Two Male Witnesses

The Quran provides several verses detailing the proper procedure for executing a contract. These occurrences emphasize the importance of having the contract written down and for it to be witnessed. In only one single example, in Sura 2 verse 282, does the Quran set a requirement for the sex of the witnesses. This verse indicates that in the case of a loan there needs to be two men who serve as witnesses, and if not two men, then a man and two women.

[2:282] O you who believe, when you transact a loan for any period, you shall write it down. An impartial scribe shall do the writing. No scribe shall refuse to perform this service, according to GOD‘s teachings. He shall write, while the debtor dictates the terms. He shall observe GOD his Lord and never cheat. If the debtor is mentally incapable, or helpless, or cannot dictate, his guardian shall dictate equitably. Two men shall serve as witnesses; if not two men, then a man and two women whose testimony is acceptable to all.* Thus, if one woman becomes biased, the other will remind her. It is the obligation of the witnesses to testify when called upon to do so. Do not tire of writing the details, no matter how long, including the time of repayment. This is equitable in the sight of GOD, assures better witnessing, and eliminates any doubts you may have. Business transactions that you execute on the spot, need not be recorded, but have them witnessed. No scribe or witness shall be harmed on account of his services. If you harm them, it would be wickedness on your part. You shall observe GOD, and GOD will teach you. GOD is Omniscient.

يَاأَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِذَا تَدَايَنْتُمْ بِدَيْنٍ إِلَىٰ أَجَلٍ مُسَمًّى فَاكْتُبُوهُ وَلْيَكْتُبْ بَيْنَكُمْ كَاتِبٌ بِالْعَدْلِ وَلَا يَأْبَ كَاتِبٌ أَنْ يَكْتُبَ كَمَا عَلَّمَهُ اللَّهُ فَلْيَكْتُبْ وَلْيُمْلِلِ الَّذِي عَلَيْهِ الْحَقُّ وَلْيَتَّقِ اللَّهَ رَبَّهُ وَلَا يَبْخَسْ مِنْهُ شَيْئًا فَإِنْ كَانَ الَّذِي عَلَيْهِ الْحَقُّ سَفِيهًا أَوْ ضَعِيفًا أَوْ لَا يَسْتَطِيعُ أَنْ يُمِلَّ هُوَ فَلْيُمْلِلْ وَلِيُّهُ بِالْعَدْلِ وَاسْتَشْهِدُوا شَهِيدَيْنِ مِنْ رِجَالِكُمْ فَإِنْ لَمْ يَكُونَا رَجُلَيْنِ فَرَجُلٌ وَامْرَأَتَانِ مِمَّنْ تَرْضَوْنَ مِنَ الشُّهَدَاءِ أَنْ تَضِلَّ إِحْدَاهُمَا فَتُذَكِّرَ إِحْدَاهُمَا الْأُخْرَىٰ وَلَا يَأْبَ الشُّهَدَاءُ إِذَا مَا دُعُوا وَلَا تَسْأَمُوا أَنْ تَكْتُبُوهُ صَغِيرًا أَوْ كَبِيرًا إِلَى أَجَلِهِ ذَلِكُمْ أَقْسَطُ عِنْدَ اللَّهِ وَأَقْوَمُ لِلشَّهَادَةِ وَأَدْنَى أَلَّا تَرْتَابُوا إِلَّا أَنْ تَكُونَ تِجَارَةً حَاضِرَةً تُدِيرُونَهَا بَيْنَكُمْ فَلَيْسَ عَلَيْكُمْ جُنَاحٌ أَلَّا تَكْتُبُوهَا وَأَشْهِدُوا إِذَا تَبَايَعْتُمْ وَلَا يُضَارَّ كَاتِبٌ وَلَا شَهِيدٌ وَإِنْ تَفْعَلُوا فَإِنَّهُ فُسُوقٌ بِكُمْ وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ وَيُعَلِّمُكُمُ اللَّهُ وَاللَّهُ بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ عَلِيمٌ

In the footnote by the translation of the Quran by Rashad Khalifa, we read the following footnote about this criteria:

*2:282 Financial transactions are the ONLY situations where two women may substitute for one man as witness. This is to guard against the real possibility that one witness may marry the other witness, and thus cause her to be biased. It is a recognized fact that women are more emotionally vulnerable than men.

When we look at the Arabic we see that the verse clearly states the sex of the witnesses accordingly. You will not see this occur for any other verse in the context of witnesses.

Yet, when we look at other translations we see that they translate other scenarios where witnessing is required to be exclusively for men. For example in Sura 65 verse 2 we see that according to the Sahih International translation it specifies the sex of the witnesses for the divorce process.

Interestingly, when we look at the Arabic we see that the word “men” doesn’t even occur in the verse:

فَإِذَا بَلَغْنَ أَجَلَهُنَّ فَأَمْسِكُوهُنَّ بِمَعْرُوفٍ أَوْ فَارِقُوهُنَّ بِمَعْرُوفٍ وَأَشْهِدُوا ذَوَيْ عَدْلٍ مِنْكُمْ وَأَقِيمُوا الشَّهَادَةَ لِلَّهِ ذَٰلِكُمْ يُوعَظُ بِهِ مَنْ كَانَ يُؤْمِنُ بِاللَّهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الْآخِرِ وَمَنْ يَتَّقِ اللَّهَ يَجْعَلْ لَهُ مَخْرَجًا

So how are they coming up with this interpretation? When we look at Corpus Quran word by word translation they translate the ذَوَيْ as “two men.”

Another example can be seen in the Sahih International translation of Sura 5 verse 95, where again they specify that the sex of the witnesses for determining the payment for killing game animals during Hajj should be men.

And here is the word by word translation from Quran Corpus for 5:95.

Or if we look at Sura 5 verse 106 we see the following translation from Sahih International for witnessing a will, and again we see that they specify that the witnesses should be men.

And once again, if we look at the word by word translation from Quran Corpus for 5:106 we see the following:

So how do we reconcile this?

Translating ذَوَيْ or ذَوَا as “two men” as used in 65:2, 5:95, and 5:106 is a complete distortion of the translation. The word ذَوَيْ does not mean men. The word for men in Arabic is رِجَالِ as we see used in 2:282. The word men ” رِجَالِ” doesn’t even occur in any of these specified verses.

The word ذَا or ذُو is most commonly used in the Quran to mean “of” or “possessor of”. ذَوَيْ or ذَوَا is the dual form of this word. Therefore, the proper translation of ذَوَيْ or ذَوَا would be as either “two possessors” or just plain “of two”.

While the word ذَوَيْ is in the dual masculine, we see that throughout the Quran the masculine form of words is used as typically to apply to both for the men and as the neutral, while the feminine form is used exclusively for women. Therefore, If the witnesses in 5:95, 5:106 or 65:2 were required to be exclusively men, then the sex of the witnesses would be stated in the verse as is done in 2:282. Instead what these translations attempt to do is insinuate that because it uses the masculine form for the word “of” that the witnesses must be men. Doing this forms an incorrect translation.

2 thoughts on “Two Male Witnesses

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s