Is Female Circumcision a Cultural or Islamic Practice? Part 2

26 April, 2017
Q Dear All, Thank you for this page and I really learned a lot from your replies. I deliberately send this question to your section not to the Fatwa section, as I need a more cultural reply to my questions. I have already read thoroughly about circumcision and am now convinced it is not an Islamic obligation but a traditional practice. I will not put my two daughters in such a traumatic experience. I found no convincing argument that it is obligatory for me to do so as a Muslim. But, I want you to confirm that to me too, as you know how we were brought up to believe it is essential! Simply “talk” to me about it a bit so that I would feel confident about my religiosity-based conviction and decision. Thank you.


Salam Hoda, 

Thank you very much for your question. Please find the second and final part of the answer to your question below. Find the first part at the link here.

Male Circumcision

Although there is a clear injunction in the Qur’an against changing Allah’s creation, there is also an order for believers to emulate Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham). He is recorded as having been circumcised at the age of eighty. Yet, the prophetic sayings make clear that this is for the male child.

Male circumcision was and still is practiced by Muslims, Jews, and even some Christians. It is practiced even by those who are not openly observant for obvious hygienic reasons. We have textual evidence that Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) circumcised his nephews, Hassan and Husayn at the age of seven days.

In contrast, we have no corresponding information regarding any such procedure for any one of the prophet’s five daughters. No Christian sects have reported practicing this procedure as a religious ritual on their daughters, nor have Jews, observant or otherwise.

Yet, the practice remains rife in African countries, leading one to believe that this form of female abuse continues to be used as a means of keeping a vulnerable segment of their population in check, causing women to be less than she is meant to be.

In short, female circumcision is “changing Allah’s creation” without clear textual evidence to do so. Female strength is wasted by abuse and Islam is taking the blame for traditions that do not have any root in it.

Linguistics and Hermeneutics

One main reason for the continuous misapplication of female circumcision is a distance from and lack of respect for the Arabic language. So much emphasis has been placed recently on acquiring proficiency in foreign languages, resulting in a loss of fluency and competency in Arabic.

We must pay strict attention to the literal meanings implied and not get carried away by metaphorical flights of fancy, which could and do lead to disastrous misinterpretations.

Take for example the procedure of the “khittan” (circumcision) itself. As in the English rendition based in Latin, the procedure involves a circular cut around the tip of the penis, and the removal of the foreskin.

This procedure described in Arabic is identical to that of the description in medical books in English on the subject. Yet, the word supposedly used by Prophet Muhammad for the procedure in females WHEN AND IF necessary is “khafd” not “khittan“.

This involves a lessening of the enlarged problem area. Also, it should be further stated that this hadith about khafd is regarded as weak, and even unacceptable by many eminent scholars over the centuries.

Let me mention also that I was informed by a pediatrician that there does exist certain cases, in which surgery is really needed. She says that she herself has witnessed certain cases, where young girls have a long appendage dangling from their genital area, resembling a wide elastic band.

As a specialist, my pediatrician friend sees such cases to be abnormal and need to be handled through surgery.

After becoming Muslim and moving to the Arab world, I realized with certainty that such abnormality, which required certain surgery to remove the unusual appendage, is exactly what khahfd means.

This procedure in such a case would be considered an act of mercy, a far cry from what is done in the name of Islam – in many parts of Africa – by mutilating the normal genital organs.

Misinformation and horror stories abound, regarding the practice of what is termed by some as female circumcision, by others – female genital mutilation.

I have personally heard countless renditions of psychic trauma and near death experiences, prompting me to take the initiative to try to clarify the subject. After having done extensive research, as to its purported base in the prophetic traditions, I have become all too aware that special interests groups are monopolizing the discourse over this issue, each one accusing the other of ignorance in the matter.

I have gone through all texts – misunderstood, weak, or otherwise – word for word, and checked all transmitters. And, now I am confident that what is done in the name of Islam is not from Islam and a crime against humanity!

In closing, what better way to attain certainty than the words of the Almighty Allah:

{[…] and the male is not like the female […]} (Quran 3:26)

In our humanity, we are alike. Yet, our genitalia is not to be used in the analogy of circumcision as a religious ritual. The “khittan”, or circumcision, is a procedure rightly proscribed for males NOT females, except in extreme cases as the ones mentioned above.

Thank you and I hope this clarifies the matter.

Please continue feeding your curiosity, and find more info in the following links:

Customs, Traditions & Islam’s Message

Science Learns the Value of Male Circumcision

Why Should We Still Discuss FGM in the 21st Century?