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Female circumcision, a brief Islamic viewpoint

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By Kebba S Juwara

The topic of Female Genital Mutilation has been a recurring matter for decades now and seems to settle down in no time soon. This might be because of its sensitive nature as it deals with female privacy which to a great extent is undiscussed in African settings or because it is a direct attack on our culture and tradition as Africans.

Although, the issue of the so-called FGM is approached from three dimensions each of which can influence a person’s view of the matter, this article will address the issue from a religious (Islamic) viewpoint.

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I chose this stance because it is no doubt that advocacy for the abolition of female circumcision is a direct attack on our culture. Thus, it is not necessary to argue from that point.

The other dimension is the claimed ‘health risk’ associated with it. I am personally not convinced with this for two reasons. First, our elders practiced female circumcision for ages and have not discontinued it. If it was harmful, they would have stopped it. Secondly, when prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) knew of it, he did not ask them to stop it. He only advised moderateness in practicing it. If it was harmful, he would have prohibited it.

Progressively, let us delve into the core of my argument, the Islamic viewpoint. One needs to understand that in the way the religion did not encourage it, is the same way it did not condemn it.

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There’s no evidence that states that Islam is against it in any books of Hadith that I have come across. 

To set the terms and terminologies right, I’m not satisfied with the term “Mutilation” because it’s not mutilated but just reduced. Therefore, the term Female Genital Mutilation is extreme and misleading and an attempt to incite a wrong notion towards this beautiful culture.

Moreover, there are five basic rulings of Islamic practices and I think we need to put them into perspective to know our right stance regarding the so-called barbaric and abusive practice against girls.

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1. Compulsory (Waajib): These are obligatory on every believer. Not doing them earns one a sin. An example is the five daily prayers. However, the religion of Islam has not made female circumcision compulsory. Yes, that’s right! So, if you would not do it, no sin on you but it does not mean the opposite is true (doing it is prohibited).

2. Encouraged (Mabrouh): These are deeds that the religion has asked people to do and get gracious rewards for them but not doing them costs no sin. An example is fasting on Mondays and Thursdays. This practice (So called FGM) is not encouraged as far as I know. So, if you would not do it, there is not blame upon her.

3. Permissible (Mubah): These deeds are allowed and people can do them if they wish. They are not obligatory and are not forbidden. Neither are they encouraged nor disliked. Most of these are not spoken about. The prophet said, regarding such; “apply moderation”. God has remained silent over them out of his mercy. This female circumcision is one of these. Doing or not doing them costs you no sin. However, if one is to do it, it must be done with moderation as a lot of Islamic practices call for moderation. Another example of this is seeking worldly wealth. It is not forbidden, not encouraged, not discouraged, not obligatory. It is entirely left to an individual to choose how far he or she pursues it.

4. Discouraged (Makrouh): These are deeds that are disliked in the religion but there is no sin in doing them if not overdone. (Also, can be done when necessary). Example of this is divorce.

As far as my findings reveal to me, there is not even one Hadith that claims that female circumcision is discouraged in Islam.

5. Forbidden (Haram): These are deeds that are not allowed and doing them costs one a sin. Again, to the best of my knowledge and findings, there is no Hadith that claims that female circumcision is haram.

Conclusively, if one looks at female circumcision through a religious lens, it is fine to practice it within limits as the holy prophet is recorded to have said; do not be extreme in it. Which is to say;” Do not overdo it by cutting it all”

My call on the general citizenry is to put religion at the forefront of our matters and have regards for our beautiful cultures. It is a grave crime against Allah that a person makes Haram what He has made Halal.

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