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What does Islam say about female circumcision?

To make it more clear: Female circumcision is a painful violence against female bodies because it completely annihilates sexual satisfaction and victims will never experience orgasm after this traditional surgery.

Motivation: To find a religious solution to stop it in some Muslim countries. In these countries usually there is no way to stop a wrong traditional practice except you find it is against Islamic rules!

Edit by Sakib Arifin: The claim in the question that "Female circumcision is a painful violence against female bodies because it completely annihilates sexual satisfaction" is not supported by genuine scientific data. There are different levels of FGM which have different effects on females sexuality. Read more about this on Skeptics.SE.

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  • this question answer it very well. The prophet PBUH allowed it and recommended for girls to keep their honor. – muslim1 Feb 23 '13 at 0:32
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Female circumcision is a hot topic in todays contemporary Islamic and non-Islamic worlds. For one many Non-Muslims consider all kinds of circumcision, even male circumcision, an act of violence against human and a form of child abuse. On the other hand, traditionalists who don't know much about religion consider it strictly obligatory.

Before we get into the details of female circumcision, we should note that male circumcision is a widely known Islamic practice. The act is not prescribed in the Quran but there are various authentic traditions that it was performed by Prophet Muhammad(SAAW) and he himself was circumcised. And it’s well known that the benefits of male circumcision outweigh the risks. But that’s not what the OP is asking here.

Female circumcision is a pre-Islamic tradition. It was practiced by non-Muslims in pre-Islamic Arabia and other parts of the world before Islam. Only recently it became illegal in the United States 1.

19th century gynaecologists in England and the United States would perform clitoridectomies to treat various psychological symptom as well as "masturbation and nymphomania."

In the United States it became illegal in 1997, and in the same year the WHO issued a joint statement with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) against the practice. FGM is a crime in many countries now.

Back to the Islamic view on female circumcision. There’s nothing in the Quran and Ahadith that enforces female circumcision. However, there’s one tradition (Hadith) of doubtful authenticity that permits but does not encourage the practice.

A woman used to perform circumcision in Medina [Madîna]. 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.' – Sunan Abu Dawûd, Book 41, #5251.

Before we move on, it’s important to note that female circumcision is not the same as female genital mutilation (FGM). According to the mentioned Hadith, Islam, if at all, permits the most basic kind of circumcision, which is the removal of the genital prepuce– similar to the prepuce of a penis 2. Islam protects the rights of women to sexual enjoyment and health and if the act of circumcision by any chance violates these rights it would be considered Haram. That’s why it’s allowed for a woman to ask for a divorce if her husband cannot satisfy her sexual needs and desires.

You might argue that, well, it is permissible– at least there’s one tradition, no matter how accurate, that says so. To answer that, Islam didn't change everything when it first emerged. Changes were gradual. For example slavery which was a free Islamic tradition wasn't abolished with the advent of Islam. Changes were made in order to improve the handling of salves 3.

That said, it might be true that in certain parts of the world FGM is still imposed by parents. But that’s because in this world, old traditions are so much rooted in local cultures that people often confuse them with religious requirements.

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  • Thanks! I found these sentences through your long answer related to my quesion :"There’s nothing in the Quran and Ahadith that enforces female circumcision. However, there’s one tradition(Hadith) of doubtful authenticity that permits but does not encourages the practice." – Persian Cat Feb 24 '13 at 14:43
  • There's a lot of apologetics about male genital mutilation in this answer to a question about female genital mutilation; a lot of it is wrong or tendentious, and I don't see how it contributes to addressing the question. I'm also not clear what it ultimately says; it reads like it's allowed, but the author isn't too sure whether it is. – G. Bach May 8 '17 at 17:05
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Circumcision for females is prescribed in Islam. On that there is consensus however there is difference among the madhabs on whether it is recommended or obligatory.

وختان المرأة مشروع بغير خلاف

And circumcision of a woman is prescribed without any disagreement

Ibn Rajab - فتح الباري لابن رجب

لا خلاف في استحبابه للأنثى واختلف في وجوبه

There is no disagreement on the recommendation of it for females and there is difference on its obligation

Ibn al-Qayyim - تحفة المودود بأحكام المولود

واتفقوا على إباحة الختان للنساء

And they are in agreement on the legality of circumcision of women

Ibn Hazm - مراتب الإجماع

The evidence for it is the same as the evidence for male circumcision as the texts which prescribe it do not differentiate between men and women.

ثم أوحينا إليك أن اتبع ملة إبراهيم

Then We revealed to you to follow the religion of Abraham

Quran 16:123

اختتن إبراهيم

Abraham circumcised himself

Sahih Bukhari

الفطرة خمس الختان

Five practices are characteristics of the Fitra: circumcision, ...

Sahih Bukhari

ألق عنك شعر الكفر واختتن

Remove from yourself the hair that grew during the period of unbelief and get yourself circumcised

Sunan Abi Dawud

Further evidence includes the hadith:

ومس الختان الختان فقد وجب الغسل

... When the two circumcised parts meet, then Ghusl is obligatory.

Sahih Muslim

Which proves that both men and women were circumcised.

There are also other ahadith, such as:

أن امرأة كانت تختن بالمدينة فقال لها النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم: لا تنهكي فإن ذلك أحظى للمرأة وأحب إلى البعل

A woman used to perform circumcision in Medina. The Prophet (ﷺ) said to her: Do not cut severely as that is better for a woman and more desirable for a husband.

Sunan Abi Dawud

According to the hadith, part of the skin above the urethra is cut and not all of it should be cut.

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