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A Different View on Women's Testimony
By: - Hassan Omar

A Different View on Women's Testimony In his recent article, Islamic scholar, Dr. Hassan Omar, challenged the orthodox Sunni Islamic schools of shari'a? that consider the court testimony of one man equivalent to that of two women? arguing that the equality between the sexes is mandated by Islamic principles. Traditionally, this testimonial inequality only applies in personal status cases, but Dr. Omar contested even this practice citing Koranic verses found in the Nour Soura(verses 6-9) to disprove this discrimination. In support of his contestation, he pointed to cases relating to marital infidelity, in which a husband or a wife?with no discrimination between them? was each required to testify four times; and that the testimony of either party can be refuted by the other simply denying the allegations four times. From this verse, Dr. Omar deduces that a woman's and a man's testimony are given equal weight. Dr. Omar argues that the ongoing practice of treating women as unequal eyewitnesses should be placed within its historical context. The Koran descended at a time and place where women's position in society was far inferior to men's; hence a two to one ratio of inequality in favor of men was in fact a tremendous step forward for women at the time. But to extend this practice to the twenty -first century, in which women's roles have evolved and their responsibilities increased, would be an anachronism. These arguments parallel those of another Islamic scholar's Dr. Mohamed Shahrour's, who also maintained at the recent Ibn Khaldun Conference for Political and Religious Reform that the current Islamic inheritance laws that give a woman half the share of a male sibling are archaic. Dr. Shahrour believes that at the time of the spread of Islam such a practice was justifiable, even progressive, considering the fact that men were always the sole income providers of the family. Today, as more and more households are headed by women, women need the same financial security as men. Not surprisingly, these unorthodox interpretations met vigorous condemnation from Azhar and other religious scholars? who went as far as labeling these views heretical and disrespectful to the edicts of the Holy Koran and the consensus among Islamic jurists. Regardless of the validity of their views, both scholars need to take into consideration the traditional and cultural practices of the societies they wish to reform. In Egyptian society where violence against women, female genital mutilation, and rampant female illiteracy are widespread, a revolutionary approach?blatantly contradicting traditional religious teachings? to women's rights might provoke a backlash advancing the cause of women. What would be wiser is a gradual approach to decrease gender stereotyping in the media and in public education and to raise public awareness on the current dire situation of women's rights in Egypt and its negative effects on the development of society as a whole.

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Comments ( 1 )
Comment By   Hassan Omar     - 2008-03-14
وزير الأوقاف يؤيد مطالب مساواة المرأة بالرجل في الشهادة
وزير الأوقاف يؤيد مطالب مساواة المرأة بالرجل في الشهادة كتب أحمد البحيري ١٤/٣/٢٠٠٨ زقزوق أعلن الدكتور محمود حمدي زقزوق، وزير الأوقاف، تأييده الكامل لمطالب الدكتورة زينب رضوان، وكيل مجلس الشعب، الخاصة بضرورة مساواة المرأة بالرجال في الشهادة أمام القضاء، مؤكدا أن ما تطالب به زينب يعد تصحيحاً لمعتقدات خاطئة لدي المسلمين. قال زقزوق- في كلمته بالمؤتمر الصحفي، الذي عقده بمقر الوزارة أمس حول المؤتمر الإسلامي- ما قالته الدكتورة زينب رضوان حول شهادة المرأة موجود في الإسلام، الذي أكد أن شهادتها تساوي شهادة الرجل في كل الحالات والمعاملات، فيما عدا حالة واحدة نص عليها القرآن الكريم، وهي متعلقة بالأمور المالية. وأضاف زقزوق: «لا توجد مشكلة علي الإطلاق من مساواة المرأة بالرجل في الشهادة، وللقاضي أن يأخذ بشهادة المرأة الواحدة مقابل الرجل الواحد، لأن هذا الحكم «عام» في المساواة، بينما خصصه القرآن الكريم في حالة واحدة فقط متعلقة بالأمور المالية، والسبب في إحداث هذه البلبلة وإصدار الحكم بالتعميم يرجع إلي الفقهاء القدامي. وطالب زقزوق بضرورة تصحيح تلك المفاهيم الخاصة بأن شهادة المرأة تعامل نصف شهادة الرجل، وتوضيح الحكم بأنهما متساويان في ذلك. وحول دعوة زينب رضوان لحصول «الكتابية» علي حقها في ميراث زوجها المسلم، قال زقزوق هذه المسألة سيتم عرضها علي مجمع البحوث الإسلامية لمناقشتها وإقرار الرأي فيها لأنها مسألة اجتهادية. وفيما يتعلق بمؤتمر «المسلمون الكفار» الذي سيشارك فيه الدكتور أحمد صبحي منصور- زعيم جماعة القرآنيين- في ٢٨ مارس الجاري بالولايات المتحدة، شدد زقزوق علي ضرورة التجاهل التام من جانب العالم الإسلامي هذا المؤتمر قائلا: «يجب احتواء رد الفعل الإسلامي ليكون أكثر عقلانية ويقوم بتصحيح الصورة غير الصحيحة عن الإسلام.