There is a popular retort in regards to FGM (Female Gential Mutilation) that FGM is not mentioned or sanctioned in the foundation of Islam; not in the Quran, Hadiths, etc. This is a false statement.
Through research I have found the following to confirm that FGM, sometimes referred to as female circumcision, is indeed a part of Islam, not just a “cultural” or “regional” issue.
Note that the rule of hadith dictate that if it is not mentioned specifically or if the pronouns do not point to a certain gender, then the hadith is valid for both sexes. Hence, the following hadiths are applicable for both men and women.
– Abu Hurayrah said: I heard the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) say: “The fitrah is five things – or five things are part of the fitrah – circumcision, shaving the pubes, trimming the moustache, cutting the nails and plucking the armpit hairs.” Bukhari 5891; Muslim 527
– Abu al- Malih ibn `Usama’s father relates that the Prophet said: “Circumcision is a law for men and a preservation of honour for women.” Ahmad Ibn Hanbal 5:75; Abu Dawud, Adab 167
– Narrated Umm Atiyyah al-Ansariyyah: A woman used to perform circumcision in Medina. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said to her: Do not cut severely as that is better for a woman and more desirable for a husband. Abu Dawud 41:5251
– Abu Musa reported: There cropped up a difference of opinion between a group of Muhajirs (Emigrants and a group of Ansar (Helpers) (and the point of dispute was) that the Ansar said: The bath (because of sexual intercourse) becomes obligatory only-when the semen spurts out or ejaculates. But the Muhajirs said: When a man has sexual intercourse (with the woman), a bath becomes obligatory (no matter whether or not there is seminal emission or ejaculation). Abu Musa said: Well, I satisfy you on this (issue). He (Abu Musa, the narrator) said: I got up (and went) to ‘A’isha and sought her permission and it was granted, and I said to her: 0 Mother, or Mother of the Faithful, I want to ask you about a matter on which I feel shy. She said: Don’t feel shy of asking me about a thing which you can ask your mother, who gave you birth, for I am too your mother. Upon this I said: What makes a bath obligatory for a person? She replied: You have come across one well informed! The Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said: When anyone sits amidst four parts (of the woman) and the circumcised parts touch each other a bath becomes obligatory. Sahih Muslim 3:684
– Muslim (349) narrated that ‘Aa’ishah (may Allaah be pleased with her) said: The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “When a man sits between the four parts (arms and legs of his wife) and the two circumcised parts meet, then ghusl is obligatory.”
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) mentioned the two circumcised parts, i.e., the circumcised part of the husband and the circumcised part of the wife, which indicates that a woman may be circumcised just like a man.
– Al-Nawawi (may Allaah have mercy on him) said in al-Majmoo’ (1/367): “Circumcision is obligatory for both men and women in our view. This is the view of many of the salaf, as was narrated by al-Khattaabi. Among those who regarded it as obligatory is Ahmad… it is the correct view that is well known and was stated by al-Shaafa’i (may Allaah have mercy on him), and the majority stated definitively that it is obligatory for both men and women.”
See Fath al-Baari, 10/340; Kishshaaf al-Qinaa’, 1/80
– That circumcision is Sunnah for both males and females. This is the view of the Hanafis and Maalikis, and was narrated in one report from Ahmad. Ibn ‘Aabideen al-Hanafi (may Allaah have mercy on him) said in his Haashiyah (6/751): “In Kitaab al-Tahaarah of al-Siraaj al-Wahhaaj it says: Know that circumcision is Sunnah in our view – i.e., according to the Hanafis – for men and for women.”
See: Mawaahib al-Jaleel, 3/259
– It says in Fataawa al-Lajnah al-Daa’imah (5/223):
“Circumcision is one of the Sunnahs of the fitrah, and it is for both males and females, except that is it obligatory for males and Sunnah and good in the case of women.”
Thus it is clear that circumcision (mutilation) is prescribed for both males and females, and in fact the majority of them are of the view that it is obligatory for both.
Shaykh Jaad al-Haqq ‘Ali Jaad al-Haqq, the former Shaykh of al-Azhar, said:
“Hence the fuqaha’ of all madhhabs are agreed that circumcision for both men and woman is part of the fitrah of Islam and one of the symbols of the faith, and it is something praiseworthy. There is no report from any of the Muslim fuqaha’, according to what we have studied in their books that are available to us, to say that circumcision is forbidden for men or women, or that it is not permissible, or that it is harmful for females, if it is done in the manner that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) taught to Umm Habeebah in the report quoted above.”
Then he said:
“From the above it is clear that the circumcision of girls – which is the topic under discussion here – is part of the fitrah of Islam, and the way it is to be done is the method that the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) explained. It is not right to abandon his teachings for the view of anyone else, even if that is a doctor, because medicine is knowledge and knowledge is always developing and changing.”
In the fatwa of Shaykh ‘Atiyah Saqar – the former heard of the Fatwa Committee in al-Azhar – it says:
“The calls which urge the banning of female circumcision are call that go against Islam, because there is no clear text in the Qur’aan or Sunnah and there is no opinion of the fuqaha’ that says that female circumcision is haraam. Female circumcision is either obligatory or recommended. Even though there is a fiqhi principle which says that the decree of a ruler may put an end to a dispute regarding controversial matters, the decree of the ruler in this case cannot be but either of two things: that it is either obligatory or recommended, and it is not correct to issue a decree banning it, so as not to go against sharee’ah which is the principal source of legislation in our land, whose constitution states that Islam is the official religion of the country. It is permissible to issue some legislation that provides guidelines for performing this procedure (female circumcision) in the proper manner in such a way that does not contradict the rulings of sharee’ah.
The words of the doctors and others are not definitive. Scientific discoveries are still opening doors every day which change our old perceptions.”
In the fatwa of Dar al-Ifta’ al-Misriyyah (6/1986) it says:
“Thus it is clear that female circumcision is prescribed in Islam, and that it is one of the Sunnahs of the fitrah and it has a good effect of moderating the individual’s behaviour. As for the opinions of doctors who say that female circumcision is harmful, these are individual opinions which are not derived from any agreed scientific basis, and they do not form an established scientific opinion. They acknowledge that the rates of cancer among circumcised men are lower than among those who are not circumcised, and some of these doctors clearly recommend that circumcision should be done by doctors and not these ignorant women, so that the operation will be safe and there will be no negative consequences. However, medical theories about disease and the way to treat it are not fixed, rather they change with time and with ongoing research. So it is not correct to rely on them when criticizing circumcision which the Wise and All-Knowing Lawgiver has decreed in His wisdom for mankind. Experience has taught us that the wisdom behind some rulings and Sunnahs may be hidden from us. May Allaah help us all to follow the right path.” – Islam Q&A, Fatwa No. 60314
Ahmad ibn Naqib al-Misri – Circumcision is obligatory (for every male and female) by cutting off the piece of skin on the glans of the penis of the male, but circumcision of the female is by cutting out the clitoris (this is called Hufaad) (Reliance of the Traveller: A Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law)
Circumcision is not an inherited custom as some people claim, rather it is prescribed in Islam and the scholars are unanimously agreed that it is prescribed.
It is also important to note that FGM is not exclusive to Islam, however. There are Christian communities/villages in various countries that also practice FGM. However, the ever rising numbers of cases we are seeing in “the west” are all involving muslims and not christians.