Fatwa ID: 04782
Answered by: Maulana Yusuf Zaman
Why are two women witnesses equal to only one-man witness?
In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
Only in certain cases, two female witnesses are considered equal to one male witness. There is only one verse in the Qur’an that says two female witnesses are equal to one male witness. This verse is in Surah Baqarah, chapter 2 verse 282. This is the longest verse in the Qur’an and deals with financial transactions. It says:
O you who believe! When you contract a debt for a fixed period, write it down. Let a scribe write it down in justice between you. Let not the scribe refuse to write as Allâh has taught him, so let him write. Let him (the debtor) who incurs the liability dictate, and he must fear Allâh, his Lord, and diminish not anything of what he owes. But if the debtor is of poor understanding, or weak, or is unable to dictate for himself, then let his guardian dictate injustice. And get two witnesses out of your own men. And if there are not two men (available), then a man and two women, such as you agree for witnesses, so that if one of them (two women) errs, the other can remind her. And the witnesses should not refuse when they are called (for evidence). You should not become weary to write it (your contract), whether it be small or big, for its fixed term, that is more just with Allâh; more solid as evidence, and more convenient to prevent doubts among yourselves, save when it is a present trade which you carry out on the spot among yourselves, then there is no sin on you if you do not write it down. But take witnesses whenever you make a commercial contract. Let neither scribe nor witness suffers any harm, but if you do (such harm), it would be wickedness in you. So be afraid of Allah, and Allah teaches you. And Allah is the All-Knower of everything. [2:282]
This verse of the Qur’an deals only with financial transactions. In such cases, it is advised to make an agreement in writing between the parties and take two witnesses, preferably both of which should be men only. In case you cannot find two men, then one man and two women would suffice.
For instance, suppose a person wants to undergo an operation for a particular ailment. To confirm the treatment, he would prefer taking references from two qualified surgeons. In case he is unable to find two surgeons, his second option would be one surgeon and two general practitioners who are plain MBBS doctors.
Similarly in financial transactions, two men are preferred. Islam expects men to be the breadwinners of their families. Since financial responsibility is shouldered by men, they are expected to be well versed in financial transactions as compared to women. As a second option, the witness can be one man and two women, so that if one of the women errs the other can remind her.
In cases such as murder where a woman is more terrified as compared to a man, two women are equivalent to one male witness, because due to their emotional condition they may get confused.
*Some incidents require only female witnesses and that of a male cannot be accepted, for instance in dealing with the problems of women.
The seeming inequality of male and female witnesses in certain circumstances is not due to any inequality of the sexes in Islam. It is only due to the different natures and roles of men and women in society as envisaged by Islam.
Only Allah Knows Best
Written by Maulana Yusuf Zaman.
Checked and Approved by Mufti Mohammed Tosir Miah
Darul Ifta Birmingham