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Myth #19: Muhammad Endorsed Female Genital Mutilation

Did Muhammad endorse female genital mutilation?

One report critics cite regarding this allegation is: “Do not cut severely as that is better for a woman and more desirable for a husband” (Abu Dawud, Book: Manners, Chapter: On Circumcision). Critics also allege that Muslims throughout history used this practice to torture their slaves. [2]

This “saying of the Prophet”  mentioning female genital mutilation (infibulations) is widely regarded as a weak tradition amongst Islamic scholars (not to mention unsupported by any Qur’anic verse). Critics justify the “validity” of this report by noting that a small minority of Muslims continues to practice infibulations.

But critics, and such misguided Muslims who practice this act, should consider first the opinion of the person who has included this report in his collection: Imam Abu Dawud.  The very collector of this Hadith (tradition) himself declared this narration dubious, noting, “Its chain of transmitters is not strong. Besides, it is reported not as a direct quote attributed to the Prophet  … This Hadith is poor in authenticity.” [4] In short, not a single authority links this alleged Hadith (tradition) back to Prophet Muhammad.

In fact, countless classical Islamic scholars after Imam Abu Dawud also dismissed the authenticity of this Hadith (report), such as the Egyptian scholar Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani, widely regarded in the Sunni world for his knowledge of Ahadith (traditions) [5].

Yusuf ibn Abd Allah al-Barr, another great Sunni scholar of Andalusia Spain, writes about the other tradition: “It is based on the authority of a transmitter whose report cannot be admitted as evidence.” Al-Barr further states, “Those who consider (female) circumcision a sunna, use as evidence the tradition  (Hadith) of Abu al-Mulaih, which is based solely on the evidence of Hajjaj Ibn Arta’ah, who cannot be admitted as an authority when he is the sole transmitter. The consensus of Muslim scholars shows that circumcision is for men” [6]. The more recent Muhammad al-Shaukani of Yemen has expressed similar opinion: “In addition to the fact that the Hadith is not valid as reference, it does not give any evidence to prove the case in question” [7].

As in the past, the present is not short on Muslim scholars who condemn infibulations. In 2005 a dean of Al-Azhar University of Cairo declared the act of infibulations to be criminal. [8] An International Islamic Conference held in Cairo the following year in 2006 converged specifically to condemn infibulations. [9] Following in the footsteps of al-‘Asqalani, Sheikh Ali Gomaa of Egypt issued a fatwa in 2007 against infibulations [10]. In 2008 another East African country saw Somali Islamic scholars in Kenya call for an end to infibulations [11]. In January of 2010, 35 Islamic scholars in the West Coast African country of Mauritania banned infibulations [12].

Critics also suggest that such practices were used to torture slaves into submission.  This allegation can only be answered by addressing an age-old allegation concerning whether Islam endorses slavery or not, which we address separately. Regarding the allegation that Prophet Muhammad endorsed infibulations, however, the facts and history clearly state otherwise.

[1] Geert Wilders, Marked for Death: Islam’s War Against the West and Me 102 (2012).
[2] Geert Wilders, Marked for Death: Islam’s War Against the West and Me 102 (2012).
[3] Id. at 163.
[4] Abu Dawud, Book: Manners, Chapter: On Circumcision..
[5] Ibn Hajar’s Talkhis al-habir fi takhrij Ahadith al-Rafi’i al-Kabir.
[6] Al-Tamhid li ma fi al-Muwatta min al-Ma‘ani wa al-Asanid (Shams al-Haq al-Azhim Abadi’s Aun al- ma’bud fi sharh Sunan Abu Dawud, XIV, 124) and Al-Tamhid li ma fi al-Muwatta min al-Ma`ani wa al-Asanid, XXI, 59).
[7] Nail al-Autar, Vol. I, pg. 139.
[8] See (Last Visited on August 12, 2012).
[9] See (Last Visited on August 12, 2012).
[10] See (Last Visited on August 12, 2012).
[11] See No%20Rel igious%20Justification%20for%20FGMC.pdf (Last Visited on August 12, 2012).
[12] See (Last Visited on August 12, 2012).

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