Asalaamu Alaikum Sh. Hisham,
I have now heard from two different mureeds of Sh. Nazim that “women’s intellect” is less than that of men. These are mureeds who have been in tareeqah for many years. They support this claim with the evidence in the Quran that for every one male witness two female witnesses are required. Although, I don’t believe that this claim is correct, I remained silent. Nevertheless, I would like this matter set to rest, so with your authority and knowledge could you please answer the following?
1.) In Islam, is women’s intellect considered less than that of men?
2.) Why is it in Islam that two women witnesses replace one male witness?
By request of Mawlana Shaykh Hisham (Allah bless him and Mawlana Shaykh Nazim, and grant them long life):
1) In some respects less, in some respects equal, and in some respects more. The million of women who memorized the Qur’an and/or Hadith are intellectually superior to non-hafiz males. In the Hanbali Madhhab they may even lead such males in Salat al-Tarawih.
2) Because most testimonies take place in the public sphere where women play a less dominant role; however in the private sphere the testimonies are equal or, in some cases, a single woman suffices. Three examples: In Muslim countries, usually only women are present at the time of a birth; whether they are the midwife, doctor etc. In some cases only one woman may be present. There are serious legal implications in inheritance as to whether the baby is stillborn, lives, or breathes (is alive) and then dies almost immediately. Yet, if only one woman is present at such times, her testimony is taken as valid. In the case of two spouses each accusing the other of adultery with no other witnesses: each spouse may witness four times, the fifth time they invoke the Divine curse on them if they are telling a lie. Universally, all men and women since the beginning of time have each based the legal certitude of their paternal lineage on the testimony of a single woman: their mother. In none of these three examples is the man’s word equivalent to that of two women.
See more at http://www.livingislam.org/fiqhi/fiqha_e22.html
Hajj Gibril Haddad