In surat al-Baqara when quoting debt contracts Allah taught us that we may replace one male witness by two female witnesses saying:

... 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. ...(2:282)

While in (4:15), (5:106) and (24:4) for example the statement doesn't clearly say whether the witnesses can be replaced by those of another gender which may lead to a confusion on whether it is possible to replace in such cases one male by two females or not?

My question is: Is this permission for replacing one male witness by two females witnesses considered as general or does it apply for special cases only?

If there are different views I'd be glad if you could address them!

See also my other relevant question: Can four women be witnesses in cases where two male witnesses are necessary?

  • 1
    Regarding 4:15, some translations suggest male witnesses but I'm not sure on the reliability. Aug 13, 2018 at 21:54
  • 1
    In Bidayatu’l-Mujtahid, Ibn Rushd suggests that in the case of hudud, most scholars regard women's testimony as unacceptable regardless of whether they testify alongside male witnesses. Aug 14, 2018 at 15:06
  • 1
    @Armaan Nice input! Maybe a partial answer?
    – Medi1Saif
    Aug 14, 2018 at 17:17

1 Answer 1


While discussing verse 4:15

Those who commit unlawful sexual intercourse of your women - bring against them four [witnesses] from among you. And if they testify, confine the guilty women to houses until death takes them or Allah ordains for them [another] way.

Imam al-Qurtobi commented in his tafsir saying :

ولا بد أن يكون الشهود ذكورا ؛ لقوله : منكم ولا خلاف فيه بين الأمة . وأن يكونوا عدولا ؛

And they must necessarily be male because Allah says "منكم" "from among you" and there's no dispute about this in the Ummah, and they should be trustworthy.

Nevertheless ibn Qudamah mentioned that it was narrated that 'Ata' and Hammad held the view that it would be allowed to have three male witnesses and two female witnesses in such a case, and he disproved it saying that this would mean having five witnesses which goes against the clear statement in the Qur'an.

Note that in the case of sales or debts Allah clearly say two male witnesses or one male and two female witnesses which was not mentioned here (see for example 2:282).

Furthermore there's a consensus among the majority of scholars like the scholars of the four sunni schools of fiqh that in all matters where punishment (hadd) like qissas, robery, hirabah, consumption of alcohol, is involved the witnesses must be male. Only the Dhahiri's opposed this view.

Here some statements of scholars:

Ibn 'Abidyn ابن عابدين said in his Radd al-Muhtar رد المحتار على الدر المختار (vol. 6, Page 8)

لا مدخل لشهادة النساء في الحدود

the testimony of women is excluded from hudud

In his Fath al-Barry, Ibn Hajar said when discussing the hadith in the chapter on Chapter: The witness of women and Allah's statement in the Qur'an "And if there are not two men [available], then a man and two women" -see here - :

قال ابن المنذر : أجمع العلماء على القول بظاهر هذه الآية ، فأجازوا شهادة النساء مع الرجال ، وخص الجمهور ذلك بالديون والأموال ، وقالوا : لا تجوز شهادتهن في الحدود والقصاص ، واختلفوا في النكاح والطلاق والنسب والولاء فمنعها الجمهور ، وأجازها الكوفيون .

Ibn al-Mundhir said: the scholars are in consensus in taking this verse literally. And they permit the testimony of women with men and the majority restricted this application on debts and property. And said: Their (in reference to women) testimony for hudud and qissas is not permitted. While they held different views on nikah, talaq, nasab, wala' while the majority considered it as illegal the Kufi's considered as permissible.

In al-Mawsu'a al-Fiqhiya Vol. 26:

وقال الحنفية : ما يقبل فيه شاهدان ، أو شاهد وامرأتان : هو ما سوى الحدود والقصاص سواء أكان الحق مالا أم غير مال ، كالنكاح والطلاق والعتاق والوكالة والوصاية .

Abu Hanifa said: The cases where the testimony of two male witnesses or a male witness and two female witness is all that is beyond where hudud or qissas (punishments) apply no matter if the right is property or otherwise like marriage, talaq, freeing slaves, procuration or guardianship (related testimonies)

There are actually cases where the witnesses can be only female, but they are discussed ibn Qudamah for example mentioned in his al-Mughni :

لَا نَعْلَمُ بَيْنَ أَهْلِ الْعِلْمِ خِلَافًا فِي قَبُولِ شَهَادَةِ النِّسَاءِ الْمُنْفَرِدَاتِ فِي الْجُمْلَةِ.

We don't know of a dispute among the scholars about accepting single witness reports of women in general.

قَالَ الْقَاضِي: وَاَلَّذِي تُقْبَلُ فِيهِ شَهَادَتُهُنَّ مُنْفَرِدَاتٍ : خَمْسَةُ أَشْيَاءَ :

The Qadi said: and the cases where the testimony of a single woman is accepted are five matters:

الْوِلَادَةُ، وَالِاسْتِهْلَالُ، وَالرَّضَاعُ، وَالْعُيُوبُ تَحْتَ الثِّيَابِ ، ...، وَانْقِضَاءِ الْعِدَّةِ..

the birth, the affirmation of life (after birth), breastfeeding, the defects which are under the clothes, ... and the end of the menses.

وَعَنْ أَبِي حَنِيفَةَ: لَا تُقْبَلُ شَهَادَتُهُنَّ مُنْفَرِدَاتٍ عَلَى الرَّضَاعِ؛ لِأَنَّهُ يَجُوزُ أَنْ يَطَّلِعَ عَلَيْهِ مَحَارِمُ الْمَرْأَةِ مِنْ الرِّجَالِ، فَلَمْ يَثْبُتْ بِالنِّسَاءِ مُنْفَرِدَاتٍ، كَالنِّكَاحِ..

Abu Hanifa has been quoted saying: their single testimony for breastfeeding is not acceptable, as her male mahrams may witness it, so it can't only be witnessed by female like nikah.

Read also these fatwas in Arabic on islamqa 1 2

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