Egyptian Experts on Islamic Religious Law Debate Female Circumcision
Following are excerpts from a debate on female circumcision in Egypt. Al-Azhar University lecturer Dr. Muhammad Wahdan and lecturer on Islamic religious law Dr. Malika Zarrar participated in the debate, which aired on the Kuwaiti Al-Rai TV on March 28, 2006.
Dr. Muhammad Wahdan: Ibn Al-Qayyem recounts that when Hagar married Abraham and got pregnant, Sara was very jealous of her. Because of her jealousy, she swore by Allah that she would cut off three of Hagar's body parts. Abraham was afraid that she would cut off Hagar's nose or ears, so he instructed her to pierce Hagar's ears and to circumcise her. This was the beginning of female circumcision in history.
Dr. Malika Zarrar: I am not talking about the intellectuals or the elite. I am talking to you about reality as it is, about the people who live in cemeteries, about the reality in which I great up and lived. I am talking about what happens in South Egypt, about the Nuba, about the peasants, and so on. I speak about a reality I am experiencing, along with every woman who has been subjected to the painful and public violation of her honor.
I consider this to be a crime, in terms of both religious and civil law. I condemn whoever tries to defend this.
Dr. Muhammad Wahdan: Dr. Zarrar rejects female circumcision altogether, but I claim that it existed among the Arabs in ancient times, and even among the righteous caliphs. There are many references to this.
So what caused the confusion? It's the result of some wrong actions...
Interviewer: What wrong actions?
Dr. Muhammad Wahdan: For example, taking my daughter to a local practitioner, who is not a professional, yet she cuts off the girl's thing. I am saying to all the people who are watching that I am against the pharaonic circumcision, which is still practiced in Egypt. I'm totally against it. It's forbidden.
I'm against the complete removal of the clitoris. I'm totally against this, because it is forbidden and does not please Allah.
The caliph Omar bin Al-Khattab said to the circumciser: "When you perform khifadh circumcision - leave a part of it." This proves it was prevalent among the Arabs in the days of Omar.
Khifadh circumcision is not meant for all girls, only for some.
Interviewer: Which girls?
Dr. Muhammad Wahdan: I will tell you which girls. A girl phoned me once - A woman called me - there is no shame in asking questions about religion... A girl called me and said: When I take the Metro, wearing tight jeans... The Metro in Egypt jolts about like this... She said: I get really aroused. What should I do?
Dr. Malika Zarrar: God help her....
Dr. Muhammad Wahdan: I asked a doctor, I'm telling you what happened... I asked a doctor, who told me this girl's clitoris was very high, and that a small part of it must be cut off.
[...]We must take all girls to a Muslim doctor who specializes in this, who will determine whether she needs a khifadh circumcision or not. If a girl needs a khifadh, we should perform it, and if a girl does not need it, we should not.
Am I supposed to deny one of the rites of Islam and the laws of Allah?
Dr. Malika Zarrar: The Prophet Muhammad had four daughters. Did you ever hear any claim that he circumcised any of them?
Dr. Muhammad Wahdan: The Islamic research center at Al-Azhar University held a meeting on November 14, 1994 - I have the decision with me, if you want to copy it... It says: Regarding female circumcision - After CNN aired a report about and Egyptian girl, who was brutally circumcised... This is the repot that brought the issue to public attention, because the West wants to impose its culture and philosophy on us...
Dr. Malika Zarrar: Circumcision is always brutal.
Dr. Muhammad Wahdan: The research center, the highest religious authority in the Islamic world, concluded that "female circumcision, khifadh circumcision, is legal in Islam, and must not be forbidden or regarded as a crime."
Interviewer: How come there are religious sheiks who do not circumcise their daughters?
Dr. Muhammad Wahdan: Who told you this?
Interviewer: Do you have daughters?
Dr. Muhammad Wahdan: I don't have any daughters. I wish I did.
Dr. Malika Zarrar: It's a good thing you don't!
Dr. Muhammad Wahdan: If I had a daughter, I would circumcise her.
Interviewer: Do you have sisters?
Dr. Muhammad Wahdan: Yes, I do.
Interviewer: Have they been circumcised?
Dr. Muhammad Wahdan: Let me tell you what we did. We took my young sisters to a specialist doctor, who said that one needed a circumcision and the other didn't. We performed the khifadh circumcision on the one who needed it, and we did not perform it on the one who didn't need it.
Dr. Malika Zarrar: We must declare war on Saudi Arabia. We must pick up a sword and fight them, because this is not practiced in Saudi Arabia or in the Gulf countries.
It has been scientifically proven that all whores have been circumcised.
Dr. Muhammad Wahdan: In 2001, the Center for Population Research at Al-Azahar University conducted research about the chastity of Egyptian girls and the unity of the Egyptian family. They took a representative sample of Egyptian society. The determined several factors for the chastity of Egyptian girls.
The first is the khifadh circumcision of the girls. The second factor is modesty, the third is the mother's monitoring of the daughter's behavior, and finally, the observance of prayer.
Interviewer: Is the girl asked whether she wants to be circumcised or not?
Dr. Muhammad Wahdan: No. We ask the doctor, who makes the decision.
Dr. Malika Zarrar: God help us.
Interviewer: So what about the girl's opinion?
Dr. Muhammad Wahdan: What do you mean?
Interviewer: What if she says: I don't want to be circumcised. What happens then?
Dr. Muhammad Wahdan: If a girl says she doesn't want it, she's free. No problem.
Interviewer: Is this what happens in reality?
Dr. Muhammad Wahdan: I have no relation to reality. I am talking about how things should be.
Interviewer: You are a religious sheik, from Al-Azahar University. You cannot say you have no relation to reality.
Dr. Muhammad Wahdan: Reality is a mistake, we must rectify it.
In Egypt we have four and a half million spinsters. The definition of a spinster is a woman who has reached 30, without ever receiving a marriage proposal. We have a spinster problem in the Arab world, and the last thing we want is for them to be sexually aroused. Circumcision of the girls who need it makes them chaste, dignified, and pure.