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Myth v. Reality: Excavating Shariah – Law of Evidence Part I

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Written by Theresa Corbin in collaboration with Saadia Haq

Part II here

As a faith community, we are facing a serious crisis in human (and God given) rights violations. Many of those “in charge” are and have been misusing religious texts to cripple more than half of our population- women.

We are a global community and these issues have infected our lives on a global scale. Because of these issues, Saadia Haq and I are “Excavating Shariah” in an attempt to chip away at the fiqh interpretations (human understanding of the Shariah (Islamic) law) that have either intentionally or unintentionally ignored the female experience, oppressed women, or co-opted women’s religious dedication.

We take it as a serious matter that Islam has been wrongfully used as a weapon against women. We feel we have the right and an obligation, as Muslims, to speak on these issues. To start, we will “excavate” the abhorrent Law of Evidence:

The Law of Evidence, as it is used in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and various Muslims countries in varying level of restriction, refuses women the right to be a witnesses in a court of law. The countries who implement this law claim it is an Islamic law. But what really lies at the root of the Law of Evidence? 

What is said

{O ye who believe! When you deal with each other, in transactions involving future obligations in a fixed period of time, reduce them to writing; […] then a man and two women, such as you choose, for witnesses, so that if one of them errs, the other can remind her. […]} (Quran 2:282)

This is a famous verse that has been a topic of much debate since it states that in financial contracts, two women are to be taken as witnesses in the place of one man.

What is meant

The witnessing of two women in the place of one man, as the verse states, is the only time a female witness is to be two for every man. It is a singular and explicit verse. The Quran does not go further and say whenever any witnessing is done two females equal one male.

Women in all other cases -i.e. outside of financial contracts- there is no two for one deal. In fact, there are at least four other verses that mention witnessing and do not specify whether the witness be male or female.

1-{Oh you who believe! When death approaches any of you, (take) witnesses among yourself when making bequests.} [Al-Qur’ân 5:106]

2-{Bring two just persons of your own (community) or other from outside if you are journeying through the earth and the chance of death befalls you.} [Al-Qur’ân 65:2]

3-{Four witnesses are required in case of charge against chaste women.} [Al-Qur’ân 24:4]

4-{And those who launch a charge against their spouses, and have (in support) no evidence but their own – their solitary evidence can be received.} [Al-Qur’ân 24:6]

Not once is the sex of a witness mentioned in these verses. And still those who claim to know Islamic law and constructed and enforce the “Law of Evidence” use one specific verse 2:282 in a general way, when there is mounting evidence that witnessing is not to be so broadly applied.

Dr. Mohammad Omar Farooq writes: “Inadmissibility of women witnesses is a pathetic subversion of laws and codes in the name of Islam. Except the arguable exception of women’s witness in case of business-related matters, women’s witness needs to be recognized at par with men.

“Even the exception is moot in modern context, where women are successfully and competitively assuming positions of responsibility at all levels of society,  there is no reason why in ALL respects witness of men and women should not be put on equal footing.

“Notably, even if one wants to argue about the exception, where the orthodox Islamic law allows qualified women to assume positions of judge, it is ludicrous and utterly unacceptable that women’s witness should be rendered inadmissible even where they themselves are victims, or where their lives are affected.”

Why women

2:282 is a specific verse to be understood within the context of its revelation, a time when women rarely were involved in financial transaction and did not know the ins and outs of business with a few exceptions. This was considered the man’s realm. Today that is no longer true.

But whether or not you feel that financial witnessing, as stated in the Quran, must be enforced in today’s world, the verse can still be interpreted in a female friendly way. As is claimed by many scholars, the verse is a leniency for women when called to witness on financial contract in a court of law.

Sheila Musaji writes, “This verse is actually being more lenient on women. Because if the woman forgets or lies under oath, she has a back up and is allowed to change her statement if her co-witness reminds her of what was witness and her memory is jogged” (Source).

It’s not just women who forget

However, if a man forgets or lies under oath, he has no back up. His testimony will be thrown from the court and he is never again to be considered reliable or of appropriate witnessing character. The male witness is not allowed to be forgetful even though the male and the female are considered equally forgetful.

The Quran does not speak of the female as uniquely forgetful. “The human being is called ‘insaan’ [throughout] the Quran, a term that shares the same linguistic root as the verb ‘to forget’. Man’s basic tendency [is] ‘to forget’ […]” (Source). This leads one to conclude that the verse about financial contracts limits women because women at the time of revelation had limited access to and knowledge of financial dealings.

The truth is-1

Misuse of Quranic Text to the detriment of women

Patriarchal societies that claim Islam as their religion such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, and many more, employ the verse 2:282 as a standard for all witnessing (unless it is inconvenient for them).

The verse is applied to and broadened beyond what is stated in the Quran. All other verses about witnessing are ignored. And the men who rule call the Law of Evidence Shariah law given by God.

The Law of Evidence is used most egregiously against women in cases of rape. When a case of rape is presented to the court, the victim is prevented from witnessing against her assailant because it is alleged that her testimony is only half of a man’s. When this has nothing to do with Islamic law and everything to do with oppressing women. More about this heinous practice here and in part II.

Tables turned

Would these “clerics” who like to broaden and expand verses about women be so generously broad and expansive with verse that deal with male issues? Would they then apply the same broad approach to the verse 2:135 that implies the male child should be circumcised? Would they play with this verse’s implication about cutting the foreskin and broaden and expand it to include a little more off the top?

No, because it would cripple the individual male. And castrating men does not serve a purpose in the broader society.

I feel it is necessary to use this harsh language and analogy so that people who cannot put themselves in others shoes can understand. So that they can understand the full extend of how expanding Allah’s words well beyond what Allah has revealed steps outside the bounds of Islam and cripples individuals and societies.

A famous Islamic jurist, commentator on the Quran, and theologian, Ibn Qayyim said, “Should any ruling go from mercy to cruelty, it is not Islam. Should it go from wisdom to folly, it is not Islam. Should it go from benefit to harm, it is not Islam. And should it go from justice to injustice, it is not Islam.”

The only conclusion I can draw is that men who implement these kinds of laws (and the women who support them) have some seriously wilful ignorance; are consciously oppressive of women; and want to use rape and silencing of women as a tool to keep women out of their own societies, governments, and public spheres.

It is time we pull the rug out from underneath these “men” who rule on false claims of Islam.

The first thing we need to do is understand the truth. Learn the reality of Islam and not the version that has been bought and sold by governments and/or people seeking power.

Then we MUST educate those around you.

And call these corrupt leader and law makers out on their heinous crimes against humanity and God. Where ever you see oppression, speak up. It is your duty.


 

The Myth v. Reality: Excavating Shariah is a new, featured serial collaboration focusing on Sharia Law interpretations that lead to serious human rights concerns within the Muslim communities.

This is a joint initiative of two Muslimah writers- American, Muslim Convert Theresa Corbin of islamwich, and Pakistani, Feminist and women’s rights activist Saadia Haq of The Human Lens.

Do to the serious nature and risk of misrepresentation of the issues and points made, islamwich and The Human Lens hold exclusive copyrights for this work and it cannot be reproduced or edited. It can only be reblogged AS IS on social media sites with express permission from either of the publishing sources.

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14 thoughts on “Myth v. Reality: Excavating Shariah – Law of Evidence Part I

  1. Well said, sisters 🙂
    The desire for power monopoly and the resistence to the distribution of power. That is the root cause I guess.
    May Allah bless you and reward you for this effort…ameen!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. CORBIN!!!!!!! What a spot on piece where you remind us the Ummah of the correct teachings of Islam. May Allah SWT reward you for all that you do and becoming a strong voice for women of Islam. Together we will pave the way to try educate people on important issues like the pitfalls of Law of Evidence in Muslim countries, plus thanks so much for agreeing for this collaboration, as always its great to work with a fantastic writer like yourself!

    Like

  3. Mash Allah, I applaude your courage with Saadia Haqq for having written this article. Your article confirms my thoughts, some muslim males misuse Islam to restrict the rights of women.

    I also noticed that they love to focus on women saying how she should behave, how she should dress ect…. My question to such individuals is “what about men”? There are men who misbehave, there are also men who do not dress in a correct way. Still very few male scholars say anything about these issues.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for reading and commenting. To me if you refuse to comment on one section of the population but focus on another, you have become corrupt as a religious leader. This is one of the worst things you can be in this life. May Allah guide us all to truth and justice.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Thanks for your support on Corbin’s work who in reality makes my work look worthwhile and I agree with you that there are very few male scholars ready to speak on these issues. In fact when I I tried to interview a scholar on this topic, he was more worried about the length of the hem of my dress and my audacity to work as a journalist 😀

      Like

  4. Reblogged this on The Human Lens and commented:

    Myth v. Reality: Excavating Shariah – Law of Evidence Part I. Written by Theresa Corbin. Check out the story detailing issues of misinterpretation of Law of Evidence in Muslim countries.

    The Myth v. Reality: Excavating Shariah’ is a new, featured serial collaboration focusing on Sharia Law interpretations that lead to serious human rights concerns within the Muslim communities. This is a joint initiative of two Muslimah writers- American, Muslim Convert Theresa Corbin of islamwich, and Pakistani, Feminist and women’s rights activist Saadia Haq of The Human Lens.
    Due to the serious nature and risk of misrepresentation of the issues and points made, Islamwich and The Human Lens hold exclusive copyrights for this work and it cannot be reproduced or edited. It can only be reblogged AS IS on social media sites with express permission from either of the publishing sources.

    Like

  5. Assalamu Alaykum w.w

    Just came across your blog.

    So basically you are saying that we should abondon all other ‘human’ interpretaions of shariah and accept only your interpretaion of sharia? Are you not human? Do you consider yourself more qualified than Abu Hanifa, Maalik, Ash-Shafi’i and ibn Hanbal or for that matter the thousands of women fuqahaa who chose to make taqleed of these stalwarts to interpret sharia?

    Was_salaam

    Like

    1. Walaikum Asalam, I am not saying we should abandon human interpretation of the Quran, but I am saying if that interpretation causes corruption and injustice as the Law of Evidence certainly does it MUST be abandoned because it goes against the spirit of the law, as I quoted Ibn Qayyim. I am not more qualified that Abu hanifa, Maalik, ibn Hanbal or Shafi and the many women fuqahaa. But I do know that the Prophet (PBUH) accepted the testimony of women in criminal cases, and I do think the Prophet (PBUH) is more qualified than these scholars. Tell me how preventing women from witnessing in cases where they themselves have been victims of heinous crimes creates social justice? Or do you prefer imprisoning women and punishing women for zina when they have been raped? This is a reality women in Muslim countries face and it is an EXTREME departure from justice created by the law of evidence.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Assalamu Alaykum, so basically you are saying that women who get raped and fall pregnant need to suffer because men cannot control their perverted urges? And Theresa, and myself both are human and last time I checked there are many interpretations of Sharia Laws. The laws working in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Morocco (where raped woman needs to marry her rapist as a punishment that she has to bear for the man who raped her) are fine for you, because they let Muslim men NOT pay for their sexual crimes against women?
      Brother, tell me do you any mercy in you, May Allah SWT truly guide you towards an enlightened sane path, ameen.

      Liked by 1 person

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