Time To Normalise Women As Nikkah Witnesses
Among the several spaces that women are absent from, the decision-making process during a Nikkah ceremony is one of them. Women in our societies aren’t allowed to become witnesses during Nikkah because of misconceived notions such as ‘woman’s act of witnessing is equal to half that of a man’. This in itself is a misinterpreted idea which unfortunately is believed by the majority of people.
As a matter of fact, this Islamic rule of mitigating women’s testimonies as half of men only applies to matters of financial cases. In case of financial loans, the Quran requires one man and two women as witnesses (2282).” Furthermore, the need for two women instead of one isn’t as rigid as many believe it to be. The second women is there “to remind her (2283).” Come to think of it yourself that Prophet (PBUH) himself acknowledged his wife as a religious authority and as a witness to what he had taught. So, if a woman’s word is enough and acceptable when it comes to the highest matter of faith, why it believed that her testimony, her word, her evidence is insufficient for mere worldly affairs?
The first person to witness Prophet P.B.U.H’s prophet-hood was his wife, Hazrat Khadija – a woman. Another incident that proves that a woman’s testimony is enough is that of Hazrat Usman’s wife, Nalia, who witnessed his murder. When she was called upon to recount the entire incident, her word was taken as final and was considered complete and legal.
Another point that many current scholars take up is that when the importance of witnesses and who and how many can act as witnesses are mentioned in Quran, the injunctions used are in second person, plural and masculine. However, what these scholars forget is that all injunctions in the Quran are in this very same Arabic grammatical form. This plural masculine form is used as a common gender form in Arabic. This “grammar” includes both women and men. Instructions about belief, practices are given in this same Arabic grammatical form. So, when we believe all those other instructions to be equally followed by women and men, why is that a woman’s act of witnessing is the only exception?
There are eight occasions in the Quran where the need to have witnesses is mentioned. Only one of them emphasises that in certain instance/occasion it would be difficult for a woman witness to go alone, so a second woman, who is not a witness, will accompany her for moral support.
Thus proven that the people who argue that a woman’s testimony or even testimonies of two woman not accompanied by a man are not enough say this on their own prerogative. In the time of the Prophet women were considered ‘sufficient enough’ witnesses in the most important matters. It’s just now that the so called protectors of Islam fail to give women the respect and rights they deserve.
Considering the society we live in, it doesn’t really comes as a shock that women are not allowed to act as witnesses in Nikkah ceremonies. Women in this country are at many occasions left out. They’re mostly never part of many religious gatherings and they don’t even have space for themselves in mosques – a small room in the corner is not space enough. It’s ironic though because women are the ones who’re absent from many religious spaces but they’re also the ones everyone imposes all rigid, misinterpreted religious beliefs on.
According to Maulana Umar Ahmed Usmani the presence of two witnesses is of grave importance at the nikah. These witnesses should be two men or two women who are just, adult and Muslim.
We live in the 21st century where if not all, but many women are aware of their rights. Now we have women from many different walks of lives coming out on streets and demanding that they be treated as equal citizens. So, it seems that now is the time to normalise women participation in occasions they were in the past absent from or were not allowed to take part in.
Last year, a sister played the part of a witness in a Nikkah ceremony. The bride took to twitter to announce this and many people then called her out for doing something ‘un-islamic’. The debate was never resolved, but the fact that it exists can’t be ignored. The one wedding last year was a step forward. We just need a few more steps to normalise women’s participation in religious spaces and Nikkahs.