Human reasoning can only be myopic , it is not a fault of his but because he is man . He is doesn’t have a millionth of the knowledge and wisdom of his Creator. So it baffles me when a handful of men come together to lay claim to what they have little or no knowledge of. One of such areas is the issue of female circumcision.
Today, there is a back door access to it, after all everyone desires what is good.
Female circumcision or what is world sees as Female Genital Mutilation is defined by World Health Organisation as comprising all procedures that involve partial or total removal of female external genitalia and/or injury to the female genital organs for cultural or any other non-therapeutic reason’.
Like its male counterpart, circumcision of females has two histories. First it is a ritual or customary practice among tribal societies (mostly in Africa) and Islamic communities.
Secondly, it is a medical intervention, justified by Victorian (and, in the USA, some twentieth century) doctors in exactly the same way as they rationalised circumcision of boys: to deter infections, masturbation, to treat obscure nervous disorders such as hysteria, neurasthenia and epilepsy, and thereby to promote health. If you call circumcision of boys male genital mutilation, you are accused of emotionalism; if you fail to call circumcision of women or girls female genital mutilation you are accused of trivialising the offence. While the United Nations, Amnesty International and other international agencies spend millions on programs to eradicate FGM, they have never uttered a word against circumcision of boys.
Type 1: Excision of the prepuce with or without excision of part or all of the clitoris
Type 2: Excision of the clitoris together with partial or total excision of the labia minora
Type 3: Excision of part or all of the external genitalia and stitching/narrowing of the vaginal opening (infibulation)
Type 4: Unclassified (but may include):pricking, piercing or incision of the clitoris and/or labia;
- stretching of the clitoris and/or labia;
- cauterization by burning of the clitoris and surrounding tissue;
- scraping (angurya cuts) or cutting (gishri cuts) of the vagina or surrounding tissue;
- introduction of corrosive substances or herbs into the vagina;
- any other procedure that falls under the definition of female genital mutilation given above.
Islamic Position :
So much as one would call almost all what is classified above as FGM indeed, it is like throwing the baby away with bathe water if we generally condemn all of female circumcision.
Female circumcision from the history of Islam is no more than what Prophet Muhammad (SAW) advised Umm Atiyya and other such midwives to do, that is , cutting only the tip(prepuce) of the clitoris and nothing more.
At this juncture I ( as a Muslim not a scholar ) would like to quote the response of Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawih to a question on the legality of the female circumcision:
We would like to make it clear that “female circumcision” means removing the prepuce of the clitoris, not the clitoris itself.
As for the Shari`ah stance on female circumcision, its a controversial issue among the Muslim scholars and even doctors.
The most moderate opinion and the one most likely to be correct is in favor of practicing circumcision in the moderate Islamic way indicated in some of the Prophet’s hadiths even though such hadiths are not confirmed to be authentic. It is reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said to a midwife: “Reduce the size of the clitoris but do not exceed the limit, for that is better for her health and is preferred by husbands”. The hadith indicates that circumcision is better for a woman’s health and it enhances her conjugal relation with her husband. Its noteworthy that the Prophet’s saying “do not exceed the limit” means do not totally remove the clitoris.
Anyhow, it is not obligatory, whoever finds it serving the interest of his daughters should do it, and I personally support this under the current circumstances in the modern world. But whoever chooses not to do it is not considered to have committed a sin for it is mainly meant to dignify women as held by scholars.
As a Muslim woman , I find it interesting in todays world when Europe and the Americas finds female circumcision as abhorrent and calls it Female Genital Mutilation but finds labiaplasty , clitoridectomy, Vaginoplasty fanciful and calls them Female Genital Cosmetic Surgery.
What do these terms mean?
Labiaplasty is plastic surgery of the labia majora and/or the labia minora, which are the external folds of skin surrounding the structures of the vulva. The procedure involves reducing the size of one or both sets of labia. Clitoridectomy (Clitoral hood reduction) is an operation which repositions the protruding clitoris and reduces the length and projection of the clitoral hood. Vaginoplasty is the surgical modification of the female vagina. The most frequent vaginoplasty procedure is the narrowing of the vaginal opening to make it firmer.
These operations involve cutting that includes full or partial amputation of the labia or clitoris, as well as procedures to narrow or tighten the vaginaall hallmarks of circumcision and infibulation.
I regard all these as coming under the WHO definition of Female Genital Mutilation since they are not for any therapeutic purpose. See types 1-3 above.
Would one now say that these latter ones are okay because they are sweeping across the west now and What a world of double standards?
What Islam allows is not mutilation but a way to dignify women and improve her health generally.
I hope to leave you with this quote of a prominent London obstetrician, Isaac Baker Brown
Clitoridectomy is neither more nor less than circumcision of the female; and as certainly as that no man who has been circumcised has been injured in his natural functions, so it is equally certain that no woman who has undergone the operation has lost one particle of the natural function of her organs.
Female Genital Mutilation: Report of a WHO Technical Working Group, Geneva, July 1995. (World Health Organization: Geneva, 1996)
“Replies to the remarks of the Council”, Medical Times and Gazette, 13 April 1867, p. 391
Elizabeth A. Sheehan, “Victorian clitoridectomy: Isaac Baker Brown and his harmless operation”, in Roger N. Lancaster and Micaela di Leonardo (eds), The gender/sexuality reader: Culture, history, political economy (London: Routledge, 1997)
By Sherifah A. F. Yusuf-Ajibade (Mrs.)