Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Female Circumcision & Islam (Part 2)

I started out the last post by asking whether female circumcision is Islamic. The responses I got leaned mostly towards "no". However, there were some interesting points that were brought up.

1. There are different types of FC, and some people believe that "Islamic" FC is not harmful and can actually be beneficial, whereas the types of FC practiced today are harmful.

2. The hadith seem to contradict each other and contradict reports from the time of the Prophet. What to do in a case like this, when it is not mentioned in the Qur'an?

3. The Prophet did not circumcise his daughters.

4. Where is the line between judging other cultures from our own ethnocentric point of view, and condemning human rights violations? What constitute human rights violations?

5. If something potentially harmful is advocated by the hadith and was practiced by the companions (but not mentioned in the Qur'an) should we accept it without any reservations?

Thanks to everyone that commented, I loved reading your thoughts!


Mina said...

You recieved an award -

Mark Lyndon said...

There are different types of MC as well as FC and neither is mentioned in the Qur'an.

The Qur'an does however say the following:

He created everything in exact measure; He precisely designed everything

He designed you, and designed you well.

He created the heavens and the earth for a specific purpose, designed you and perfected your design.

He created man in the best design.

bahlool said...

How "sahih" are those hadiths? Shiaislam is against such a habit and the only times i read about this habit is in few sunni hadiths, if it was a good sunnah or a good and acceptable hadith, howcome this habit isnt common in the muslim world?

marzuki said...

With regards to point 2: So long as the hadith do not contradict the Quran, I should think that it should be fine. And hadith have varying levels of strength - so at present, I'll make decisions based on my own thoughts (And hope someone here/you would propose an answer to these questions).

Is question 4 from one of your sociology exam papers or something? haha. My guess would be human rights is violated when someone's subjected to something that is against his or her will. If a society is fine with the way things are even though we arent, we should let them be. So Cairo, i think the line you're looking for lies somewhere here. Hope u find it! :P

And with regards to 5, I dun think causing harm to one's own self is allowed in Islam. However, I'll stop short of saying that we should never accept anything without any reservations coz I'm reminded of something I'm told in a class i attended:

The Prophet said, "When I invited people towards Allah, everybody thought over it and hesitated, at least for a while, except Abu Bakr who accepted my call the moment I put it before him, and he did not hesitate even for a moment."

Candice said...

I agree with marzuki that if it doesn't go against the Qur'an, it's OK. But that doesn't mean it's "Islamic" either... It's just not haram. In the case of female circumcision, I'm pretty much thinking that taking off only the clitoral hood might be "OK" (not haram but in no way "Islamic"). I decided it doesn't matter for me whether it can be "OK" or if it's fully haram because I won't ever get it done so it won't concern me. I think that taking anything more than that off is fully unislamic and haram though and I'll n ever accept that it might be OK in Islam.

Stacy aka Fahiima said...

marzuki says that it would be a human rights violation if it is done against a woman's will. Usually the girls are between 3-10 yrs old when FGM is done. A 3yr old doesn't have enough knowledge to decide if she wants her genitals permanently altered or not.

We see the effect of its being harmful at least in types III and IV mutilation when huge percentages of women are bleeding to death and losing babies in the birthing process.

Anonymous said...

Argh, I just typed a response and then lost my internet connection before posting it. :p

Personally I think it was a cultural practice that was incorporated into some of the hadiths. Karen Armstrong mentions that in the beginning of her book 'Muhammad'.... can't remember what page she said that one but I recall reading it.

I know of at least 1 guy (I don't go around asking people this, lol) that had problems with their circumcision, and it was quite painful for them .... I think it depends on who does it and what level of expertise they have. Once I was listing to NPR and they were talking about old men doing the bris .... old men with shaky hands that really shouldn't be doing such a procedure on such a delicate part. So it's a problem all across the board.

marzuki said...

Hi Stacy,

The fact that it's violating the right of the child never crossed my mind. I forgot that a child is also part of the society. Now that u mention it, i think it's unfair to the child. Thanks for widening my perspective. (: I wonder why the religious people in countries that practice FC do not do anything to stop it. Dun they know that Muslims in other places isnt practicing it? But I guess if a cultural practice has been integrated into religion as pointed out by Aynur, then nthg will ever be done to put an end to it.

What abt MC? Here where Im from, MC is done by a doctor at the hospital when the child is a baby. Im making the assumption that MC is safe coz if it isnt, it will definitely be banned by the authorities. So would I still be violating my son's right if i subject him to MC as a baby? Coz in retrospect, i'd prefer doing it as a baby rather than as an 8 year old.

Somehow I feel that this issue on a child's right sounds like the recent movie My Sister's Keeper.

Jasmine said...

Note to Cairo - up to you whether you put this on the comments however this is more of an email to you then something for this discussion, and I dont want to ruin the talk by adding something not-so-relevant...

I think one needs to address this hadith issue - because it seems some things are accepted and some are not - example: the prophet peace be upon him rode a camel. We do not do this anymore. We do not say it is the sunna to ride a camel. We accept that some things change and adapt over time.

Greater than that is the issue of how hadiths are taken when they are in reference to different things: for example, hadiths regarding women and hadiths regarding men - are they treated with the same "things between today and yesterday are going to change" attitude.

Why, for example, are we taught more about Aysha's "virginal status" and less about Khadijah's being one of the four most perfect women? Why is it that it is more of a table talk issue whether we circumcise women then educate them? -

Back to the topic at hand (this bit you can put up if you like)

There is nothing there to take off. Foreskin is a bit, floppy, largely unsensitive bit of skin that hangs over the penis and keeps it dirty. Now, I doubt there are many women in the world that do not know what a clitoris looks like - but for the love of God - what exactly is there to cut off? Unless I am disabled in somewhere (which, having not looked at other ladies bits I could well be for all I know) the clitoris is a tiny, highly sensitive area, with absolutely no "extra bits" around it. There is no clit-skin to cut off or anything like that - my humble, non-scholarly, not-got-a-phd-in-Islam or anything opinion:: "there aint nothing to take off you crazy whackos" - show me the "not neccessary" part of a vagina and I will show you a pig that can fly.

Smiles, peace, blessings

Jasmine xx

Mark Lyndon said...

Marzuki: I for one believe that circumcising boys is violating their rights. Everyone should be able to decide for themselves if they want part of their genitals cut off or not.

Jasmine: The inner foreskin is the most sensitive part of the penis, and contains more than twice as many nerve endings as the clitoris.

The clitoris does have "extra bits" around it ie the clitoral hood aka prepuce aka female foreskin. Some cultures also regard the inner labia and even the clitoris itself as "dirty" and "not necessary".

Lots of women have had parts of their genitals removed. Doctors in the US were still doing it till about 35 years ago.

It's now illegal to cut the prepuce off a girl, or to make any incision on her genitals, even without removing any tissue. Why don't boys get the same protection?

Anonymous said...

Mark, you make a good point.

I know a man who didn't have his foreskin removed until her was 6 years old, and he says he can remember it to this day because he had to deal with infection and the fact that they didn't cleanly remove everything.

But it is said that for boys it is Islamically mandated, and even though my friend went through that pain and still remembers, he still believes in the mandate and would do it again if he had to.

Cornelius said...

Sarah Elizabeth,

I think you are missing the point here (Mark, correct me if I'm wrong). Obviously, some of those boys would grow up and agree to circumcision and would want to do it on their own accord. That is fine. Everyone is happy.

But there might have been some who didn't agree, or at least didn't think that the whole circumcision thing was necessary.

The point is that when circumcision is performed on them when they're still small and can't decide on their own, that is violation of their rights. This is important, because the process is irreversible (although someone is probably gonna say that it's now possible to surgically reconstruct foreskin too).

In other words, if they grow up to agree with circumcision, then all is fine. But they're not, what have we got to say about their rights?

Jasmine said...

Mark, I didn't know that about foreskin - apologies for being so not-clued up on it.

Having said that, there are instances of grown men opting to be circumcised. I know quite a few males who have been traumatised by their circumscion experience - usually when it has been waited until they are 5-6 years old. I definitely dont think that is a good idea - and actually when my brother had it it was at 6 months old by a Jewish Rabbi (Jews do it when kids are babies).

Having said all of this: there is not one circucised man I know who would opt to not-have it. They are quite proud of it, and wish to do it to their sons.

So...I don't know basically. I dont know about men and their bits as well as I do women.

At the same time, I have met only one woman who has had this happen to her - and heard of one through the grapevine, and watched a woman speak on a documentary - they all say they would never have this done optionally, and they do not want to do it to their daughters.

So...there is a bit of difference in the reception of it as a practice on the different sexes.

I think it may be because a circumsised male can still operate, function and have pleasure - whereas a circumcised woman has none of those things - only pain, to follow on with more pain during sexual activity and then unbelievable pain during childbirth. A male can still have sex. A woman: well, you can still have sex with her - but she will not lubricate or experience any pleasureable sensation.

marzuki said...


Ure right. It does violate their rights when I think about it. But could it be likened it to sending kids to school even though they're against it? Or forcing them to drink milk and eat vegetables?

I mean, arent kids too young too decide what's good or what's not for them hence why, parents often do what they think is best until the child is all grown up?

Interesting though this talk about a child's rights. I shall go watch My Sister's Keeper now.

Anonymous said...


thanks for the comment, and the clarification, but I think I get the point..

My point in regards to Mark's comment was that although painful, many men still say they would do it, will do it to their sons, and find it religiously mandated.

I personally believe it is so ingrained in many cultures that an uncircumsized penis is what is looked at as strange, abnormal, or aesthetically unappealing..

Besides the direct pain from the surgery, after healing they are sexually capable and still able to feel great pleasure sexually. So, although painful at first, that pain subsides and they go on to live a normal life.

Not true for women who are circumsized. They lose pleasure from sex because th

Very different when compared to female genital "mutilation," as some call it.

But yes, the argument for boys could definitely be made, but my point is that circumcision of a penis is what is considered normal.

Hicham Maged said...

I do not believe that FC is from Islam and I've elaborated on this topic couple of years ago within my blog so I hope you don't mind linking to it over here :). BTW, you'll find more on the point of men and women which I commented on in the feminism post.
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