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Female Genital Mutilation - A Practice found In Both Muslim and Christian Societies

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A Closer Look at Female Genital Mutilation

Found in Muslim and Christian Societies

By:  Shannon Abulnasr

© Copyright 2014 -


RazorFemale Genital Mutilation (FGM) is a stigma that media, and Islamophobes have attributed to Islam to try tarnish the image of Muslims world-wide to make them appear as barbaric and uncivilized, and living in the stone ages.  

The truth of the matter might surprise you though!  Did you know that FGM is prevalent primarily in Africa, moreso than the Middle East? 

Did you know that huge populations of Christian communities in various African countries practice it?  Well....they do!


Is Female Genital Mutilation Part of Islam?

No - FGM is not permissible in Islam! However, "female circumcision" is a sunnah (not obligatory).  

Scholars have varied on if it (female circumcision) is an "liked" sunnah, or if it is obligatory. There are three well-known different opinions on this:

1 -It is a Sunnah (i.e., recommended) for men and "likable" for women.

2 -It is obligatory for both men and women, and this is the view of the Shafi'i school of Fiqh (Islamic law).

3 -It is obligatory for men and "likable" for women.

As for women who have passed the age of adolescence, it is better not to ask them to do circumcision as there is no text asking them to do so, and when there is no order to do something or leave it, the person then has the choice.

Althought female circumcision is not found in the Qur'an, it is found in the Sunnah, but it does not order it to be done.  The sunnahs about are:

It was narrated that 'Aishah the wife of the Prophet said:  "When the two circumcised parts meet, then bath is obligatory. The Messenger of Allah and I did that, and we bathed."  (Sunan Ibn Majah Vol. 1, Book 1, Hadith 608) Graded Sahih

How circumcision is to be performed is mentioned in a hadith narrated by Umm Atiyyah al-Ansariyyah:

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 5271)

About this hadith narration:

Abu Dawud said: It has been transmitted by 'Ubaid Allah b. 'Amr from 'Abd al-Malik to the same effect through a different chain.

Abu Dawud said: It is not a strong tradition. It has been transmitted in mursal form (missing the link of the Companions)

Abu Dawud said: Muhammad b. Hasan is obscure, and this tradition is weak.

Albani graded it as Sahih.

The Difference Between Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and Female Circumcision

I want to take a moment to explain a common misconception about what FGM is, and what differentiates it from "female circumcision", because they are NOT the same thing. The below descriptions are from the World Health Organization:

Female Circumcision 

Is the excision ie. cut -partial removal (commonly referred to as a ritual ‘nick’) of the clitoris prepuce (fold of excess skin around the clitoris).

Female Genital Mutilation & Variations of It - (Forbidden in Islam)

A. Excision of the clitoris prepuce AND the clitoris and the inner lips or parts thereof. 

B. Excision of part of or all of the external genitals (“infibulation”, also referred to as “Pharaonic Circumcision”). Afterwards the remaining parts of the outer lips are sewn together leaving a small hole for urine and menstrual flow. The scar needs to be opened before intercourse or giving birth, which causes additional pain.

Infibulation is mainly spread in the Horn of Africa and its neighboring areas – in Somalia, Djibouti and Eritrea, as well as in the northern part of Sudan and in the southern part of Egypt. It is the most severe form of FGM and affects 15% of the women who suffered FGM.

C. Uncategorized. Pricking, piercing, cutting or stretching of the clitoris or the labia, also burning or scarring the genitals as well as ripping of the vaginal opening or the introduction of corrosive substances or herbs into the vagina in order to tighten it. Plus: any other procedure, which injures or circumcises the female genitalia.

NOTE: Type C of “female genital mutilation” in the form of "piercing" exists, and is found among people in non-Muslim countries such as the USA, Canada, UK, and Australia, and all over Europe. It would be unfair to criticize Muslims that do the permissible “female circumcision” (the trimming of the outer excess skin around the clitoris), when a piercing of the clitoris in non-Muslim practice is worse which is usually very painful and can cause regular infections.  It is actually more appropriate to be labeled as mutilation, even if it was done "voluntarily", just as many women opt to have the female circumsicion "voluntarily".  Female circumsicion and FGM are not always forced practices, so it should not be assumed that it is.

What Nationalities and Religious Groups Practice FGM?

UNICEF: Percentage of female populations that have had a female circumsicion or FGM


According to the UNICEF 2010 report: “FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION/CUTTING: A Statistical Exploration in Table 1C, page 34 it says:

In Guinea; FGM is prevalent in 99% of Muslim women, 94% of Catholics and Protestants, and 93% of Animist women.

In Eritria; FGM is prevalent in 99% of Muslim women, 89% of Catholics and 85% of Protestants.

In Mali; FGM is prevalent in 92% of Muslim women, 76% of Christians.

In Ethiopia; FGM is prevalent in 92% of Muslim women, 72% of Protestants, 67% of Catholics and 67% of Traditional Religions.

In Central African Republic, FGM was prevalent in 46% of Animist women, 39% of Muslim, 36% of Protestants, and 35% of Catholic women.

In Nigeria; FGM is prevalent in 31% of Catholics, 27% of Protestant and 7% of Muslim women.

In Kenya; FGM is prevalent in 50% of Muslim women, 33% of Catholics, 30% of Protestant women.

In Tanzania; FGM is prevalent in 20% of Christians and 15% of Muslim women.

In Senegal; 29% of Muslim women have undergone FGM, 16% of Animists, and 11% of Christian women.

According to various reports by the Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development, Germany (September 2011), they have sorted by the religions, the practice of FGM:

In Burkina Faso; FGM is prevalent in 82% of Muslim women, 73% of traditional religions, 69% of Roman Catholics and 65% of Protestants.

In Chad; FGM is prevalent in 61% of Muslim women, 31% of Catholics, 16% of Protestants, and 12% of traditional.

In Côte d'Ivoire; FGM is prevalent in 76% of Muslim women, 45% of Animist, 14% of Catholic and 13% of Protestant women.

It is found to be strongly practiced by various religions predominantly in Africa. Africa has the majority of all FGM reports than any other region, having a greater number of those practicing it than in the Middle East and Asia, because it is not as popular in those regions.

This is not a “Muslim”, nor "Christian" practice at all, even though it is found amongst Muslims and Christians alike.  Neither religion accepts FGM as part of their teaching. It is a strictly cultural practice found in various religions.

Most Muslim dominated countries have laws forbidding the practice, because it is not permissible according to sharia.  In 2007 the Al-Azhar Supreme Council of Islamic Research in Cairo ruled, according to UNICEF[i], that FGM had "no basis in core Islamic law or any of its partial provisions."  Several fatwas were issued against the practice between 2008 and 2013.

© Copyright 2014

Recommended Reading:

Status of Women in Islam
Women's Rights in Islam
Misconceptions About Islam - Part 1
Misconceptions About Islam - Part 2
Top Ten Misconceptions About Islam

Are Muslim Women Oppressed?

Misconceptions About Islam Terrorism, Violence, and Jihad

Quranic Verses Misinterpreted as Teaching Violence

Human Rights in Islam

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