Khitan (circumcision)

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Khitan (Arabic: ختان‎) or Khatna (Arabic: ختنة‎) is the term for male circumcision carried out as an Islamic rite by Muslims. It is considered a sign of belonging to the wider Islamic community.[1] Khitan, in some of parts of the world, including Indonesia and Malaysia, may also refer to the female genital mutilation (properly khafḍ).[2][3]

Islamic male circumcision is analogous but not identical to Jewish circumcision. Islam is currently the largest single religious group in which the practice is widespread,[1] and although circumcision is not mentioned in the Qur'an itself, it is mentioned in the hadith and the sunnah. Whether or not it should be carried out after converting to Islam is debated among Islamic scholars.[4][5][6][7]

Religious sources[edit]

Circumcision being performed in central Asia (probably Turkestan), c. 1865–1872. Restored albumen print.

The Qur'an itself does not mention circumcision explicitly in any verse. In the time of the Islamic prophet Muhammad circumcision of both sexes was carried out by most pagan Arabian tribes, and male circumcision among Jews and Christians for religious reasons.[8] This has also been attested by Al-Jahiz,[9] as well as by Josephus.[10]

According to some traditions Muhammad was born without a foreskin (aposthetic), while others maintain that his grandfather Abd-al-Muttalib circumcised him when he was seven days old.[11][12] Many of his early disciples were circumcised to symbolize their inclusion within the emerging Islamic community.[13] Some accounts report that Heraclius, Emperor of Byzantium, had referred to Muhammad as the "leader of the circumcised people".[14]

Some hadith mentions circumcision in a list of practices known as fitra (acts considered to be of a refined person). Abu Hurayra, a companion of Muhammad, was quoted saying, "Five things are fitra: circumcision, shaving pubic hair with a razor, trimming the mustache, paring one's nails and plucking the hair from one's armpits" (reported in the hadiths of Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim). So, despite its absence from the Qur'an, it has been a religious custom from the beginning of Islam. However, there are other hadiths which do not name circumcision as part of the characteristics of fitra [15] and yet another hadith which names ten characteristics, again without naming circumcision; in Sahih Muslim, Aisha is quoted "The Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said: Ten are the acts according to fitra: clipping the mustache, letting the beard grow, using toothpicks, snuffing water in the nose, cutting the nails, washing the finger joints, plucking the hair under the armpits, shaving pubic hair and cleaning one's private parts with water. The narrator said: I have forgotten the tenth, but it may have been rinsing the mouth."[16] Hence, the different hadiths do not correspond on whether circumcision is part of fitra or not.

Muhammad's wife Aisha supposedly quotes Muhammad as saying that "ablution becomes necessary if the two circumcised members touch".[17][18] Furthermore, Muhammad is reported to have once advised a female circumciser not to cut off the entire clitoris during female circumcision.[19]

According to some hadith Muhammad supposedly circumcised his grandsons Hasan and Husayn on the seventh day after their birth.[20] Sahih al-Bukhari and Muslim also quote from Muhammad that Prophet Abraham performed his own circumcision at the age of eighty.[21] It is also reported by Abu Dawud and Ahmad Ibn Hanbal that Muhammad stated that circumcision was a "law for men and a preservation of honor for women".[22]

Circumcision was introduced to many lands for the first time through Islam itself following the Muslim conquests under the Rashidun, who were the companions and contemporaries of Muhammad. An example are the Persians who did not practice circumcision before the advent of Islam.[23] Post-Islamic converts such as Afshin were found guilty in trials of remaining uncircumcised,[24] this further indicates that the practice was deemed compulsory by the early Muslims.

Sunni Islam[edit]

Amongst Ulema (Muslim legal scholars), there are differing opinions about the compulsion of circumcision in Sharia (Islamic law). Imams Abū Ḥanīfa, founder of the Hanafi school of Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence), and Malik ibn Anas, maintain that circumcision is a Sunnah Mu'akkadah—not obligatory but highly recommended. The Shafi`i and Hanbali schools see it as binding on all Muslims.[25]

Shia Islam[edit]

Most Shia traditions regard the practice as obligatory. They rely on sayings that come from classical Shia authors.[26] In one narration Muhammad was asked if an uncircumcised man could go to pilgrimage. He answered "not as long as he is not circumcised". They quote Ali as saying: "If a man becomes Muslim, he must submit to circumcision even if he is 80 years old".[27] Another narration from Al-Sadiq says: "Circumcise your sons when they are seven days old as it is cleaner (athar) and the flesh grows faster and because the earth hates the urine of the uncircumcised".[28] It is also believed that the urine of the uncircumcised is impure, while if one prays with unclean genitals their prayer may not be considered as acceptable, even of those who have been circumcised, meaning that it may have to be repeated again at a time when the believer has purified themselves and removed the impurity. Another hadith of Muhammad states: "the earth cries out to God in anguish because of the urine of the uncircumcised", and that "the earth becomes defiled from the urine of the uncircumcised for forty days".[29]


There is a Quran alone movement within Islam that rejects making male circumcision a religious requirement due to the fact it is not mentioned in any verse in the Qur'an, yet at the same time the Qur'an is supposed to explain all things (Qur'an 12:111).[30] Advocates of this view point above this to several Qur'anic verses that indicate the perfection of creation by Allah (Quran 32:7, 82:7–8, 95:4, 23:14, 27:88, 80:17-19, 31:20 amongst others). 32:6-7: "That is the Knower of the unseen and the witnessed, the Exalted in Might, the Merciful, Who perfected everything which He created and began the creation of man from clay." 31:20 "Do you not see that Allah has made subject to you whatever is in the heavens and whatever is in the earth and amply bestowed upon you His favors, [both] apparent and unapparent? But of the people is he who disputes about Allah without knowledge or guidance or an enlightening Book [from Him]." Another verse warns how Satan will mislead believers so that they will want to change Allah's creation [Quran 4:117-119] ... "Whom [Satan] Allah has cursed. For he [Satan] had said, "I will surely take from among Your servants a specific portion. And I will mislead them, and I will arouse in them [sinful] desires, and I will command them so they will slit the ears of cattle, and I will command them so they will change the creation of Allah." And whoever takes Satan as an ally instead of Allah has certainly sustained a clear loss."[31]

Muslim activists include Canadian Dr. Arif Bhimji,[32] Libyan judge Mustafa Kamal al-Mahdawi,[33] and the Egyptian feminist Dr. Nawal El Saadawi, who links it with her own struggle against female genital mutilation.[34] Some Quranists claim circumcision is haram, claiming that suras such as 4:119 forbids altering one's body, and suras such as 95:4 which says man was created perfectly.[35][36][37] Also there is report from the days of the early khaliffat regarding circumcision that after the conversion of many people meant that revenues from the Jizya payment stopped, Jarrah the governor in Khurasan, advised that circumcision be adopted as the religious test for true acceptance of Islam. However, Khalifa Umar ibn Abd al-Aziz (rahimahullah) replied in a letter: "Allah sent Muhammad (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) to summon men [to Islam] and not to circumcise." [38]

Time for circumcision[edit]

Traditional procession after circumcision of a child in Dutch East Indies, 1915–1918.

Islamic sources do not fix a particular time for circumcision. It depends on family, region and country. A majority of Ulema however take the view that parents should get their child circumcised before the age of ten.[39] The preferred age is usually seven although some Muslims are circumcised as early as on the seventh day after birth and as late as at the commencement of puberty.[1]


Whereas Jewish circumcision is closely bound by ritual timing and tradition, in Islam there is no fixed age for circumcision. The age when boys get circumcised, and the procedures used, tend to change across cultures, families, and time. In some Islamic countries, circumcision is performed on Muslim boys after they have learned to recite the whole Qur'an from start to finish.[1] In Malaysia and other regions, the boy usually undergoes the operation between the ages of ten and twelve, and is thus a puberty rite, serving to introduce him into the new status of an adult.[40] The procedure is sometimes semi-public, accompanied with music, special foods, and much festivity.[40]

There is no equivalent of a Jewish mohel in Islam. Circumcisions are usually carried out in a clinic or hospital. The circumciser is not required to be a Muslim.[1] The position of the scar is usually neither fully "low" nor fully "high", and the skin left is rather loose. However, due to a relatively secular approach to circumcision in the Muslim world, the "styles" of the Islamic circumcision vary on every individual, and change in the light on new medical knowledge.[40]


In Indonesia, after a child is circumcised, there is a feast called Perayaan Sunatan, but some ulemas in Indonesia say this is bid‘ah whereas most of them say it is not. In Turkey also widely celebrated and called "Sunnet Toreni" "Sunnet mevludu".

Female genital mutilation[edit]

Khafḍ or k̲h̲ifāḍ, refers to female genital mutilation (FGM).[2][41][42] FGM is sometimes also referred to as khitan.[43] In many Muslim communities of the world, khafd is a rite of passage and refers to excision of the female genital organs.[44] Over 125 million women, primarily in Africa, Middle East and Muslim populations of Southeast Asia and South Asia are currently known to have undergone FGM, with Egypt recording the highest number of khafd women in the world.[45]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Circumcision of boys". Religion & ethics—Islam. BBC. 2006-03-24. Retrieved 2008-07-29. 
  2. ^ a b khitān Encyclopedia Britannica (2009)
  3. ^ “A Tiny Cut”: Female Circumcision in South East Asia The Islamic Monthly (March 12, 2013)
  4. ^ "Male circumcision - the Islamic View". Retrieved 2013-02-04. 
  5. ^ "Is Circumcision obligatory after conversion?". Archived from the original on 2010-12-27. Retrieved 2012-05-20. 
  6. ^ "Considering Converting: Is it necessary to be circumcised?". 2005-07-03. Retrieved 2012-05-20. 
  7. ^ "Circumcision for Converts". 2007-03-21. Retrieved 2012-05-20. 
  8. ^ W. La Barre, The Ghost Dance, London, 1972
  9. ^ Volume II of al-Hayawan by Jahiz, ed. A. M. Harun, 7 vols., Cairo, 1938
  10. ^ The Works of Flavius Josephus, translated by W. Whiston, 2 vols., London, 1858
  11. ^ "Religions - Islam: Circumcision of boys". BBC. 2009-08-13. Retrieved 2012-02-26. 
  12. ^ Al-Halabi, Ali Ibn-Burhan-al-Din. Alsirah al-halabiyyah. Vol.1 Beirut: Al-maktabah al-islamiyyah. (n.d.): 54-5
  13. ^ source?
  14. ^ Sahih Bukhari, vol.1, book 1, no. 6
  15. ^ Sahih al-Bukhari 5890, Book 77, Hadith 107,
  16. ^ Sahih Muslim 261a, Book 2, Hadith 71,
  17. ^ Malik ibn Anas, Ketab al-mowatta, Volume I, pages 45-47, traditions 70-75. ed. M.F. Abd-al-Baqi, Cairo
  18. ^ Ibn Majah, Kitab Sunan, ed. M. F. Abd-al-Baqi, Cairo, 1972, Page 199 Volume I
  19. ^ Page 28 of Volume VII of al-Hayawan by Jahiz, ed. A. M. Harun, 7 vols., Cairo, 1938
  20. ^ Al-Amili, Muhammad Ibn Hasan Al-Hur. Wasa'il al-shi'ah ila tahsil masa'il al-shariah. Vol 15. Tehran, Al-Maktabah al-Islamiyyah, 1982
  21. ^ Sahih Bukhari Hadith No. 575, and Muslim's anthology of authentic hadith, IV, item 2370.
  22. ^ Ahmad Ibn Hanbal 5:75; Abu Dawud, Adab 167
  23. ^ Encyclopædia Iranica, Circumcision
  24. ^ Page 766 of the Volume II of Al-Basaer wa al-Dhakha'ir, Abu Hayyan Tawhidi, Kaylānī, Damascus, 1964
  25. ^ "Medical Ethics of Male Circumcision". 2010-05-30. Archived from the original on 2010-05-30. Retrieved 2012-05-20. 
  26. ^ Book 90 of Hilyat ul-muttaqeen
  27. ^ Al-Kalini, Abu-Ja'afar Muhammad Ibn-Yaqub. Al-furu'min al-kafi. Vol. 6 Tehran: Dar al-kutub al-islamiyyah. 1981:35
  28. ^ Al-Kalini, Abu-Ja'afar Muhammad Ibn-Yaqub. Al-furu'min al-kafi. Vol. 6 Tehran: Dar al-kutub al-islamiyyah. 1981:34
  29. ^ DS Hellsten. Male and Female Circumcision: Medical, Legal and Ethical Considerations in Pediatric Practice. Page 147
  30. ^ Surat Yusuf 12:111,
  31. ^ Qur'an: Surat An-Nisā' (The Women) 4:117-119,
  32. ^ Genital Integrity[dead link]
  33. ^ "Dead link". Retrieved 2012-05-20. 
  34. ^ "Male and Female Circumcision in the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Communities: Religious Debate by Doctor Sami Aldeeb Abu-Sahlieh". 1999-05-06. Retrieved 2012-05-20. 
  35. ^ "Circumcision - Does the Quran Approve it? - Genital Mutilation | ختان | Khitan | Islam | Sunnah | Hadith | Khatna | Musolmani | Sunat | Sirkumsisi | Khatan | Tuli | Tule | Pagtutuli | Sunatan | Sünnet | Urkwtha | Tahara | Touhur | طهارة | طهور". QuranicPath. Retrieved 2012-02-26. 
  36. ^ "Revisionist Muslim « For All Monotheists". Retrieved 2012-02-26. 
  37. ^ Male and female circumcision, medical, legal, and ethical considerations George C. Denniston, Frederick Mansfield Hodges
  38. ^ Ibn Jarir At-Tabari, Muhammad. Annales, vol. II. p. 1354. 
  39. ^ "Circumcision". 2000-03-28. Retrieved 2012-05-20. 
  40. ^ a b c "Traditional Muslim Male Circumcision—Performed by Arabs, Turkish, Malaysian and Others of This Faith". Retrieved 2008-07-29. 
  41. ^ Aldeeb Abu-Sahlieh, Sami A., To Mutilate in the Name of Jehova or Allah, Legitimization of Male and Female Circumcision, Middle East Research Associates, Paper No. 21, 1994; see page 6-18
  42. ^ K̲h̲afḍ, Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition. Edited by: P. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C.E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel, W.P. Heinrichs. Brill Online, 2013
  43. ^ E. J. Van Donze (1994), Islamic Desk Reference (Compiled from Encyclopedia of Islam), ISBN 9004097384, Brill (Netherlands), page 69
  44. ^ Gerald R. Hawting (2006), The Development of Islamic Ritual, ISBN 978-0860787129, page 358-361
  45. ^ Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting UNICEF, (July 2013)

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