(2:282) Is one man equal to two women in Islam?
by Ayesha Khan
THE POWER TO FORGET
Is one man equal to two women?
‘Have two witnesses from among your men, and if two men are not there, then one man and two women from those witnesses whom you like, so that if one of the two women errs, the other woman may remind her.’ (2:282)
Does this mean one man is equal to two women?
This ayah is often quoted in misogynistic contexts to suggest that in Islam women are inferior to men. This is not the case. There is no suggestion that women are inferior in the eyes of Allah Almighty.
Feminist arguments in general try to prove that women are just as good as men by illustrating that women can do everything that men can do. This mistaken premise in itself suggests that men are better than women. Why does a woman need to justify her ability in relation to men?
Two female witnesses are required as opposed to one man’s the testimony is not in the women’s area of expertise. If it is her area of expertise then one woman’s testimony is sufficient. Shahada (testimony) is very important, as it is protects people’s rights. If it is not her area of expertise, then we need two women to double check her testimony. In general the testimony of the woman is half in cases of debt.
One might argue that Allah Almighty asked for two women witnesses instead of one as women are more emotional than men. There are differences between the sexes and one of these is the emotional make up of men and women. Emotions, by and large, form a greater part of a woman’s perception, than a man’s, as Allah Almighty created her with extra emotions for motherhood. It is part and parcel of her to enable her to fulfil this important role. It is not a criticism to say this about her. It is integral to her role and as the one who complements men, when they lack emotion in their perception. Together, they form a whole which is the basis of a family.
Emotions, can however cloud matters of justice, and Allah Almighty is safeguarding justice by putting in checks to ensure that when testimony is delivered it is not controlled by emotions. If this not a woman’s area of expertise then two female witnesses are required.
If you twist this fact to suggest that women are less intelligent that is not fair. When Allah Almighty addressed believers, He made them equal in responsibilities. He made men the providers and women the mothers. Though there is a trend in the West to erase gender differences, as well as to make them fluid, these are innate biological and psychological differences. The man in general cannot play the role of the mother and the woman was not designed to be a warrior on the battlefield. There are always exceptions but generally speaking this is how the sexes complement each other.
There is plenty of scientific evidence to show that men and women are created differently, physically, emotionally and intellectually. They have their own strengths and weaknesses and they balance each other out in many ways. They complement and complete each other. In Islam, there is no competition between the sexes. Islam allows men and women the space to be different.
It is not just anecdotal that certain sexes are better suited to certain roles than others. This does not mean that every man is better than every woman in the board room or driving a digger, or that every woman is better at running the home or changing a nappy. There is as much need for a woman to prove she can be a man as for a hen to prove she can be a rooster. They are what they are.
Just as the command of Allah Almighty for women to cover is constantly misconstrued as a sign of oppression, rather than a blessing and a protection, through this ayah, Allah Almighty does not preclude a woman from giving evidence, but gives her protection and support if she is interrogated or intimidated about what she witnesses in court.
There is no shortage of women who are successful in all walks of life. There are also endless examples of women over many, many years who have excelled in demanding careers, including those that rely on a great deal of memorisation such as law or medicine. There have even been women muftis. Women are also the repository of family history as well as doyennes of multi-tasking, and skilled at coordinating with military precision the day to day operation of a busy household, ensuring everyone’s needs are met and remembering to check on distant aunts and uncles. Why then does Allah Almighty mention women and forgetfulness?
The assumption is generally that forgetting is a negative trait.
In fact the opposite is true. Forgetting is an important aspect of our existence.
If we remembered every lunch we had had we would be saddled with an unnecessary mountain of irrelevant information. If we were unable to forget, how could we forgive and forget? And if they remembered every pang of child birth, women would be the champions of a universal one child policy.
The fact is that forgetting is a vital part of life. There have been numerous studies suggesting a link between oxytocin- the hormone of love, warmth, nursing and childbirth, and selective impairment of memory in mammals, including humans.
Forgetting is not negative it’s simply human nature. This is an essential part of our make-up and who would know better than the Creator, who programmed this in us in the first place. Does this mean that women are incapable of memorisation or accurate recall? No. Simply that in the world of financial transactions Allah Almighty, with His infinite wisdom, has stipulated that if a woman is to give evidence, that she has the support of another woman.
As Muslims we trust Allah Almighty’s wisdom and judgement over our own. We accept this is a divine revelation. Just as we don’t need to justify why we don’t eat pork or drink alcohol, because they are commands from Allah Almighty, when we are given this command, there is no need for a debate, we simply say, ‘We hear and we obey.’
Allah Almighty states in the Quran:
‘The response of the believers, when they are called to God and His Messenger in order to judge between them, is to say, “We hear and we obey.” These are the successful.’ (24:51)
And He reminds us in Surah Al Ahzab:
‘It is not for any believer, man or woman, when God and His Messenger have decided a matter, to have liberty of choice in their decision. Whoever disobeys God and His Messenger has gone far astray.’ (33:36)
Regardless whether Allah Almighty asks for the witness of one man and two women, or one woman and two men, our response has to be submission and trust in His guidance.
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