Is Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) an Islamic Practice?

Reem Shraiky – UKFACTS FROM FICTION

29th September 2021

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Reem Shraiky, UK

I was born and raised in the Middle East where I had never heard of Female genital mutilation (FGM). However, when I moved to Saudi Arabia, due to my work position as a translator and a management board member of a large Medical Centre, I came to know about this practice. This was because some of our female clients from Egypt, Sudan and some non-Muslim African countries needed a special procedure when they gave birth due to having undergone FGM.

I was truly shocked upon learning what FGM was, and obviously, I enquired about the reason behind it. One of the gynaecologists, who was an Egyptian herself, explained to me that it is an old custom which is still prevalent in some remote places in Egypt, Sudan and elsewhere in Africa.

What is FGM?

FGM involves the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. FGM has no health benefits, however, it can cause immediate health risks, such as haemorrhage and infections, and can also lead to long-term complications, such as bladder issues, cysts and infertility. [1]

FGM procedures are mostly carried out on young girls, anytime between their infancy and adolescence. 

Despite being considered a human rights violation internationally, it is estimated that more than 4 million girls are at risk of undergoing FGM every year, with more than half of the cases found in Egypt, Ethiopia and Indonesia.

According to the data collected from 31 countries across Africa, the Middle East and Asia, over 200 million girls and women alive today have been subjected to the practice of FGM. [2]

FGM – A Cultural Practice 

FGM is a social practice and is associated with cultural ideals of femininity and modesty. Some societies see it as a rite of passage for girls and in some, girls are forced to undergo FGM as a requirement for marriage and inheritance. Due to societal and cultural pressure, people carry on with such practices to fit in with societal norms and from fear of being ostracised from their community. 

However, it should be noted here that there are no religious scripts that promote nor prescribe the practice of FGM. [3]

When I moved to Europe, I heard for the first time in my life the allegation that FGM was an Islamic practice! And yet, I, who had lived 27 years of my life in Muslim countries had never heard of FGM!

Is Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) an Islamic Practice?
©Shutterstock

FGM – Not An Islamic Practice

My passion to defend and spread the true teachings of Islam pushed me to research the matter in-depth, and I found out that this allegation which says that FGM is Islamic is completely unfounded and false. There are no instructions in the Holy Qur’an or in the traditions of the Holy Prophet (sa) that command Muslims to circumcise their daughters. 

While the opposite is true in regard to male circumcision:  

The Holy Qur’an does not give the commandment of male circumcision directly, but it enjoins Muslims to follow the teachings and practices of the Prophet Abraham (as).

The Qur’an describes Prophet Abraham (as) as ‘a truthful man, and a Prophet.’ [4] It further commands the Holy Prophet (sa) and the Muslims to follow Abraham’s way: ‘And now We have revealed to thee, saying, ‘Follow the way of Abraham who was ever inclined to God and was not of those who set up equals to Him.’’ [5]

On the other hand, the Holy Prophet (sa) said: ‘Five practices are of the inborn characteristics of man: circumcision, shaving the pubic region, removing hair under armpits, clipping the nails and cutting the moustaches short’. (Bukhari)

But how can we be sure that circumcision here is meant just for men? 

Male circumcision, which originates from the time of Prophet Abraham (as), is a required practice in Islam and the Holy Prophet (sa) has explained every matter in Islam plainly and straightforwardly. Therefore, if female circumcision were to be Islamic practice, then surely, he would have instructed Muslims to make it a part of their faith.

What about the following Hadith?

‘Narrated Umm Atiyyah al-Ansariyyah: A woman used to perform circumcision (on females) in Medina. The Prophet (sa) said to her: “Do not cut severely as that is better for a woman and more desirable for a husband”.’ (Sunan Abu Dawood)

This narration is suspicious for the following reasons:

1- This Hadith is not supported by any verse of the Holy Qur’an.

2- It is regarded as a ‘weak tradition’ amongst countless Islamic scholars.

3- Imam Abu Dawood, the very collector of this Hadith, himself declared this narration as dubious, noting: ‘It is a weak tradition, and its transmitter is unknown.’

4- It is not reported as a direct quote attributed to the Holy Prophet (sa), therefore it is poor in authenticity.

5- We always have to keep in mind the sources of our Sharia practices which are:

a) The Holy Qur’an: There is not a single verse which gives any instruction with respect to female circumcision.

b) Sunnah of the Holy Prophet (sa) (his practice): we read in the traditions that the Holy Prophet (sa) circumcised his grandsons Al-Hasan and Al-Hussein (ra). However, we do not read anywhere that he commanded that his granddaughters or any daughter of his companions to be circumcised.

c)- Ahadith: Sahih al-Bukhari, the most authentic book of traditions does not relate any such tradition. Sahih Muslim is second to Bukhari in terms of authenticity, which again does not record any tradition with regards to this matter. Indeed, out of the six authentic books of ahadith, five do not contain any mention of this subject. The sixth authentic book of traditions, ’Sunnan Abu Dawood’ mentions the tradition quoted earlier and commented that it is dubious. 

So, how is it possible that there is no narration of such practice if it was commanded by the Holy Prophet (sa) or if it was a part of faith? In fact, the Holy Prophet (sa) gave extensive details in every matter to the extent that one of his opponents sarcastically said: ‘The Muslim Prophet taught them everything including how to wash after answering the call of nature.’

Indeed, the Holy Prophet (sa) explained every minute matter that is important in our faith and worldly affairs alike, such as menstruation, puerperal blood, as well as matters concerning the relationship between husband and wife.

Thus, is it not strange then that something as important as female circumcision, if it were indeed a source of respect for a woman, should have been left out so starkly? And none of the Mothers of the believers or any other companions said a single word about this matter! 

Some might claim that it is not pointed out because it is too embarrassing  subject! 

Despite the fact the Holy Prophet (sa) spoke many times about modesty and shyness as a ‘part of faith’ that ‘brings nothing but good’ and ‘is a characteristic of Islam’, shyness has no place in learning about the religion, especially regarding a fundamental matter which is important for half of the members of the Muslim community.

Hazrat ‘Aisha (ra) said: ‘The best of the women are the women of the Ansar; shyness would not prevent them from inquiring about religion and acquiring deep understanding of it.’ (Sunan Abu Dawood)

Health Risks of FGM

Scientific research proves that the practice of FGM has no health benefits to women. Instead, there can be detrimental physical and psychological consequences. 

Heavy bleeding during or after the operation can result in severe anaemia and may lead to death from acute, severe blood loss. Inexperienced people often carry out these procedures using non-sterile instruments which can cause infections, gangrene and sepsis. Young girls can contract blood-borne infections such as HIV or Hepatitis B. It can lead to infertility and recurrent miscarriage. The trauma of this procedure puts women at an increased risk of psychological disorders such as depression, psychosis and neurosis. 

The practice of FGM results in millions of young girls suffering the pain of unbearable torture and even death. 

Conclusion

The philosophy behind all Islamic commandments is that practices, where the benefits outweigh the harm, should be adopted, while those where the harm exceeds the benefits should be abandoned. Thus, how can this abhorrent practice be linked to Islam?!

About the Author: Reem Shraiky is a life devotee of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community – International Arabic English Translation & Research Office, UK.


ENDNOTES

[1] https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/female-genital-mutilation

[2] https://data.unicef.org/topic/child-protection/female-genital-mutilation/

[3] https://www.unicef.org/protection/female-genital-mutilation

[4] Holy Qur’an 19:57

[5] Holy Qur’an 16:124

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  4. Does Islam Forbid Women from Leaving the Home? Deconstructing the Myth

source THE REVIEW OF RELIGIONS

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