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Circumcision in Islam

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Question: Circumcision in Islam
What are the Islamic teachings about circumcision? Do Muslims circumcise?
Answer: Circumcision is a process by which the foreskin of a male's penis is partially or fully removed. In some cultures and religions, it is common practice. It also has been shown to have certain health benefits, such as reducing the risk of urinary tract infections, penile cancer, and HIV transmission.

The medical community acknowledges that male circumcision does carry some potential health benefits. However, routine circumcision is on the decline in most Western countries. This is because many medical groups believe that the risks do not justify the potential benefits, so they dismiss it as an unnecessary routine procedure.

Muslims do circumcise their baby boys. However, the incorrectly named "female circumcision" is not an Islamic practice.

Male Circumcision

Male circumcision is an ancient practice, dating back to several thousand years B.C.. Although there is no mention of it in the Quran, it was commonly done among the early Muslims during the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad. Muslims consider it a matter of hygiene and cleanliness (tahara). It is also considered to be a tradition of the children of Abraham (Ibrahim), or previous prophets. Circumcision is mentioned in the hadith as one of the signs of fitrah, or the natural inclination of humans -- along with the clipping of nails, removal of hair in the armpits and genitals, and trimming of the moustache.

Although circumcision is an Islamic birth rite, there is no special ceremony or procedure surrounding the circumcision of a baby. It is considered a health matter often left in the hands of doctors. Most families choose to have a doctor perform the circumcision while the baby is still in the hospital after birth or shortly thereafter. In some cultures, the circumcision is done later, at around seven years old or as the boy approaches puberty. The person performing the circumcision does not need to be a specific person, or even necessarily a Muslim, as long is the procedure is done in sanitary conditions by an experienced professional.

Female Genital Mutilation

Female "circumcision" is really genital mutilation, with no known health benefits or basis in Islamic practice. The removal of female genitalia is traditional practice in some areas of Africa, among people of different faiths and cultures. Some Muslims have tried to justify the practice, but their judicial evidence is weak or non-existent. Rather, this practice causes harm to a girl with life-changing effects on her reproductive health.

The commonly-cited motivation for a FGM procedure is to reduce a woman's sexual drive. In Islam, however, both men and women have the right to lead fulfilling sexual lives within the marriage relationship. Female genital mutilation denies a woman this fundamental right.

Converts to Islam

An adult man who converts to Islam does not need to undergo circumcision in order to be "accepted" into Islam, although it is recommended for health and hygiene reasons. A man may choose to undergo the procedure, in consultation with his doctor, as long as it does not pose a risk to his health.
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