The Independent (Banjul)

1 August 2005

Gambia: Female Circumcision in Islam- Part I

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Banjul — In today's edition of Every Woman, we bring you a research by Sheikh Sedia Ceesay, the Assistant Principal of Tallinding Islamic Institute, made under the Gambia Islamic Union on Female Circumcision (FM) in Islam.

"Circumcision in Sharia is to cut the skin that covers the male genital end and/or to cut the upper end of the skin that covers the clitoris on the female genital part. Generally, the practice is to cut to a certain degree of the skin from both male and female sexual organs".

Historical background: the history as to when and who it actually started is not precisely known. Yet it is clear that circumcision was generally practiced all around the world.

Some scholars state that the practices started as far back as the generation of Adam, the father of prophets, Abraham (Alaihi Salam) by Allah's order. Some other scholars argued that prophet Abraham was the first to practice it by an order from Allah the Almighty. Allah says in the Quran: "And remember that Abraham was tried by his Lord with certain commands, which he fulfilled " suratul Bakara-124.

One thing to notice is that the practice was started by a very righteous man, which is by either of two above mentioned.

Reference of the practice from the Holy Quran and the Sunnah: Allah the exalted has tried Abraham to undertake certain commands as quoted above from the Holy Quran and these commands have been fulfilled.

Circumcision was among the other things that were included in the command. The Holy prophet Muhammad (SAW) said in the Hadith on the authority of A'isha (may Allah be pleased with her) said: "when two circumcised ends meet, then purification is compulsory". These circumcised parts or ends in this Hadith means that of the male and the female. The hadith means that when the two circumcised ends meet, purification is compulsory upon both of them, even if there is no ejaculation or sperm released.

The second hadith on the authority of Abu Hurera (may Allah be pleased with him) said that the Holy prophet (SAW) said: "five things are fitrah: circumcision, shaving of genital parts, shaving of mustache, cutting of nails and shaving of hair of the armpits". Fitrah in this hadith means Sunnah narrated by Bukhari and Muslim.

In another hadith, Ummul Atiya (may Allah be pleased with her) "the female circumciser during the time of the Holy prophet (SAW) was advised to: cut a small part of it and not all because it makes the wife beautiful and makes the husband happy about the wife".

Additionally from Ahmad and Tirmizhi, the Holy prophet Muhammad (SAW) said that circumcision is a Sunnah for male and honour or generosity for female (i.e mustahab).

The Islamic judgement or concept about it:

Firstly, it has been considered by many Islamic judges that circumcision is compulsory on both males and females. Among the scholars who say so includes Ash-Shafae, Ahmad, Hambal, Ata'a, Al-Awzae, Shanoon Minal Malikia and Ibn Abbas, a well-known sahaba (i.e companion of the Holy prophet). Infact Ibn Abbas was further reported to have said, "There is no valid Hajj or salat for uncircumcised males and females".

Additionally, Imam Malick says that "the uncircumcised person should not lead the salat nor testify or witness in court cases", he further says that Muslims should not eat the animals slaughtered by such a person.

Secondly, many prominent Islamic scholars like Abu Hanifah, scholars of Malikia and Hassan Al-Bassry all agreed that circumcision is a compulsory Sunnah on Muslims, both males and females.

Some scholars of Shafae and Imam yahya of Al-Zaidiyyah said that it is obligatory on males and a strong Sunnah on females.

Additionally, some other scholars judged it as a strong Sunnah on males and a honour/generosity on the females (i.e mustahab and honour).

This means that the practice on females is an honour and therefore cannot be rejected. This group of scholars based their judgement on one of the above-mentioned hadith.

What did Islamic scholars say about it:

Scholars Hambaly term female circumcision as a very good Islamic practice and in fact a major one. This is because the Holy prophet (SAW) used it as a way of describing as and when purification is compulsory.

In narrating this, the Holy prophet (SAW) did not use one circumcised part to describe it but rather the two-both male and female.

Additionally, these scholars said that a husband should force his wife to be circumcised equally as he forces her to pray.

Once Imam Ahmad asked Abu Abdullaah about the convertion of a non-Muslim who was not circumcised. Abu Abdullaah answered that the person should circumcise. Again asked if he/she is too old? He answered even though.

Umar Ibn khattab (may Allah be pleased with him) during his time as the leader of the Muslim community once reminded the female circumciser in Madinah who was once advised by the Holy prophet (SAW). He told her "if you do it, don't deepen the cut, try to leave something for her sexual enjoyment". Scholars who are in line with Umar in this view cannot be mentioned in this pamphlet. The few among them in recent times include Shaik Muhammad Al-Banna, the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Religious Affairs in Egypt; Fadilatu Al- Imam Akibar Shaik Mahamud Salatuta, a member in the Council of Supreme Scholars who served as referees in Islam have also discussed on this topic. At the end of their discussion, it was generally agreed that the practice is good. This happened on the 11th of September 1950 and the name of that society is called Daru al Iftaruw.

Locally, our prominent scholars, Ustas Umar Ibn Jeng, the Imam of State House Abdoulie Fatty, Alhagie Banding Drammeh, the president of the Supreme Islamic Council, Shaik Abdou Gitteh; Shaik Muhammad Basiru Camara, Muhammad Lamin Touray, Shaik Abdou Kadri Suwareh, Shaik Kandafe Kolley and many other scholars, are in line with this practice.

To be continued

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