Female circumcision in Islam: Circumcision for women is Not obligatory

First Question: Male circumcision is understood but why female circumcision in Islam?

Second Question: I would like to know if female circumcision in Islam is optional or obligatory, and – if it is obligatory – whether there is a certain way to do it (what part should be cut?).

Answer to First Question:

In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful. 

Four types of female circumcisions are performed in the modern era. The World Health Organisation has offered four classifications of female circumcision

The main three are Type I, Type II and Type III. 

Type I: Is the removal of the clitoral hood, almost invariably accompanied by removal of the clitoris itself(clitoridectomy).

Type II: Is the removal of the clitoris and inner labia.

Type III (infibulation) is the removal of all or part of the inner and outer labia, and usually the clitoris, and the fusion of the wound, leaving a small hole for the passage of urine and menstrual blood—the fused wound is opened for intercourse and childbirth.

Around 85 percent of women who undergo circumcision experience Types I and II, and 15 percent Type III, though Type III is the most common procedure in several countries, including Sudan, Somalia, and Djibouti.

Several miscellaneous acts are categorized as Type IV. These range from a symbolic pricking or piercing of the clitoris or labia, to cauterization of the clitoris, cutting into the vagina to widen it (gishiri cutting), and introducing corrosive substances to tighten it. [i]

With regards to the Islamic view on female circumcision, the Prophet mercy peace be upon him said:

“Circumcision is a sunnah for men and a noble deed for women.” [ii]

According to the stronger view of the Hanafi school, female circumcision is not an emphasised sunnah for women.  It is merely a praiseworthy deed which has its benefits. [iii] It has been a practice in many parts of the world for a long time.  The Arab women at the time of the Prophet mercy peace be upon him would also be circumcised. [iv]

A female sahabiyyah=Companionof the Prophet by the name of Umm ‘Atiyyah may Allah be pleased with her was a renowned nurse in al-Madinah al-Munawara.  She would treat the ill, help in washing and shrouding the deceased, tend to the wounded and perform circumcision on girls. [v]

Mentioning some of the benefits of female circumcision, Dr. Haamid al-Ghawaabi says: 

The secretions of the labia minora accumulate in uncircumcised women and turn rancid, so they develop an unpleasant odor which may lead to infections of the vagina or urethra. I have seen many cases of sickness caused by the lack of circumcision. 

Circumcision reduces excessive sensitivity of the clitoris which may cause it to increase in size to 3 centimeters when aroused, which is very annoying to the husband, especially at the time of intercourse. 

Another benefit of circumcision is that it prevents stimulation of the clitoris which makes it grow large in such a manner that it causes pain. Circumcision prevents spasms of the clitoris which are a kind of inflammation.  Circumcision reduces excessive sexual desire. 

Then Dr al-Ghawaabi refutes those who claim that female circumcision leads to frigidity by noting: 

Frigidity has many causes, and this claim is not based on any sound statistics comparing circumcised women with uncircumcised women, except in the case of Pharaonic circumcision which is where the clitoris is excised completely.

This does in fact lead to frigidity, but it is contrary to the kind of circumcision enjoined by the Prophet of mercy peace be upon him when he said:

“Do not destroy” i.e., do not uproot or excise. [vi] This alone is evidence that speaks for itself, because medicine at that time knew very little about this sensitive organ (the clitoris) and its nerves. 

From Liwa’ al-Islam magazine, issue 8 and 10; article entitled Khitaan al-Banaat (circumcision of girls). 

The female gynecologist Sitt al-Banaat Khaalid says in an article entitled Khitaan al-Banaat Ru’yah Sihhiyyah (Female circumcision from a health point of view): 

For us in the Muslim world female circumcision is, above all else, obedience to Islam, which means acting in accordance with the fitrah and following the Sunnah which encourages it. We all know the dimensions of Islam, and that everything in it must be good in all aspects, including health aspects.

If the benefits are not apparent now, they will become known in the future, as has happened regarding male circumcision – the world now knows its benefits and it has become widespread among all nations despite the opposition of some groups. 

Then she mentioned some of the health benefits of female circumcision and said: 

1)  It takes away excessive libido from women

2)  It prevents unpleasant odors which result from foul secretions beneath the prepuce.

3) It reduces the incidence of urinary tract infections.

4) It reduces the incidence of infections of the reproductive system. 

In the book on Traditions that affect the health of women and children, which was published by the World Health Organization in 1979 it says: 

Regarding the type of female circumcision which involves removal of the prepuce of the clitoris, which is like male circumcision, no harmful health effects have been noted. [vii].

Conclusion

Female circumcision is a global practice which has its benefits.  It was a practice before the advent of Islam.  However, it is not emphasised in Islam, only praised. 

Second Question: I would like to know if female circumcision in Islam is optional or obligatory, and – if it is obligatory – whether there is a certain way to do it (what part should be cut?).

Answer to Second Question:

Praise be to Allah.
Ibn Qudamah (may Allah have mercy on him) said, in his book al-Mughni: “Circumcision is obligatory for men, and it is an honour for women, but it is not obligatory for them. This is the opinion of many scholars. (Imam) Ahmad said: For men it is more strictly required, but for women it is less strictly required.” (al-Mughni 1/70).

Circumcision of the female consists of the removal of a part of the clitoris, which is situated above the opening of the urethra. The Sunnah is not to remove all of it, but only a part. (al-Mawsu‘ah al-Fiqhiyyah 19/28).

In this matter, it is wise to follow the interests of the female: if the clitoris is large, then part of it should be removed, otherwise it should be left alone. This size of the clitoris will vary from woman to woman, and there may be differences between those from hot climates and those from cold climates.

A hadith on the topic of female circumcision has been attributed to the Prophet (Peace and Blessings of Allah be upon Him), according to which he said: “Circumcision is a Sunnah for men, and an honour for women,” but there is some debate as to the authenticity of this hadith. See Book: Silsilah al-Ahadith al-Da‘ifah ( chains of weak Hadith book) by al-Albani, no. 1935.

How circumcision is to be performed is mentioned in the hadith narrated by Umm ‘Atiyah, may Allah be pleased with her, according to which a woman used to perform circumcisions in Madinah. The Prophet (Peace and Blessings of Allah be upon Him) told her:

“Do not abuse (i.e., do not go to extremes in circumcising); that is better for the woman and more liked by her husband.” (Reported by Abu Dawud in al-Sunan, Kitab al-Adab; he said this hadith is da‘if=Weak).

The scholars’ opinions cited above should be sufficient explanation.

Allah knows best.

Reference:

Ask Imam Checked and Approved by,

Mufti Ebrahim Desai.

http://askimam.org/public/question_detail/19678

https://islamqa.info/en/answers/427/circumcision-for-women-is-not-obligatory

Is Genital Mutilation Accepted in Islam?

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