While referring to debt transactions the Qur'an states that:
' If ye are on a journey, and cannot find a scribe, a pledge with possession (may serve the purpose). And if one of you deposits a thing on trust with another, let the trustee (faithfully) discharge his trust, and let him fear his Lord. Conceal not evidence; For whoever conceals it,- his heart is tainted with sin. And God knoweth all that ye do.' (2:283)
Many religious texts have ruled that the woman is wholly uneligible to stand as witness. For instance, look at the law of Yagnavalkasmrithi:
' Sthree bala vrathe Kidava mathonmathi bishasthaka:
Rangavathari Pallandi Kudakridwileadiya
Pathilka patharthe sambandi Sahayari puthaskara
Sahasi Drushta dohashcha Nirduthatyosthe sukshina' (2:70,71)
'Woman, child, the aged, the gambler, the intoxicated, the insane, the one who has sinned by way of Brahmahatya, charana (Singer, actor etc.), Pakandi (atheist), the one who makes false documents, the handicapped, the friend, the one who lends money, the helper, the enemy, the thief, the bandit, the one with an apparent negative impression, the one who has been cast aside by his relatives - all these are not eligible to stand as witnesses.'
Why are women deemed non-eligible to bear testimony? The explanation of the Manusmrithi is as follows:
'Ekolubdasthu Sakshheesyal Bahrushu
Chorina sthriya sthree budhera sthirathatu
Doshysh chanyopiye vratha'(8:77)
'One single man who is not greedy may be a witness, but not several women, even if they are unpolluted, because a woman's understanding is unreliable, nor even other men who are rife with bad qualities'
It was in times wherein 'religious' rulings held that women were wholly unfit as witnesses and that it was only necessary that two women were to offer the testimony that would normally be taken from one man. Why is it that there is to be two women in place of one man? The answer is also given by the Qur'an: 'so that if one of them errs the other can remind her.'
In fact, this Qur'anic recommendation helps us to comprehend its divine nature; to comprehend the fact that the Qur'an is, indeed, the legal commandment of the Creator who is clearly aware of the nature of man and woman. Here, the Qur'an has not debased woman; it has only appreciated her inherent weaknesses. Here again, it is the general law of the Qur'an - that both man and woman must be assigned their respective roles in each and every field of mutual cooperation only on principles that are in keeping with the demands of justice - which ultimately shines forth. The facts mentioned here under will serve to clarify this point:
One: This verse deals with debt transactions. Since the Qur'an has conferred all financial responsibilities upon man, it will be the men who will, in general, be involved in economic dealings. Furthermore, as the intermingling of the sexes is not encouraged in an Islamic society, it is not natural for women to stand as witnesses in dealings of a mutual nature between men as also in fields where men alone play the dominant role. Even if women do become witnesses in any dealing, whatsoever, they are duty bound to maintain all standards of Islamic decency. In cases where such norms of decency are adhered to, it may not always be possible to satisfactorily identify the individuals involved in the transactions.
Two: Women are, in general, emotional creatures. It is probable that the woman, who is easily influenced by tides of emotion is led away from the truth. It may be that the one about whom the testimony is being made is much more beautiful than the one who makes the testimony. Or the testimony being made may concern a handsome youth who arouses the passions in the one who makes the testimony. There may also be circumstances, which appeal to the maternal instincts of the one giving testimony. In all such situations, it is quite possible that her emotional compulsions will ultimately influence her testimony.
Three: The special constitution of woman's body sets various difficulties for her. There are many problems - like the severe mental agitation during the days immediately prior to the commencement of the menstrual cycle, physical and mental problems associated with the early days of pregnancy, difficulties linked to the post menstrual period, problems during child delivery and the mental strain that is caused by abortion - all of which are to be faced only by women. Scientific researches have confirmed the fact that under such circumstances, in addition to the physical discomfiture, women are subject to various psychological problems as well. It has been observed that some of these problems include slowmindedness, lack of concentration, loss of memory etc. It is essential, however, that all such situations must be taken into account when the quality of women's testimony or witness is the subject of discussion. It is especially relevant that the verse which recommends that two women are to testify in place of a single man has also mentioned this 'in order that if one errs the other may remind her.'
In actual fact, therefore, this Qur'anic law has never debased woman. On the contrary, it has appreciated her weaknesses and limitations and has recommended the proper solution while yet providing for her the opportunity to give testimony along with the man. The only motive behind such a prescription has been to enable one woman to correct the other on all such occasions where the latter may be subject to slow mindedness or to a loss of memory. At the same time, the testimony of a single woman will be fully considered in all cases that involve only women and wherein it is only her own transactions that have to be addressed. Here again we are subject to the realization of the facts that all recommendations of the natural religion is, indeed, in harmony with nature herself.