This is with reference to the article titled ‘Female Genital Mutilation’ by Professor A.H. Sheriffdeen and Dr Ruvaiz Haniffa published in the Daily Mirror of September 28, 2018. With due respect to the learned writers of this article, it must be pointed out in the public interest that there are many fundamental and factual errors in their article.
Firstly, this is an issue concerned with the Islamic faith, and as the authors themselves admit: “We are not qualified at all to contest the religious scholars on the finality over this heading and we seek their learned guidance.” However, towards the end of the article, they have already passed judgement by comparing female circumcision to female infanticide practised during the Jahilliyyah or pre-Islamic days of ignorance. They state: “During the times of ignorance before the birth of Islam, as propagated by Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him), female children were often killed soon after birth or even buried alive. Female circumcision too was a cultural practice prevalent in pre-Islamic Arabia. One of the proud achievements of Islam is the banning and stopping of these barbaric practices.”
It is highly unethical to state in the first place that one seeks guidance from the religious establishment on this issue and in another place condemn it as an un-Islamic practice. The doctors concerned should ask themselves how Islam totally eliminated the practice of female infanticide but kept the practice of female circumcision to the present day. They also need to ask themselves why every school of Islamic law accepted the fact that female circumcision was Islamic. The only difference of opinion was whether it was obligatory or recommended, with some schools holding to the view it was Wajib (obligatory) and others Sunnah or Mustahhab (recommended). Thus, how could a practice, accepted by all classical scholars of Islam as an Islamic practice be condemned as un-Islamic as concluded by the doctors?
They also point out that nowhere in the Quran is female circumcision mentioned. Surely, the doctors, being Muslims, must know that nowhere in the Quran is male circumcision mentioned either
They also point out in support of their contention that nowhere in the Quran is female circumcision mentioned. Surely, the doctors, being Muslims, must know that nowhere in the Quran is male circumcision mentioned either. Both male and female circumcision is mentioned in Ahadith or sayings of Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) and in fact, female circumcision is specifically mentioned more times, in the sayings of the Prophet and in the actions of his closest companions including his wife Ayisha (Peace Be Upon Her) and his son-in-law and third Caliph of Islam Uthman as recorded in Adab Al Mufrad compiled by none other than Imam Bukhari, the greatest compiler of Islam’s canonical literature known as Ahadith.
Besides this, one can point out several errors in the article including the fact that the hadith they cite about the Prophet’s (Peace Be Upon Him) daughter, that he “once looked at his eldest daughter Fatima and tears poured from his eyes and that moment later he had looked at her again and smiled. When questioned as to why he wept and smiled soon after, he had said that a vision had appeared to him of her funeral and that tears had come to his eyes and that soon after a vision had come showing him meeting up with her in paradise, which had brought the smile to his face.”
The learned doctors think it is relevant to the discussion to show that female circumcision is Islamic. The fact, however, is not only is it totally irrelevant to the discussion, but the hadith cited is a fabricated one. Besides, Fatima (Peace Be Upon Her) was the youngest daughter of the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) and not his eldest daughter as claimed by the authors of the article. Even a third grader knows this. It speaks so much of the learned doctors’ religious knowledge.
Now to the medical argument, they have presented to show that the Islamically-prescribed form of female circumcision (removal of the clitoral prepuce known as hoodectomy) has no health benefits.
One fundamental error they make is categorizing female circumcision as FGM (Female Genital Mutilation). Surely, they should understand that there is a significant difference between hoodectomy which removes the clitoral hood and FGM which removes the clitoris itself. Hoodectomy is a relatively minor procedure which involves removing the clitoral prepuce to ensure better genital hygiene and enhance women’s sex lives, which even Western women are increasingly choosing to undergo nowadays. In contrast, FGM has exactly the opposite effect, which is to curb sexual pleasure in women. This type of procedure is totally prohibited by all Islamic scholars agreed on this.
The doctors then state female circumcision plays no part in protecting a female from diseases. They also state that the smegma originating from the uncircumcised clitoris and it leading to unpleasant and other more serious health consequences pale in comparison as in the female more smegma is produced under the labia and that no amount of ‘hoodectomy’ or washing the clitoris is going to reduce this.
However, this is far from the truth. It has been found that the genital hygiene of women is, on the average, poorer than that of men because of numerous folds and the semi-hidden position of the clitoris. Let’s see what Dr Edwin D. Hirsch had to say about it in his book titled Sexual Fear on how to conquer frigidity: “The ‘buried’ or concealed clitoris is a common anatomical cause of sexual anaesthesia. Frequently, this is due to the lack of clitoral hygiene. We know this to be a causative factor, for when the ‘buried’ glans clitorides is elevated out of its bed by separating the strands of tissue which have grown over it, clumps of stale, foul-smelling secretion (smegma) surround this structure. Periodically the hood or foreskin of the clitoris should be retracted so that the accumulated secretions that collect thereunder may be easily removed by soap suds and a slight amount of friction. When the fear of this hygienic process is done away with, a large number of frigidity cases will be automatically corrected.” Whether we like it or not, it’s easier for males to retract and clean their foreskins of the regular buildup of smegma than women to clean theirs due to the obvious anatomical differences as shown above. It would be necessary to retract the hood each day or every other day, in order to prevent adhesions from forming and smegma collecting beneath the prepuce.
Some leading Western physicians in the early part of the last century, prompted by the benefits of male circumcision did not take long to realise that smegma might cause medical problems in women. In 1922, Austrian doctors Clodi and Schopper in Wiener Klinische Wochenshrift (1922) revealed that the germ that caused Gonorrhoea, gonococci thrived in the prepuce of the clitoris. They found that gonococci were found under the prepuce in 74 per cent of cases. This finding they observed had great importance in regard to infection and re-infection of the genitals, thereby delaying a cure. To promote a cure of the disease, it was necessary to cleanse this region and treat it with antiseptics, they concluded.
A year later, I. Pilot and A.E. Canter (Studies of Fusiform bacilli and spirochaetes. The Journal of Infectious Diseases. 1923) examined the smegma of over 30 women which they obtained by pushing back the clitoral prepuce. They found pyogenic organisms, including staphylococci and concluded that these organisms may be primary and secondary infecting agents causing ulcerative and gangrenous processes. Unfortunately, the further study of the detrimental effects of smegma in women was neglected for some time until the 1950s when C.F. McDonald argued in his paper ‘Circumcision of the Female’ published in the General Practitioner of September 1958 that: “If the male needs circumcision for cleanliness and hygiene, why not the female?” and concluded that “The same reasons that apply for the circumcision of males are generally valid when considered for the female.” Mc. Donald identified a number of conditions caused by contaminated smegma, retained smegma or smegmaliths in women that cleared up when the cause was removed by circumcision. More recently, Dr Royal Benson found that urinary tract infections (UTIs), an all too frequent complaint in women even more so than in uncircumcised boys was very likely being caused by smegma buildup beneath the clitoris. He lost no time advocating hoodectomy to permanently prevent smegma accumulation.
Here’s another finding relevant to our discussion. A team led by Maura Gillison recently reported in the New England Journal of Medicine that HPV infection was the strongest risk factor for oral cancer. The team found that oral sex including cunnilingus was the main mode of transit for oral HPV infection. Cunnilingus refers to the oral stimulation of a woman’s sexual organs with the particular focus on the clitoris. The researchers found a 225 per cent increase in oral cancer cases in the United States from 1974 to 2007, mainly among white men. Maura Gillison of Ohio State University said: “The rise in oral cancer in the US is predominantly among young white males and we do not know the answer as to why.” Dr Dennis Kraus, director of the Centre for Head and Neck Oncology at North Shore- LIJ Cancer Institute in Lake Success had this to say about it: “It’s most likely transmitted from females to males.”
Now, it is obvious that the only way men can acquire the HPV virus is through the oral stimulation of one’s partner’s clitoris which allows the virus to enter the mucosal cavities of the mouth where it causes cancer. HPV finds a congenial sanctuary and breeds in the prepuce of the clitoris just as it finds refuge in the foreskins of males, through the transmission of which cervical cancer occurs in females. Thus, a hoodectomy might provide a solution by removing the area in which the virus thrives, thus safeguarding their male partners from the risk of oral cancer.