WOMEN AS WITNESSES
Nowhere in the Quran is it mentioned that two women are equivalent to one man as a witness. For instance, the testimony of four witnesses is required to prove adultery, and in the Quran no discrimination is made between male and female witnesses, only the number of witnesses is mentioned. However, there is a misunderstood instance described in Sura The Cow, 282, related to time loans. According to this verse, the loan received must be evidenced by a written document, and the presence of witnesses during its execution is required. This is a commercial contract that should not harm the scribe or the witnesses. It is a well-known fact that when material interests are at play, people are reluctant to give testimony. The Quran charges this heavy duty to two men. Take note that only two men are mentioned. A phrase such as ‘or four women’ does not appear. Thus, a woman who rarely deals in commercial affairs, and is weaker in the face of likely pressures and oppressions is protected. Should two men be unavailable and only one is accessible, then the required number would be one man and two women. In this way, the obligation to bear testimony is realized, and should an untoward situation occur later, an encounter between a man and a woman is avoided. Let us assume that a dispute arose about the amount of the loan. The woman, who will have to face one man failing to agree on the amount in question, cannot avoid experiencing stress and pressure. Whereas if there are two women in the picture, they can put up a bold face against the man and the ill-intentioned witnesses will be in a difficulty to put pressure on the women. This practice, which protects women from undue pressure, has been wrongly interpreted and made a generality of this particular case. Except for this particular instance, there is no other discrimination elsewhere in the Quran. Had this been a general principle, God would have made it explicit simply by stating that the testimony of one male witness corresponds to the testimony of two female witnesses.
We have to take note of the statement that runs: “Do not injure either the scribe or the witness. Otherwise you risk swerving from the right path.” The pressure both the witness and the scribe labor under may be imagined and the rationale of the verse can be better understood.