Rulings pertaining to the testimony
Islam has established rulings pertaining to testimony to insure achieving justice and eliminate the possibility of favoritism or oppression. Islam considers perjury as a cardinal sin. The article discusses this in detail.
Rulings pertaining to the testimony
1- The witness must be fully aware of what he is testifying. He may not testify to what he does not know.
‘Do not pursue that of which you have no knowledge.’
‘But only those who testify to the truth [can benefit], and they know.’
Knowledge is gained through the senses like sight and hearing, or through publicity and wide circulation of people and information, particularly in certain matters such as births and deaths.
2-A testimony by parents in favour of their children, or by children in favour of their parents, is not acceptable according to the majority of scholars. However, a number of eminent scholars disagree, including 'Umar ibn al-Khattab, Justice Shurayh, 'Umar ibn 'Abd al-'Aziz, Ibn al-Mundhir and al-Shafi'i in one of his two views. They say that the testimony of a parent for his child or a child for his parent is acceptable as long as they meet the condition of probity. Likewise, a testimony by one spouse in favour of the other is unacceptable. On the other hand, a testimony against such close relatives is acceptable, as it cannot be motivated by favouritism.
‘Believers! Be ever steadfast in upholding justice, bearing witness to the truth for the sake of Allah, even though it be against yourselves, or your parents and kin.’
3- A testimony against one’s opponent is unacceptable, as is a testimony by which the witness hopes to achieve some gain or repel some harm. However, when the enmity between them is a religious one, the testimony is accepted. Thus, a testimony by a Muslim against an unbeliever, or one who follows the Sunnah against one who disregards it, is acceptable.
4- A witness must give a testimony that he believes to be absolutely true, even though it may be against his closest relatives. Favouritism is totally rejected.
‘Believers! Be ever steadfast in upholding justice, bearing witness to the truth for the sake of God, even though it be against yourselves, or your parents and kin.’
This requires a witness to not show any favouritism, even to his parents or his next of kin. The testimony must be truthful, even though it may bring some harm to those who are closely related to the witness.
5-A testimony quoting another witness is accepted because it may be necessary. However, it is only accepted when the original witness cannot be brought in because he has died, or is severely ill. Moreover, the probity of both the original witness and the one giving the testimony must be well confirmed.
6- A false testimony is unacceptable, because it implies lying. Perjury is a majorsin.
‘Shun, then, the filth of idolatrous beliefs and practices; and shun every word that is untrue.’
:The Prophet (peace be upon him) said to those attending him
‘Shall I tell you which the gravest sins are?” They said: “Yes, Messenger of Allah.” He said: “Claiming that Allah has partners; and being undutiful to one’s parents.” Up to saying this, the Prophet (peace be upon him) was reclining, but he sat up and said: “and perjury.” He continued repeating this last one until his Companions wished that he would stop.’
Related by al-Bukhari, hadith No. 2,654; Muslim, hadith No. 87
Needless to say, perjury prevents justice and causes injustice.
7- A witness may not be given remuneration for giving his testimony, but if he cannot walk to the court where he is expected to give his testimony, he may be given transport or his fare paid.
8. The number of witnesses differs according to the case being considered. In adultery and sodomy, the minimum number of witnesses required is four men,
:as Allah says
‘Why did they not produce four witnesses to prove it? Since they have not produced witnesses, then in the sight of Allah, they are certainly liars.’
In cases involving crimes that carry mandatory punishments, such as theft, and in cases that are not concerned with money but are by nature known to men, such as marriage, divorce, parenthood, acting for someone else, wills, etc. two male witnesses are required. Women are not acceptable as witnesses in these cases, because as Allah says regarding re-marriage after divorce:
‘Call to witness two persons of known probity from among yourselves.’
This is extended by analogy to all other cases that are not financial in nature. With regard to financial transactions, such as selling, renting, loans, mortgage, deposits, and other financial contracts, two male witnesses, or one man and two female witnesses are needed. Allah says in the verse outlining the regulations of loans:
‘Call in two of your men to act as witnesses, but if two men are not available, then a man and two women.’
Also in cases of financial transactions it is acceptable to have one male witness supporting the claim when given under oath. The Prophet gave a ruling in a case on this basis.
In cases that are mostly unknown to men, such as the physical condition of a woman, her virginity, birth, breastfeeding, the crying of a newborn at birth, etc. the testimony of one woman of probity is accepted.
If a person claims to have become poor after he had been well off, this can only be confirmed by the testimony of three men. The Prophet (peace be upon him) told Qabisah ibn al-Khariq that requesting financial aid is permissible in three cases only, one of which is:
‘A person who suffers loss of wealth if three men of sound mind among his people say: “This person has suffered a grave loss.’
Related by Muslim, hadith No. 1,044
9-It is not necessary that the witness should say when testifying, ‘I bear witness...’, or ‘I testify that...’ He may simply say: ‘I saw this’, or ‘I heard that’, or a statement to this effect.