The Testimony of Women in the Qurʾan

in Al-Bayan: Journal of Qur'an and Hadith Studies
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In recent years, as debates over Islamic legal interpretations have moved to the forefront, especially in places where the expanded application of Islamic law is on the agenda, the issue of women’s testimony has received particular attention. Most jurists arrived at the opinion that women were less trustworthy and less appropriate as legal witnesses than their male counterparts, and so have distinguished between male and female testimony in terms of sex. In this paper I will examine the relationship between ‘gender’ and ‘testimony’ with regard to this sex-based distinction, and as such I will explain why women are no less discerning than men as witnesses in some cases. My purpose is not, and cannot be, to engage in an original interpretation of the law or to sit in judgement on how others have understood the rules of their religion. Rather, I approach the topic of testimony, women, and gender as a student of the history of Islamic law. I argue that the Qurʾan deals with women in an egalitarian and non-discriminatory fashion in terms of testimony and legal affairs, through reference to certain verses, such as al-Nūr (Q 24:6) and al-Nisā’ (Q 4:15). While Ẓāhirisim, including Ibn Ḥazm, and Izzet Derveze follow this egalitarian approach, the four legal schools of the Ḥanafī, Shāfiʿī, Mālikī, and Ḥanbalī do not, and instead claim that women’s testimony cannot be accepted in some circumstances, such as cases of ḥadd, qadhf (slander), and qiṣāṣ (retaliation).

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References

2

Muslim, Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim (Beirut: al-Maktaba al-Salāmī, 1987), ‘Īman’, 132.

4

Abdallaziz Bayındır, Islām Muhakeme Hukuku (Islamic Procedure) (Istanbul: Foundation for Research in Islamic Sciences Press, 1986), 158.

11

Ibn Ḥazm, al-Muhallā, 484.

13

Ibn Ḥazm, al-Muhallā, 8:48.

14

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16

Zeydān, al-Mufaṣṣāl, 181.

17

Muslim, Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim, 132; al-Bukhārī, Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukharī (Riyadh: Maktaba al-rushd, 2006), ‘Hayız’, 6; ‘Zakah’, 44; ‘Shahada’, 10; Abū Dāwūd, Sunan Abū Dāwūd (Beirut: Bait al-afkār al-duvaliyya, 2000), ‘Sunna’, 15; al-Tirmīdhī, al-Jamiʾ al-Tirmīdhī (Riyadh: Bait al-afkār al-duvaliyya, 1999), ‘Īman’, 6.

20

Hidayet Şafkatli Tuksal, Kadın Karşıtı Soylemin Islam Geleneghine Izduşumleri (“The Discourse against Women and its Projections on the Islamic Culture”) (Istanbul: Otte Publications, 2012), 171.

22

Sa’id Şimşek, Gunumuz Tafsir Problemleri (“Recent Hermeneutical Problems in the Qur’ān”) (Istanbul: Duşunce Publications, 1995), 225.

28

al-Qurṭubī, al-Jāmī’ li-aḥkām al-Qur’ān, 18:154; Ibn Ḥazm, al-Muhallā, 8:481; Ibn Qudāma, al-Mughnī, 12:7.

29

al-Qurṭubī, al-Jāmī’ li-aḥkām al-Qur’ān, 3:388.

30

Amina Wadud Muḥsin, Quran and Woman (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 98.

31

al-Qurṭubī, al-Jāmī’ li-aḥkām al-Qur’ān, 3:393.

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