Is a woman’s testimony in Islam worth half that of a man’s?


Someone from Germany wrote to Hazrat Amirul Momineen, Khalifatul Masih Vaa and requested guidance regarding women’s testimony in light of a verse of Surah al-Baqarah that discusses the presence of witnesses in cases dealing with debts or loans. 

Huzoor-e-Anwaraa, in his letter dated 21 September 2021, gave the following reply to this question:

“One of the major objections raised by the opponents of Islam to Islamic teachings is that Islam had attached half the value to the testimony of a woman as compared to that of a man and had, thus, declared women as inferior. However, this objection, like other objections, has been concocted for no valid reason and due to not understanding the truth and spirit of Islamic teachings.

“The fact of the matter is that the Holy Quran has not stated anywhere that a woman’s testimony was worth half that of a man. Rather, if we ponder over the Holy Quran, we see that in such matters that are directly related to women, the testimony of a woman has been accepted in the same way as that of a man. Hence, in case of li‘an, the method of testimony that has been stipulated in Surah an-Nur, there is no difference between the testimony or the oath of the woman or the man, rather exactly the same conclusion has been drawn from both. Thus, Allah the Exalted states: 

وَ الَّذِيۡنَ يَرۡمُوۡنَ اَزۡوَاجَهُمۡ وَ لَمۡ يَكُنۡ لَّهُمۡ شُهَدَآءُ اِلَّاۤ اَنۡفُسُهُمۡ فَشَهَادَةُ اَحَدِهِمۡ اَرۡبَعُ شَهٰدٰتٍۭ بِاللّٰهِ ۙ اِنَّهٗ لَمِنَ الصّٰدِقِيۡنَ۔ وَ الۡخَامِسَةُ اَنَّ لَعۡنَتَ اللّٰهِ عَلَيۡهِ اِنۡ كَانَ مِنَ الۡكٰذِبِيۡنَ۔ وَ يَدۡرَؤُا عَنۡهَا الۡعَذَابَ اَنۡ تَشۡهَدَ اَرۡبَعَ شَهٰدٰتٍۭ بِاللّٰهِ ۙ اِنَّهٗ لَمِنَ الۡكٰذِبِيۡنَ ۙ۔ وَ الۡخَامِسَةَ اَنَّ غَضَبَ اللّٰهِ عَلَيۡهَاۤ اِنۡ كَانَ مِنَ الصّٰدِقِيۡنَ۔

“‘And as for those who calumniate their wives, and have not witnesses except themselves — the evidence of any one of such people (shall suffice) if he bears witness four times in the name of Allah (saying) that he is surely of those who speak the truth. And (his) fifth (oath shall be to say) that Allah’s curse be upon him if he be of the liars. But it shall avert the punishment from her if she bears witness four times in the name of Allah (saying) that he is of the liars. And (her) fifth (oath shall be to say) that the wrath of Allah be upon her if he speaks the truth.’ (Surah an-Nur, Ch.24: V.7-10)

“Moreover, it is also proven from Hadith that the Holy Prophetsa separated a married couple on account of the testimony of a single woman who said that she had nursed both the bridegroom and the bride during their childhood. Hence, Hazrat ’Uqbara bin al-Harith relates that he had married the daughter of Abu Ihab bin Aziz. Later on, a woman came forward and said, ‘I have nursed ’Uqba and the woman whom he has married. (Hence, they are foster-siblings and their marriage is invalid.)’ ’Uqba said to her, ‘Neither did I know that you had nursed me, nor did you previously inform me about it.’ Then ’Uqba mounted his ride and went to see Allah’s Messengersa at Medina; he asked him about (the issue at hand). Allah’s Messengersa said, ‘How can you keep her as your wife when it has been said [that she is your foster-sister]?’ Thus, ’Uqba let go of her and she married another man. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab al-‘ilm, Bab ar-rihlati fi l-mas’alati n-nazilati wa ta‘limi ’ahlih)

“As far as the testimony of men and women in cases dealing with debts or loans is concerned, since such cases are generally related to men and not directly to women, we have been instructed that, if the men appointed to testify in such cases are not available, two women should be appointed along with a man, so that if the woman who is testifying forgets the details of her testimony, the other woman may remind her.

“In other words, even in this scenario, the actual testimony is only that of one woman. The second woman is only appointed as a precautionary measure to remind the first one lest she forget because such issues are not directly related to her. The text of the Holy Quran also supports this understanding, as it states:

يَا‭ ‬أَيُّهَا‭ ‬الَّذِينَ‭ ‬آَمَنُوا‭ ‬إِذَا‭ ‬تَدَايَنْتُمْ‭ ‬بِدَيْنٍ‭ ‬إِلَى‭ ‬أَجَلٍ‭ ‬مُسَمًّى‭ ‬۔۔۔‭ ‬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 you borrow one from another for a fixed period… And call two witnesses from among your men; and if two men be not (available), then a man and two women, of such as you like as witnesses, so that if either of two (women) should err (in memory), then one may remind the other.’ (Surah al-Baqarah, Ch. 2, V. 283)

“Thus, whether it is a woman or a man, the status and importance of the testimony of both is equal even in cases related to loan transactions. However, since financial deals are usually not related to women, we have been instructed to appoint another woman with the testifying woman to help her by reminding her of the matter in case she forgets the details of the case. This is so that neither of the two parties in the case may be wronged because of her forgetting.”

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