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Circumcision

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From the manners prescribed for the new-born child is the circumcision (Khitaan) which is the surgical removal of the skin surrounding the head of the boys penis and the skin dangling above the girl's vagina.

(A) Its Prescription
The proofs of the prescription of circumcision are very many. From them is what is reported by al-Bukhaaree and Muslim from Aboo Hurairah radiyallaahu'anhu - who said: "Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him) said: <The Fitrah (natural way) is five: circumcision, shaving the private parts, trimming the mustache, clipping the nails and plucking hair from the armpits.>"1

So in this hadeeth circumcision is quoted at the head of the actions of the Fitrah. Ibnul-Qayyim said: "These are from the Fitrah, since the Fitrah, is the true religion - that of Ibraaheem and these actions were ordered by Ibraaheem, and they were from the words by which he was tested."2

(B) The Ruling for Circumcision The scholars hold two views about the ruling for circumcision.

The first saying: that it is a recommended Sunnah and their proof for this is the hadeeth: <circumcision is sunnah for men, a noble action for women>3

And that he united it with the other recommended actions in the hadeeth of the Fitrah. They also use as evidence the saying of al-Hasan al-Basree: "That all peoples, white and black, Romans, Persians and Abysinnians accepted Islam in the time of the Messenger (peace be upon him) and none of them were investigated (concerning circumcision)" - so that shows that it is only a recommendation, and this is the view of al-Hasan al-Basree and Aboo Haneefah- rahimahuallaah.

The second View: that it is an obligation - is what is correct, if Allah wills, based upon the following evidences:
(1) Allah - the Most High - ordered His Messenger (peace be upon him) to follow the way and religion of Abraham in His saying:

"Then, We have inspired you (O Muhammad saying): "Follow the religion of Abraham Hanifan (Islamic Monotheism to worship none but Allah) (Sooratun-Nahl, Ayah 123)
And circumcision is from his religion, and this nation is commanded with whatever its Prophet (peace be upon him) was commanded with unless there is further proof to show that it is something particular to him.

(2) He ordered a man who enter into Islam to get himself circumcised, saying to him: <Remove the hair of unbelief and get yourself circumcised.>4
And an order in principle produces an obligation as is well-known to the scholars of Usool-ul-Fiqh (The Principles upon which Fiqh is Based).

(3) The person who remains uncircumcised has the possibility that his purification and prayer will be nullified -since the foreskin covers the penis and urine may gather under it and thus full purification may not be achieved - in which case the correctness of his prayer would depend upon circumcision.5 Therefore Ibn 'Abbaas - radiyallaahu'anhumaa - said: "Prayer is not accepted from him"6 Since that which is essential for fulfillment of an obligation is itself obligatory.

(4) It is also one of the symbols and signs of the Deen, through it Muslims can be distinguished from non-Muslims. Therefore al-Khattaabee mentioned that if a circumcised person was found dead amongst the corpses of uncircumcised people (i.e. on a battlefield) - then he should be prayed over and buried in the Muslim cemetery.7

There are also further proofs of its obligation which can be found in reference works.8
A Reply to the Evidence of those Holding it to be a Recommendation only. The evidences brought by those who hold that the first saying are replied to as follows:

As for the hadeeth: <Circumcision is Sunnah for men, a noble action for women.> - then it is reported from Ibn 'Abbaas with a weak chain of narration. Even if it were taken to be authentic then the meaning of his saying 'Sunnah' would be: That it was something established by the Messenger and ordered by him as an obligation. Just as the Sunnah is the way, the correct methodology to be applied and the Sharee'ah to be followed - and it is something which covers both obligations and recommendations. Furthermore particularizing it to refer only to things which may be left is a new terminology which cannot be used as evidence.

As regards its being joined with recommended actions in the hadeeth about the Fitrah - then this cannot be used as a proof here since the characteristic of the Fitrah include things which are obligatory - such as washing the mouth and nose (in wudoo), and clipping the mustache if it grows long, and things which are recommended - and cutting the nails is recommended - or it may be an obligation. So the hadeeth is not an applicable proof here.

As for the saying that the Messenger did not investigate any of those who accepted Islam about it - then that was because the 'Arabs used to practice circumcision - as did the Jews, and as for the Christians - then some of them practiced circumcision and others did not. Furthermore, everyone who entered into Islam knew that it was one of the signs of the Deen so they would hasten to get it done just as they would take a bath.

(C) The Time for Circumcision

There is a recommended time for the circumcision, an obligatory time and a permissible time.

(1) As for the recommended time, then it is the seventh day after the birth - i.e. the day of the aq. As for the saying that this is an imitation of the Jews, then that is not correct, and nothing is reported about it as Imam Ahmad said.9

There are two hadeeth reported about the recommendation of circumcising on the seventh day - as Shaikh al-Albaanee says: The first is the hadeeth of Jaabir who said: "Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him) performed the aq of al-Hasan and al-Husayn and circumcised them on the seventh day."10 And the Hadeeth of Ibn 'Abbaas - that seven are from the Sunnah on the child's seventh day and in it there occurs: " .... he should be named and circumcised." Both these hadeeth are declared weak by Shaikh al-Albaanee said: "However, each hadeeth supports the other since they are reported by different narrators and neither is reported by anyone accused of lying, and it is accepted by the Shaafi'ees who hold that it is therefore recommended to circumcise the child on the seventh day after the birth."11
I say: that is also reported from Faatimah - that she circumcised one of her children on the seventh day.12
And when Wahb ibn Munabbih was asked about the wisdom of circumcising on the seventh day he said: "To make it easy for the child."13

Modern medicine has also shown us the importance, benefit and desirability of performing it on this day - as will be seen in this section about the wisdom of circumcision. This is the case if the child's organ is normal, however if the child is born and the opening through which the urine passes is lower or high than normal - then the doctor may delay the circumcision for a while in order to carry out an operation to correct this, making use of the foreskin for a skin graft - and performing the circumcision at the same time.14

(2) As regards the permissible time - then it is permissible to perform the circumcision before the seventh day, or afterwards, until before puberty.

(3) Then if the time of puberty comes near one enters the obligatory time period since puberty is the time when the actions of worship - purification, prayer and so on become obligatory - and it is not correct from him unless he is circumcised. Ibnul-Qayyim said, addressing the fathers: "It is obligatory upon the guardian to circumcise the child so that he attains puberty and has been circumcised - since this is something essential for the accomplishment of an obligation."15

(D) Circumcision (Khafd) of Girls

It has become clear to us that circumcision is obligatory. However, does this apply to females or is it particular to the males. This is what we will discover - if Allah wills.

The view that we arrived at when discussing the ruling of circumcision was indeed particular to males. however, with regard to females then the scholars have three opinions:

(1) Some scholars - such as the Shaafi'ees, and a narration from Ahmad hold that it is obligatory upon the females.

(2) The majority - such as the Hanafees, the Maalikees, the Hanbalees and others - hold that it is prescribed for women and is recommended (mustahabb).

(3) Others hold that it is not prescribed for them -and this is a weak saying.

* Discussion and Arrival at the Preferred View.

Perhaps the closest of the sayings to the truth - and Allah knows best - is that circumcision is prescribed for women and allowed for them and is not an obligation, and that is due to the following:

(1) His saying: <When the two circumcised parts unite then bathing becomes obligatory>16 is a proof of its prescription and permissibility for women, since the two circumcised parts are those of the male and those of the female. Ahmad said: "This shows that the women used to be circumcised.?17

(2) The saying of the Messenger (peace be upon him) in the hadeeth of Umm 'Atiyyah to a female circumciser: <When you circumcise then do not cut severely, since that is better for her and more pleasing to the husband.>18

(3) And to those who declare it to be obligatory upon the women, then it is said: Rather the order refers to the men and it is not correct to transfer the ruling to the women, since they differ from men in their nature and constitution and there is no proof for its obligation upon them except for an analogy - and that cannot be applied here as we have mentioned.

(4) As for the hadeeth of Umm 'Atiyyah then it shows no more than an allowance as has preceded, not an obligation - and Allah knows best

(E) Discussion about the Circumcision of Girls.

Some doctors and others try to belittle female circumcision and claim that it is harmful, an evil custom and is detrimental to health. However, this is a false claim since a number of doctors have affirmed that it produces a number of benefits, some of which we will mention when discussing the wisdom of circumcision.

The harm that is attributed to this operation cannot be ascribed to circumcision itself, rather to two matters:

(i) Cutting too severely - as occurs in some Islamic lands - such that the clitoris or its hood is totally removed, indeed sometimes even the outer lips (labia) are removed and the vaginal orifice closed. It is essential to point out here that this is not the prescribed Sharee'ah method of circumcision but rather a barbaric act rejected by Islam and forbidden by the Messenger (peace be upon him) who warned against it saying: <When you circumcise then do not do so severely ... >

(ii) or the harm is also due to this operation being carried out by those who do not specialize in this field, or by the use of unsterilized instruments which causes infection or harmful illnesses.19

So when we consider this harm, we find that it is not caused by circumcision itself, but rather by contradicting the text forbidding cutting severely, or by using unhygienic instruments, and this cannot be used to prevent the operation itself - if properly performed - since if male circumcision were to be performed by cutting to excess or with unhygienic instruments - then that would also be detested and rejected. So would this be a reason to prevent male circumcision so the same goes with regard to females.

So from what has preceded it becomes clear that female circumcision - if done correctly - such that the cutting is limited, and done with proper instruments - is something prescribed and produces health and psychological benefits - and is far removed for harmful effects or danger.

(F) Particular and Special Cases

The ruling about circumcision may vary according to the circumstances, and from one person to another - since a child may be born without a foreskin - and this is very rare.20

So in this case circumcision is not performed as there is no need, nor is there any need to brush the razor over his penis - and this is not correct and is of no benefit. As for one whose foreskin is such that a part of the head of the penis is visible, then he must be circumcised so that all of the head is visible.

Likewise, with regards to females, a girl may be born not needing to be circumcised, as is the case with women from some lands having a cold climate, whereas women of lands with a hot climate may require circumcision since the hood of the clitoris may grow so large as to prevent sexual intercourse, or it may increase her desires when her clothes rub against it.

(G) Wisdom and Benefits of Circumcision.

Circumcision carries very great Sharee'ah benefits, and great medical benefits - which have been affirmed by Islam and discovered by scholars and doctors. So there follows some of the wisdom and benefits which have become apparent:

Before mentioning the wisdom of circumcision, we should first mention the wisdom behind its being recommended on the seventh day. This will be clear from the fact that the seventh day is the best day to protect the child from the effect of any bleeding or infection caused by the operation. Medicine tells us that the number of red blood cells increases during the hours after birth and then the increase falls and reaches its lowest level between the third and the seventh day. This falls causes the blood to flow more easily so that white blood cells and anti-bodies are able to flow easily to any part of the body in order to counter any infection due to a wound or inflammation. Likewise during this week the liver becomes fully operational as does blood coagulation. Furthermore bacteria reach the intestines so that vitamin K is produced which is vital to prevent hemorrhage - which completely stops after this week.21

* From the Sharee'ah wisdom of Circumcision

(1) Circumcision is the head of the characteristics of the Fitrah prescribed for the followers of the true religion, it is therefore a sign and indication of Islam.

(2) Circumcision also shows one's willing servitude to Allah, and is a sign of this. This is why you may find that a part of the ear lobe or the like of a slave is cut off as a sign of his enslavement, or the scarring of the face by some African tribes to show their tribal attachment. So it should not be denied that the cutting in circumcision is a sign of the person's servitude to Allah and his ascription to being one of the slaves of Allah upon the correct religion.22

(3) The foreskin which is removed in circumcision is a place of impurity and filth, and shaitaan - as is well known - loves filth and impurity and feels at home with it. So when the child is circumcised it is removed from this impurity and from that which is comforting to shaitaan.

* As regards the medical benefits then they are clear from the following:

First: Doctors do not differ about the importance and medical benefits of circumcision for males, and they are:

(i) that it prevents infection due to microbes which is caused by retention of urine by the foreskin and narrowness of the urinary exit

(ii) it reduces lusts and the sexual urge and the ill-effects produced by them

(iii) it reduces premature ejaculation23

(iv) it protects the man from a number of dangerous diseases which may afflict him such as inflammation or cancer of the penis and a number of other diseases. Studies have shown that those who are afflicted by cancer of the penis are from those who are uncircumcised, whereas the circumcised are not afflicted by it24

(v) circumcision also protects the wife, since women married to circumcised husbands have fewer incidences of cancer of the neck of the womb than those married to uncircumcised husbands25

There are a great deal more medical benefits which can be referred to in medical books.

Ibnul-Qayyim - rahimahullaah - summarized these benefits, saying: "Circumcision comprises cleanliness, purification, health, regulation of desires and embellishment of one's appearance.26

Second: Female circumcision shares some of the benefits of male circumcision, and has extra benefits particular to it - some of them being mentioned by our Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) who said that it is: <Better for the woman and more pleasing to the husband> and that it is: <Better for the face and more pleasing to the husband>27

And as is known these benefits do not reach the level of importance of the benefits of male circumcision. However, they are benefits and productive of good effects.

Here are some of the benefits which have been discovered:

(i) A reduction of infections resulting from microbes gathering under the hood of the clitoris.

(ii) Attacks of herpes and genital ulcers are less severe and less harmful with men and women who have been circumcised.28

(iii) A further benefit that is apparent for them and more so for their husbands, is that women of hot climates often have a large clitoris which arouses their desires when it rubs against the adjacent clothing. It may even grow to such a size that sexual intercourse is not possible. Therefore, circumcision reduces her desires and their effects in the first case, and makes intercourse possible in the second.27

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