Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Female Circumcision - is it Islamic?




Around 2-3 million girls are circumcised each year, especially in Northern Africa. 

The WHO distinguishes among four types of genital mutilation:

    * Type I, or "clitorectomy": Excision of the skin surrounding the clitoris with or without excision of part or all of the clitoris
    * Type II, or "excision": Removal of the entire clitoris and part or all of the labia minora
    * Type III, or "infibulation": Removal of part or all of the external genitalia and stitching together of the vaginal orifice, leaving only a small opening
    * Type IV: Various other practices, including pricking, piercing, incision and tearing of the clitoris.

One out of every three girls dies as a result of infibulation, also known as pharaonic mutilation.

Many families circumcise their daughters because they believe it to be an Islamic requirement. But is it?

The Hadith related to female circumcision (that I could find):

"When two circumcised parts unite then bathing becomes obligatory." (Sahih, Reported by Ahmad and Al-Baihaqee)

The saying of the Messenger (SAW) in the Hadith of Umm ‘Atiyyah to a female circumcision:

"When you circumcise then do not cut severely, since that is better for her and more pleasing to the husband." (Reported by Abu Dawud and Al-Baihaqee and declared Hasan by Shaikh Al-Albani).

"Circumcision is Sunnah for men, a noble action for women" (Related by Ahmad & al-Bayhaq).

Scholars who approve of these Hadith claim that they are simply recommending circumcision, not saying it is required.

At a conference in Cairo in 2006 both Sheikh Tantawi and al-Qaradawi confirmed that the practice was un-Islamic. Every doctor at the conference agreed that there is no medical justification for female circumcision. The Grand Mufti of Egypt signed the resolution condemning the practice the next day.

One argument is that God has created us and thus we do not have the right to mutilate our bodies. Another is that in Islam husband and wife are supposed to fulfill each other sexually, almost impossible for a man to do if the woman has been circumcised.

In 2007 a debate was aired on al-Arabiyya between Egyptian Al-Azhar University scholars Sheikh Muhammad Al-Mussayar and Sheikh Mahmoud Ashur. 

Ashur said: “Female circumcision is a traditional custom, and not a religious act. All the hadiths dealing with female circumcision are unreliable. Moreover, the hadith cited by those who support circumcision calls to refrain from it more than it calls to perform it.”

Al-Mussayar said: "All the jurisprudents, since the advent of Islam and for 14 centuries or more, are in consensus that female circumcision is permitted by Islam. But they were divided with regard to its status in shari'a. Some said that female circumcision is required by shari'a, just like male circumcision. Some said this is the mainstream practice, while others said it is a noble act. But throughout the history of Islam, nobody has ever said that performing female circumcision is a crime. There has been a religious ruling on this for 14 centuries."

Interesting! I didn’t know about this. If this is the case, what does it mean? That as Muslims we can’t condemn the practice?
Ashur responded with: "In the days of Jahiliya [i.e. the pre-Islamic period] and in the early days of Islam, a man whose mother carried out this custom was scorned by people who called him 'you son of a clitoris cutter.' This proves that it was never part of the religion of Islam.”

Al-Mussayar responded with: “"First of all, there are reliable hadiths in Al-Bukhari and Al-Muslim which support female circumcision. The Prophet Muhammad said: 'If a circumcised woman and man have intercourse, they must undergo ablution.' Unreliable hadiths do not cancel out the reliable ones. People would curse one another by saying: 'You son of a clit woman' - the son of a non-circumcised woman. ”

So they have different versions - one says a woman who wasn’t circumcised was an embarrassment, the other says a circumcised woman was an embarrassment.

Al-Mussayar then argues: "Some sources said: 'Reduce, but do not remove.' In other words, it is neither about removing the organ, nor about leaving it. It is a trustworthy Muslim doctor who makes the decision. She decides whether the girl needs it or not. We do not obligate every girl to undergo circumcision. We say it should be left up to the doctor, and she can evaluate the case and determine whether the girl needs circumcision or not."

Ashur responds with: "If it is left up to the doctor, then it is a custom and not part of the religion."

I found this debate very interesting. If al-Mussayar is right and there are reliable hadith about this, what does it mean in terms of the campaign against FC? Do we have the right to demand that the practice ends? I did find his notion that a doctor should decide strange: like Ashur said, if it is up to the doctor, then it isn’t really Islamic. I think al-Mussayar’s point in the end is that although FC is not required, it is either recommended or allowed. This negates the argument of many Muslims (and Westerners) that FC is not an Islamic practice.

Once again a controversial issue comes down to whether or not the hadith relating to it are reliable.

What do you all think?

112 comments:

NoortheNinjabi said...

From what I learned, "islamic" (so to speak) circumcisions are when the prepuce is excised, nothing else. My sheikh said when I asked about this that if the wrong bits are removed, the one who does it owes the woman a blood writ. This is because women have the right to an orgasm.

Laila said...

Interesting stuff!

Do you know if male circumcision is comparatively well established?

FC does seem to contradict the idea of sexual fulfilment, so I don't know what to think. Unless what they are referring to as "FC" in these hadiths was something different, like removal of the hymen?

The hadith that starts with "circumcision is sunnah..." is that attributed to Muhammad? Would he really call something a "sunnah"? Isn't that a later convention?

I think even if you can prove it was allowed, you can still be against it, just like with slavery.

Candice said...

I had to scan through it because I'm at work, but it's news to me that it's considered an acceptable practice by scholars. I don't like that. I was under the impression that it was completely unislamic. I don't like this at all.

Stephanie said...

I wasn't aware of the other hadiths, only the "do not reduce it" one, which implies taking the skin around the clitoris, but not the organ itself. Again, this isn't a requirement, and in fact is a restriction.
Interestingly, I had a very brief online encounter just the other day with one of "Quran only" folks who is also against male circumcision since the justification for it is also soley in the hadith and not the Quran. Her argument is Allah creates us perfectly and there is no compulsion in religion so why would a powerless infant/child be forced to undergo something purely for religious reasons.
And yes we have a right to campaign against it. I agree with Laila, just because something is allowed doesn't mean it's a requirement. I personally feel it's a crime against a woman and just as I would rally against slavery if a group ever tried to bring it back with religious justifications, I also will speak out against this.

Stephanie said...

And one more thing...relaying that a certain practice was going on at that particular time is wholly different then calling it a "sunnah".

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Noor - but your sheikh does accept that it is Islamic? Does he believe it is a duty or only something advisable?

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Laila: from what I know, male circumcision also comes from the hadith, but it is much more well established. I've never heard anyone question it.

"Would he really call something a "sunnah"? Isn't that a later convention?"

Good question!

"I think even if you can prove it was allowed, you can still be against it, just like with slavery."

Yes, true, but I would definitely have a problem if it was allowed or advisable. It's a practice that literally has no medical benefits and usually causes harm.

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Candice: I was also under that impression, so I am pretty shocked to find out that many scholars accept it.

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Stephanie: that's true, but the hadiths are explicitley advising women to do it, not simply relaying that it happened at the time.

E.g.:

"Circumcision is Sunnah for men, a noble action for women" (Related by Ahmad & al-Bayhaq)."

I find it very disturbing to be honest :S

NoortheNinjabi said...

I'll need to go over the recording again to give you an answer on that. I know for sure that he does not think of FGM as sunnah. Circumcision in the islamic sense (removing the prepuce to enhance cleanliness and orgasm) is a different matter, so I'll need to check.

LK said...

Male circumcision makes sense as it is for health reasons. Female has no purpose. Its absolutely absurd. I can't believe any human being could agree with that! Hadith or not, its obviously not safe and dangerous.

I'm glad all the doctors agree that this is a major issue. One should listen to doctors when it concerns health, not hadiths that could harm your health. God would not want a woman to mutilate her body.

NoortheNinjabi said...

Ok, before we all go denouncing the hadiths, can we have a clarification moment?

http://qa.sunnipath.com/issue_view.asp?ID=4932
http://qa.sunnipath.com/issue_view.asp?ID=1702

Islamic circumcision is NOT removing the clitoris or mutilating a woman. It is removing a little of the clitoral hood to aid in cleanliness and sexual stimulation of the female. Therefore, when scholars speak about it, they speak from the reference point of the clitoral hood, not FGM.

Just thought that was an important distinction...

Stephanie said...

So when we say circumcision is noble in the female, you have to ask what is circumcision in this case? For the male it is simply removing the foreskin. For the female why would it be removing the entire clitoris which is cruel, and not just the prepuce? I don't see anything that says the entire clitoris should be removed. Either way no doctor or anyone else is touching my daughters :P

Sarah Elizabeth said...

I am against it, even if it is just removal of the "hood" of the clit.

For men it makes sense, it aids in cleanliness and keeps bacteria from growing. But it is still a ritual, many uncircumsized men are just fine..

As for women, could you imagine having your "hood" removed? Good God, it is there for a reason, to protect the clit.. Could you imagine how it would feel to wear pants or underwear if our hood was always exposed? EEK!

I don't agree with any type of female circumcision. the religious nutcases can make any case they want, that doesn't mean it is right.

It doesn't make sense.. Sooo, God creates us but then wants part of what he created removed?

Stacy aka Fahiima said...

ugh, i agree with Sarah Elizabeth. There is no medical or cleanliness benefit to removing the clitoral hood.

This "sunnah" circumcision is preferable to the type IV circumcision usually done in East Africa, however doing nothing is still preferable to any of these.

Laila said...

It is such an inflammatory topic because it often means loss of sexual pleasure, and that even seems to be the motivation for doing it in a lot of cases. This is undeniably barbaric. But as long as what was allowed in Islam does not have that effect, and was motivated by aesthetic reasons (which are cultural), then I don't think it is too shocking that Islam didn't ban it. It also didn't ban ear-piercing, even though this is painful, amounts to mutilation of the body, and could be dangerous in unsanitary conditions. But we don't find that shocking because we are culturally comfortable with piercing of ears.

I'm not even that attached to Islam. I don't really have a vested interest in defending it. I am just culturally relativistic.

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Noor: I've never heard of the distinction between Islamic circumcision and other types - thanks for pointing that out! Still, like others have said, I would not even agree to the Islamic one. Most medical research I've read actually says any type of FC is not beneficial to the woman.

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

LK: exactly, male circumcision has proven benefits, whereas FC not only has no proven benefits, but often harms the woman physically or psychologically.

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Stephanie: no, the hadiths do not say the whole clitoris has to be removed, but that type of circumcision is practiced, unfortunately. A lot of people circumcise their daughters because they think it is an Islamic *duty* which is clearly not the case.

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Sarah Elizabeth: it is hard to imagine what that would feel like :/

It is such a social custom when you think about it. Most girls in Egypt wouldn't be able to find a husband if they were not circumcized. No wonder it's proving hard to stop FC.

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Laila: piercing ears is very different from FC in the sense that men do not pierce women's ears so that they do not engage in premarital sex. In many (if not most) cases, the parents circumcise their daughter to ensure she does not engage in pre-marital sex. Thus it is a (painful) form of control.

That's a good enough to reason to oppose it for me.

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Stacy: I agree, there is no benefit to doing this, so I don't get why over 90%of Egyptian women are circumcized :S It shocks me.

NoortheNinjabi said...

Mohamed and I have been doing street research since the first time this was brought up. The majority of the men he has spoken to are not willing to circumcise their daughters and deeply wish their wives weren't circumcised.

Unfortunately, a lot of this is being perpetuated by the older generation of women. But it seems to be lessening; more and more women I've talked to are uncircumcised or have had repairs.

Laila said...

"In many (if not most) cases, the parents circumcise their daughter to ensure she does not engage in pre-marital sex."

But is that the Islamic one they are doing? The impression I got from reading the sunnipath links was that whatever it was was more of an aesthetic thing and certainly not about controlling sexuality.

I'm not saying I agree with it, but there are people these days having cosmetic surgery down there to make it look prettier, and I don't really see what the difference is.

I am just seeing it as a cultural tradition (if those traditions are even genuine) and like many other cultural traditions it's found its way into the main schools of law.

Just to repeat, I am not talking about the barbaric practices used in Africa today! I am against that along with everyone else here!

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Noor: "The majority of the men he has spoken to are not willing to circumcise their daughters and deeply wish their wives weren't circumcised."

I've heard this before. It's interesting that in a society dominated by males, this is the one area they have no power over what their wives are doing. Sounds a bit strange to me.

Even if it is the women making the decision, they live in a society where ideas and practices are often made by men. For example, when I worked with women who were circumcized, they all said that if they hadn't been circumcised they would not have found husbands. This contradicts the idea that men are against circumcision. Maybe some are, but I wouldn't say the majority are.

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Laila: statistics are hard to come by so it is difficult to know what type of circumcision is predominant. I think the type where a piece of the clitoris is cut off is the most common in Egypt. However, doctors say that even this type is dangerous and utterly useless - it does nothing to benefit the woman.

At the end of the day, these girls are not making the decision - their parents are. This is a bit different from a grown woman deciding to get cosmetic surgery. Most girls I know who found out they were circumcised were devastated. Also, it is problematic that girls are often circumcized simply to ensure they do not engage in pre-marital sex - thus it is not for their own physical/medical benefit, and it is not for Islamic reasons, but it is just another means of control in a patriarchal society. I'm not saying this is the story behind every case, but I did hear this a lot.

Laila said...

Is it Islamic to do it to young girls who aren't making the decision?

I get the feeling the more one tries to define what is Islamic, the harder it gets, because the hadiths just can't answer all these questions.

Then maybe the sensible thing is to go with the overall spirit of the religion and base your opinion on that.

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Laila: Amen to that! I personally always look at the spirit of the Qur'an before technicalities, especially since many hadith are weak, taken out of context, or just not compatible to our times.

The spirit of the Qur'an seems to be mainly about justice, compassion, forgiveness, and mercy. If we look at FC from that perspective, there is really not argument that it is a good thing.

However this is a moderate view. Puritans/traditionalists will obviously argue that we can't ignore the hadith and if we do then we are corrupting the religion.

Cornelius said...

"But it seems to be lessening; more and more women I've talked to are uncircumcised or have had repairs."

Noor, please excuse me for butting in. This is one thing my daughter will never have to go through. But I can't control my curiosity.

I'm not a doctor, so I'm ignorant of this particular issue. If, for example, a woman's clitoris has been cut off, is it even possible to repair the damage?

Cornelius said...

"In many (if not most) cases, the parents circumcise their daughter to ensure she does not engage in pre-marital sex."

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam, in what way can circumcison ensure that a woman does not engage in premarital sex?

Thanks

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Cornelius: welcome to the blog :)

In the case of type 3 or 4, the vagina is literally almost closed, making sex difficult and very painful. It is only reopened after the girl gets married, either by her husband during sex or by whoever circumcized her.

There is also a belief amongst some that FC leads to a decreased libido, which prevents girls from being promiscuous. This isn't confirmed by doctors, I'm sure.

NoortheNinjabi said...

Cornelius,
Doctors did some research and found that the nerve cells extend down farther than anyone ever thought. Due to this, they can try to recover the nerve cells and basically build a new clitoris.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Female_genital_cutting#Reversal

(Obviously wikipedia isn't ideal, but I'm late for work and can't go looking for a better article.)

Cornelius said...

Hehehe... I meant to just spend the time reading, until my curiosity got the better of me. Just couldn't control myself from raising the questions. Sometimes I think my curiosity is some kind of curse, y'know.

"It is only reopened after the girl gets married, either by her husband during sex..."

Hmm... doesn't sound very much like a foolproof method to "ensure she does not engage in pre-marital sex" to me. I think if the husband can help to "reopen", I'd bet my bottom dollar that a boyfriend can help do the same too.

No, I take that back, I don't just think so; I know so! Take it from me, I am a man, I know my species can do it! Forget about looking for the person who circumcized her.

"There is also a belief amongst some that FC leads to a decreased libido, which prevents girls from being promiscuous."

And interesting way to prevent pre-marital sex, i.e. take away the libido from the equation! Perhaps God shouldn't have put the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. That way Eve wouldn't have had the opportunity to fall prey to her temptation, huh?

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Of course a boyfriend can do it too, but then she would have to go get it sown up again, meaning people would know what happened If she doesn't get it fixed, her husband will know.

FC is one of the most barbaric practices I've come across, I am just trying to understand whether there is a religious basis behind it. If we look at it from a cultural point of view there are so many other things to talk about.
There's also a difference between something actually being religious and people thinking it's religious. Many Egyptians seem to think FC is required in Islam but when you ask them to explain why they can't.

Cornelius said...

Ah! You must forgive me for my ignorance. My knowledge of these things is a bit shallow, you see. From the very little that I know, the hymen, which is a piece of skin tissue that partly covers the opening of the vagina, is a very good indication of virginity. A woman without the hymen still intact would have a bit of explanation to do to her husband I guess.

But to come back to the subject matter, i.e. whether FC is religious or not, I am keen to know the answer too.

OK, I'm done interrupting. Will just sit back and wait for the conclusion of this discussion... hehehe.

Cornelius said...

Oh! I just saw your reply, Noor!

OK, this will be the last, I promise!

Thanks for the information. Rebuilding a new clitoris!... what will they think of next! Truly amazing!

See, that's the thing I like about the internet. One can learn so much from the mass of information contained in it. And just when I thought there wasn't much more I can learn about the clitoris, now I've learned this!

It's so like us humans, huh? We destroy the things God gave us, and then work so hard to get it back.

Jaz said...

Some people in Egypt say it's to keep the women from comitting fornication if it rubs against their jeans or something. Ugh. So take away her desire for sex and ability for sexual pleasure? Should we castrate men too?
It IS disturbing.

Sarah Elizabeth said...

From an anthropological perspective, the first thing students learn is to try understanding a ritual through the culture being studied and not through our own cultural lens. This is supposed to help us understand the ritual and the reasons behind it.

For example, there is a group in Thailand where the women wear long brass rings around their necks as a beauty ritual, and women without rings, showing their bare necks, are stared at and thought of as "different." In America women surgically stuff silicone in their breasts to make them larger and more appealing to men..

Both sound odd.

But where do we draw the line? When is it culture, and when is it a violation of human rights?
For example, slave owners from the 1800's could have easily said slavery was a part of American culture, and the economy, but did that mean it was ok?

In Africa, some mothers burn their daughters breasts to keep them from growing, so as to keep away male attention...

And then the example of circumcision... What is the reason behind it? To keep girls from attracting the opposite sex or feeling sexual pleasure..

I think one way to tell if it is religious or cultural is to dig into history and find cases of this happening before the prophet came on the scene.

Many rituals, both tribal and barbaric, were squashed by the prophet, only to now reappear again and be called "religious." This is grossly wrong. In Jordan honor killings are touted by society as religious, yet when asking the individual they readily admit how wrong it is. One man said "I would rather bury my daughter than have her grow up in this society."

I think circumcision of women's genitals, our God given flesh, is wrong, barbaric, and in no way religously mandated.

Many would say we must butt out of these "cultural practices" but I say it is a human rights violation to take away a woman's ability to experience sexual pleasure. Doesn't God say that sex between a husband and wife is on the same level as worshipping? Why then, would God want women to not want sex, leading to an unfilling marriage because neither partner can be satisfied..

Circumcision is cultural, and to mutilate a woman's vagina is barabaric.

There are hadith that are flat out wrong. Most agree there is only a handful, only 1 author, who was considered acceptable. To follow hadith is to put the words of the prophet on the same level as God's. I just find this wrong.

But that is another discussion. I had no idea so many women in Egypt are circumsized. I feel for them.

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Jaz: I completely agree. Many Egyptians circumcise their daughters to prevent them from engaging in pre-marital sex. UHM then why don't we also castrate men?!

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Sarah Elizabeth: that's a good question: where do we draw the line between respecting different cultures and saying something is "wrong". Also, a lot of the people campaigning against FC are Western and this causes all sorts of problems in Egypt because people automatically assume it is a new form of colonialism.

"I think one way to tell if it is religious or cultural is to dig into history and find cases of this happening before the prophet came on the scene."

The fact that type IV circumcision is called Pharonic circumcision and dates back to that time is proof that Islam did not invent the practice. However there are many rites and practices Islam adopted and approved of that belonged to the pre-Islamic era, such as fasting.

I don't know, I just don't understand how someone could do this to their children when they know there are no medical benefits and that there are potential dangers.

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Cornelius: please comment as much as you like! Your questions really made me think.

"A woman without the hymen still intact would have a bit of explanation to do to her husband I guess."

The problem is the hymen can break for all sorts of reasons and many many women have no hymens by the time they get married, even if they are virgins. However many Arabs don't seem to understand this, and often the girl is punished because people assume she had sex before marriage when in fact it could have happened during exercise or something like that.

Laila said...

Perhaps I'm being thick here, but I don't really understand why everyone is going on about pharaonic mutilation when it seems to be clear (from the sunnipath links) that this is not allowed in Islam?

I know it happens, and I think we can all agree it's a terrible thing, but there is no-one here arguing that it could be OK within Islam or generally.

Is it that you all don't really believe what sunnipath say and just consider it positive propaganda, that they're trying to make the tradition look better than it really was? That it must have been pharaonic or nothing?

Perhaps I am naive to think there could historically have been a procedure that was purely cosmetic in intent and did not have the effect of robbing women of sexual enjoyment.

But I have so far given Islam the benefit of the doubt, because I can *imagine* such a procedure. Not that different to the cosmetic procedure some women go for today.

And if I'm wrong, and there can be no innocent motivation for cutting anything down there, then what's the conclusion? That Muhammad was wrong to allow it to happen, and therefore Islam is a barbaric religion that permits mutilation? Or that the hadiths can't possibly be telling the truth?

Akhila said...

Personally, I'm not Muslim, but my Amnesty International club hosted a discussion on FGM/FGC at my university just last week. It was illuminating, and after watching some videos about this issue, it seemed to me that while some women in the Middle East/North Africa seem to justify it as a part of their religion, it seems to me the root of the issue is more societal and cultural rather than religious. From my limited knowledge, it doesn't seem to me that there is anything Islamic about the practice, nor anything requiring women to undergo this procedure.

It's a human rights violation, with absolutely no medical benefits whatsoever and instead a whole lot of pain and complications throughout a woman's life. Even if it were "Islamic" or not...I would have doubts about whether it is an acceptable practise. I think it should be condemned as a human rights violation.

Sarah Elizabeth said...

Yes, I agree as far as the whole "colonization" "imperialism" argument. Outside of my blogosphere, I think it would be hard for me to speak about these things with other Muslims simply because of that whole line I walk being Western.. I think this fact trumps the fact that I am a convert. It makes me an outsider from both sides, but I am comfortable with that.. I understand it and realize what I symbolize to some just by being a White American. It makes me quiet a lot of the time, out of a need to respect those images that I conjure in some people just by speaking.

Good points you make.. I am still unsure of how to approach cultural issues.. What is normal to one, is completely within the cultural norm for another..

Female circumcision is so wrong to me, but I guess if I step out of my own culture, so is a mother taking her 16 year old daughter to get a boob job...

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Laila: I don't think anyone is saying Pharonic circumcision is Islamic, we were just mentioning it.

To respond to your question of why I even have a problem with FC, I will quote from another comment by Akhila:

"It's a human rights violation, with absolutely no medical benefits whatsoever and instead a whole lot of pain and complications throughout a woman's life."

It seems strange to me that the Prophet (pbuh) would advocate something that has no use and causes complications for many women later on. Furthermore we should distinguish between practices that used to happen at the time and practices that the Prophet outright called for as "Islamic". Maybe FC falls into the former category.

About the hadiths, I'm not sure what to believe. If you read the debate between the two scholars, one mentions that the hadith are not historically sound, the other that they are. They also both mention different versions of the same story - one says calling someone a clit cutter was an insult and one says calling someone uncircumcised was an insult.

It's very difficult to know from the hadith sometimes because they aren't considered strong by many scholars. Yet at the same time we don't see many sheikhs/ulama standing up to FC, even though many Muslims believe it is an Islamic duty. Maybe if they did so (for example Tantawi and Qaradawi do not believe it is Islamic), FC would begin to decrease somewhat.

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Akhila: welcome to the blog :)

"It seems to me the root of the issue is more societal and cultural rather than religious."

I agree with this. I think many people may say they are doing it for religious reasons but really there are cultural reasons behind it.

I also think it's a human rights violation. What makes it different from male circumcision is that there are no benefits whatsoever, and in many cases there are problems for the woman for the rest of her life.

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Sarah Elizabeth: I guess the problem for me is that no one would try and justify getting a boob job as a religious duty, whereas FC is constantly being portrayed as an Islamic duty.

Many non-Muslims hear about it in connection with Islam, and it really affects the way they see the religion - and I don't blame them.

Cornelius said...

OK, if you say so, cairo, lusaka, amsterdam... but just let me know if I got carried away... hehehe.

"The problem is the hymen can break... and many women have no hymens by the time they get married, even if they are virgins. However many Arabs don't seem to understand this, and often the girl is punished because people assume she had sex before marriage when in fact it could have happened during exercise or something like that."

The justification you suggested for FC, i.e. to ensure the girl does not engage in pre-marital sex, has long become outdated. The progress in medical technology has enabled most parts of the human body to be repaired. The reconstruction of the clitoris, as pointed out by Noor, is just one of them.

Just a few days ago, I read about Vietnamese women coming to Johore (Malaysia) to undergo surgeries to restore hymens before marrying Malaysian men. These days women can do plenty to support their claim that they're still virgins. That being the case, FC appears to be superfluous on that score.

Women are also humans and they have sexual urges too. In the heat of the moment, sexual needs can easily outweigh all other considerations. And then when it's all over, then the regret sets in. Then think of remedial steps, eg hymen surgery etc. Circumcision won't ensure nothing! At most, it will make it a little difficult, but certainly not foolproof.

My feeling about following the norm without so much as raising questions, i.e. why, how, etc, can be damaging to many people. FC is a good example. People do things because they're influenced by their surroundings.

If I were to keep a long beard and dress like the prophet, does that count for anything when I am dead? Apparently some people believe it does.

Anonymous said...

If FC is islamic why do the Copt in Egypt also perform it on there daughter
If FC is islamic why are the FC rates very ery low in Saudi Arabia and Iran.

One question, you say:
The Hadith related to female circumcision (that I could find):

"When two circumcised parts unite then bathing becomes obligatory." (Sahih, Reported by Ahmad and Al-Baihaqee)

What make to think that one of the two parts is female?

Stephanie said...

So we've established that FC in hadith refers to removing only the hood and not the clitoris, but in certain cultures clitorectomies and pharaonic mutilations are preformed in the name of Islam and to "protect" the girl from promiscuity, etc. Am I correct in my reading of this thread?
Reading the hadith in this way actually makes much more sense, hence, the "do not cut severly injunctino" since it is better for both parties.
A few years back I remember doing some limited online research on this very topic and remember reading that some Western women actually voluntarily remove some of the prepuce as a means of increasing pleasure, in the case of having excessive tissue in that area. Don't have a link but I suppose you could google it. This would also fit in with the original quote of the doctor "deciding". Could this all be a giant misunderstanding on what is actually meant and allowable as far as female cirumcision is concerned. Obviously, at the expense of many, many women.
And not to open up another big can of worms, but science has pretty much established that male circumcision has no health or hygenic benefits either, which is why so many people (non-muslims) are opting out of it these days.

Laila said...

I didn't actually ask why you have a problem with FC, I don't need to ask, it is loud and clear :)

I have a problem with it too.

But for me it slightly depends what we mean by "FC":
(1) some hypothetical historical cosmetic procedure, or
(2) today's version which amounts to mutilation.

I definitely have a problem with (2). With (1) I am open-minded - although I am basically against cosmetic procedures, I don't feel the need to condemn it. But I cannot tell whether it really was like that. Sunnipath says it was, but maybe they are talking crap. Maybe they are just sugar-coating it.

What you said about the hadiths makes sense to me. Maybe none of it happened at all.

Do you think the existence of these hadiths is an obstacle to condemning today's mutilation practices? What's the best way to deal with the fact that there are ugly things in hadiths?

Cornelius said...

Laila,

I can't for the life of me see myself letting others circumcise my daughter for whatever reason.

Cosmetic or mutilation, it doesn't really matter, it is still not my decision to make even though I am the father. But when she grows up and if indeed she decides to perform this so-called cosmetic surgery (I'm at the verge of fainting with laughter here), then that is her right.

I don't think very many, if any, of those people actually gave the opportunity to their daughters to decide for themselves. If adult women chose to perform some sort of surgical modifications on their sex organs as what Stephanie said, then that's fine, because that's their choice.

Laila said...

Cornelius,

I never said anything about doing it to young girls against their will. How do you know at what age it was done (if at all) in history, or whose consent was required? I don't.

I am not promoting anything, I am just trying to be open-minded and step outside my modern western mindset and not jump to condemn everything that doesn't fit with it.

In some cultures people stretch their pierced ear lobes out with big inserted objects. This is for cosmetic reasons. It might look horrible to me but why should I condemn it if it's not doing them any harm? I'm merely suggesting it might have been something similar in this case. Or it could have been as Stephanie suggests, which is a really interesting idea as it is the OPPOSITE of what is normally assumed. Or alternatively it could have been barbaric like the practices today. I don't know. That's the whole point - I'm trying not to jump to any conclusions.

Pra said...

Dear Cairo Amsterdam ... i live in an asian country which is predominantly muslim for at least four or five hundred years .. in my country baby boys are circumcised .. never heard eard it is done to girls ... so perhaps it is cultural not religious ..

Sarah Elizabeth said...

Yes, for me I am looking at it as cultural and not religious. I will step back and watch the religious debate since that is what this post was meant for, but for me it is cultural.

1. Most hadith are flawed, and even if there was a hadith that flatly stated "Cut the clitoris off" does that mean we would? God, I don't know. That is the scary part.

2. Geographically speaking, there is one large region where circumcision occurs, that is northwestern Africa. outside of that region, people all pretty much agree that it has nothing at all to do with religion.

This fact alone tells me it is cultural. I have never heard/read/seen anyone from a country outside of that area in Africa say it is a religious prescription...

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Cornelius: "The justification you suggested for FC, i.e. to ensure the girl does not engage in pre-marital sex, has long become outdated."

Yes, I totally agree. I also think it was never a strong justification to begin with. Also, why wasn't castrating males suggested as a way to prevent pre-marital sex? Why instead were some women subjected to Pharonic circumcision where both the labia minora and majora were removed?

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Anonymous: that's a good point: I think around 80% of Christian women in Egypt are also circumcised (this is from the Encyclopedia of Women). Also, FC is barely found in strict coutnries such as Saudi Arabia and the Gulf, which makes it hard to believe it is a strong Islamic practice.

About the two parts, it is very unlikely it means 2 male parts since homosexuality is frowned upon in Islam, so I would assume it means a male and female part.

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Stephanie: that's very interesting, I thought it was widely believed that male circumcision does have hygienic benefits?

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Laila: "Do you think the existence of these hadiths is an obstacle to condemning today's mutilation practices? What's the best way to deal with the fact that there are ugly things in hadiths?"

Yes, these Hadith are definitely an obstacle, since I don't see scholars quoting the Qur'an to justify FC.

How to deal with them - I'm still figuring that out. Can we just ignore ones we are uncomfortable with? No. But can we question hadith that seem to disagree with the message or spirit of the Qur'an? I would say yes. It does not make sense to me that the Prophet would advise a woman to undergo a possibly traumatic procedure with absolutely no benefits.

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Pra: I think it is mostly cultural too, although some people use religion as a means to justify it.

Welcome to the blog :)

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Sarah Elizabeth: "even if there was a hadith that flatly stated "Cut the clitoris off" does that mean we would? God, I don't know. That is the scary part."

Very scary thought, but I think many Muslims WOULD!

Also, I wonder how the ulama in Saudi react to FC. It would be interesting to see what they think.

NoortheNinjabi said...

People will always make what they want of things. The scholars I've heard in favor of it tend to say "it's the husband's choice." This is based off the assumption that it's a purely aesthetic, non-mutilating "circumcision." (according to their explanations.) In this explanation, the hadith don't have to be questioned or explained away because they've already been made clear. Which brings up the factor of many things having different context now than they did when everyone basically knew to assume the same thing. Many ideas take more explaining these days because we don't have the same knowledge that was seen as the basics in the past.

According to my dad (HIV/AIDS specialist) and my mom (nurse who's done extensive work with Centerproject and Planned Parenthood), male circumcision, besides the cleanliness and mold/smegma (ew!) factor, does have an effect on the spread of HIV and HPV, although not as much as exercising caution through condom use, obviously. Men who are circumcised are less likely to contract (and spread) HPV, especially if they are engaging with multiple partners without cleaning properly in between each sex act. I'll leave that last bit to the imagination.

( http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20090326/circumcision_090326/20090326?s_name=medExpress2007

http://www.health.com/health/condition-article/0,,20272051_1,00.html )

Cornelius said...

"Also, why wasn't castrating males suggested as a way to prevent pre-marital sex?"

Sara (God! I'm really getting mixed up with all the Sarahs amongst you people!), since we're discussing circumcision here, I'm assuming that you're referring to physical castration as opposed to chemical castration. The former involves actual (physical) cutting, whereas the latter is via injection of chemical but without cutting of flesh.

It is true that castration may be a means to prevent pre-marital sex because it has the effect of reducing or totally eliminating sex drive.

However, it does much more than that. Castration also leads to infertility, and although I am not a doctor, I believe once the testicles have been removed, the process is irreversible (unless of course if Noor is going to surprise me again by telling me that even testicles can be surgically reconstructed?).

As far as I know, circumcision does not lead to infertility in women, no matter which type we're referring to. Therefore, I would say that circumcision and castration are not comparable in terms of "prevention of pre-marital sex" because the latter will stop reproduction.

marzuki said...

A friend once raised this up with me. Though it's not widely practiced here, I'm shocked to hear that he knows of some who do practice it. Through the way he described the process, I felt pretty sure that this practice wasn't Islamic. Looking through the comments here, I'm glad to know that it's more of a cultural practice rather than a religious one. The next time someone raises this issue, I'll dismiss it as sthg cultural.

Love the new feel of your entries Cairo! Could I offer a suggestion? I was wondering if you could do a short entry re ur personal stand on this issue before posting up a new issue - to give it a "closure" of some sort - after posts such as this one. (:

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Noor: "The scholars I've heard in favor of it tend to say "it's the husband's choice."

That's also annoying, to me. Why on earth would it be his choice?

Thank you for those links and the explanation! I was sure I'd heard that being circumcized helps in terms of HIV/AIDS. Do you know anything about the hygienic aspect?

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Cornelius: haha, yes, many Sara(h)s!

Thank you for pointing that out, my mistake. You're right.

I think it's unfair that the woman is the one to be circumcized or mutilated in order to prevent pre-marital sex. Why not do something to the man?

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Marzuki: that's a great idea! I will definitely do that i'A.

NoortheNinjabi said...

Yeah, that bit irks me too. But it was helpful to see that it was merely aesthetic.

The hygiene process for an uncircumcised male is similar to a circumcised one, except that they must fold back the foreskin and wash. They also have to pull it back to dry after the shower in order to avoid smegma buildup. Mold and bacteria love living in the area because it's warm, dark, and if not cared for, moist.

Cornelius said...

Sara,

"I think it's unfair that the woman is the one to be circumcized or mutilated in order to prevent pre-marital sex. Why not do something to the man?"

That's the other thing I disagree about Islam. Always the women are disadvantaged.

A muslim man I knew some years ago cheated on his wife. That, by the way, is almost expected. After all, when you have 4 vacancies, it would be a waste not to use all of them. So most of the time, it's just a matter of time for the men to fill up the slots of 4 women. Thankfully, the prophet only had 4 (at any one time) wives. If he had more, today's muslim men would have a higher allocation too. It's very convenient for the men, you see.

Anyway, his wife found out and actually caught him in the bedroom with the other women. She then demanded for a divorce. She went to the Islamic authority here in my hometown. According to the person in charge, she's not allowed to divorce the husband. In order to divorce her husband, she must first find witnesses... in fact, she must find at least 4 eye witnesses. And not just any eye witnesses, they must all be muslims too.

After that she refused to have sex with her husband. And that too is a sin. She must submit because that's her duty to her husband.

Cornelius said...

In other words, Noor, male circumcision isn't really necessary either. All that is required is to teach the boys from small to practise personal hygiene.

Sarah Elizabeth said...

Cornelius,

It is not Islam that disadvantges women, it is patriarchal interpretation of Islam, by prejudice men who would disadvantage their women no matter what their religion. The fact that the court system backs up this prejudice is incomprehensible, but very real.

I just hope you are able to differentiate between Islam and Muslims.. There is a huge difference.

In Islam, #1 you have to gain the acceptance of the wife first, and also be able to fairly support more than one wife, which the Quran clearly states is basically impossible. But back in the day having more than one wife was sometimes needed because of war, many women being widowed, and women having no access to income aside from having men...

The case you point out is glaringly unislamic, and completely wrong. It is an abusive man backed up by a flawed/sexist court system.

Unfortunately in many cultures women are disadvantged, some more than others, but this is the story of all patriarchy, not an issue of "Islam."

Sara said...

I don't think it's fard...and as far as I know sayedna Mohammed PBUH didn't circumcise his girls..

And EID MUBARAK!! I am so happy you're in Cairo!!

NoortheNinjabi said...

Cornelius,
Uh, no. Not really. Read that whole "it helps prevent the spread of HIV, HPV, and herpes" thing. (And with decreased HPV comes decreased penile cancer...Radiation and surgeries on male bits seems to be pretty high up on the "what to avoid" list for men.) Even if cleaned properly, the viruses are harder to flush out.

Above and beyond this, it is required of men in Islam and Allah's decree alone should suffice us.

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Cornelius: like Sarah Eliazabeth said, there is a HUGE difference between Islam and what many Muslims do.

"That's the other thing I disagree about Islam. Always the women are disadvantaged."

So I would say "many Muslims", not Islam.

NoortheNinjabi said...

Cornelius,
I did find the following ayah in regards to the woman who caught her spouse cheating. I need to talk to the shuyukh before saying whether it does, in reality, apply to both genders but I've always been taught that it does. By all rights, it sounds like the couple should have a li'an (which is what the ayah that follows tells us of) and go their separate ways. However, they should be aware that a li'an is a permanent, no-reconciliation divorce.

“And those who accuse their wives, and have no witnesses but themselves, then the testimony of each of them shall be a testimony sworn by God repeated four times, that he is indeed truthful. And the fifth (oath) is that God’s curse be upon him if he is lying. And it shall avert punishment from her that she testify a testimony repeated and sworn by God four times, that he is lying. And a fifth (oath) that the wrath of God be upon her, if he has spoken the truth” (An-Nur: 6-9).

Stephanie said...

I retract my earlier statement. There does seem to be some health benefits like a decrease in the rate of STD's in circ'ed males. BUT it doesn't stop the spread, only decreasing high risk behaviors, education, availability of condoms and wearing condoms can do that. There is also known to be a very slight decrease in penile cancers which is already extraordinary rare. In America, the body which forms practice guidelines in pediatrics (AAP) does not recommend circ'ing boys as the risk of the procedure outweighs the benefits, in their opinions. There is a very large and growing movement in the US to stop male circumcision as many are starting to view it as a barbaric practice. And really, in general, we don't think much about whacking the foreskin off of a male, but doing the same procedure (hoodectomy) in a female is well, just weird.
People in general don't circ their boys for health reasons, they do it for cosmetic reasons (to look like daddy) and for religious and cultural reasons.
The point, in my mind is this. We as Muslims justify circ'ing a male because of the hadith. But when it comes to circ'ing a female, and let's assume that the scholars agree it's just the prebuce, we become very uncomfortable. Again, it's also apparently in the hadith.
So the question is-- is it ok to disregard some hadith that we're not comfortable with, but take others. And let's assume that they're all deemed authentic by the scholars. That's really what's at the heart of this conversation.

Cornelius said...

OK, my apologies, Sarah and Sara (Arghh! all the Sara(h)s), "many Muslims" then.

Only trouble is, however, if a Muslim does not follow what is the "norm", he or she will be frowned upon for being "unIslamic". Other Muslims will not see him or her as an Islamic person. So there will always be the pressure to follow that "norm". The only question is to what extent?

So, for example, in Malaysia if a person converts to Islam and does not change his or her name to an "Islamic" name, that can be considered very strange. So in order to be "Islamic", you will find that when someone converts to Islam, a Dennis, for example, will become Mohammad Noorazam Abdullah.

Jasmine said...

NO. Its not Islamic. Its sick in the head is what it is.

If something is good - its goodness is clear and obvious. If something is bad - its badness is clear and obvious.

And any texts or quotes or scripts which counteract the blindingly obvious should be immediately disregarded as "bad information".

Yes, we have texts and scrpits and scholars - but overriding those things should be good and clear common sense which is God given to us all....

...well, maybe some people missed out.

But inshallah to us all!
Jasmine xx

(PS: Always your fan Cairo!)

Jasmine said...

My aunt is a midwife and she told me about a Somali woman who had come in fo labour. Her labia had been sewed closed from the top to the bottom, with only a small opening for baby-making activity: clitoris was completely removed.

During childbirth, they had to cut it open, but didnt manage to do so enough - and they were not in time. Apparently, during childbirth, many women tear or rip their natural entrance anyway, so you can imagine what was in the future for this poor soul.

Basically, it burst open. The woman bled so much she nearly died, and my aunt said it was such a mess they all nearly vomited in the room trying to save this woman's life due to severe, vaginal disfigurment and bleeding.

The woman survived, and the doctors sewed everything back as well as they could. My aunt could only describe what was left as "a complete, unrecognisable mess". The woman (and the doctors and nurses) were all very traumatised.

The poor woman, this was the first time she had ever heard that there is a place in the world were women have in-tact vagina's. In her own country she would have died.

My message to all is please please, everyone - with any time on your hands at all - please I beg you, stop the abuse of women and fight this with every once of energy you have.

Sara said...

I am Muslim from Cairo and it's not a 'fard'. It's done by ignorant people for mere 'cultural' reasons, that aren't really a part of the, let's say modern, culture any more.
Just. Complete. Ignorance.

Prophet Muhammed didn't circumcise his daughters, nor is it something any Muslim should do to his/her daughters..

P.S. great blog! I'm so happy I came across it =)

Sarah Elizabeth said...

Jasmine, thank you for sharing! I think this is a subject the Muslim community needs to talk about openly, and more often...

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Cornelius: "Only trouble is, however, if a Muslim does not follow what is the "norm", he or she will be frowned upon for being "unIslamic"."

Good point! I think it is a difficult situation for many Muslims. I personally choose to not follow this norm - who cares if other people don't think I'm Islamic? If I believe in what I'm doing, then all that matters is pleasing God, not other Muslims.

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Stephanie: "We as Muslims justify circ'ing a male because of the hadith. But when it comes to circ'ing a female, and let's assume that the scholars agree it's just the prebuce, we become very uncomfortable."

That's a very good point. I wonder if it's because male circumcision is much more entrenched in Islamic culture? Practically every Muslim male has been circumcized since the beginning of Islam, whereas not even half of Muslim women today are circumcized. So if FC was as important as male circumcision then wouldn't it have been emphasized by the Prophet and become a majority practice?

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Jasmine: lovely comment, as always.

"If something is good - its goodness is clear and obvious. If something is bad - its badness is clear and obvious."

Beautiful!

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Sara: welcome to the blog :)
I completely agree! It's definitely not fard.

Your blog is great too!

Cornelius said...

"If something is good - its goodness is clear and obvious. If something is bad - its badness is clear and obvious."

Granted, Jasmine. But what about those which are not so "clear and obvious", and so much about goodness or badness for the entire human race? Rather "goodness" and "badness" on individual basis?

Take, for example, the opposing views on homosexuality in Islam. So what then? Many of us are born "normal", but some are born with minds of the opposing gender. I don't think it's their fault to be born that way. So in your opinion, should homosexuality be allowed in Islam? Or should we say people with that trait are not welcomed into Islam? It's not so easy to decide based on goodness/badness.

Sorry, for going offtrack. Am just curious.

Cornelius said...

Arghhh!... Yet another Sara!

Cornelius said...

Oops!... I just saw Noor's response to me... sorry about that, Noor.

"Uh, no. Not really... it helps prevent the spread of HIV, HPV, and herpes" thing... Even if cleaned properly, the viruses are harder to flush out."

My view is that in the good old days, when this idea about male circumcision was first thought of, it probably was based on cleanliness, and not so much about prevention or minimising the risk of diseases. But of course I may be wrong. But it sort of "accidentally" became beneficial as prevention (or minimising the risk) of diseases, so in this particular case, it is a bit easier for the scholars to justify the virtue of male circumcision.

People have the tendency to do that. When there is something in the holy books or religious teachings that tells us to do something, the first thing the believers will do is to try to justify; to interpret in such a way to agree. And then when that fails, they will still try to fall back on "faith". But when even that still fails, that's when we find the believers debate amongst themselves, sometimes accusing each other that they're not being religious.

The other point I want to make is that if - I say, IF - these so-called "religious people" really obeyed the religious teachings, they won't have multiple sex partners anyway, a habit which is probably a better protection against sexually transmitted diseases.

Oops!... I'm late for a business dinner!

Sara (the one in Cairo), I really need to spend lesser time in this blog!... HAHAHA!

Jasmine said...

Ladies, regarding the subject of female circumscision - I have found a doctor called Nawal al-Sadawi, a doctor who has apparently written extensively on the subject of these practices with a focus on Muslim societies.

Cornelius, homosexuality and the act of female circumsision is not the same - but I will give my view. I believe that homosexual acts are a sin, like any other sinful act. Sinful acts are up to the person as to how they wish to manage them or reconcile them. I cant say I know what the punishment for homosexuality will be in the afterlife, as there are varying types of homosexual activity with varying different motivations for it. The large percent of lesbians I know, for example, have been sexually abused in childhood by men. I have met two gay men in my life and both struck me as incredibly lecherous, and lust-filled and confessed to me of some really sickening behaviour and habits that would sicken me - is it because they are homosexual that they are like that? I dont know.

What I am trying to say is: homosexuality and its forms are up to the individual. It is a sin - just like backbiting, gossip, slander, hatred and all of the other sins that people get up to. I would say that. As far as I am aware the greatest sins are hypocrisy, shirk and disbelief - not homosexuality. I believe the people of Lut repented and were forgiven for practicing their lusts on men. Unfortunatley, homosexuality is one of the more "visible" sins and so homosexuals suffer more than so-called good people who do no charity, and just sit in a room and bitch about their best friends.

Homosexuality as a subject in and of itself, is too diverse and takes too many forms to be discussed here, because I cant say that a monogamous homosexual who lives a life of good deeds prayer and dedication to his family is equal to one who is a lecherous person who indulges in his every perversion and does not good deeds whatsoever.

To conclude: good and bad isobvious - so I look at the ovbious...what are the social outcomes of homosexuality? if I am looking at the outcomes of homosexuality I would say that it is a negative thing (HIV, non-monogamous behaviour, multiple partners, cross dressing, tranvestitism, lady boys, unprotected sex etc) and therefore a sin - comparable to gambling, drinking alcohol, having sex with multiple partners, adultery and the like.

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Cornelius: spend even more time here, haha! Love your comments :)

NoortheNinjabi said...

Cornelius,
Honestly, if you're speaking of faith, justifications really aren't necessary. If I learn something, I examine the evidence and history of those before us who know better and go from there. Helps minimize the waswaasa. I don't get to pick and choose what I like and don't like; that's not how it works. When someone I know has waswaasa about the same things, it's nice to pass on the information so that they can overcome the waswaasa and move on.

As for historically, there was a tendency for multiple partners within a marital setting or even with concubines. There was exposure to women being passed around up until (and actually, honestly, after) the Qur'an came down. The Qur'an was the book that put a limit on that. I'll see if I can find an article a friend wrote about jaahiliya sexual practices, if she even still has it up.

Current day, there shouldn't be spreading of disease; I agree with that. I still agree with circumcision based off of what my (non-Muslim) parents have taught me.

I have to run now. Salaam!

Cornelius said...

Jasmine,

You are right, homosexuality and female circumcision are not the same, hence my apology for going offtrack. It was just an example I could think of at the time. It is probably not a very good example, but there is plenty of room to debate about homosexuality, I'm sure.

I must beg to differ. If I am born a homo, can I help it if I'm attracted to a man instead of a woman? Or are you suggesting that I pretend to be attracted to women so that I would appear "normal"? Or course I can live a life of pretense until I die, and I am sure you would see that as "obviously good". But I would probably be miserable throughout my life, although thankfully I am not a homo!

My point is that "goodness" and "badness" are not always easy to define. Good for you may not be good for me; and bad for you may not be bad for me.

I was just having a discussion with a friend recently about jihad. I am against violence in any form, so I am against jihad.

So when I look at 2 prophets - one stood firm against violence. No violence under whatever circumstances. He was captured and his apostle tried to defend him with a sword, but he would not have any of it. He willingly surrendered himself. He was then tortured and finally died on the cross. And till the end, no violence, that's the point!

The other prophet said we should defend ourselves. Fight back and even kill the enemies if we must. The only trouble is that in most battles, it's always the children and women who're the victims. So many other people who have nothing to do with the fight will perish.

So now we see a bit of inconsistency between these two prophets. Both have pros and cons I guess. You may find that the second prophet is the one doing the right thing and therefore "obviously good" for mankind. But because I am against violence, I'm of the opinion that the first prophet's teaching is better for mankind. Furthermore, I also think that his teaching is a better reflection of a divine being. So if I have to choose between these two teachings, I would opt for the first prophet's.

So you see, not everything is "obvious". I'm not saying you are wrong. I'm just saying some people may not be able to see these considerations as clearly as you do.

Cornelius said...

Cairo, I'm losing too much sleep because of you blog!... hahaha

Cornelius said...

Noor,

I'm not trying to challenge or influence your faith. This is just to discuss - it's the whole point of this post and the discussion or even debate that follows.

But if you're saying it's all about faith, and no justifications are necessary, then these discussions are useless. For at the end of the day, no amount of justifications and reasoning will mean anything. To quote the example by Sarah Elizabeth, if there is something in the Quran or hadith that expressly says "cut off the clitoris", we should all accept it on faith. Don't ask for justifications because they're unnecessary.

But I really need sleep! Goodnight folks!

marzuki said...

I hv to say that I'm with Noor when she said, "Honestly, if you're speaking of faith, justifications really aren't necessary."

Such a discussion knows no end esp when homosexuality and jihad gets thrown into a discussion on female circumcision.

"If there is something in the Quran or hadith that expressly says "cut off the clitoris", we should all accept it on faith. Don't ask for justifications because they're unnecessary."

You're right Cornelius that justifications arent necessary coz I feel that Man will only feel justified only when he hears what he wants to hear. I also feel that we see only the things we want to see. And there will always be people who may/are/will not or do not want to be able to see certain considerations. There's nothing much anyone can do really except pray that insyaallah, they will one day.

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

To be honest, I really don't agree with that attitude. It's not about "justifying" things, it's about understanding them. I am not trying to justify why I don't think FC is part of Islam, I'm trying to understand why many people think it is. I am not trying to justify why I don't think I should get half of my brother's inheritance, I am trying to understand why the Qur'an made that rule and why it doesn't apply today for many people, me included.

So no, I don't think we should not question anything. I think we should, especially things that are unclear or come from the hadith only. I think it makes our faith *stronger*, not weaker.

Cornelius said...

Marzuki,

I acknowledge that homosexuality and jihad are different matters. Well, if you really want to focus on female circumcision, and only female circumcision without touching on anything else, that is fine too. But sometimes using other examples can make it easier for us to see the picture.

Now still trying to make my point, I'm guessing that there must be many people out there who think that female circumcision is "obviously good" for their daughters. I'm talking here about cases where FC is performed on small girls not out of their choice but their parents'. Some of us may say they're stupid because they can't see the obvious, but I say again, good and bad are relative terms, i.e. what's good or bad may not be the same for different people. They're not always obvious.

"Man will only feel justified only when he hears what he wants to hear. I also feel that we see only the things we want to see. And there will always be people who may/are/will not or do not want to be able to see certain considerations."

I can live with your argument, provided that it is used both ways. And so, those who support FC will only see it as something good for their daughters. Those who support jihad will only see it as something good etc.

I don't know about praying, but if ever I pray, I will pray that I will never ever come to support female circumcision.

marzuki said...

yupS Cairo. U mentioned the keyword that is the sole reason for me, and perhaps most of us, coming here - understanding. Understanding the key issue raised and the reasons why some are against it while some are for it. The fact that ur readers are diverse make the comments very interesting coz i get to understand issues from a revert's perspective, a western perspective, a middle eastern perspective, even a couple of non-muslim ones etc.

However, I decided to omit the word 'understanding' from my comment coz a tiny bit of me felt as though Cornelius wasnt really interested to understand. It kind of reminded me of stories that I can vaguely remember abt how ppl refuse to believe in God despite the signs. Like the few that followed Prophet Musa (Moses) up the hill. Despite seeing those that were struck by lightning came back to life, they remained defiant. Surah Al-Kafirun also came to mind after a while.

I love it when u raise topics that we hardly talk about cairo. It will definitely make our faith stronger. Thanks for such a lovely blog. It has kept me constantly thinking about our religion. Are posts on homosexuality and jihad in islam in the pipelines? (:

NoortheNinjabi said...

Cairo,
I guess we've found the fundamental difference between our educations. :)

There are some things, like corrupt practices of Muslims, that we should question. But the things that are written in the Qur'an should be respected; after all, it's the Kitaab of Allah. "He will not be questioned as to what He performs, and they will be questioned." (21:23) It's not our place to indulge waswaasa. That's the type of thing we'll be questioned about. And those who do things like removing sexual organs of women will have to answer to Allah SWT, not to you or me. Those who don't perform the obligatory actions, those who do wrong, those who misguide others...They'll all have to face Allah. At the end of the day, it's not necessarily about any of us truly understanding everything. It's about worshipping our Lord.

"When you realize that you cannot realize, that is when you realize." -Abu Bakr

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Cornelius: "But if you're saying it's all about faith, and no justifications are necessary, then these discussions are useless."

Very true, and this is a problem for me. I think Islam actually calls for a mix between logic and faith. Islamic philosophers and theologians often say that Islam does not contradict reason, so then why are many Muslims so scared to think, question, debate, or undertand? Instead they think that the urge to do those things means they have a weak iman and are trying to "justify" things. I don't see it that way at all.

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Marzuki: thanks for the lovely comment! It made my day :D

Interesting topic suggestions :P I will try my best i'A :)

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Noor:

The problem is: who defines what "corrupt practices" are? I think FC is corrupt, many Muslims don't. So who decides that?

I have never said we should NOT follow the Qur'an. All my problems come from the hadith, and I've made that clear. FC is not the Qur'an. Female subjugation also largely comes from the hadith.

This blog also kind of documents my own personal journey. I only became religious 2 years ago, so I still have so much to learn. I know I sound like i'm 100% sure about my opinions sometimes, but I'm not. I admit that there are things in the Qur'an like inheritance and polygamy that I feel depend on the context, and I find many Islamic scholars who agree. After all, someone like Khaled abou el-Fadl has been educated in everything Islamic - he IS a sheikh - and yet so many Muslims choose not to follow him. Why? How do we choose which sheikhs to listen to?

In the end, it comes down to whether one sees the Qur'an as primarily aimed at the people of 7th century Arabia, with universal principles for the rest of time and specifics for the people then; or if one sees the Qur'an as inflexible and that we have to apply everything exactly the way it was applied then. This has been such a big debate in Islam, with the rationalists saying the Qur'an has universal principles and a universal spirit, but some specifics do not fit our modern time; and the puritans who say it is haram to change anything or actually even think about anything.

But that's a post for another day lol.

I actually love hearing your comments Noor because they show me a different approach that I'm often too quick to ignore or explain away. I have learnt to stop doing that and really try and see why I think differently from you.

In the end, it is all about intentions. I feel I am honest in my quest to understand this beautiful religion, and although I may make mistakes, that happens. God is forgiving and merciful. I think this approach is better than accepting anything blindly, like I see some Muslims doing (not you of course).

Cornelius said...

Marzuki,

This is not the first time that it has happened. Many religious people, Muslims and Christians alike, have the tendency to jump to the conclusion that I do not want to "understand". But actually, they are unable to give me good reasons to "understand". And when that happens, they usually become annoyed. It would be most agreeable if I were to simply agree to their views. Only then am I worth discussing with.

"However, I decided to omit the word 'understanding' from my comment coz a tiny bit of me felt as though Cornelius wasnt really interested to understand."

That is probably due to the fact that you yourself are unable to understand; that you rely mostly on faith. People like me who're unable to rely on faith are conveniently dismissed as not wanting to understand.

"It kind of reminded me of stories that I can vaguely remember abt how ppl refuse to believe in God despite the signs."

What makes you think I don't believe in God?

"Like the few that followed Prophet Musa (Moses) up the hill. Despite seeing those that were struck by lightning came back to life, they remained defiant."

OK, try me. Bring me to this place where people are struck by lightning (and die) and then come back to life. Let's see if I will believe or not. The trouble is that no one can show me the kind of evidence you speak of. And you know of this "evidence" based on information from other sources too.

NoortheNinjabi said...

Cairo,
I guess that's where the hadith, scholarly consensus, and history would come in, for me. Quite honestly, I haven't felt that there was a part of Islam does not apply today. I think there are some that I don't like applying, but then again, the way I like got me to rock bottom, so maybe a change is a good thing :)

I love reading about your journey. You ask questions that make us examine who we are or what we believe; almost exclusively for the better :)

NoortheNinjabi said...

Cornelius,
What you said was pretty dangerously close to the exact wording in the Qur'an. Not gonna lie.

Faith can't always be rationally explained. At some point, there has to be a leap of, well, faith. At some point, it's best for us to just walk away.
"Deaf, dumb, and blind, they will not return." (2:18) "Surely you do not guide whomever you love, but Allah guides whomever he decides, and He knows the best ones (who are) rightly guided." (28:56)

marzuki said...

Cornelius,
I can live with your argument, provided that it is used both ways. And so, those who support FC will only see it as something good for their daughters. Those who support jihad will only see it as something good etc.

It definitely applies both ways Cornelius. Extremism is an example of how some Muslims choose what they want to believe - even if it's not interpreted correctly.

When u said, "they are unable to give me good reasons to "understand"", this was what i meant when i was reminded of the story. The people then had the privilege of seeing the river nile turn red, or the parting of the sea and stuffs like that - yet it was never good enough for them. These people clearly believed there was some greater power somewhere but they simply wanted more.

Yes, I rely on faith. I accept everything based on faith but I still think whenever things seem "unislamic". FC is one of the things that I'll never support - and am glad it's not an issue where I live. Perhaps Cornelius, you'd probably have realized that some/most Muslims practice the religion based on faith alone and hope that the little and insignificant things that we do everyday is enough for the Hereafter. Superficial? Maybe. But I guess one just gotta have faith. Afterall, it's a personal relationship between the individual and God.

Also just so you know, I'm definitely not a fan of someone who agrees for the sake of agreeing. (:

Cairo,
Could the ones whom u referred to as following blindly be in fact following solely based on faith and could this approach be as good/better approach? But this approach of yours is definitely appreciated coz it forces us to think beyond what we usually think about. (:

And Noor,
I like the quotes that u include in your comments, in particular the following: "When you realize that you cannot realize, that is when you realize."

Laila said...

Cornelius,

If you were faced with undeniable proof of the truth of religion, would it change how you feel about God? Or would you still feel that God is a conceited being desperate for worship? Isn't it the case that you would probably find a way to explain the proof away so that you still didn't have to worry about worshipping God or any of that?

None of us are unbiased. We all want to understand what we want to understand.

I feel a bit hurt by your tone of intellectual superiority. Admittedly I have been known to rant against blind following, but I have been arrogant and wrong enough times to start to think that maybe other people's perspectives have something to offer me. Perhaps they have something I don't. I like to think that I can learn something from every person on this planet. This attitude seems to be the best way to avoid the descent into polemics and avoid being dismissed as "not wanting to understand".

Sarah Elizabeth said...

Cornelius,

I told you on Laila's blog, I'll tell you on this one also, you are never going to find the answer you seek.

you want hard facts, but faith is not Science, it is faith.

Deal with it.

Cornelius said...

I shall carefully withdraw into the background, as this discussion probably isn't such a good idea for me (smile). But before I do so, I'd like to respond to Laila.

"If you were faced with undeniable proof of the truth of religion, would it change how you feel about God?

This is an unfair question. I honestly think I would change how I feel about God. I've been asked this same question so many times in the past. And my answer has always been yes. Only that we may not agree on the definition of "undeniable proof". For example, I believe in the existence of God because of a "hypothesis". But you saw my reasons as "evidence". Those are two very different things.

"Or would you still feel that God is a conceited being desperate for worship?"

From what I can see so far, that is an "undeniable truth" to me. It is a different matter whether or not I am believing in God/religions etc. In all the religions, all believers must pray and worship God. So naturally, I see it as God wanting us to worship Him; to pray to Him. Or are you saying we need not worship Him?

"Isn't it the case that you would probably find a way to explain the proof away so that you still didn't have to worry about worshipping God or any of that?"

Yes and no. Yes, I would probably still try very hard to explain it away. If someone claims that there is gold deposits in my backyard, and that he found some ore while trying to plant a flower there, I am fairly sure that I will not believe that information. I will probably still try to discount that as some sort of mistake. Maybe someone had dropped something resembling gold years ago in my backyard. But no, I won't just dismiss it altogether. I think I will surely investigate if there is any truth in it, much the same way I'm trying to seek if there is any truth in religions. But of course no one can show me the truth so far.

"I feel a bit hurt by your tone of intellectual superiority. Admittedly I have been known to rant against blind following, but I have been arrogant and wrong enough times to start to think that maybe other people's perspectives have something to offer me."

It's not a case of me trying to be arrogant, and I accept that I may be wrong. If there's anything in my tone that shows otherwise, then I must apologise. English is after all not my first language, but I try my best to be as clear as I can when I communicate with it. I argue my case the way I see fit. People argue back and I'd consider their views. In the end we may agree to disagree. It need not be about arrogance.

Laila said...

Cornelius,

The reason I don't see God as a conceited being desperate for worship is that I believe worship and prayer etc are for the benefit of the person doing it, not for God's benefit. Actually the Quran even says that. I don't think God asks us to do anything except for our own good.

I guess I think that we all have to choose which direction to go in, towards goodness or towards badness, and if God made himself undeniable this would remove our choice. As you have confirmed by saying that it would change how you felt about God. (Why it was important that we have a choice, I don't know, but I suspect it is more beautiful in the end.)

As it is, we only go towards goodness if that's what we want to do. And I think religion can help us. That's all religion is to me. A helping hand towards being a good person and having a fulfilling life and getting closer to God. It's because I believe in such a thing and because I want to succeed at it that I am interested in religion. I am not convinced that religion is either necessary or sufficient for succeeding at it. But it's a tool I think I can use.

مى said...

Oh my god, that is so freaky. I just chose this topic for a presentation at uni. I go read now :)

x

Mark Lyndon said...

The Qur'an doesn't mention either male or female circumcision. It does however say this:

He created everything in exact measure; He precisely designed everything
(25:2)

He designed you, and designed you well.
(40:64)

He created the heavens and the earth for a specific purpose, designed you and perfected your design.
(64:3)

He created man in the best design.
(95:4)