Once again the question is in the air: Does the evidence of two women equal to that of one man in Islam? This time it started with a careless remark by parliamentarian Ishaq Dar belittling the Information Minister Sherry Rehman on October 17 (reported in Dawn).
We know where the debate is eventually going to lead: Verse 282 from Chapter 2 of the Quran. Like any other legal or religious text, that verse is also liable to interpretation and therefore the important question is who should decide which interpretation is to be adopted?
In Pakistan, the authority to decide in matters of religious interpretation (ijtehad) got delegated to the elected parliament on August 15, 1947. This is what I understand from the foundational documents of Pakistan. Though the point got obliterated after the assassination of Liaquat Ali Khan in 1951, it can still be supported with substantial evidence. In other words, it is the people of Pakistan together (including non-Muslims) whose majority vote (or in some matters, consensus) decides which religious interpretation ought to be adopted.
On the particular issue of female witness the people gave their verdict when they elected Benazir Bhutto in Elections 1988. It is up to the intelligentsia and academics to articulate this discourse, if they choose.
Photo Credit: Pictures of Benazir Bhutto and Sherry Rehman are details from work by Sindhi32s and Ahsan respectively.