Clarification of Islamic Law Support for Female Genital Mutilation, by Dr. Mark Durie


Indonesian toddler following her ritual FGM

Dr. Mark Durie is the author, most recently of Revelation? Do We Worship the Same God?—Jesus, Holy, Spirit, God in Christianity and Islam, 2006. His cogent analysis, “Isa, the Muslim Jesus,” is available online, here 

Dr. Durie has also studied the Acehnese (i.e., from Aceh, Indonesia), and published many articles, and books (here, here, and here, for example) on their language and culture.  

Dr. Dure writes— 

In Februrary 2007 Dr Muhammad al-Mussayar of Al-Azhar University, referring to reliable hadiths from Muslim and al-Bukhari, stated:  

“All jurisprudents, since the advent of Islam and for 14 centuries or more, are in consensus that female circumcision is permitted in Islam.  But they were divided as to its status in the sharia.  Some said that female circumcision is required by the sharia, just like male circumcision.  Some said this is a mainstream practice, while others said that it is a noble act.”

Of the four Sunni schools of sharia, it is the Shafi’is who have said that circumcision of girls is compulsory. The Reliance of the Traveller, a respected manual of Shafi’i jurisprudence, states  “Circumcision is obligatory (for every male and female) by cutting off the piece of skin on the glans of the penis of the male, but circumcision of the female is by cutting out the clitoris” (section e4.3).  [The English translation by Nuh Ha Mim Keller (certified by Al-Azhar University) disguises the true meaning of the Arabic text by offering the following bogus English ‘translation’: “For men it consists of removing the prepuce from the penis, and for women, removing the prepuce (Ar. Bazr) of the clitoris (n: not the clitoris itself, as some mistakenly assert).” ]

As Indonesia is a country in which Shafi’i Islam predominates, it is hardly surprising that female circumcision is commonly practiced among Indonesian Muslims, from Java to Aceh. There is a close correlation between Shafi’i Islam and the frequency of FGM.  Regions where the Shafi’i school predominates are also the places where FGM is more frequent.  These include Egypt, southern Arabia, Bahrain, Kurdistan, Somalia, Brunei, Malaysia and Indonesia. The oft-recited claim that FGM is not a religious practice is proved false, not only because it is more frequently found in Shafi’i areas, but also because it was introduced, along with Shafi’i Islam, into Southeast Asia, a part of the world where it had previously been unknown.

It is only the teachings of the sharia  which account for this practice being followed in Bandung Java today, and specifically the doctrinal formulations of the Shafi’i school of sharia.  Imam Shafi’i may be long-dead, but he has a lot to answer for to the Muslim women of the world.

Andrew G. Bostom is the author of The Legacy of Jihad (Prometheus, 2005) and The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism " (Prometheus, November, 2008) You can contact Dr. Bostom at

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