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Islamic researcher, graduated from Al-Azhar University, Islamic Studies in the English language. I also studied at Temple University in the US.
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In a Nutshell
Islam confirms men and women have the same honoured status with God albeit different roles, rights and responsibilities given their differing biological, physiological and psychological makeup. There are no significant differences between the sexes in relation to intelligence or intellect.
When it comes to legal testimonies, evidence from either sex is weighed by a judge based on its strength and credibility. Evidences speaking of two women's testimony needed against that of one man are speaking of weighing of evidence in legal proceedings; women in Islamic societies are usually not involved in commercial affairs so their witness evidence is given less weight.


This question arises in the context of legal proceedings in an Islamic polity where the judicial system is based on shari'a and society is organized whereby male members carry financial responsibilities and obligations This then provides the backdrop for consideration and deliberation of legal testimony in shari'a cases.

Legal Testimonies

1. The testimony of women is half the testimony of men:

In the matter of financial responsibility, a Muslim male is legally responsible for financial aspects of the family, while woman is relieved. Women are permitted to work, trade or invest; however she is not obliged to do so. It is considered men have been ordained with this responsibility given their biological makeup, physiological and psychological nature along with their general interests and inclinations rather than considerations of intelligence. Where the social arrangements require males to carry financial responsibilities, when it comes to matters of legal testimony on financial issues, the testimony of men is generally stronger than the testimony of women.

Allah says in the Quran:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِذَا تَدَايَنتُم بِدَيْنٍ إِلَىٰ أَجَلٍ مُّسَمًّى فَاكْتُبُوهُ ۚ ... وَاسْتَشْهِدُوا شَهِيدَيْنِ مِن رِّجَالِكُمْ ۖ فَإِن لَّمْ يَكُونَا رَجُلَيْنِ فَرَجُلٌ وَامْرَأَتَانِ مِمَّن تَرْضَوْنَ مِنَ الشُّهَدَاءِ أَن تَضِلَّ إِحْدَاهُمَا فَتُذَكِّرَ إِحْدَاهُمَا الْأُخْرَىٰ.

"O you who believe, when you contract a debt for a specified term, write it down. … And bring to witness two witnesses from among your men. And if there are not two men [available], then a man and two women from those whom you accept as witnesses - so that if one of the women errs, then the other can remind her. …" Surat al-Baqarah 2: 282.

Allah explains the rule saying, "so that if one of the women errs, then the other can remind her." The reference to the remembrance refers to their lack of financial dealings and experience as a factor that may lead to erroneous recollection.

Interestingly, the verse also legislates two men are required due to the possibility of an error resulting in legal dispute thereby avoiding the possibility. This does not mean one is less intelligent, but the law seeks to prevent disputes arising.

2. The testimony of women is valid, and the testimony of men is less reliable:

In cases were women are the only ones capable or aware of a subject matter whilst the man is not, here female testimony is the only valid testimony. Examples of such cases relate to female issues such as instances of inheritance, menses, childbirth, virginity, nursing, and such like. (Ibn al-Munzir an-Nysabury, Kitab Tafsir al-Quran, Vol. 1, P. 76.) (Al-Qurtuby, al-Jami' li Ahkam al-Quran, Vol. 3, P. 391.)

It was narrated Uqbah bin al-Harith said: "I married Umm Yahya daughter of Abu Ihab. A black woman entered. She said she had suckled both of us. So, I came to the Prophet (saw), and mentioned it to him. He turned away from me. I said (to him): Messenger of Allah! She is a liar. He said:

وَمَا يُدْرِيكَ وَقَدْ قَالَتْ مَا قَالَتْ دَعْهَا عَنْكَ.

"What do you know? She has said what she has said. Separate yourself from her (his wife)." Sunan Abi Dawud 3603.

So, the black woman's testimony became valid immediately, while the testimony of the man was rejected. This case does not undermine the status of men, as they generally lack experience in these matters in Islamic societies when compared to women.

3. The testimony of men is valid, and the testimony of women is less reliable:

Women are not obliged or expected to be involved in issues of warfare, fighting, chasing enemies, arresting criminals and such like. For that reason, in issues related to prescribed punishment (Hudud), it is improbable for women to witness the incident and comprehend the exact details of it. Thus her testimony is not regarded as less weighty in this regard. The majority of the scholars of the schools of Law stated that the female testimony for hudud is not valid. (Ibn al-Mundhir An-Naysaburi, Kitab Tafseer al-Quran, Vol. 1, pp. 76, Abu Ishaq ath-Tha`labi, al-Kashf wa al-Bayan `an Tafseer al-Quran, Vol. 2, pp. 293, Ibn Hajar, Fath al-Bari, Vol. 5, pp. 266.)

Ibn Hazm objected such agreement and referred to many early, authentic narrations of the acceptance of female testimonies in hudud; For example, Imam 'Atta' b. Abi Shaybah and Imam as-San'ani.

Imam Ibn Hazm stated:

وَلَا يُقْبَلُ فِي سَائِرِ الحُقُوقِ كُلِهَا مِنْ الحُدُودِ وَالدِمَاءِ، وَمَا فِيهِ القَصَاصُ ... إِلَا رَجُلَانِ مُسْلِمَانِ عَدِلَانِ؛ أَوْ رَجُلاَنِ وَاِمْرَأَتَانِ كَذَلِكَ، أَوْ أَرْبَعُ نِسْوَةِ كَذَلِكَ.
"In all the Huquq (required rights) such as hudud, blood related crime, Qisas, …, It is not only permitted to accept two reliable male testimonies, or one male testimony with two female testimonies, or four female testimonies are accepted also." (Ibn Hazm, al-Muhala bil-Athar, Vol. 8, pp. 476.)

Ibn al-Qayyim writes:

وَالْمَرْأَةُ الْعَدْلُ كَالرَّجُلِ فِي الصِّدْقِ وَالْأَمَانَةِ وَالدِّيَانَة إلَّا أَنَّهَا لَمَّا خِيفَ عَلَيْهَا السَّهْوُ وَالنِّسْيَانُ قَوِيَتْ بِمِثْلِهَا وَذَلِكَ قَدْ يَجْعَلُهَا أَقْوَى مِنْ الرَّجُلِ الْوَاحِدِ أَوْ مِثْلَهُ وَلَا رَيْب أَنَّ الظَّنَّ الْمُسْتَفَادَ مِنْ شَهَادَةِ مِثْلِ أُمِّ الدَّرْدَاءِ وَأُمِّ عَطِيَّةَ أَقْوَى مِنْ الظَّنِّ الْمُسْتَفَادِ مِنْ رَجُلٍ وَاحِدٍ دُونَهُمَا وَدُونَ أَمْثَالِهِمَا

The woman is equal to the man in truthfulness, honesty, and piety; otherwise, if it is feared that she will forget or misremember, she is strengthened with another like herself. That makes them stronger than a single man or the likes of him. There is no question that the benefit of the doubt given to the testimony of Umm Darda and Umm ‘Atiyyah is stronger than the benefit of the doubt given to a single man without them or the likes of them.

(al-Turuq al-Hukmiyyah 1/136)

Ibn Taymiyyah writes:

فَمَا كَانَ مِنْ الشَّهَادَاتِ لَا يُخَافُ فِيهِ الضَّلَالُ فِي الْعَادَةِ لَمْ تَكُنْ فِيهِ عَلَى نِصْفِ رَجُلٍ

Whatever there is among the testimonies of women, in which there is no fear of habitual error, they are not considered as half of a man.

(al-Turuq al-Hukmiyyah 1/128)

The matter is not about their intelligence, but rather their physical and psychological characteristics in such situations. For example, in Islamic societies, women are averse to fighting or shy reporting or detailing sexual incidents.

4. The testimony of man and woman is equally valid:

Where both parties enjoy the same conditions and responsibilities, their testimonies are deemed equal. In Surat an-Nur, verses 6-9, when a man accuses his wife of adultery with no evidence and she rejects that allegation, the testimony of both of them will be legally valid and the matter will be left to God to resolve on the Day of Judgement.

Allah says:

(وَالَّذِينَ يَرْمُونَ أَزْوَاجَهُمْ وَلَمْ يَكُن لَّهُمْ شُهَدَاءُ إِلَّا أَنفُسُهُمْ فَشَهَادَةُ أَحَدِهِمْ أَرْبَعُ شَهَادَاتٍ بِاللَّهِ ۙ إِنَّهُ لَمِنَ الصَّادِقِينَ 6 وَالْخَامِسَةُ أَنَّ لَعْنَتَ اللَّهِ عَلَيْهِ إِن كَانَ مِنَ الْكَاذِبِينَ 7 وَيَدْرَأُ عَنْهَا الْعَذَابَ أَن تَشْهَدَ أَرْبَعَ شَهَادَاتٍ بِاللَّهِ ۙ إِنَّهُ لَمِنَ الْكَاذِبِينَ 8 وَالْخَامِسَةَ أَنَّ غَضَبَ اللَّهِ عَلَيْهَا إِن كَانَ مِنَ الصَّادِقِينَ 9

"And those who accuse their wives [of adultery] and have no witnesses except themselves - then the witness of one of them [shall be] four testimonies [swearing] by Allah that indeed, he is of the truthful. And the fifth [oath will be] that the curse of Allah be upon him if he should be among the liars. But it will prevent punishment from her if she gives four testimonies [swearing] by Allah that indeed, he is of the liars. And the fifth [oath will be] that the wrath of Allah be upon her if he was of the truthful."

So in summary, in matters dominated by women, the testimony of a man is not less reliable; in fields dominated by men or where men are duty bound, female testimony is not less reliable or half of the testimony of men; in the fields where both have the same experience and responsibilities, both testimonies are equal.

Do women have half the intelligence of men in Islam?

Testimony in the Islamic legal system has little to do with intelligence and everything to do with reliability and credibility. It is for this reason, an Islamic judge does not base his judgement simply on numbers of witnesses, but rather the weight of presented evidence. (Ibn al-Qaym, at-Turuq al-Hakimyah, P. 34.)

It is noteworthy female narrators are widely accepted by hadith shcholars. Narration of historic events is a form of testimony where the narrator states they saw or heard the prophet doing or saying something? Aisha (ra), the wife of the prophet, narrated 2,210 hadiths. Furthermore, the prophet's companions would ask her about difficult issues that they themselves didn't know about. In the field of Hadith Criticism, scholars don't differentiate between narrations of men and women, both are required to meet the same conditions for validity. There is a consensus of scholars on this issue. (al-Suyuti, Tadtib ar-Rawi, Vol. 1, P. 332.)

This is supported by a narration where the Prophet (saw) said:

لاَ تَجُوزُ شَهَادَةُ بَدَوِيٍّ عَلَى صَاحِبِ قَرْيَةٍ‏

"The testimony of a nomad Arab against a townsman is not allowable." (Sunan Abi Dawud 3602)

This does not mean that one of them is less intelligent, but rather their different experiences and interests. So they would not be aware of the exact issue and its details and so it is probable that they may commit errors.

Some of the Islam's critics quote the statement of the prophet when he said that women are "incomplete in mind." (Sahih Muslim 79 a) But the context of the Hadith tells us that it refers to the fact that they are "emotional beings." (Mausu'at Bayaan al-Islam, Vol. 7, P. 83-84.)

Some points that supports this understanding:

The narrator of the Hadith a woman who asked the question as being "Jazlah," which means "Wise and religious woman with intelligent mind and ideas." This is the interpretation of Imam an-Nawawi, Imam Ibn Quqal, Imam al-qady 'ayadd and others. (al-Nawawi, alminhaj sharh sahih muslim, Vol. 2, P. 66. Ibn Quqal, Masalih al-Anwar Ala Sihah al-Athar, Vol. 1, P. 210. Al-Qadi Ayadd, Sharh Sahih Muslim, Vol. 1, P. 337.) So, if we said that the statement means women are not intelligent, it would seem the narrator did understand this.

In the same hadith, the Prophet said he has seen none robbing the wisdom of the rational man, besides women. So, he described them as intelligent beings who can dodge the mind of wise men. So, he attributed them to intelligence and elevated their IQ level even over the wise man, therefore we can't say that he contradicts himself in the same statement and attributed them to stupidity.


Islam does not differentiate the noble status of men and women but differentiates according to various realities where genders differ, akin to how it differentiates on economic situations of rich and poor, education levels of scholar and layperson and so on.

The Prophet (saw) said:

إِنَّمَا النِّسَاءُ شَقَائِقُ الرِّجَالِ

"Woman are the counterparts of men" (Sunan Abi Dawud 236)

They differ in responsibilities due to their differences in nature, interests, physical ability, expertise and roles, all these having nothing to do with their intelligence. These differences lead to differences in legislation to ensure justice of which this answer focuses on testimony.

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