Women In Islam versus Judaeo-Christian Tradition The Myth & The Reality

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  • Women In Islam versus Judaeo-Christian Tradition The Myth & The Reality

  • 7. Bearing Witness

    Another issue in which the Quran and the Bible disagree is the issue of
    women bearing witness. It is true that the Quran has instructed the
    believers dealing in financial transactions to get two male witnesses
    or one male and two females (2:282). However, it is also true that the
    Quran in other situations accepts the testimony of a woman as equal to
    that of a man. In fact the woman's testimony can even invalidate the
    man's. If a man accuses his wife of unchastity, he is required by the
    Quran to solemnly swear five times as evidence of the wife's guilt. If
    the wife denies and swears similarly five times, she is not considered
    guilty and in either case the marriage is dissolved (24:6-11). On the
    other hand, women were not allowed to bear witness in early Jewish
    society. 12 The Rabbis counted women's not being able to bear witness
    among the nine curses inflicted upon all women because of the Fall (see
    the "Eve's Legacy" section). Women in today's Israel are not allowed to
    give evidence in Rabbinical courts. 13 The Rabbis justify why women
    cannot bear witness by citing Genesis 18:9-16, where it is stated that
    Sara, Abraham's wife had lied. The Rabbis use this incident as evidence
    that women are unqualified to bear witness. It should be noted here
    that this story narrated in Genesis 18:9-16 has been mentioned more
    than once in the Quran without any hint of any lies by Sara (11:69-74,
    51:24-30). In the Christian West, both ecclesiastical and civil law
    debarred women from giving testimony until late last century. If a man
    accuses his wife of unchastity, her testimony will not be considered at
    all according to the Bible. The accused wife has to be subjected to a
    trial by ordeal. In this trial, the wife faces a complex and
    humiliating ritual which was supposed to prove her guilt or innocence
    (Num. 5:11-31). If she is found guilty after this ordeal, she will be
    sentenced to death. If she is found not guilty, her husband will be
    innocent of any wrongdoing. Besides, if a man takes a woman as a wife
    and then accuses her of not being a virgin, her own testimony will not
    count. Her parents had to bring evidence of her virginity before the
    elders of the town. If the parents could not prove the innocence of
    their daughter, she would be stoned to death on her father's doorsteps.
    If the parents were able to prove her innocence, the husband would only
    be fined one hundred shekels of silver and he could not divorce his
    wife as long as he lived: "If a man takes a wife and, after lying with
    her, dislikes her and slanders her and gives her a bad name, saying, 'I
    married this woman, but when I approached her, I did not find proof of
    her virginity,' then the girl's father and mother shall bring proof
    that she was a virgin to the town elders at the gate. The girl's father
    will say to the elders, 'I gave my daughter in marriage to this man,
    but he dislikes her. Now he has slandered her and said I did not find
    your daughter to be a virgin. But here is the proof of my daughter's
    virginity.' Then her parents shall display the cloth before the elders
    of the town, and the elders shall take the man and punish him. They
    shall fine him a hundred shekels of silver and give them to the girl's
    father, because this man has given an Israelite virgin a bad name. She
    shall continue to be his wife; he must not divorce her as long as he
    lives. If, however, the charge is true and no proof of the girl's
    virginity can be found, she shall be brought to the door of her
    father's house and there the men of the town shall stone her to death.
    She has done a disgraceful thing in Israel by being promiscuous while
    still in her father's house. You must purge the evil from among you."
    (Deuteronomy 22:13-21)

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