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The truth about Istikhaara

C9EE8247-B12D-4D26-8DEC-DB96727BB2F6When it comes to important decisions, everyone feels a bout of indecisiveness once in a while. Many Muslims believe that the answer to this is ‘Istikhaara’ (A prayer of 2 rak’ah followed by a specific supplication). They think that once they have performed Istikhaara, Allah will guide them to make the right decision.

 

This may be through changing how they feel about the issue. It may even entail them seeing a dream which guides them or a sign in their everyday lives which sways them one way or the other. These people believe this because it is an idea propagated by the clergy. Based upon these incorrect beliefs, some ask those who are deemed to be pious to perform the Istikhaara for them so Allah can guide them through these human mediums!

 

There are many misconceptions about Istikhaara out there and they all stem from a fundamental misunderstanding of the concept. Due to Muslims following the opinions of the clergy, popular belief is that ‘Istikhaara’ is ‘asking for Allah’s guidance to make a decision’ when in fact it is not. 

 

So, what exactly is ‘Istikhaara’?

 

As usual, let us look to the actual evidence. The concept of Istikhaara is based upon a hadith from Jabir bin Abdullah in the collection of Sahih Bukhari (There are other collectors with the same hadith also).

 

حَدَّثَنَا قُتَيْبَةُ، قَالَ حَدَّثَنَا عَبْدُ الرَّحْمَنِ بْنُ أَبِي الْمَوَالِي، عَنْ مُحَمَّدِ بْنِ الْمُنْكَدِرِ، عَنْ جَابِرِ بْنِ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ ـ رضى الله عنهما ـ قَالَ كَانَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم يُعَلِّمُنَا الاِسْتِخَارَةَ فِي الأُمُورِ كَمَا يُعَلِّمُنَا السُّورَةَ مِنَ الْقُرْآنِ يَقُولُ  ” إِذَا هَمَّ أَحَدُكُمْ بِالأَمْرِ فَلْيَرْكَعْ رَكْعَتَيْنِ مِنْ غَيْرِ الْفَرِيضَةِ ثُمَّ لِيَقُلِ اللَّهُمَّ إِنِّي أَسْتَخِيرُكَ بِعِلْمِكَ وَأَسْتَقْدِرُكَ بِقُدْرَتِكَ، وَأَسْأَلُكَ مِنْ فَضْلِكَ الْعَظِيمِ، فَإِنَّكَ تَقْدِرُ وَلاَ أَقْدِرُ وَتَعْلَمُ وَلاَ أَعْلَمُ وَأَنْتَ عَلاَّمُ الْغُيُوبِ، اللَّهُمَّ إِنْ كُنْتَ تَعْلَمُ أَنَّ هَذَا الأَمْرَ خَيْرٌ لِي فِي دِينِي وَمَعَاشِي وَعَاقِبَةِ أَمْرِي ـ أَوْ قَالَ عَاجِلِ أَمْرِي وَآجِلِهِ ـ فَاقْدُرْهُ لِي وَيَسِّرْهُ لِي ثُمَّ بَارِكْ لِي فِيهِ، وَإِنْ كُنْتَ تَعْلَمُ أَنَّ هَذَا الأَمْرَ شَرٌّ لِي فِي دِينِي وَمَعَاشِي وَعَاقِبَةِ أَمْرِي ـ أَوْ قَالَ فِي عَاجِلِ أَمْرِي وَآجِلِهِ ـ فَاصْرِفْهُ عَنِّي وَاصْرِفْنِي عَنْهُ، وَاقْدُرْ لِي الْخَيْرَ حَيْثُ كَانَ ثُمَّ أَرْضِنِي بِهِ ـ قَالَ ـ وَيُسَمِّي حَاجَتَهُ “.

 

Narrated Jabir bin `Abdullah:

 

The Prophet (p.b.u.h) used to teach us the way of doing Istikhara, in all matters as he taught us the Suras of the Qur’an. He said, “If anyone of you wants/endeavours to do any matter, he should offer a two rak`at prayer other than the compulsory ones and say (after the prayer): — ‘Allahumma inni astakhiruka bi’ilmika, Wa astaqdiruka bi-qudratika, Wa as’alaka min fadlika Al-`azlm Fa-innaka taqdiru Wala aqdiru, Wa ta’lamu Wala a’lamu, Wa anta ‘allamu l-ghuyub. Allahumma, in kunta ta’lam anna hadha-lamra Khairun li fi dini wa ma’ashi wa’aqibati `Amri (or ‘ajili `Amri wa’ajilihi) Faqdirhu wa yas-sirhu li thumma barik li Fihi, Wa in kunta ta’lamu anna hadha-lamra shar-run li fi dini wa ma’ashi wa’aqibati `Amri (or fi’ajili `Amri wa ajilihi) Fasrifhu anni was-rifni anhu. Waqdir li al-khaira haithu kana Thumma ardini bihi.’ (O Allah! I ask good from Your knowledge, And Power from Your Might and I ask for Your great blessings. You are capable and I am not. You know and I do not and You know the unseen. O Allah! If You know that this job is good for my religion and my subsistence and in my Hereafter–(or said: If it is better for my present and later needs)–Then You ordain it for me and make it easy for me to get, And then bless me in it, and if You know that this job is harmful to me In my religion and subsistence and in the Hereafter–(or said: If it is worse for my present and later needs)–Then keep it away from me and let me be away from it. And ordain for me whatever is good for me, And make me satisfied with it). The Prophet (ﷺ) added that then the person should name (mention) his need.

 

The word verb ‘هَمَّ’ is paramount here. It is often translated as ‘thinks’ and the complete phrase as “The Prophet said, ‘if any one of you thinks of a matter/issue), he should offer 2 rak’ah and then say…’. In other words, this is why many Muslims will argue that when one is ‘thinking’ about which decision he/she will make, he/she should ask Allah for guidance so the correct decision is taken. However, if we examine the Quran for the meaning of the word, it is clear that it does not mean ‘thinks’. 

 

For example in Surah Al Ma’idah, verse 11:

 

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ اذْكُرُواْ نِعْمَتَ اللّهِ عَلَيْكُمْ إِذْ هَمَّ قَوْمٌ أَن يَبْسُطُواْ إِلَيْكُمْ أَيْدِيَهُمْ فَكَفَّ أَيْدِيَهُمْ عَنكُمْ وَاتَّقُواْ اللّهَ وَعَلَى اللّهِ فَلْيَتَوَكَّلِ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ

 

‘O you who have attained to faith! Remember the blessings which God bestowed upon you when [hostile] people endeavoured/wanted to lay hands on you and He stayed their hands from you. Remain, then, conscious of God: and in God let the believers place their trust.’

 

Obviously, the hostile nation were not just thinking about it. They were not in a state of indecision – they had decided to do it but Allah stopped them.

 

Likewise, in Surah An Nisaa’, verse 113:

 

وَلَوْلاَ فَضْلُ اللّهِ عَلَيْكَ وَرَحْمَتُهُ لَهَمَّت طَّآئِفَةٌ مُّنْهُمْ أَن يُضِلُّوكَ وَمَا يُضِلُّونَ إِلاُّ أَنفُسَهُمْ وَمَا يَضُرُّونَكَ مِن شَيْءٍ وَأَنزَلَ اللّهُ عَلَيْكَ الْكِتَابَ وَالْحِكْمَةَ وَعَلَّمَكَ مَا لَمْ تَكُنْ تَعْلَمُ وَكَانَ فَضْلُ اللّهِ عَلَيْكَ عَظِيمًا

 

And but for God’s favour upon thee and His grace, a group of them would indeed endeavour to lead thee astray; yet none but themselves do they lead astray. Nor can they harm thee in any way, since God has bestowed upon thee from on high this divine writ and [given thee] wisdom, and has imparted unto thee the knowledge of what thou didst not know. And God’s favour upon thee is tremendous indeed.

 

So, when the Prophet introduced ‘Istikhaara’ to the companions, he told them that, ‘if any of you wants something, to perform the Istikhaara’.

 

In other words, the decision is the individual’s BEFORE he/she performs the Istikhaara. 

 

Now, onto what ‘Istikhaara’ actually means. Some claim it means ‘to ask for guidance on a matter’ yet, if you look at the words of the supplication – it is evident that ‘Istikhaara’ is asking for the good of a matter/decision you have taken.

 

Lastly, in terms of the after effects. There will be no signs, dreams or messages through mediums. The Istikhaara is testimony to the fact that one has faith and trust in Allah. 

 

So, make your decision, perform Istikhaara and then, get on with the rest of your life knowing that Allah will give you what you want if it is good for you.

To enjoin good & forbid evil… What DOES it actually mean?

D8EB55EF-BB8A-421B-9D49-E84B2AB248A8‘To enjoin good and forbid evil’ – A phrase most Muslims are familiar with and the banner under which any ‘haraam’ police* operate. But, despite it being such a widespread belief and saying, do we really understand what it means?

 

 

 

We know it is mentioned in the Qur’an as a characteristic of the believers and so, something we should all work for. One example is Surah At-Tawba (verse 71):

 

وَالْمُؤْمِنُونَ وَالْمُؤْمِنَاتُ بَعْضُهُمْ أَوْلِيَاء بَعْضٍ يَأْمُرُونَ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَيَنْهَوْنَ عَنِ الْمُنكَرِ وَيُقِيمُونَ الصَّلاَةَ وَيُؤْتُونَ الزَّكَاةَ وَيُطِيعُونَ اللّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ أُوْلَـئِكَ سَيَرْحَمُهُمُ اللّهُ إِنَّ اللّهَ عَزِيزٌ حَكِيمٌ

 

AND [as for] the believers, both men and women, they are the supporters of one another – They enjoin the doing of what is right and forbid the doing of what is wrong, and are constant in prayer, and pay zakah and obey God and His Apostle. It is they upon whom God will bestow His mercy. Verily, God is Almighty, Wise!

 

I have highlighted the specific words in Arabic. They are nearly always translated as they have been above – that ‘they enjoin that which is right and forbid the doing of what is wrong’. 

 

However, if we look at the actual Arabic instead of the translations most ‘scholars’ propagate, the word ‘ma’roof’ means ‘known’ and ‘munkar’ is its opposite – ‘unknown/strange’.

 

There is evidence of this in the Qur’an and for the sake of brevity, I will give you just a couple of examples:

 

إِذْ دَخَلُوا عَلَيْهِ فَقَالُوا سَلَامًا قَالَ سَلَامٌ قَوْمٌ مُّنكَرُونَ

 

When those [heavenly messengers] came unto him and bade him peace, he answered, [And upon you be] peace! – [saying to himself,] They are strangers. 

(Ad-Dhariyaat, verse 25)

 

This verse is about the Prophet Ibrahim when the angels visited him. The word ‘munkaroon’ describes them because they were unknown to him, NOT that they were ‘bad’ or ‘evil’. The same word cannot mean completely different things.

 

With regards to the definition of ‘ma’roof’, the following verses from Surah Al-A’raaf make it clear for us: 

 

وَإِن تَدْعُوهُمْ إِلَى الْهُدَى لاَ يَسْمَعُواْ وَتَرَاهُمْ يَنظُرُونَ إِلَيْكَ وَهُمْ لاَ يُبْصِرُونَ

 

And if you call them to guidance, they hear not and you will see them looking at you, yet they see not. (198)

خُذِ الْعَفْوَ وَأْمُرْ بِالْعُرْفِ وَأَعْرِض عَنِ الْجَـهِلِينَ

 

Pardon them and order Al-‘Urf and turn away from the ignorant. (199)

 

These verses are directed to the Prophet Muhammad (sallAllahu alayhi wa sallam) and he was told to pardon these people and order them with the ‘urf’. ‘Urf’ is from the same root in Arabic as ‘ma’roof’. Was he told to simply order them to ‘do good’ (as many claim it means) or something more specific? It is obvious what is meant here is all that is encompassed by the religion even if we ignore the fact that linguistically ‘ma’roof’ means ‘that which is known’.

 

Looking into this really brings into focus why first hand knowledge of the religion is so important. Your religion defines your destination in the next life and so, is too important to leave in the hands of others. Allah orders us to enjoin that which is the actual religion and to forbid that which is unknown (i.e. innovations or additions to the religion). It’s really quite simple – Just stick to the religion according to the evidence.

 

* Muslims who go around policing the religion of others by pointing out which of their actions, according to their views, are ‘haraam’/wrong. 

Does a Muslim woman NEED a man in order to travel?

2B731165-B8BE-4FA9-B2F6-599E6655A8AFMany ‘scholars’ claim a Muslim woman is only permitted to travel with a man whom she cannot marry (‘a mahram’). While some propagate that this is the case for any travelling, others believe she can travel within a specified distance. They differ as to how far this is, with a range spanning from 25 to 64 miles.

 

They use ahadith such as the ones below and calculate the distance based upon how far people at the time would have been able to travel in 3 days:

 

Narrated Ibn `Umar:

The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “A woman should not travel for more than three days except with a Dhi-Mahram.” (The Book of Shortening the Prayers (At-Taqseer), Sahih Bukhari)

 

Abu Huraira (Allah be pleased with him) reported Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) as saying:

 

It is not lawful for a Muslim woman to travel a night’s journey except when there is a mahram with her. (The Book of pilgrimage, Sahih Muslim)

 

Narrated Ibn `Abbas:

The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “A woman should not travel except with a mahram (her husband or a man with whom that woman cannot marry at all according to the Islamic Jurisprudence), and no man may visit her except in the presence of a mahram.” A man got up and said, “O Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ)! I intend to go to such and such an army and my wife wants to perform Hajj.” The Prophet (ﷺ) said (to him), “Go along with her (to Hajj).(The Book of ‘Penalty of Hunting while on Pilgrimage’, Sahih Al Bukhari)

 

I have included the book each hadith is found in because this often sheds light upon the context and what was intended by the hadith. Surely, the collectors of the ahadith placed each one in a specific book because that is the topic they believed the hadith was about. 

 

Interestingly, Imam Bukhari put one hadith above in the book concerning shortening the prayer (i.e. the length of a journey for which you would combine prayers) and the other in a book relating to Hajj. Imam Muslim also put his in the Book of Hajj.

 

Now, if you’ve read any of my other blogs, you already know that I believe the evidence speaks for itself – as long as you are listening. We have to ask ourselves, why did the collectors of these ahadith place them in the books of Hajj.

 

What was the context of these ahadith? The last hadith (narrated by Ibn Abbas) indicates the Muslims were still at war and Hajj especially would have been a time of threat. The man in the story intended to join an army but was told instead to accompany his wife to perform Hajj. Simply put, it would not have been safe for a woman to travel for Hajj without someone who would physically protect her.

 

Furthermore, we have evidence that the Prophet’s wives travelled without a mahram in the following hadith in Bukhari:

Narrated Ibrahim’s grand-father that ‘Umar(ra) in his last Hajj allowed the wives of the Prophet(ﷺ)to perform Hajj and he sent with them ‘Uthman bin ‘Affan(ra) and ‘Abdur-Rahman bin ‘Auf(ra).

 

Obviously, Umar and the wives of the Prophet understood the religion better than the ‘scholars’ of the modern world. Neither of the men sent with the wives were mahram for them all. Some claim that maybe each wife was accompanied by a mahram also but we have no sound evidence of this.

 

On the other hand, it is completely plausible that women needed a mahram when it was deemed unsafe to travel alone and that the Muslims at the time understood this. So, once it was safe, women did travel independently.

 

As always, my intention is not to issue a ‘fatwa’ or my interpretation as the truth. It is merely to research and evaluate the evidence being commonly used by ‘scholars’. It is up to each Muslim to come to their own conclusion. May Allah (azza wa jall) guide us all.

Shame on women’s bodies

 

The following is a question I received:

Aggression Blame Shame Attack Bullying

When I don’t wear a scarf, the shape of my chest becomes visible. Isn’t that shameful? Isn’t it better to wear a scarf?

 

The concept of shame in this instance is most likely founded in the environment in which you were raised. In many cultures across the world, women are expected to dress in a certain way so as to conform to societal expectations. There are many African women who wear head gear for example and not for religious reasons. Even in the Western world, women who dress scantily may be treated or labelled in a negative way.

 

The religion of Islam has no such attachment of shame to women’s bodies. If you read the Quran and ahadith, you find references to menstruation, pregnancy, breastfeeding and sex. The religion views these as part of life and nothing to be ashamed of. 

 

For more information about the verses on what should be covered, see my blog here.

 

With regards to whether despite the evidence, it being better to wear a headscarf – We cannot legislate better than the One who created us. Adding to the religion is innovation and the Prophet said ‘….The worst of things are those that are newly invented; every newly-invented thing is an innovation and every innovation is going astray, and every going astray is in the Fire.’ (See https://sunnah.com/nasai/19/23 for the complete hadith)

 

I believe it’s time women stopped allowing society to dictate how they feel about their bodies and subsequently dress. More importantly, it’s time for all Muslims to shed innovation for the real religion.

Why Muslim women wear black

A07E7D07-FBAA-4EC0-B4AE-8B246AA2C330Some ‘scholars’ wrongly use Surah Nur, verse 31 to claim a Muslim woman must not wear clothes which may be considered an ‘adornment’ (See my blog here for more about what this verse actually means).

 

Subsequently, there is a common belief that Muslim women must dress in certain colours so as to not attract the attention of men. This usually involves wearing black or a similar colour.

 

I’ve always found this interesting because whether or not a colour is attractive is very subjective.

 

Furthermore, when I looked into it, this idea of certain colours for women actually goes against the evidence.

 

Sahih Al-Bukhari (https://sunnah.com/bukhari/77/42)

…’Aisha said that the lady (came), wearing a green covering (translations commonly use the word ‘veil’ here but ‘covering’ would be more accurate) ……

 

Sahih Al-Bukhari (https://sunnah.com/bukhari/77/59)

Anas bin Malik narrated that he had seen Um Kulthum, the daughter of Allah’s Apostle (saaws), wearing a red silk garment.

 

Sahih Al-Bukhari (https://sunnah.com/bukhari/77/40)

The Prophet (saaws) was given some clothes including a black Khamisa. The Prophet said,”To whom shall we give this to wear?” The people kept silent whereupon the Prophet said, “Fetch Um Khalid for me.” I (Um Khalid) was brought carried (as I was small girl at that time). The Prophet took the Khamisa in his hands and made me wear it and said, “May you live so long that your dress will wear out and you will mend it many times.” On the Khamisa there were some green or pale designs (The Prophet saw these designs) and said, “O Um Khalid! This is Sanah.” (Sanah in a Ethiopian word meaning ‘beautiful’).

 

Sunan of Abu Dawood (https://sunnah.com/abudawud/34/47)

Narrated Abdullah ibn Amr ibn al-‘As, “We came down with the Apostle of Allah (peace be upon him) from a turning of a valley. He turned his attention to me and I was wearing a garment dyed with a reddish yellow dye. He asked: What is this garment over you? I recognised what he disliked. I then came to my family who were burning their oven. I threw it (the garment) in it and came to him the next day. He asked: Abdullah, what have you done with the garment? I informed him about it. He said: Why did you not give it to one of your family to wear, for there is no harm in it for women.”

 

So, we have evidence of green, reddish yellow and black with designs. When we put this together with the fact that there is no evidence in both the Quran or the Sunnah stating women must dress in particular colours, it becomes obvious that this is an indoctrination based upon subjectivity, culture and the opinions of male scholars.

The confusion in KHULA

061B2F9A-94D8-43D9-97C0-36F68AC63A1DThe concept of ‘Khula’ amongst Muslims is based largely upon a sole incident regarding Thaabit bin Qais.

 

‘Scholars’ use this hadith https://sunnah.com/bukhari/68/24 to claim that:

1). If a woman asks for divorce, she must give back the mahr.

2). The wife of Thaabit bin Qais went to the Prophet so women have to divorce through a court/judge.

3). The judge or judges will decide if the woman’s request is valid.

 

So, according to most Muslims, while a man can just divorce a woman by saying the word ‘divorce’, a woman follows a completely different process.

 

Does this sound right to you?

 

Those who know Islam know that this is simply NOT the religion (See my blog on ‘Khula’ here). In fact, if we take a closer look at the ahadith about Thaabit bin Qais we find a LOT of confusion.

 

Why did the wife of Thaabit bin Qais want a divorce?

 

Firstly, in the account found at https://sunnah.com/bukhari/68/25 , the wife (Habibah bint Sahl Al-Ansarriyah) states she is ‘afraid of the kufr’. Imam Bukhari also included this version https://sunnah.com/bukhari/68/22 which states she ‘hates the kufr in Islam’ (Bukhari found a problem with one person in this chain but included this hadith in his authentic collection because it is backed up by the one mentioned prior to it – (68/25). It also appears with the same words (the wife stating she wants a divorce because ‘she hates the kufr in Al Islam’) in the collection of An Nisa’i.

 

Now, if what we take away from this account is that the wife of Thaabit bin Qais wanted a divorce because of his ‘kufr/disbelief’ in Islam, then this fits with evidence from the Quran (See my blog on this here).

 

There is a hadith (https://sunnah.com/bukhari/61/120) that names Thaabit bin Qais as from the people of Paradise. This does not mean he was a Muslim at the time of this divorce (He is known to have fought at Uhud but not at Badr). There does not seem to be sufficient information about him to know when exactly he became Muslim.

 

However, if we conclude (like the clergy have) that the problem here was the wife fearing she would ‘be ungrateful’ (translating ‘kufr’ to mean ‘ingratitude’) makes no sense whatsoever. Moreover it contradicts the Quranic verse which states the Mahr cannot be taken back by the husband (4:20 – See it here in my blog).

 

What does this event tell us about Thaabit bin Qais?

 

If you have a read through the ahadith about Thaabit bin Qais here (https://sunnah.com/search/?q=Thabit+bin+Qais) you will see the picture you get is a confusing one. In the narration by Ibn Abbas where Thaabit’s wife asks for a divorce, she states, ‘It is not his religion nor his character which is the reason for the divorce.’

 

However, there are a couple of ahadith – one about Habibah and another about another wife (Jamilah bint Abdullah) where he broke the named wife’s hand/caused her physical injury – for both of the women.

 

Does this fit with the statement that ‘his character’ is not the reason for the divorce?

 

There seems to be a discrepancy here.

 

How long was the iddah (‘waiting period after divorce’) in this event?

 

In this version by An Nisa’i, (https://sunnah.com/nasai/27/109), the Prophet, according to the narration, orders Habibah an iddah of 1 month when we know from the Quran that the iddah must be 3 periods in these cases.

 

So, either this took place before the verses about iddah were revealed or we are missing other relevant information. As it is, what we are left with is a confusing picture. Even the clergy ignore the part about the iddah of one month and still insist on a three month period. Ignoring one part and taking the rest? What does that tell us about the confusing picture this hadith paints?

 

I included the hadith about Thaabit bin Qais (in my blog here) because ‘scholars’ around the world are using it to create the ‘Khula’ process and through it, take away a woman’s right to divorce more easily – she has to fight for it.

 

The responsibility of following the truth lies with us all. Nothing less will ever suffice.

 

*This blog is about the ahadith about this event. If you’d like the complete picture, see my blog here on ‘Khula, Mahr and Halala’.

 

 

 

 

Are two female witnesses equal to one male witness?

2856C603-49C0-4C40-9F36-418560B20345There are many who claim that a woman’s testimony is lesser than that of a man’s. They use this verse in Surah Al Baqarah (282) to claim that two female witnesses are equal to one male witness:

 

يأَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ إِذَا تَدَايَنتُم بِدَيْنٍ إِلَى أَجَلٍ مُّسَمًّى فَاكْتُبُوهُ وَلْيَكْتُب بَّيْنَكُم كَاتِبٌ بِالْعَدْلِ وَلاَ يَأْبَ كَاتِبٌ أَن يَكْتُبَ كَمَا عَلَّمَهُ اللَّهُ فَلْيَكْتُبْ وَلْيُمْلِلِ الَّذِى عَلَيْهِ الْحَقُّ وَلْيَتَّقِ اللَّهَ رَبَّهُ وَلاَ يَبْخَسْ مِنْهُ شَيْئاً فَإن كَانَ الَّذِى عَلَيْهِ الْحَقُّ سَفِيهًا أَوْ ضَعِيفًا أَوْ لاَ يَسْتَطِيعُ أَن يُمِلَّ هُوَ فَلْيُمْلِلْ وَلِيُّهُ بِالْعَدْلِ وَاسْتَشْهِدُواْ شَهِيدَيْنِ مِّن رِّجَالِكُمْ فَإِن لَّمْ يَكُونَا رَجُلَيْنِ فَرَجُلٌ وَامْرَأَتَانِ مِمَّن تَرْضَوْنَ مِنَ الشُّهَدَآءِ أَن تَضِلَّ إْحْدَاهُمَا فَتُذَكِّرَ إِحْدَاهُمَا الاٍّخْرَى وَلاَ يَأْبَ الشُّهَدَآءُ إِذَا مَا دُعُواْ وَلاَ تَسْـَمُواْ أَن تَكْتُبُوهُ صَغِيرًا أَوْ كَبِيرًا إِلَى أَجَلِهِ ذَلِكُمْ أَقْسَطُ عِندَ اللَّهِ وَأَقْوَمُ لِلشَّهَـدَةِ وَأَدْنَى أَلاَّ تَرْتَابُواْ إِلاَ أَن تَكُونَ تِجَـرَةً حَاضِرَةً تُدِيرُونَهَا بَيْنَكُمْ فَلَيْسَ عَلَيْكُمْ جُنَاحٌ أَلاَّ تَكْتُبُوهَا وَأَشْهِدُواْ إِذَا تَبَايَعْتُمْ وَلاَ يُضَآرَّ كَاتِبٌ وَلاَ شَهِيدٌ وَإِن تَفْعَلُواْ فَإِنَّهُ فُسُوقٌ بِكُمْ وَاتَّقُواْ اللَّهَ وَيُعَلِّمُكُمُ اللَّهُ وَاللَّهُ بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ عَلِيمٌ

 

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 Allah has taught him, so let him write. Let him (the debtor) who incurs the liability dictate, and he must have Taqwa of Allah, 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 in justice. 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 Allah; 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 suffer any harm, but if you do (such harm), it would be wickedness in you. So have Taqwa of Allah; and Allah teaches you. And Allah is the All-Knower of everything.

 

Many ‘scholars’ claim that women’s hormones (particularly during pregnancy and the menstrual cycle) render them more emotional and induce some sort of decline in cognitive function; Women’s memories aren’t as good as a man’s – or so they believe.

 

However, evidence on the impact of hormones remains a matter of debate (See https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/period-cognitive-functioning-research_n_596cbd21e4b03389bb18e573) and so cannot be used until we have definitive conclusions.

 

In other words, they are taking a command from Scripture and trying to justify it using their perspective on women’s issues. In many cultures, menstruation and related topics are taboo and perceived negatively and this will of course, affect perspectives. More importantly, the religion must be understood by taking a look at the evidence within the religion itself and not what is proposed by the Scientific world (as this may and often changes) or by popular culture.

 

So, let’s take a closer look at why Allah commanded that two female witnesses be called in the place of a single male?

 

Firstly, let us take a closer look at the verse above:

 

1). The verse does NOT, in fact, state that two women are equal to one man. Rather, two women are called but the second is only asked if the first ‘errs’. In other words, the second woman may not even be asked – leaving us with the testimony of one man and one woman. This tells us one woman’s testimony is equal to that of a man’s.

 

If the situation does necessitate the second woman’s testimony, then we will have the testimony of two women and one man. This does not however, mean women have lower cognitive function or that men have better memories.

 

2). The translation of the verse above uses the word ‘errs’. The word used in Arabic is ‘تَضِلَّ’  which, despite common belief, does NOT mean ‘forgets’. It means ‘goes astray’ (Have a look at the many times it occurs in the Quran). Obviously, ‘forgetting’ is different from ‘going astray’. ‘Forgetting’ is ‘failing to remember’ whereas ‘going astray’ is ‘getting something wrong’. Furthermore, ‘going astray’/making an error indicates a lack of knowledge or understanding.

 

3). The Quran restricts the calling of two female witnesses to this type of event (i.e. monetary transactions). In other situations, like witnessing a theft or murder, a second female witness is not required.

 

In summary, the verse states the second woman is only asked if the first female witness ‘errs’. The use of the word ‘errs’ signifies a lack of knowledge/understanding NOT a decline in cognitive function and the calling of two females instead of a male witness is only in the prescribed context.

 

Now, to move on to ahadith;

 

Further explanation is found in a well known hadith (for the sake of brevity, you can find it here) which clearly states that it is due to women not having the knowledge/understanding about these types of transactions. The culture when the Quran was revealed was one where women were mistreated and abused (e.g. daughters were not wanted and often killed by their parents). They did not have rights and many would not have been involved in such transactions. Many would have been illiterate. Such cultures still thrive today. And the timeless nature of the religion recognises that.

 

In conclusion, it is NOT that two female witnesses are equal to one male witness. Rather, there are times (if the first errs) when the testimony of two women may be taken alongside one man’s testimony. In these instances, this is due to a lack of knowledge/understanding of the specific transaction and NOT a blanket indication that women make poorer witnesses compared to men or that it takes the cognitive abilities of two women to match that of a man’s. As always, the evidence speaks for itself.