We hear a lot about female genital mutilation, and the challenges of eradicating it from various North African Muslim and non-Muslim communities. Male genital mutilation is also widely practiced in these societies and across the Muslim world. But rather than campaigns to end the practice of circumcision, we hear over and over how it is an Islamic requirement that must be carried out on every male infant born to Muslim parents.
In fact, circumcision is never mentioned in the Qur’an, not even Abraham’s circumcision of himself. All reference to it comes from the hadith. And yet, much of the Muslim world believes it is a “fard,” a requirement dictated by God Himself. If it were, the requirement would be be clearly stated in the Qur’an.
At least that’s what the Qur’an says. “We have missed nothing in The Book.” (6:39), “We have sent the Scripture down to you explaining everything, and as guidance and mercy and good news to those who devote themselves to God” (16: 89).
‘Shall I seek any judge other than God, when it is He
who has sent down for you the Scripture, clearly
explained?’ Those to whom We gave the Scripture know that this
is revealed by your Lord with the truth, so do not
be one of those who doubt. The word of your Lord is complete in
its truth and justice. No one can change His words: He is the All
Hearing, the All Knowing. If you obeyed most of those on earth,
they would lead you away from the path of God. They follow nothing
but speculation; they are merely guessing. (6-114-117)
(translations by Muhammad Abdel Haleem)
If it’s not in the Qur’an, then, how can we claim it is fard? At best circumcision could be a sunnah, something the Prophet practiced even though it isn’t mentioned in the Qur’an. At worst, it is a misguided attempt to be more pious than the Jews, or perhaps an insertion of someone’s personal preference, or a cultural absorption.Clearly, our “scholars” who have taught us circumcision is a fard, have led us astray. They have broken the central tenet of the Qur’an, that it is The Book, the Criterion of right and wrong, the final word. We are told, “Follow what has been revealed to you from your Lord, there is no God but Him.” (6:106) and “and verily, this is My Straight Path, so follow it. And do not follow the other paths for they will separate you from His path.” (6:153) but instead, they have followed hadith, their own reasoning, and cultural traditions.
And, sadly, rather than thinking for ourselves, as the Qur’an explicitly commands over and over (10:24, 13:3, 14:25, 16:11, 16:69, etc, etc) , we have taken to following scholars and “the old ways as our father’s have always done,” a thing the Qur’an explicitly tells us to avoid, saying it is no excuse for wrongdoing (2:170, 6:148, 31:21, 43:23, etc).
Indeed, so much of our modern “shariah” is similar garbage, accreted over the centuries, absorbed from culture or personal opinion or faulty logic, and should be tossed. The Quran is clear that it is complete, we don’t need to add rules for piety.
Especially we don’t need to add rules that involve mutilating infant boys! Circumcision is wrong for all the same reasons that female genital mutilation is wrong. It is painful. The procedure can lead to infection and even death. It reduces sexual pleasure. It fundamentally alters a human being from the perfect state in which we were created (95:4).
And despite many arguments that it prevents disease, repeated studies have produced contradictory results. Furthermore, many incidences of disease could be prevented by proper hygiene and practicing safe sex, rather than cutting off parts of a baby’s anatomy!
In short, there is no religious requirement, no clear health benefits. We should just say no to all genital mutilation.