Monday, April 14, 2008

A Woman's Witness Value Worth Half of Men?


OK let me jump straight to the verse and then see...

2:282 - 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 ...

The verse continues but I stopped here as the latter part will not form part of discussion. Couple of things (and more) to note here.

1. Its about a financial deal. More specifically a debt deal.
2. General principles regarding the deal are being told, basic idea being that there is no injustice.
3. The debtor is to dictate what should be written (not the creditor for fair play). The debtor should state the exact amount, specification of debt.
4. If the debtor is mentally weak, deficient in abilities to dictate then a guardian on his behalf should do this.
5. Witnesses have to be present. Witnesses should have the approval of both the parties.
6. Witnesses should be 2 Men or 1 Man and two women. If one forgets/ errs, the other reminds.

Lets evaluate the verse.

- The verse is dealing when people deal amongst themselves, sets the basic guidelines and ensures that no injustice takes place.

- The verse in no way suggests, and no one should extrapolate from it, that women are not allowed to appear in courts or testify! This does not relate to her intelligence, competence or her role being of a 'house wife' primarily. This is ridiculous.

- This verse does not in any way suggest that women are 'stupid'. If she is, why would the other woman remind her? isn't she stupid too?

- This relates more to the situation wherein women are subject to various social, cultural difficulties. There might be situations in which she might be exploited.

Now let me tell you another interesting thing. It relates to the translation of the verse and specifically the word 'ehda-huma' which means 'one of the two'. 'huma' means dual/ those two. Interestingly, this word is 'genderless'! so it does not mean that 'if one of the two women errs or forgets' - it means 'if one of the two forget or err' (including male and female).

For example: -

23:50 - And We made the son of Mary and his mother as a Sign: We gave them both ('wayna-huma') shelter on high ground, affording rest and security and furnished with springs.

24:02 - The woman and the man guilty of adultery or fornication,- flog each of them ('min-huma') with a hundred stripes: ...

Please do not trust me. Open the Quran and see. And do not ask me why the translators made it gender specific in case of verse 2:282. Good translations do keep this in mind. Check Pickthal.

2:282 - ... 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....


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