, work in perfect congruity and union. The sun, in its grandeur, has one specific role to play whilst the moon, in its radiance, has a reciprocally different role. It would be absurd and irrational for the moon to cry of inequality and demand to be given the same function and position of the sun. Similarly, it would be illogical for the sun to make a similar demand. When the sun fulfills his function and the moon hers, both entities will beautifully complement one another in a balanced harmony enabling the system of the universe to endure. On the contrary, if one tries to compete for the function of the other, then the systematic celestial organization will lead to perdition.  


The same applies in the case of men, women, and all heterogeneous creations for that matter.

And Allah knows best

Ml. Yusuf bin Yaqub and Ml. Ismail Moosa,

Students Darul Iftaa


Checked and Approved by:

Mufti Ebrahim Desai

Darul Iftaa, Madrassah In'aamiyyah

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Why Two Women Witnesses?


Adapted from the book by Shamshad. M.Khan with modifications and additions


A question that repeatedly arises is that concerning the position of women in Islam. Muslim scholars have been able with great success - despite the onslaught of distortion and misrepresentation - to demonstrate the true position of Muslim women; especially of women's liberation in the advent of Islam. The Islamic 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 Allah - 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'an (Baqarah 2:282) in which the above-mentioned requirement is made has usury, capital and debtor difficulties as its theme. Allah 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 Allah and more reliable as evidence. The passage of the Qur'an 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. Allah 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 ... " [Al-Qur'an 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 sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam 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. Allah, 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 Islam. And each day of advancement brings about a better understanding of the the last and final revelation from the Creator, Allah 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.


It is under these situations that women can experience extraordinary psychological strains giving rise to depression, lack of concentration, slow-mindedness and short term memory loss. Let us examine these episodes in a bit more detail and with medical references from the scientific world. PMT is an umbrella term for more than 140 different symptoms and there is a lot of evidence that it causes a lot of unhappiness in many women, and consequently, to their families.


Psychiatry in Practice, April 1983 issue states:


"Forty percent of women suffer from pre-menstrual syndrome in some form and one in if our women have their lives severely disrupted by it. Dr Jill Williams, general practitioner from Bury, gives guidelines on how to recognise patients at risk and suggests a suitable treatment." [Psychiatry in Practice, April 1993, p.14]


In the same issue, George Beaumont reporting on the workshop held at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in London on pre-menstrual syndrome, says:


"Some authorities would argue that 80 percent of women have some degree of breast and abdominal discomfort which is pre-menstrual but that only about 10 percent complain to their doctors - and then only because of severe tenderness of the breasts and mental depression... Other authorities have suggested that pre-menstrual syndrome is a new problem, regular ovulation for 20 years or more being a phenomenon caused by 'civilisation', 'medical progress', and an altered concept of the role of women." [Psychiatry in Practice, April 1993, p.18]


In its examination of the occurrence of physical and psychological change during the period just prior to the onset of menstruation we read in Psychological Medicine:


"Many studies have reported an increased likelihood of various negative affects during the pre-menstrual period. In this affective category are many emotional designations including irritability, depression, tension, anxiety, sadness, insecurity, lethargy, loneliness, tearfulness, fatigue, restlessness and changes of mood. In the majority of studies, investigators have found it difficult to distinguish between various negative affects, and only a few have allowed themselves to be excessively concerned with the differences which might or might not exist between affective symptoms." [Psychological Medicine, Monograph Supplement 4, 1983, Cambridge University Press, p.6]


In the same article dealing with pre-menstrual behavioural changes we read:


"A significant relationship between the pre-menstrual phase of the cycle and a variety of specific and defined forms of behaviour has been reported in a number of studies. For the purpose of their review, these forms of behaviour have been grouped under the headings of aggressive behaviour, illness behaviour and accidents, performance on examination and other tests and sporting performance." [Psychological Medicine, Monograph Supplement 4, 1983, Cambridge University Press, p.7]


The lengthy review portrays how female behaviour is affected in these situations. In 'The Pre-menstrual Syndrome', C. Shreeves writes:


"Reduced powers of concentration and memory are familiar aspects of the pre-menstrual syndrome and can only be remedied by treating the underlying complaint."


This does not mean, of course, that women are mentally deficient absolutely. It just means that their mental faculties can become affected at certain times in the biological cycle. Shreeves also writes:


"As many as 80 percent of women are aware of some degree of pre-menstrual changes, 40 percent are substantially disturbed by them, and between 10 and 20 percent are seriously disabled as a result of the syndrome."


Furthermore, women face the problem of ante-natal and post-natal depression, both of which cause extreme cycles of depression in some cases. Again, these recurring symptoms naturally affect the mind, giving rise to drowsiness and dopey memory.


On the subject of pregnancy in Psychiatry in Practice, October-November 1986, we learn that:


"In an experiment 'Cox' found that 16 percent of a sample of 263 pregnant women were suffering from clinically significant psychiatric problems. Eight percent had a depressive neurosis and 1.9 percent had phobic neurosis. This study showed that the proportion of pregnant women with psychiatric problems was greater than that found in the control group but the difference only tended towards significance." [Psychiatry in Practice, October-November, 1986, p.6]


Regarding the symptoms during the post-natal cycle Dr. Ruth Sagovsky writes:


"The third category of puerperal psychiatric problems is post-natal depression. It is generally agreed that between10 to 15 percent of women become clinically depressed after childbirth. These mothers experience a variety of symptoms but anxiety, especially over the baby, irritability, and excessive fatigue are common. Appetite is usually decreased and often there are considerable sleep difficulties. The mothers lose interest in the things they enjoyed prior to the baby's birth, and find that their concentration is impaired. They often feel irrational guilt, and blame themselves for being 'bad' wives and mothers. Fifty percent of these women are not identified as having a depressive illness. Unfortunately, many of them do not understand what ails them and blame their husbands, their babies or themselves until the relationships are strained to an alarming degree." [Psychiatry in Practice, May, 1987, p.18]


" ... Making the diagnosis of post-natal depression is not always easy. Quite often the depression is beginning to become a serious problem around three months postpartum when frequent contact with the health visitor is diminishing. The mother may not present with depressed mood. If she comes to the health centre presenting the baby as the patient, the true nature of the problem can be missed. When the mother is continually anxious about the baby in spite of reassurance, then the primary health care worker needs to be aware of the possibility of depression. Sometimes these mothers present with marital difficulties, and it is easy to muddle cause and effect, viewing the accompanying low mood as part of the marital problem. Sometimes, only when the husband is seen as well does it become obvious that it is a post-natal depressive illness which has led to the deterioration in the marriage." [May, 1987, p.18]1


Again there is a need to study the effects of the menopause about which very little is known even to this day. This phase in a woman's life can start at any time from the mid-thirties to the mid-fifties and can last for as long as 15 years.


Writing about the pre-menopausal years, C.B. Ballinger states:


"Several of the community surveys indicate a small but significant increase in psychiatric symptoms in women during the five years prior to the cessation of menstrual periods... The most obvious clinical feature of this transitional phase of menstrual function is the alteration in menstrual pattern, the menstrual cycle becoming shorter with age, and variability in cycle length become very prominent just prior to the cessation of menstruation. Menorrhagia is a common complaint at this time, and is associated with higher than normal levels of psychiatric disturbance." [Psychiatry in Practice, November, 1987, p.26]


On the phenomenon of menopause in an article in Newsweek International, May 25th 1992, Dr. Jennifer al-Knopf, Director of the Sex and Marital Therapy Programme of North-western University writes:


" ... Women never know what their body is doing to them ... some reporting debilitating symptoms from hot flashes to night sweat, sleeplessness, irritability, mood swings, short term memory loss, migraine, headaches, urinary inconsistence and weight gain. Most such problems can be traced to the drop-off in the female hormones oestrogen and progesterone, both of which govern the ovarian cycle. But every woman starts with a different level of hormones and loses them at different rates. The unpredictability is one of the most upsetting aspects. Women never know what their body is going to do to them ... "


Then there are the psychiatric aspects of infertility and miscarriage. On the subject of infertility, Dr. Ruth Sagovsky writes:


"Depression, anger and guilt are common reactions to bereavement. In infertility there is the added pain of there being nobody to grieve for. Families and friends may contribute to the feeling of isolation by passing insensitive comments. The gynaecologist and GPs have to try to help these couples against a backdrop of considerable distress." [Psychiatry in Practice, Winter, 1989, p.16]


On the subject of miscarriage the above article continues:


"Miscarriage is rarely mentioned when considering abortion. However, miscarriage can at times have profound psychological sequelae and it is important that those women affected receive the support they need. Approximately one-fifth of all pregnancies end in spontaneous abortion and the effects are poorly recognised. If however, the miscarriage occurs in the context of infertility, the emotional reaction may be severe. The level of grief will depend on the meaning of pregnancy to the couple." [Psychiatry in Practice, Winter, 1989, p.17]


Also, the fact that women are known to be more sensitive and emotional than men must not be overlooked. It is well known, for example, that under identical circumstances women suffer much greater anxiety than men. Numerous medical references on this aspect of female behaviour can be given but to quote as a specimen, we read in 'Sex Differences in Mental Health' that:


"Surveys have found different correlates of anxiety and neuroticism in the two sexes. Women and men do not become equally upset by the same things, and being upset does not have the same effect in men as in women. Ekehammer (1974; Ekehammer, Magnusson and Ricklander, 1974) using data from 116 sixteen-year-olds, did a factor analysis on self-reported anxiety. Of the eighteen different responses indicating anxiety (sweating palms, faster heart rate, and so on) females reported experiencing twelve of them significantly more often than males. Of the anxiety-producing situations studied, females reported experiencing significantly more anxiety than males reported in fourteen of them." [Katherine Blick Hoyenga and Kermit T. Hoyenga in Sex Differences in Mental Health, p.336]


It is in light of the above findings of psychologist, psychiatrists and researchers that the saying of Allah, the Exalted:


"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 ... " [Al-Qur'an 2:182]


can be understood. One must also bear in mind that forgetfulness can be an asset. A woman has to be put up with children presenting all kinds of emotional problems and a woman is certainly known to be more resilient than man. The aim of presenting these research findings on a number of aspects related with the theme is to indicate that a woman by her biological constitution faces such problems. It does not however make her inferior to man but it does illustrate that she is different. Viewed in this way, it can only lead one to the conclusion that Allah knows His creation the best and has prescribed precise laws in keeping with the nature of humankind.


Allah, the Creator, is - as always - All-Knowing and man (or the disbeliever in Allah and the final, perfected, revealed way of life, Islam) is - as usual - either ignorant and arrogant.



1 Psychiatry in Practice, April 1993, p.14.

2 Psychiatry in Practice, April 1993, p.18.

3 Psychological Medicine, Monograph Supplement 4, 1983, Cambridge University Press, p.6.

4 Psychological Medicine, Monograph Supplement 4, 1983, Cambridge University Press, p.7.

5 Psychiatry in Practice, October-November, 1986, p.6.

6 Psychiatry in Practice, May, 1987, p.18.

7 Psychiatry in Practice, May, 1987, p.18. As has been mentioned above the Prophet Muhammad (sas) was neither a psychologist nor a psychiatrist. Rather, he merely conveyed the truth that was revealed to him. It is in the context of this quotation and the one before it that the following saying of the Prophet Muhammad (sas) can be understood: "Treat your women kindly. The woman has been created from a rib, and the most curved part of a rib is its upper region. If you try to straighten it you will break it, and if you leave it as it is, it will remain curved. So treat women kindly." And in another narration: "If you try to straighten her you will break her and breaking her means divorce." [Reported by Bukhari and Muslim]. This is very important advice for the man - for him to have patience and not to try to 'reform' the behavioural pattern of the woman during these times i.e. 'to straighten her'. He will not be able to do that, as it is biological in origin. Instead, he should maintain and protect his relationship with her by showing kindness.

8 Psychiatry in Practice, November, 1987, p.26.

9 Psychiatry in Practice, Winter, 1989, p.16.

10 Psychiatry in Practice, Winter, 1989, p.17.

11 Katherine Blick Hoyenga and Kermit T. Hoyenga in 'Sex Differences in Mental Health', p.336.

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Words of Advice


With regard to the phrase, “that if one of them (two women) errs”, Ibn Katheer said: “This means, the two women, if one of them forgets the testimony, then ‘the other can remind her’, i.e., she can remind her about the matter concerning which testimony is being given.” (Tafseer Ibn Katheer, part 1, p. 724)


This does not mean that a woman does not understand or that she cannot remember things, but she is weaker than man in these aspects – usually. Scientific and specialized studies have shown that men’s minds are more perfect than those of women, and reality and experience bear witness to that.


Nevertheless, there are some women who are far superior to men in their reason and insight, but they are few, and the ruling is based on the majority and the usual cases.


A woman may compensate for her weaknesses by striving hard, and surpass men when they are negligent. Hence we find that in some colleges, female students surpass male students because of their greater efforts and their keenness to succeed when many of the male students are negligent and are not eager to learn. A man may also excel over a woman in some fields that are basically hers, so we find that some of the most skilled chefs, tailors, cosmeticians and obstetricians on the international level are men. The point is that usually – and no wise person would dispute this – most of the prominent people in the religious sciences, such as fiqh, hadeeth, tafseer, ‘aqeedah and preaching, and in the worldly sciences such as medicine, astronomy, engineering, physics, chemistry, etc. are men. 


If we think about the western societies in which men and women are regarded as equal in all aspects, we will find that despite that men still prevail. Still, Allaah has given women pre-eminence and has favoured them over men in some aspects, such as caring for children, and showing patience, love and compassion towards them, and managing the home. Hence the sharee’ah gives custody to them, for the mother is the first school, from which the future men, leaders of the world and scholars of the ummah graduate. What virtue can be greater than this?


Islam encourages special care for the mother and her children, and enjoins upon children to honour their mother, treat her kindly and give her preferential treatment above the father. It was narrated that Abu Hurayrah said: “A man said, ‘O Messenger of Allaah, who among the people is most deserving of my good companionship?’ He said, Your mother, then your mother, then your mother, then your father, then those who are closest in order of closeness.’” (Narrated by Muslim, 2548). What greater honour can there be than this? 


So let everyone work in his or her field of specialization. Men should not interfere in pregnancy and breastfeeding, and women should not be involved in jihad, fighting the enemy, or holding the positions of khaleefah or ruler. Whatever is permitted to both of them should be done within the guidelines of sharee’ah, such as not allowing free mixing of the sexes and not neglecting other duties such as those of husbands and wives.


And Allaah is the Source of strength.

Sheikh Muhammed Salih Al-Munajjid

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Where the Witness of one Woman is Accepted


As far as the witness issue and thus deficiency in intelligence is concerned, the ruling of two women witnesses is also found in the Qur’an in Surah Baqarah. It should be made clear that not in all matters is the witness of two women required. Such an issue on which there is Ijma’ where two women are required is the issue of financial transactions. This has been explained by Ibn Qudaamah in al-Mughni (Darul Fikr, Beirut, Lebanon; 1985, vol.10 pg 155-161) where he has also stated:


قال القاضي: و الذي تقبل فيه شهادتهن منفردات خمسة اشياء: الولادة, و الإستسهال, و الرضاع, و العيوب تحت الثياب كالرتق و القرن و البكارة و الثيابة و البرص, و إنقضاء العدة


“Qadhi said: And that in which the witness of only women of accepted is Birth, Crying of the Child at birth, Rida', 'Uyub under the clothes such as Ratq and Qarn, whether she is a virgin or not, Baras and the end of Iddah.”


Thus it is seen that there are many such cases where man has no knowledge and the witness of a woman is accepted. As far as the issue of financial dealing is concerned, some have explained that it has to do with the weakness of the memory of woman in mathematical issues. Some neuro-psychiatrists have also expressed this but it should be know that one should not be in favor of trying to justify or express the wisdom of the laws of Shari’ah with the help of science. This is because science is not absolute but the Wisdom of Allah is Absolute. It should however be noted that this deficiency that the Hadith talks about is general and not all encompassing.


Mufti ‘Aashiq Ilahi رحمة اللہ علیه writes in Anwarul Bayan (Darul Ishaat, Karachi, Pakistan; 2005, vol.1 pg 341):


“This applies to general circumstances since there are many exceptions where women may possess stronger memories, are more intelligent or better able to express themselves than men.”


Moreover, the Qur’an says in Surah Nur (24) verse 6-9:


وَالَّذِينَ يَرْمُونَ أَزْوَاجَهُمْ وَلَمْ يَكُن لَّهُمْ شُهَدَاء إِلَّا أَنفُسُهُمْ فَشَهَادَةُ أَحَدِهِمْ أَرْبَعُ شَهَادَاتٍ بِاللَّهِ إِنَّهُ لَمِنَ الصَّادِقِينَوَالْخَامِسَةُ أَنَّ لَعْنَتَ اللَّهِ عَلَيْهِ إِن كَانَ مِنَ الْكَاذِبِينَ وَيَدْرَأُعَنْهَا الْعَذَابَ أَنْ تَشْهَدَ أَرْبَعَ شَهَادَاتٍ بِاللَّهِ إِنَّهُ لَمِنَ الْكَاذِبِينَوَالْخَامِسَةَ أَنَّ غَضَبَ اللَّهِ عَلَيْهَا إِن كَانَ مِنَ الصَّادِقِينَ


Those who accuse their wives (of adultery) while they have no witnesses except their own selves, then the evidence of one of them would be to swear four oaths by Allah that he is truthful,and the fifth (oath) that Allah‘s curse be on him if he is one of the liars.And it will remove the punishment from the woman if she swears four oaths by Allah that he (the accuser husband) is certainly one of the liars,and the fifth (oath) that Allah‘s wrath be on her if he is one of the truthful.


In this example it is seen that a woman’s witness by Li’aan is enough to be accepted over the husband’s oath. Mufti Shafi’ Usmani رحمة اللہ علیه in Ma’ariful Qur’an (Maktaba e Darul ‘Uloom, Karachi, Pakistan; 2007, vol.6 pg 363) writes:


“When a husband accuses his wife of adultery or refuses to own his child as being legitimate, and his wife refutes his allegation to be false, and claims for the punishment of false accusation of eighty stripes to be awarded to him, then the husband will be asked to produce four witnesses. If the husband produces four witnesses, then the wife will be awarded the punishment of adultery, and if he could not produce four witnesses, then they will be subjected to Li’aan, that is first the husband will be asked to testify four times with the wordings given in the Qur’an to the effect that he is honest, and the fifth time will say that if he was lying, then Allah’s curse be on him.


If the husband hesitates from saying these words, then he should be arrested and asked either to swear by saying these words five times or accept himself to be a liar. Until he accedes to one of the two alternatives, he should not be released. If he accepts himself to be a liar, then he should be awarded the punishment of false allegation of adultery, but, in case he swears by repeating the required words five times, then the wife be asked to swear five times by uttering the words given in the Qur’an for this purpose. If she refuses to swear, then she should be put under arrest until such time that either she swears five times or accepts her guilt of adultery, in which case she will be awarded the punishment of adultery. In case she agrees to swear and utters the required words five times, then the process of Li’aan has been completed. This way they both have escaped the punishment in this world but in the Hereafter, the one who has lied will suffer the punishment, as Allah knows best who is the liar.”


The suggestion that the woman is half a person, because of the requirement for two women as witness in some issues, is very incorrect. Firstly if woman was something inferior or degraded in Islam then there would not have been an issue where only a woman’s witness would suffice and as seen in the case above, given preference over the man’s witness. And if a woman is said to be half because of certain cases of witness, then where man’s witness is not counted, Islam did not even give that status of half a person to man. Additionally it can also be argued that normally two men are required to complete the requirement of witness in an issue but in the case of adultery the requirement is of four men. Then one should also say that man is half a person as well. Hence such arguments are baseless and do not have any ground to stand upon.


By not making ‘equal’ the witness of one woman to one man in certain cases, there is yet wisdom of Allah. It is not easy to go through the process of being a witness, becoming an enemy of the person against whom one is becoming a witness and at times even travel from one city to another to give the shahadah. These are all stressful and difficult matters and Allah has relieved the woman from such difficulties otherwise it would have been obligatory for the woman to go through all such hurdles to give testimony as Allah says in the Qur’an in Surah Baqarah (2) verse 283:


وَلاَ تَكْتُمُواْ الشَّهَادَةَ وَمَن يَكْتُمْهَا فَإِنَّهُ آثِمٌ قَلْبُهُ…


“…Do not conceal testimony. Whoever conceals it, his heart is surely, sinful…”

In another Hadith, in Muwatta Imam Malik as well as in Sahih Muslim, it is stated:


حدثنا يحيى عن مالك عن عبد الله بن أبي بكر بن محمد بن عمرو بن حزم عن أبيه عن عبد الله بن عمرو بن عثمان عن أبي عمرة الأنصاري عن زيد بن خالد الجهني  أن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم قال ألا أخبركم بخير الشهداء الذي يأتي بشهادته قبل أن يسألها أو يخبر بشهادته قبل أن يسألها۔ موطأ مالك،  كِتَاب الْأَقْضِيَةِ، بَاب مَا جَاءَ فِي الشَّهَادَاتِ


Rasulullah ﷺ said, "Shall I not tell you who is the best of witnesses? The one who brings his testimony before he is asked for it, or tells his testimony before he is asked for it." – (Muwatta Imam Malik; Book of Judgments, Chapter of Testimonies)


Another Hadith narrated by Abu Musa al-Ash’ari says,


قال رسول اللہ ﷺ من کتم شھادة اذا دعی الیھا کان کمن شھد بالزور۔ جمع الفوائد بحواله طبرانی صفه ۲٦ جلد ١


Rasulullah ﷺ said, “Whosoever is called to give witness and then he conceals it, it is as if he has given false witness.” – (Jama’ul Fawa’id with reference to Tabrani, vol.1 pg 26)


It is but for their ease and comfort that the responsibility of certain things are not put on their shoulders unless there is a necessity. Where the burden and responsibility is put on the shoulders of one man, there it has been divided among two women.




We live a short life in this world and have a limited amount of time to do good deeds to secure a place in Jannah with the Mercy of Allah. However, we spend that time dwelling over questions which have no productive effect on our deeds and in no way help us in the Hereafter. The history of Islam is full of women with great achievements in different fields. On the witness of one woman, ‘Ayesha رضی اللہ عنھا, we have a great many number of Ahadith on which many rulings of fiqh are based. Hasan al-Basri رحمة اللہ علیه narrated from his mother Khayrah رحمة اللہ علیھا, a woman. Al-Aqd ath-Thanein mentions Zulaykha bint Ilyas al-Wa’iz رحمة اللہ علیھا who narrated from the scholars of Makkah and earned dual blessings of worship and narration of Hadith. There are many such examples of great women in Islamic history who excelled in their fields. Our time should not be wasted on contemplating how the Hereafter will be. Its state will be seen once we are there but while we are here let us not waste time on asking the question ‘Who will be in Jannah or Jahannam?’ but let us all ask ourselves ‘Will I be in Jannah or Jahannam?’


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