The “two women = one man” error
One of the misunderstood issues that some people seek to use as evidence against Islam is the idea that a woman is worth half a man. The main claim made by some opponents of Islam is that “a man’s witness testimony and rights are worth those of two women.” Fanatics have also made use of this misinterpretation, putting it into practice and branding women as worth “half” what men are worth. However, as in so many other areas, the opponents of Islam and the fanatics are also seriously mistaken on this subject.
God makes a man’s witness testimony and that of a woman equal in the Qur’an. The Qur’an says nothing about “a man’s testimony being worth that of two women.” For example, four witnesses are needed for adultery to be established, and the Qur’an says nothing about these being four women or two men, or four men or eight women. It only speaks of four witnesses. In other words, four witnesses are enough, be they men or women, and there is no distinction between them.
As with all matters, when testimonies conflict, woman is regarded as superior in the Qur’an, and her word is to be trusted. When women are accused of adultery, when there is a discrepancy between the woman’s statement and the man’s, the woman’s witness testimony is favored. A woman is even regarded as innocent on the basis of her own testimony. Relevant verses of the Qur’an read as follows:
Those who make an accusation against their wives and have no witnesses except themselves, such people should testify four times by God that they are telling the truth and a fifth time that God’s curse will be upon them if they are lying.
And the punishment is removed from her if she testifies four times by God that he is lying. (Qur'an, 24:6-8)
The fact that woman is held superior to man in terms of witness testimony is a very significant one that is not well-known. It describes the essence of the Qur’an and its perspective toward women. The mistaken ideas of the fanatics and the opponents of Islam are very different, however. Let us look at the true meanings of the verses that fanatics who regard women as worth half a man use as evidence when it comes to women’s witness testimony and inheritance rights:
John William Godward's oil painting “Endymion,” 1893