Female Genital Mutilation or Cutting (FGM/FGC), a procedure in which all or part of a woman’s, or girl’s, external genitalia are cut and/or removed, is a practice dating back to pre-Islamic times. FGC has a significantly adverse impact to women and girls’ health and often results in complications during puberty and pregnancy. FGC contradicts the Qur’an, the Prophet’s example and words, and the conventions of Islamic jurisprudence, as exemplified by the Islamic principles of protecting life and preventing harm. Therefore, FGC is entirely a cultural practice that is exacerbated by a lack of proper religious education.
“[God] created for you helpmeets from yourselves that ye might find [sukun] in them, and [God] ordained between you love and mercy. Lo, herein indeed are portents for folk who reflect” (30:21)
“Women impure are for men impure, and men impure for women impure and women of purity and for men of purity, and men of purity are for women of purity” (24:26)
The Prophet’s Sayings
“Accept no harm and do no harm to another” (Ibn Majah 2340)
Though FGC’s purpose is often cited as decreasing or eliminating a woman’s sexual enjoyment and thus ensuring her purity, this actually goes against the principles of Islam, which consider sexual relations to be a healthy benefit of marriage. In the Qur’an, the Arabic word “sukun” implies deeper intimacy ensuing from sexual gratification and mental peace. Its use indicates that both men and women have sexual desires and the right to fulfil them.
By describing sex in terms that imply mutual pleasure and fulfillment, the Qur’an affirms that sex is not only for procreation, but also sexual gratification for females and males. By removing a woman’s natural organ that produces pleasure, FGM practitioners are going against this Qur’anic affirmation thus committing a forbidden act in Islam.
FGC results in death through shock and/or excessive bleeding, infection, sepsis, urine retention, ulceration of the genital region, injury to adjacent genital tissue, scarring, infertility, cysts, painful sexual intercourse, increased risk of transmission of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS, and a range of resulting psychological and psychiatric problems.
To date, FGC is virtually nonexistent in many Muslim countries, including those in South Asia and the Gulf. Other countries such as Burkina Faso, Egypt, Nigeria, Senegal, Somalia and Uganda have banned the practice altogether. In addition, FGC has been condemned by Islamic scholars, denounced in fatwas, and rendered illegal by governmental statutes. It is important and necessary to work with communities that practice FGM to offer proper religious education and training to disassociate FGM as a religious requirement and, instead, view it as an impermissible and dangerous act.