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The Fatwa

Prof. Muhammad Said Ramadan Al-Buti
Prof. Muhammad Said Ramadan Al-Buti

How is female circumcision evaluated in Islamic law?

Answer: Prof. Muhammad Said Ramadan Al-Buti

Legal judgements in Islamic law are handed down either on the basis of the Koran, the authentic Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad - peace and blessings be upon him - or else in accordance with the consensus achieved by the venerable and righteous forebears.

As far as female circumcision is concerned, neither the Koran, nor the Sunnah, nor the consensus of the companions of the Prophet or their successors reveals any evidence to indicate that such a practice would be either obligatory or desirable.

The saying of the Prophet (hadith) which states that “five things are part of the natural disposition of humans […]” and in which circumcision is mentioned, refers to the practice of male circumcision. Proof of this is to be found in the fact that the Prophet did not exhort any of his own daughters to undergo circumcision. Nor did this act find favour with the companions of the Prophet and their successors or become customary amongst them. If the practice of female circumcision had been obligatory or desirable, the Prophet - peace and blessings be upon him - would have exemplified this custom and ordered the circumcision of his own daughters. It therefore follows that female circumcision is a custom of the Arabian Peninsula, which has already in existed at that time when the Prophet – peace and blessings be upon him – became God’s messenger. The Prophet did not say anything about this custom. It can therefore be stated that an Islamic ruling in this case must relate to the establishment of either necessity or harm. However, medical specialists have already agreed that the circumcision of the female genitals, unlike that of the male member, does not have a benefit at all. On the contrary, the practice poses a grievous risk to women and represents a gross violation of their right to a sexually satisfying and fulfilled married life.

Prof. Muhammad Said Ramadan Al-Buti
Damascus, February 2011

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