Islamic Law on Female Circumcision

There is a lot of controversy on the issue of Female Circumcision or Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). It is prohibited by law in most Westen Countries since it is a horrendous and cruel procedure that women are forced so suffer in many countries, particularly in North East Africa. It has a long tradition that goes back way before the time of Islam. It is practiced in varying degrees (see the links in this section). In Egypt the practice dates back even to the the time of the Pharaohs and it is sadly performed by people of different religious backgrounds. In discussions about this topic, Muslims usually insist that this practice is a cultural issue, and it is not religiously mandated by Islam.

The following quotation is taken from Reliance of the Traveller, Revised edition, amana publications, Beltsville, 1997. The title page informs us that this book is

The Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law ‘Umdat al-Salik
by Ahmad ibn Naqib al-Misri (d. 769/1368) in Arabic with
Facing English Text, Commentary, and Appendices
Edited and Translated by Nuh Ha Mim Keller

In this book, in the section titled "THE BODY", we find on page 59 the following entry:

Nuh Hah Mim Keller's Translation Arabic Original

e4.3    Circumcision is obligatory (O: for both men and women. For men it consists of removing the prepuce from the penis, and for women, removing the prepuce (Ar. Bazr) of the clitoris (n: not the clitoris itself, as some mistakenly assert). (A: Hanbalis hold that circumcision of women is not obligatory but sunna, while Hanafis consider it a mere courtesy to the husband.)"

The above used abbreviations mean:

A: ... comment by Sheikh 'Abd al-Wakil Durubi
Ar.    Arabic
n: ... remark by the translator
O: ... excerpt from the commentary of Sheikh 'Umar Barakat

However what the Arabic actually says is:

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). {bold emphasis ours}

The Arabic word bazr does not mean "prepuce of the clitoris", it means the clitoris itself (cf. the entry in the Arabic-English Dictionary). The deceptive translation by Nuh Hah Mim Keller, made for Western consumption, obscures the Shafi’i law, given by ‘Umdat al-Salik, that circumcision of girls by excision of the clitoris is mandatory. This particular form of female circumcision is widely practiced in Egypt, where the Shafi’i school of Sunni law is followed.

Further Reading: Islam and Lying

Sharia Law
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