Female Circumcision

Due to a variance in opinion of Muslim Scholars, the topic of female circumcision has been raised by many.

Knowing what female circumcision is, and where it originated will help us glean a better understanding.

The term female circumcision is a broad term that refers to a variety of practices.

Africa has been documented as the root of this practice however religion has not been a factor. For example, Ethiopia with its population being more than 60% Christian and Egypt with more than 85% Muslims both participated in this practice, as well as, the Ethiopian Jewish.

Though many believe that this practice is performed solely by Muslims, it is a fact that many Muslims are unaware of female circumcision and the practice does not exist in a variety of Muslim countries.

Throughout history the practice of female circumcision has been performed by people of other faiths, leading some to believe that this practice has more to do with culture than religion. Justifying their opinion, it has been documented that ancient cultures (i.e. Ancient Egyptians and others) used these practices.

The issue of female circumcision was not addressed in the Quran, in fact it is not even mentioned in the Quran, the Torah or the Gospels.

So, where did the confusion come from?

Female circumcision is mentioned in some Hadith, however, according to many leading scholars, not even one of the Hadith is strong enough to stand as a religious proof by itself.

Note that to recognize any act as a religious act it must first be mentioned in the Holy Book or proven by an authentic Hadith of the Prophet or a unanimous decision among all Islamic scholars. Female circumcision lacks all these requirements.

There are however, some weak Hadith that mention female circumcision.  A weak Hadith by itself cannot work as proof although it may allow some to justify what a society might do when they consider something to be good for the whole of society.   Now consider that a scholar grew up in a region where female circumcision was prevalent and performed as a benefit for health and society.  A scholar may use the weak Hadith to show that the practice is acceptable in Islam.  However, it is common knowledge among scholars that when re-examining an opinion of another scholar, we should examine the proof that they used when establishing their opinion.  In this case, if the only proof they had is a weak hadith then other scholars can reform the opinion if any of the factors change (i.e. advancements in medicine, cultural change, new discoveries, etc.). Advancements in medical knowledge has proven collectively that female circumcision has no benefit and it is documented that it may be harmful. 

Note that one of the fundamental ground rules of Islam is; “There should be neither harming nor reciprocating harm.”  Applying this rule may assist us in understanding the Islamic position, as well as the reason behind the ruling of the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar prohibiting female circumcision.