Genital cutting in Islam
Genital cutting in Islam, for both males and females, is deeply rooted in the Muslim tradition, although the genital cutting of neither sex is never actually mentioned in the Qur'an. Instead, Muhammad is reported to have prescribed genital cutting of either sex as a fitrah, a measure of personal cleanliness, in hadith.
Muslims see male circumcision, and in many cases also female circumcision, as essential to their faith, although in modern times, they have also come to lean on arguments of "medical benefits." A conference of Islamic scholars in 1987 stated that modern circumcision studies “[reflect] the wisdom of the Islamic statements”.
Despite being perceived as a practice linked to Islam, organizations such as the World Health Organization deny that female genital cutting has any basis in it, and that any religious texts prescribe it. The organization Human Rights Watch says that the practice of female genital cutting is "erroneously linked" to Islam, and that it is "not particular to any religious faith."
- 1 Qur'an
- 2 Hadith
- 3 Scholars
- 3.1 Historical
- 3.2 Modern
- 3.2.1 Fuqaha’ of Islam are agreed that it is prescribed, not an inherited custom
- 3.2.2 It is sunnah and an honor for women based on sahih narrations
- 3.2.3 Any of the books of fiqh confirm it is either obligatory or commendable
- 3.2.4 A tenet of Islamic law, denying it is disregarding the Shari'ah of Allah
- 4 External links
- 5 References
The prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) is not circumcised in the Qur'an, or if he is, no mention of it is ever made in the 67 times that his name is written. A covenant sealed with circumcision, as it is described in the Bible, is also never mentioned. Despite never being mentioned in the Qur'an, it is still widely practiced among followers of Islam in the Middle East, North Africa, and Southeast Asia, who interpret it as an Islamic ceremony. The Muslim code of religious law (AKA Shariah) recommends performance of circumcision at the age of seven days. In practice, however, Muslim boys are circumcised at varying ages before puberty. According to Genesis 17, Abraham circumcised Ishmael, who is supposed to be the the ancestor of Arab peoples, at the age thirteen, which is why this age is generally taken as the latest acceptable date.
Intact existence is actually favored by the Qur'an
|“||The best of moulds |
We have indeed created man in the 'best of moulds'. (at-Tin 95:4)
The idea that Allah has created everything in perfection is repeated in 27:88, 32:7, and 40:64.
|“||Perfect Design |
Allah is the One who made the Earth a habitat for you, and the sky as a structure, and He designed you, and has perfected your design. (Ghafir 40:64)
|“||No Flaw |
You will not see any flaw in what the Lord of Mercy creates. (al-Mulk 67:3)
|“||No Change |
Let there be no change in Allah's creation. (ar-Rum 30:30)
This verse specifically prohibits practices such as circumcision.
Finally, according to the Qur'an, circumcision may be seen as an act of evil:
|“||Changing Allah's creation |
(Satan said), 'I will lead them (mankind) astray and fill them with false hopes. I will command them and they will cut off cattle's ears. I will command them and they will change Allah's creation.' Anyone who takes Satan as his protector in place of Allah has clearly lost everything. He makes promises to them and fills them with false hopes. But what Satan promises them is nothing but delusion. (an-Nisa 4:119-120)
The fitrah is five things, including circumcision
Note that the rule of hadith dictates that if it is not mentioned specifically or if the pronouns do not point to a certain gender, then the hadith is valid for both sexes. Hence, the following hadiths are applicable for both men and women.
|“||Five things are part of fitrah |
Abu Hurayrah said: I heard the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) say: “The fitrah is five things – or five things are part of the fitrah – circumcision, shaving the pubic hair , trimming the mustache, cutting the nails, and plucking the armpit hairs.” (Bukhari 5891; Muslim 527)
Genital cutting preserves a woman's honor
|“||Preservation of honour |
Abu al-Malih ibn `Usama's father relates that the Prophet said: "Circumcision is a law for men and a preservation of honour for women. (Ahmad Ibn Hanbal 5:75; Abu Dawud, Adab 167)
Cut, but not "severely"
Note that the judgement concerning what is "severe" is relative.
|“||Do not cut severely |
Narrated Umm Atiyyah al-Ansariyyah: A woman used to perform circumcision in Medina. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said to her: Do not cut severely as that is better for a woman and more desirable for a husband. (Abu Dawud 41:5251)
When circumcised parts touch each other
|“||Male and female parts are circumcised and touch each other |
Abu Musa reported: There cropped up a difference of opinion between a group of Muhajirs (Emigrants and a group of Ansar (Helpers) (and the point of dispute was) that the Ansar said: The bath (because of sexual intercourse) becomes obligatory only-when the semen spurts out or ejaculates. But the Muhajirs said: When a man has sexual intercourse (with the woman), a bath becomes obligatory (no matter whether or not there is seminal emission or ejaculation). Abu Musa said: Well, I satisfy you on this (issue). He (Abu Musa, the narrator) said: I got up (and went) to 'A'isha and sought her permission and it was granted, and I said to her: 0 Mother, or Mother of the Faithful, I want to ask you about a matter on which I feel shy. She said: Don't feel shy of asking me about a thing which you can ask your mother, who gave you birth, for I am too your mother. Upon this I said: What makes a bath obligatory for a person? She replied: You have come across one well informed! The Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said: When anyone sits amidst four parts (of the woman) and the circumcised parts touch each other a bath becomes obligatory. (Sahih Muslim 3:684)
Cutting out the clitoris is obligatory
e4.3 Circumcision is obligatory (for every male and female) by cutting off the piece of skin on the glans of the penis of the male, but circumcision of the female is by cutting out the clitoris (this is called Hufaad)
– Ahmad ibn Naqib al-Misri
Fuqaha’ of Islam are agreed that it is prescribed, not an inherited custom
|“||Prescribed, not inherited |
Circumcision is not an inherited custom as some people claim, rather it is prescribed in Islam and the scholars are unanimously agreed that it is prescribed. Not a single Muslim scholar – as far as we know – has said that circumcision is not prescribed.
Their evidence is to be found in the saheeh ahaadeeth of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), which prove that it is prescribed, for example:
It says in Fataawa al-Lajnah al-Daa’imah (5/223):
Thus it is clear that the fuqaha’ of Islam are agreed that circumcision is prescribed for both males and females, and in fact the majority of them are of the view that it is obligatory for both. No one said that it is not prescribed or that it is makrooh or haraam.
This criticism of theirs is not valid. It is sufficient for us Muslims that something be proven to be from the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), then we will follow it, and we are certain that it is beneficial and not harmful. If it were harmful, Allaah and His Messenger (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) would not have prescribed it for us.
In the answer to question no. 45528 we have mentioned some of the medical benefits of circumcision for women, quoting from some doctors.
Shaykh Jaad al-Haqq ‘Ali Jaad al-Haqq, the former Shaykh of al-Azhar, said:
Then he said:
In the fatwa of Shaykh ‘Atiyah Saqar – the former heard of the Fatwa Committee in al-Azhar – it says:
In the fatwa of Dar al-Ifta’ al-Misriyyah (6/1986) it says:
It is sunnah and an honor for women based on sahih narrations
|“||Sunnah and honor |
We do not know of any hadeeth in which the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) ordered that his wives or daughters be circumcised, but it is narrated that he (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) advised a woman who did circumcision in Madeenah as to the proper way of circumcision. It was narrated by Abu Dawood (5271), al-Tabaraani in al-Awsat, and al-Bayhaqi in al-Shu’ab from Umm ‘Atiyyah al-Ansaariyyah that a woman used to do circumcision in Madeenah, and the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said to her: “Do not go to the extreme in cutting; that is better for the woman and more liked by the husband.” This hadeeth was classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh Abi Dawood.
According to another report: “Take only a little and do not go to extremes.”
It is also indicated by the general meaning of the evidence that has been narrated concerning circumcision, such as the hadeeth in al-Bukhaari (5891) and Muslim (527) from Abu Hurayrah (may Allaah be pleased with him): I heard the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) say: “The fitrah is five things – or five things are part of the fitrah – circumcision, shaving the pubes, trimming the moustache, cutting the nails and plucking the armpit hairs.”
In Saheeh Muslim (349) it is narrated from ‘Aa’ishah (may Allaah be pleased with her) that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “When a man sits between the four parts (arms and legs of his wife) and the two circumcised parts meet, then ghusl is obligatory.”
According to a report narrated by al-Tirmidhi (109) and elsewhere: “When the two circumcised parts meet…”
Al-Bukhaari used this phrase as a chapter heading.
Al-Haafiz ibn Hajar (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: What is meant by this metaphor is the circumcised parts of the man and the woman.
Female circumcision is done by cutting a small part of the skin that looks like a rooster’s comb, above the exit of the urethra. The Sunnah is not to cut all of it, but rather a part of it. Al-Mawsoo’ah al-Fiqhiyyah (19/28).
The Shaafa’is, the Hanbalis according to the well-known view of their madhhab, and others are of the view that circumcising women is obligatory. Many scholars are of the view that it is not obligatory in the case of women; rather it is Sunnah and is an honour for them.But we would like to point out here that it has medical benefits to which attention should be paid, regardless of the difference of opinion among the scholars as to whether it is obligatory or mustahabb. This has been discussed in the answer to question no. 45528. (Islam Q&A, Fatwa No. 82859)
Any of the books of fiqh confirm it is either obligatory or commendable
|“||Outsiders should remain silent |
"Shaykh Muhammad, settle the controversy for us surrounding circumcision."
My brother, we have talked about circumcision many times. I counsel every Muslim man on the face of the earth, and also every Muslim woman on the face of the earth: Brother, take the little bit of trouble it requires to get yourself a book of fiqh! Inconvenience yourself a little for Allah's sake. Just take five minutes. Any book--do you have the book "Fiqh al-Sunna" by Shaykh Sayyid Sabiq (may Allah have mercy on him)? Do you have "Al-Mughni" by Ibn al-Qudama, or "Kitab al-Umm" by Imam al-Shafi'i? Do you have Fath al-Bari's explanation of Sahih al-Bukhari? Any of the books of fiqh--I mentioned to you some books of fiqh and some books of hadith--open any of the books of fiqh. Open them. That's it, plain and simple.
Review the words of scholars. Don't just take the words of Muhammad Hassan, or this shaykh, or that shaykh. Look at any of the books of fiqh from our imams, respected leaders, and scholars--ask them. You will find that our scholars have said that circumcision of women--there are some who say that it is obligatory while others say that it is commendable. Some say it is obligatory, and others say it is commendable. There are some scholars who say it is obligatory, and there are some who say it is commendable.
To whoever says that circumcision is an ancient Egyptian custom with no origin in the sunna, I say, Brother, review the words of the Prophet (peace be upon him). Let us consult the words of the Prophet (peace be upon him): "If you touch the male or female circumcision…" This hadith deals with the highest level of community health. In the highest level of health: "If you touch the male circumcision," meaning the circumcision of men, "or the female circumcision," meaning the circumcision of women, "washing is obligatory." These are the true words from the Prophet. It makes no sense at all in Arabic to say, "If you touch the male circumcision for men or the female circumcision for men.” Men, does this apply to you--"male or female circumcision"? Or rather, with circumcision for men or circumcision for women, "washing is obligatory."
Thus I say before Almighty Allah…that the female Muslim doctor, the female Muslim doctor, decides whether or not this girl needs circumcision. It might be that the girl does not need circumcision. That's an entirely natural situation. But if this news were to get out, it could upset her relationship with husband. It would upset her marital life. The female Muslim doctor might also decide that the girl needs circumcision.
Of course this does not mean that I am subjecting the religion to inspection from a doctor. No, my brothers, this does not mean that I subject evidence from the shari'a to review from a doctor! But rather, I refer to the doctor because he confirms evidence from the shari'a. Brothers, pay attention to this--I do not subject the shari'a to examination from the doctor, for the doctor to determine whether the shari'a is healthy or not. Rather I refer the evidence from the shari'a, or I refer the case to the doctor, to confirm the object of the evidence from the shari'a. …some of them say it is required, and some say it is recommended.I am not saying consult a barber, but consult a female doctor sister. The female doctor will decide, she might say this girl is normal or she might say that this part is excessive then you reduce it. This is justice. I don’t know why a German, British or American entity (thinks it can) come to us to decide for us the circumcision of our daughters! Why should they decide on matters of our girls and women? We base our religion on Allah’s book and the sayings of our beloved prophet and our scholars. Just study the issue in any book of fiqh. If we read the words of our scholars, and we review what the good scholars said, we will see that the issue is not new, and there is evidence for it in the book of our Lord or in the Sunnah of the Messenger (peace be upon him). I ask Almighty Allah to protect our women and girls, for He is capable over all things.
– Egyptian shaykh Muhammad Hassan
A tenet of Islamic law, denying it is disregarding the Shari'ah of Allah
|“||You insult your own female ancestors |
Then they come to the issue of circumcision. They have no problems left except the issue of female circumcision in Kurdistan. The mothers and sisters of more than half of your party members were circumcised. This means that you insult your own grandmother. You insult your own mother. You accuse them of ignorance. You dishonour your dead grandfather and burn his coffin for allowing the circumcision of your mother. Circumcision is a tenant[sic] of Islamic law (sharia). (…) (This bill is) to satisfy the Jews who in the conference of the Jews in Beijing discussed that female circumcision should be banned. You obey their orders and disregard the Sharia of Allah (…).
They say if a mullah, a religious man, a father, a mother, a doctor or anyone else even mentions circumcision could be a good thing for women or if a woman feels uncomfortable and says that her mood was disturbed by that statement, she can complain to one of these organizations and agencies and they will take the mullah (…) to jail. (…) They can jail you for saying that circumcision is a good thing. The Imam Shafi’i (most Iraqi-Kurds belong to the Shafi’i law school) said circumcision is good! Aren’t you following his denomination? Didn’t the KRG president say that he is a Shafi’i? Your denomination says FGM is good, and that is why I am saying it is good. If you are honest in your denomination then don’t accept this discussion to be held in the parliament. Imam Shafi’i is one of those who say that FGM is an obligation, that girls and women should be circumcised (…)
If I get asked about the religious ruling on FGM I must keep my silence and not dare to open my mouth. I must request to avoid this subject. As soon as I utter that FGM is good then they can arrest me. (…) If you don’t accept this Mr. President you are the one who receives the project. You might say that you don’t approve of the MPs. The people will love you for doing that. (…)No longer should they ridicule our religion and believes and honours. We have made you president, you have the parliament and the oil and the money and no one is bothering you, why don’t you leave our religion and honour intact? (Sermon by Iraqi-Kurd cleric Ismael Sosaae, protesting a 2011 Kurdish bill against domestic violence)
- QuaranicPath "Circumcision - Does the Qur'an Approve it?"
- Female Circumcision, HanafiFiqh June 13, 2007
- Gollaher, David L. Circumcision: A History of the World's Most Controversial Surgery. New York: Basic Books, 2000.
- Wescott, Lucy (22 February 2016)."U.S. Study Proposes Nicking Genitals as ‘Compromise’ for FGM in Western Countries", Newsweek. Retrieved 26 February 2016. "FGM is a cultural practice that has no basis in religion."
- QuaranicPath "Circumcision - Does the Qur'an Approve it?" http://www.quranicpath.com/misconceptions/circumcision.html
- Aldeeb Abu-Sahlieh, Sami A. "Chapter 3: Circumcision among Muslims." Male and Female Circumcision: Among Jews, Christians, and Muslims. Warren Center, Pa.: Shangri-La, 2001.
- Morgenstern, Julian. Rites of Birth, Marriage, Death and Kindred Occasions among the Semites. Chicago: Quadrangle Books, 1966. pp. 48-66 "...in modern Moslem practice the rite is performed generally between the ages of two and seven years... as late as the thirteenth year.’’
- Mehta, Depak. "Circumcision, Body, Masculinity." In Violence and Subjectivity, ed. Veena Das, Arthur Kleinman, et al. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000. pp. 82 "...two to six years."
- Peletz, Michael G. Reason and Passion: Representations of Gender in a Malay Society. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996. pp. 240 "[Among Muslims in Negeri Sembilan, West Malaysia, boys] are usually circumcised when they are about twelve years old."
- Crapanzano, Vincent. ‘‘Rite of Return: Circumcision in Morocco.’’ In Hermes’ Dilemma and Hamlet’s Desire: On the Epistemology of Interpretation. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1992.
- Reliance of the Traveller: A Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law
- Circumcision of girls and some doctors’ criticism thereof
- Is there any saheeh hadeeth about the circumcision of females?
- von der Osten-Sacken, Thomas (16 August 2011).
Female Genital Mutilation “is an obligation” says Mullah in Iraqi Kurdistan, EKurd.net. Retrieved 18 August 2011.