Accepting Hadiths transmitted by women

Q: Why do we accept a Hadith narrated by a single woman although in testimonies we usually apply in ordinary cases the Saying of Allah, And if there are not two men (available), then a man and two women, such as you agree for witnesses, so that if one of them (two women) errs, the other can remind her. ? In the Science of Hadith verification is all the more a prerequisite, and there are many Hadith in the Two Sahih (authentic) Books of Hadith (i.e. Al-Bukhari and Muslim) narrated by `Aishah. Is it, then, reasonable to accept the Jarh (criticism of Hadith narrators) that Ibn Hajar made on a single male narrator while not considering the Saying of Allah (Exalted be He), that if one of them (two women) errs, the other can remind her. (Part No. 4; Page No. 361) We ask Allah to guide you to a satisfying answer, for this question occurs to me a lot but I do not discuss it with anybody.

A: First, the correct opinion is that acceptance of a narration of Hadith does not depend on the number of its narrators; rather one narrator, whether a man or a woman, is sufficient, provided that this narrator is ‘Adl Dabit (having an upright character and retentive memory), while the chain of narrators is connected and is free from Shudhudh (contradictions with more reliable sources) and from any vitiating defects. This is based on the fact that the Prophet (peace be upon him) sent only one envoy to convey his message such as: Mu‘adh ibn Jabal to Yemen, Dihyah Al-Kalby with a letter to Heraclius, and ‘Aly ibn Abu Talib to Makkah in the ninth year of Hijrah to address the people during Hajj saying: No Mushrik (one who associates others with Allah in His Divinity or worship) is permitted to perform Hajj after this year, and nobody is permitted to perform Tawaf (circumambulation around the Ka‘bah) while naked. Moreover, Allah (Exalted be He) has ordered the wives of the Prophet (peace be upon him) to deliver the Ayahs which were recited in their houses, saying, And remember (O you the members of the Prophet’s family, the Graces of your Lord), that which is recited in your houses of the Verses of Allâh and Al-Hikmah (i.e. Prophet’s Sunnah - legal ways, so give your thanks to Allâh and glorify His Praises for this Qur’ân and the Sunnah ). Verily, Allâh is Ever Most Courteous, Well-Acquainted with all things. Were it not for the fact that Allah (Exalted be He) accepts their transmission of the Qur’an and Sunnah, He would have not ordered them to convey the message. Sometimes, one of the Prophet’s wives would narrate the Hadith with another one; at other times she narrated the Hadith individually. This is clear for whoever traces the Hadith narrations reported on their authority. No one ever criticized the Prophet’s wives on account of their solitary narrations or the other sub-narrators who reported from them either during the Prophet’s lifetime or during the time of his Sahabah (Companions) (may Allah be pleased with them). Crediting their narrations is established through the Qur’an, the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) approval, and the Ijma‘ (consensus) of the Sahabah (may Allah be pleased with them). (Part No. 4; Page No. 362) This state of affairs continued during the first three Muslim generations which the Prophet (peace be upon him) described as the best generations. The Sahabah (may Allah be pleased with them) and those who came after them agreed on accepting the narration of a woman whether it is narrated individually or in collaboration with other narrators, as is the case with men, so long as the conditions for acceptance of Hadith narration are met. Second, the narration of Hadith and bearing witness are not two issues that are similar in all aspects. They are different in some aspects; through a narration of Hadith the narrator or others provide knowledge about a general matter. A narration is not presented in a court, while bearing witness relates to specific cases that involve a defendant and a plaintiff. These cases are most probably presented in courts. The approval of a narration of Hadith, as previously mentioned, does not stipulate a certain number of narrators, which is not the case with testimonies. The testimony of four men is stipulated for the implementation of the Hadd (ordained punishment for violating Allah’s Law) of Zina (sexual intercourse outside marriage) and Qadhf (falsely accusing a chaste person of involvement in prohibited sexual relations), two men in case of premeditated murder, one man and two women are sufficient in financial matters, and the testimony of one woman might be sufficient as in the testimony of a wet nurse to verify suckling. Since testimony concerns only the two parties involved in it, meaning, the one testified to and the one testified against, and cannot influence a third party unless that party is closely related to either of them, a testimony will not be accepted when its bearer is a relative or an enemy of either of the two parties involved or if his integrity is questioned. On the other hand, in the case of narration it is sufficient that the narrator be ‘Adl Dabit; whether a man or a woman, a single person or more than one. Furthermore, enmity between people may lead to perjury, but this is not the case with the narration of the Hadith from the Prophet (peace be upon him). Ibn Al-Qayyim showed the differences between testimony and narration of Hadith, in the first volume of Bada’i‘Al-Fawa’id (Some Beneficial Thoughts). (Part No. 4; Page No. 363) He stated that a ruling attached to a given narration concerns the narrator as well as all other Muslims throughout time, while a testimony is confined to a defendant and a plaintiff; its impact does not exceed these two except in the case of their subordinates. Since it is likely that the appointed witness bears enmity, has a personal interest, or is accused of something that discredits their testimony, a further specification of the number and gender of witnesses is required. Thus, we avoid conflict of interest due to the witness’s kinship, enmity, and suspicion. None of these are stipulated in narration of Hadith whose rulings are addressed generally to all and not specifically; therefore, the number and gender of narrators are not specified. The narration of Hadith only requires a high probability of the integrity of the narrator, represented in uprightness that prevents lying, and vigilance that prevents confusion and forgetfulness. Since women have a lack in reason and religion which make them lack the proper prerequisites for giving testimony, a woman’s testimony is strengthened by another woman for this prevents her from forgetfulness and making mistakes [this is due to the distinctive biological phases of women’s life: menstruation, pregnancy, pre-and post-conception, post-delivery, menopause that may affect their mood and state of mind and sometimes make them open to lack of concentration, confusion and forgetfulness besides the marked sex differences observed in the structure and functioning of the brains of males and females. Ed.]. Third, those who criticized the narrators of the Hadith, the Sirah (the Prophet’s Biography), and history were a group of eminent Hadith scholars who are known for their deep insight. They were contemporary with those whom they criticized. They judged them according to what they knew about them and did not differentiate between a man and a woman in the methodology of their criticism. Neither were discriminated against in terms of the rules of Jarh and Ta‘dil (validating the uprightness of Hadith narrators). The later scholars who were not contemporary with those narrators such as Ibn Hajar Al-`Asqalany (may Allah be merciful to him) only transmitted the sayings of the Imams who lived during their time, verified the attribution of narrations to them, and gave preference to some of these narrations over others if they were contradictory. (Part No. 4; Page No. 364) He was not entitled to make any Jarh or Ta‘dil of these narrators as he did not belong to the same era in which they lived.May Allah grant us success. May peace and blessings be upon our Prophet Muhammad, his family, and Companions.