God sent us his words. Can we know what he meant?
Understanding the text must be based on rules.
Even the rules to understand the text of God are subjective and can be debated. Let’s look at one such example.
Can women be witnesses or not? As normal people we would allow this and not question such a thing. But if we have a revelation from God, suddenly even mundane normal things are under investigation now.
Imam Shafii concluded females can be witnesses only for financial matters (because that’s the example the Quran said). He concluded this based on a rule called “Negatively Implied Meaning”
Imam Abu Hanifa, on the other hand did not accept Negatively Implied Meaning. He allowed female witnesses in all areas of law.
Which is right? Both are mutually exclusive. Either female witnesses are allowed only in finance matters, or in all areas of law.
Imagine you are God. You have to carefully pick and choose the best words of your final revelation to send to humanity, that they will have to memorize and pass on.
Would you decide to put in “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.”
Putting this condition for two female witness like an relatively unimportant thing for God to reserve space for in his final revelation. How long would such a rule be useful for, anyway?
Imagine the mental cost involved in bringing this word of God into the 21st century. People had to memorize this phrase and pass it on from generation to generation until today’s time. To this day people will recite
“so that if one of the women errs, then the other can remind her.”
Can we truly know what was God intending? Make an educated guess?
And what should the rules be to decide such things? Can we ever do any better than “best guess”?
What benefit did God bring here? Is there any actual reason why you would need two witnesses for women instead of one man? Why mention that she may forget? What is unique about women that they may forget? Do not women have just as good memories as men?
Men throughout the ages have been the arbitrator of God’s word. They have told us what to believe and how to believe God’s revelation. The reality is that at best, it’s only a guess.
Don’t claim to be so arrogant to clearly think that only your understanding is right. You may just have different subjective rules you are using to understand it.
References From “Misquoting Muhammad”:
Shafi‘i and his followers also innovated a new interpretive method for deriving rules from scripture. Known as ‘Negatively Implied Meaning’ (mafhum al-mukhalafa), it held that if the Qur’an or Hadiths made a positive statement about a thing, then the negative held true for all else. For example, the Qur’an encourages those agreeing on a loan to set down their agreement in writing and to ‘take two witnesses from among your men or, if there are not two men, then one man and two women.’ If one of the two women became confused, the Qur’an explains, the other could remind her (4:282). Because the Qur’an specifies women as possible witnesses in the case of financial matters, Shafi‘i concluded these were the only cases in which women could serve as witnesses in court. According to Negatively Implied Meaning, ordering Muslims to take women in one situation meant forbidding them in all others (with the exception of cases of necessity, such as exclusively female domains, for example, witnessing childbirth). Abu Hanifa, on the other hand, did not accept Negatively Implied Meaning. He allowed female witnesses in all areas of law except some cases of capital or severe corporal punishment, which he disallowed based on a Kufan consensus against this.