Khitan (circumcision)

Khitan (Arabic: ختان‎) or Khatna (Arabic: ختنة‎) is the Islamic term for circumcision,[1][2] carried out as a recommended practice of Islamic culture by Muslims.[3] Male circumcision is widespread in the Muslim world,[3] and accepted as an established practice by all Islamic schools of jurisprudence.[2][4][5] It is considered a sign of belonging to the wider Muslim community.[6]

Islamic male circumcision is analogous but not identical to Jewish circumcision.[2] Muslims are currently the largest single religious group in which the practice is widespread,[3][6] although circumcision is never mentioned in the Quran itself but is mentioned in hadith literature and the sunnah.[1][4][2][7] Whether or not it should be carried out after converting to Islam is debated among Islamic scholars.[8][9][10][11]

Religious sourcesEdit

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

The Quran itself does not mention circumcision explicitly in any verse.[1][4][2][7] In the time of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, both male and female circumcision were carried out by Pagan Arabian tribes,[1][2][7] and male circumcision by the Jewish tribes of Arabia for religious reasons.[2][12] This has also been attested by the Muslim scholar al-Jahiz,[7][13] as well as by the Roman Jewish historian Flavius Josephus.[2][7][14]

According to some hadiths, Muhammad was born without a foreskin (aposthetic),[1][2][7] while others maintain that his grandfather, Abd al-Muttalib, circumcised him when he was seven days old.[6][15] Many of his early disciples were circumcised to symbolize their inclusion within the emerging Islamic community.[citation needed] Some hadiths report that Heraclius, Emperor of the Byzantine Empire, had referred to Muhammad as "the king of the circumcised".[1][16]

Some hadiths mention circumcision in a list of practices known as fitra[1] (acts considered to be of a refined person). Abu Hurayra, one of the companions 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).[1] So, despite its absence from the Quran, it has been a religious custom from the beginning of Islam.[citation needed] However, there are other hadiths which do not name circumcision as part of the characteristics of fitra,[2][17] and yet another hadith which names ten characteristics, again without naming circumcision;[2] in Sahih Muslim, Aisha, one of Muhammad's wives, is quoted with saying: "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."[18] Hence, the different hadiths do not agree on whether circumcision is part of fitra or not.[2]

Muhammad's wife Aisha supposedly quoted Muhammad as saying that "if the two circumcised parts have been in touch with one another, ghusl is necessary".[1][7][19][20] According to some hadiths, Muhammad supposedly circumcised his grandsons, Hasan and Husayn, on the seventh day after their birth.[21]Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim also quote from Muhammad that Prophet Abraham performed his own circumcision at the age of eighty.[2][22] 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".[1][23]

Circumcision was introduced to many lands for the first time through Islam itself following the early Muslim conquests under the Rashidun, who were the companions and contemporaries of Muhammad. An example are the Persians, which practiced neither male nor female circumcision before the advent of Islam.[7] Post-Islamic converts such as Afshin were found guilty in trials of remaining uncircumcised;[7][24] this further indicates that the practice was deemed compulsory by the early Muslims.[citation needed]

Despite its common practice in Muslim-majority nations, circumcision is considered sunnah (tradition) and not required for a life directed by Allah. Just one of the four schools of Islamic faith ‘Shafeie’ enacted a legal requirement for male circumcision. According to some religious scholars, the Islamic tradition of circumcision was derived from pre-Islamic, pagan Arabia, and not mentioned in the Quran. Shiite traditions, however, such as those practised in Iran, have the most stringent requirements for male circumcision, since it is seen as a ritual of purification akin to Christian baptism rather than an initiation to adulthood.[25]

Sunni IslamEdit

The four schools of Islamic law have different opinions and attitudes towards circumcision:[1] some state that it's recommendable,[2] others that it's permissible but not binding,[2] while others regard it as a legal obligation.[2][26] Amongst Ulema (Muslim legal scholars), there are differing opinions about the compulsory or non-obligatory status of circumcision in accordance with Sharia (Islamic law).[4][2] Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal, the founder of the Hanbali school of Islamic jurisprudence, Imam Abū Ḥanīfa, founder of the Hanafi school of Islamic jurisprudence, and Imam Malik ibn Anas, founder of the Maliki school, maintain that circumcision is not obligatory. The Shafi‘i school regard it as binding on all Muslims, both males and females.[1][2] According to Shafi‘i and Hanbali jurists both male and female circumcision are legally obligatory for Muslims,[1][2] while Hanafi jurists consider circumcision to be recommendable exclusively for Muslim males on the seventh day after birth.[2] The Salafi[27] website, founded by the Saudi Arabian Salafi scholar Muhammad Al-Munajjid, has quoted some hadith to argue that the requirement of circumcision in Islam is based on the covenant with Abraham, that male circumcision is obligatory for Muslim men in order to provide ritual cleanliness while the purpose of female circumcision for Muslim women is to "regulate" and reduce their sexual desires.[26]

Shia IslamEdit

Most Shia traditions regard the practice as obligatory. They rely on sayings that come from classical Shia authors.[28] 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."[29] 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."[30] 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".[31]

Time for circumcisionEdit

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

Islamic sources do not fix a particular time for circumcision.[2][3][4][7] Therefore, there is a wide variation in practice among Muslim communities, with children often being circumcised in late childhood or early adolescence.[3] It depends on family, region, and country.[3] The preferred age is usually seven days although some Muslims are circumcised as early as on the seventh day after birth and as late as at the commencement of puberty.[2][4][6]


Whereas Jewish circumcision is closely bound by ritual timing and tradition, in Islam there is no fixed age for circumcision.[2][3][4][7] The age when boys get circumcised, and the procedures used, tend to change across countries, cultures, families, and time.[3] In some Muslim-majority countries, circumcision is performed on Muslim boys after they have learned to recite the whole Quran from start to finish.[6] In Malaysia and other regions, the boy usually undergoes the procedure between the ages of ten and twelve, and is thus a puberty rite, serving to introduce him into the new status of an adult. The procedure is sometimes semi-public, accompanied with music, special foods, and much festivity.

There is no equivalent of a Jewish mohel in Islam. Circumcisions are usually carried out in health facilities or hospitals, and performed by trained medical practitioners.[3] The circumciser can be either male or female,[3] and is not required to be a Muslim.[6] The position of the scar is usually neither fully "low" nor fully "high".[citation needed] The only requirement is to have the glans fully exposed at all times and enough of the skin removed to ensure that there are no folds that allow accumulation of body fluids (urine).[citation needed] This is required to ensure the hygiene requirements for the salat (daily prayers).[citation needed] However, due to a relatively secular approach to circumcision in Islam, the "styles" of the circumcision of a Muslim vary on every individual, and change in the light of new medical knowledge.[citation needed]

Earlier, instead of being carried out in hospitals, they would be carried out in local clinics and at homes by visiting practitioners.[citation needed]


In Indonesia, after a child circumcised, there is a feast called Perayaan Sunatan, but some ulemas in Indonesia say this is bidah whereas most of them say it is not.[citation needed] Also widely celebrated in Turkey and called "Sünnet Töreni", which marks the child's transition to adulthood. The custom is also done in Muslim areas in the Balkans where the celebration is called "Synet".[32]

Female genital mutilationEdit

Khafḍ refers to female genital mutilation (FGM).[2][4][5][33] FGM is sometimes referred to as khitan.[a][5][33][35] In many communities, khafd is a rite of passage and refers to excision of the female genital organs.[36] According to UNICEF, over 200 million women in Africa, the Middle East and North Africa, and Southeast Asia have been subjected to the practice and are living with FGM.[37] Although not mentioned in the Quran,[38]: 1004–1005 it is praised in a few daʻīf (weak) hadith as noble but not required,[39][b] and is regarded as obligatory by the Shafi'i and Hanbali schools of Sunni Islam.[1][2][40] In 2007, the Al-Azhar Supreme Council of Islamic Research in Cairo ruled that FGM had "no basis in core Islamic law or any of its partial provisions".[41][c]

See alsoEdit


Informational notes

  1. ^ Asmani and Abdi (USAID, 2008): "Proponents of FGM/C have translated the Arabic word khitaan, which appears in several religious texts, to refer to both male circumcision and FGM/C. In reality, however, the word only describes male circumcision; FGM/C is actually called khifaadh. However, whenever khitaan appears in a religious text it is used by the proponents to justify an Islamic basis for FGM/C."[34]
  2. ^ Gerry Mackie, 1996: "The Koran is silent on FGM, but several hadith (sayings attributed to Mohammed) recommend attenuating the practice for the woman's sake, praise it as noble but not commanded, or advise that female converts refrain from mutilation because even if pleasing to the husband it is painful to the wife."[38]: 1004–1005
  3. ^ Maggie Michael, Associated Press, 2007: "[Egypt's] supreme religious authorities stressed that Islam is against female circumcision. It's prohibited, prohibited, prohibited," Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa said on the privately owned al-Mahwar network."[42]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Bosworth, C. E.; van Donzel, E. J.; Lewis, B.; Pellat, Ch., eds. (1986). "Khitan". Encyclopaedia of Islam. 5. Leiden: Brill Publishers. pp. 20–22. ISBN 90-04-07819-3.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y Kueny, Kathryn (2004). "Abraham's Test: Islamic Male Circumcision as Anti/Ante-Covenantal Practice". In Reeves, John C. (ed.). Bible and Qurʼān: Essays in Scriptural Intertextuality. Symposium Series (Society of Biblical Literature). 24. Leiden: Brill Publishers. pp. 161–173. ISBN 90-04-12726-7. ISSN 1569-3627.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Anwer, Abdul Wahid; Samad, Lubna; Baig-Ansari, Naila; Iftikhar, Sundus (January 2017). "Reported Male Circumcision Practices in a Muslim-Majority Setting". BioMed Research International. Hindawi Publishing Corporation. doi:10.1155/2017/4957348. PMC 5282422. PMID 28194416.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Aldeeb Abu-Sahlieh, Sami A. (1994). "To Mutilate in the Name of Jehovah or Allah: Legitimization of Male and Female Circumcision". Medicine and Law. World Association for Medical Law. 13 (7–8): 575–622. PMID 7731348.; Aldeeb Abu-Sahlieh, Sami A. (1995). "Islamic Law and the Issue of Male and Female Circumcision". Third World Legal Studies. Valparaiso University School of Law. 13: 73–101. Archived from the original on 12 November 2019. Retrieved 13 February 2020.
  5. ^ a b c "Khitān". Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. 2014. Archived from the original on 27 January 2020. Retrieved 27 May 2020.
  6. ^ a b c d e f "Islam: Circumcision of boys". Religion & ethics—Islam. 13 August 2009. Archived from the original on 27 October 2012. Retrieved 27 May 2020.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Šakūrzāda, Ebrāhīm; Omidsalar, Mahmoud (October 2011). "Circumcision". Encyclopædia Iranica. V/6. New York: Columbia University. pp. 596–600. Archived from the original on 19 January 2020. Retrieved 7 February 2020.
  8. ^ "Male circumcision - the Islamic View". Converting to Islam. Archived from the original on 2015-12-17. Retrieved 2013-02-04.
  9. ^ "Is Circumcision obligatory after conversion?". Archived from the original on 2010-12-27. Retrieved 2012-05-20.
  10. ^ "Considering Converting: Is it necessary to be circumcised?". 2005-07-03. Archived from the original on 2012-07-16. Retrieved 2012-05-20.
  11. ^ "Circumcision for Converts". 2007-03-21. Archived from the original on 2012-07-16. Retrieved 2012-05-20.
  12. ^ W. La Barre, The Ghost Dance, London, 1972
  13. ^ Volume II of al-Hayawan by Jahiz, ed. A. M. Harun, 7 vols., Cairo, 1938
  14. ^ The Works of Flavius Josephus, translated by W. Whiston, 2 vols., London, 1858
  15. ^ Al-Halabi, Ali Ibn-Burhan-al-Din. Alsirah al-halabiyyah. Vol.1 Beirut: Al-maktabah al-islamiyyah. (n.d.): 54–55
  16. ^ Sahih al-Bukhari, Vol. 1, Book 1, No. 6.
  17. ^ "Hadith – Book of Dress – Sahih al-Bukhari – Sayings and Teachings of Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه و سلم)". Archived from the original on 2013-09-16. Retrieved 2013-08-24.
  18. ^ "Hadith – The Book of Purification – Sahih Muslim – Sayings and Teachings of Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه و سلم)". Archived from the original on 2013-10-18. Retrieved 2013-08-24.
  19. ^ Malik ibn Anas, Ketab al-mowatta, Volume I, pages 45-47, traditions 70-75. ed. M.F. Abd-al-Baqi, Cairo
  20. ^ Ibn Majah, Kitab Sunan, ed. M. F. Abd-al-Baqi, Cairo, 1972, Page 199 Volume I
  21. ^ 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
  22. ^ Sahih Bukhari Hadith No. 575, and Muslim's anthology of authentic hadith, IV, item 2370.
  23. ^ Ahmad Ibn Hanbal 5:75; Abu Dawud, Adab 167
  24. ^ Page 766 of the Volume II of Al-Basaer wa al-Dhakha'ir, Abu Hayyan Tawhidi, Kaylānī, Damascus, 1964
  25. ^ Price, Massoume (December 2001) "Rituals of Circumcision". Culture of Iran. Iran Chamber Society. Retrieved 11 May 2021.
  26. ^ a b al-Munajjid, Muhammad (9 May 2001). "Question #20015: "Ruling on circumcision "". Retrieved 18 October 2020.; al-Munajjid, Muhammad (9 October 2002). "Question #9412: "Circumcision: how it is done and the rulings on it"". Archived from the original on 4 December 2018. Retrieved 18 October 2020.
  27. ^ Gauvain, Richard (2013). Salafi Ritual Purity: In the Presence of God. Routledge Islamic studies series. Abingdon, Oxfordshire: Routledge. p. 335. ISBN 978-0-7103-1356-0.
  28. ^ Book 90 of Hilyat ul-muttaqeen
  29. ^ Al-Kalini, Abu-Ja'afar Muhammad Ibn-Yaqub. Al-furu'min al-kafi. Vol. 6 Tehran: Dar al-kutub al-islamiyyah. 1981:35
  30. ^ Al-Kalini, Abu-Ja'afar Muhammad Ibn-Yaqub. Al-furu'min al-kafi. Vol. 6 Tehran: Dar al-kutub al-islamiyyah. 1981:34
  31. ^ DS Hellsten. Male and Female Circumcision: Medical, Legal and Ethical Considerations in Pediatric Practice. Page 147
  32. ^ "What Do You Do at a Turkish Sunnet Festival?". Travel Tips - USA Today. Retrieved 4 May 2021.
  33. ^ a b Editors (2012) [1993]. "Khafḍ". In Bearman, P. J.; Bianquis, Th.; Bosworth, C. E.; van Donzel, E. J.; Heinrichs, W. P. (eds.). Encyclopaedia of Islam (2nd ed.). Leiden: Brill Publishers. doi:10.1163/1573-3912_islam_SIM_4132. ISBN 978-90-04-16121-4.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  34. ^ Ibrahim Lethome Asmani, Maryam Sheikh Abdi, De-linking Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting from Islam Archived 2017-02-21 at the Wayback Machine, Washington: Frontiers in Reproductive Health, USAID, 2008, 3–5.
  35. ^ van Donzel, E. J. (1994). Islamic Desk Reference: Compiled from The Encyclopedia of Islam. Leiden: Brill Publishers. p. 69. ISBN 978-90-0409-738-4.
  36. ^ Gerald R. Hawting (2006), The Development of Islamic Ritual, ISBN 978-0860787129, pp. 358–361.
  37. ^ "Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: A Global Concern" Archived 2017-11-26 at the Wayback Machine, New York: UNICEF, February 2016.
  38. ^ a b Mackie, Gerry (December 1996). "Ending Footbinding and Infibulation: A Convention Account" (PDF). American Sociological Review. 61 (6): 999–1017. doi:10.2307/2096305. JSTOR 2096305. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2019-07-20. Retrieved 2020-03-29.
  39. ^ See e.g.:
    • Roald, Ann-Sofie (2003). Women in Islam: The Western Experience. London: Routledge. p. 224.
    • Asmani, Ibrahim Lethome; Abdi, Maryam Sheikh (2008). De-linking Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting from Islam (PDF). Washington: Frontiers in Reproductive Health, USAID. p. 6–13. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2017-02-21. Retrieved 2017-10-10.
  40. ^ Roald, Ann-Sofie (2003). Women in Islam: The Western Experience. London: Routledge. p. 243.
  41. ^ * "Fresh progress toward the elimination of female genital mutilation and cutting in Egypt" Archived 2020-03-29 at the Wayback Machine. UNICEF press release. 2 July 2007.
  42. ^ Michael, Maggie (29 June 2007). "Egypt Officials Ban Female Circumcision" Archived 2017-12-14 at the Wayback Machine. Associated Press. p. 2.

External linksEdit