I know this is not the normal genre in which I write my articles. But anyone who sees an oppressive act happening is considered an oppressor himself/herself.
I was asked about this matter by my good friend Rohini Bakshi who has joined the campaign against FGM ( Female Genital Mutilation) in UK.
Since I am not there to physically join the campaign this is my very small and humble contribution to it.
I am not a scholar of Islam but I am a practicing and a questioning Muslim. I question blind faith which so many of us seem to be putting in our what we are hearing, whether its from the clergy, the clergy’s spokespersons or just ordinary people who keep propounding on religion. I feel that this tradition of playing Chinese Whisper with the Holy Book, The Quran has gone on for far too long.
Most of us can’t/ don/t or haven’t read the Quran with translation for ourselves and so believe whatever we are fed by various agencies.
Till some years back I too believed everything I was told as long as I trusted the person telling me. But as I grew Internet friendly and started reading the various translations of The Quran and then got a physical copy with translation I realized how much I had missed and misinterpreted. Many scholars be they Muslim or otherwise pick one random surah /verse from the Quran and interpret it as per their understanding of it. What they forget is that that the Quran was revealed over a period of time and many verses dealt with a specific situation and the issue as a whole has been dealt again later in a corresponding verse/verses. To understand it well we must first take all the verses on the subject and then interpret them in their totality. Only then can we say that we have a correct interpretation.
In fact the reward for reading the Quran with translation and understanding it is far greater and recommended than just simply reading it without understanding.
It was narrated that Anas bin Mâlik said: The Messenger of Allah said “Seeking knowledge is a duty upon every Muslim”. ”
(Sunan Ibn e Majah, Book of Sunnah, Hadith no 224, Classified as Sahih By Allama Albani)
And true knowledge does not come passively. You have to question, to probe in depth to get answers.
There are some things in islam which are prescribed in the Quran and there are some which are traditions based on hadith which are the sayings of the Prophet.
The word ‘Sunnat/ Sunnah’ means that which the Prophet practiced/followed but something, which is not written about or prescribed in the Quran. The acts, which are obligatory, are called ‘fard/farz’.
In India the male circumcision is called ‘sunnat’ which clearly shows that it’s not compulsory but something which should be emulated.
So that gives rise to the question that since male circumcision is not a ‘fard’ but a ‘sunnat ‘ act how can possibly Female circumcision be compulsory?
We keep confusing the patriarchal society that practiced female infanticide, believed in suppression and repression of women with Islam.
Islam was a religion that gave rights and respect to women.
Verse 2:228 of the Quran says
“And women shall have rights similar to the rights against them, according to what is equitable; but men have a degree (of responsibility) over them. And Allah is Exalted in Power, Wise”
For the medieval society of Arabia this was a revolutionary concept. The Prophet himself practiced what he preached and there are umpteen traditions, which talk of how he always got up when his daughter Fatima Zehra entered the room as a mark of respect.
The First Lady of Islam Khadija was a prosperous businesswoman whose money funded the initial expansion of Islam. She was not only successful but emancipated enough to send a proposal to Mohammed who was her employee and younger than herself, because she recognized his noble qualities. Isn’t it truly ironical that the women of the religion to which she was the first female convert are so suppressed and repressed in the name of Islam ?
The fact is that in Islam we have the concept of haram (forbidden) and halal (allowed).
Many customs/traditions, which were a part of everyday Bedouin life because they were not specifically forbidden, were continued and gradually found acceptance in the religion. That does not mean they were encouraged or permitted by the religion itself, just that they were not frowned upon by the Muslims of the area .
We confuse Islam for Muslims. There is a huge difference between the two. Islam is a religion but Muslim just a follower of it. The follower can be good, bad, and indifferent but that does not make the religion he follows good, bad or indifferent. The followers maybe at fault because of his interpretation of the command not the religion.
To come back to FGM ( Female Genital Mutilation) there can be no religious sanction for it in light of the Quran.
Verse 2:187 of the Quran says “They are a garment for you and you are a garment for them…”
This has been interpreted by Abdullah Yusuf Ali , in one of the most widely accepted translation and interpretation of the Quran as,” ’Men and women are each other’s garments i.e. they are for mutual support, mutual comfort, and mutual protection, fitting into each other as a garment fits the body. A garment also is both for show and concealment.”
This clearly shows that the argument put forward by the practioners of FGM that this is done to limit female sexual pleasure is totally wrong. Islam nowhere puts restriction on that and in fact
Dr. Muzammil H. Siddiqi, former President of the Islamic Society of North America, says:
“It is also emphasized in Islam that a husband should not deny his wife’s physical needs. Both of them are related to each other, as Allah says in the Qur’an, (Al-Baqarah: 187)
Thre are many hadith which refer to the wife’s rights. The Prophet advised Abdullah bin Amr bin Al-As (who spent all day fasting and all night in prayer) to fast sometimes and not at other times; to pray at night and to sleep at night.
“Your body has a right over you, your eyes have a right over you and your wife has a right over you.” (Sahih Bukhari, Vol.7, No. 127)
How can such a religion advise the mutilation of a female body to deprive it of sexual pleasure?
The one hadith, which is oft quoted, in which the Prophet is supposed to have advised a woman who performed the female circumcision to not cut severely is very weak and not considered authentic.
We must also keep in mind that many hadith were written quite a number of years after The Prophet’s passing away on hearsay and so once again fact and fiction got intertwined. In fact the most reliable Hadith by Bukhari called Sahih e Bukhari was written approximately 200 years after the Prophet.
As for reasons of health and hygiene while there are many benefits of circumcision for men there have been none found so far for women.
As I stated earlier many local customs found acceptance since they were not specifically forbidden. FGM is one of them. It is practiced mainly in Equatorial Africa, where it was followed for thousands of years. It is also found to be practiced in Yemen, Egypt and south of Saudi Arabia. Globally 130 m girls or women are supposed to have been circumcised.
This is a barbaric custom and should be stopped.
Its time we stopped committing atrocities in the name of God.
http://www.dawn.com/news/694420/understanding-the-quran Understanding the Quran by Asghar Ali Engineer