Rulings from your site regarding female circumcision appear to have been taken down. Is there is a change in opinion concerning female circumcision from a Shafii point of view? What do you say about issuing a fatwa on this issue which prohibits the practice?

In Maratib al-Ijma' p. 157, Ibn Hazm cited that there is an established consensus (ar: ijma') that circumcision for women is permissible. This ijma' is related by other scholars too. In the Sacred Law, ijma' is a binding proof, and it is not permissible for any scholar to go against it.

In Nihayah 8/35, after mentioning the official position of the Shafi'i School, that circumcision is obligatory for both men and women, Ramli defines what it means for a woman. He says that it is the removal of some skin from the clitoral prepuce. This is also mentioned by Ibn Hajar in Tuhfah 9/198.

In these passages, the word "bazr" is mentioned. Sahib al-Misbah al-Munir mentions that the"bazr" in circumcision is the prepuce. Thus, what is intended is a part of the prepuce surrounding the clitoris and not the clitoris itself.

In Sunan Abi Dawud and Tabarani's al-Mu'jam al-Kabir, it is related that the Prophet Muhammad (upon him be peace) said,

أَشِمِّي لَا تُنْهِكِي فَإِنَّ ذَلِكَ أَحْظَى لِلْمَرْأَةِ وَأَحَبُّ لِلْبَعْلِ

"Leave it bulging, do not exaggerate in cutting. Indeed, that is more enjoyable for the woman, and the husband will like it better."

Some have declared Tabarani's chain to be authentic. While others criticized the authenticity of this narration. Here, it is not being cited to establish a basis for a practice in the Sacred Law, the aforementioned ijma' establishes that. The narration describes the manner in which the practice is to be performed. It clarifies that the procedure is minor and the reduction is slight; in fact, the verbs used are commands, which indicate obligation. Meaning, to go beyond this contravenes what the Prophet (upon him be peace) commanded.

What we have mentioned above is not FGM. In Arabic, the practice we are talking about is called "khafd," meaning, a reduction i.e. of the clitoral hood. This is actually, according to many health experts, an accepted medical procedure; something that when done properly, women are satisfied with.

Some individuals or organizations in Europe and other places argue that circumcision/unhooding is genital mutilation. The corollary of this line of argument is generally that it should be banned. This is obviously something that Muslims disagree with.

Allah commanded the Prophet Abraham (upon him be peace) to circumcise, and Allah says in the Qur'an, "Follow the way of Abraham, as a pure monotheist." (Surah al-Nahl 123) And circumcision is part of his way; it is a ritual of obedience to God first performed by the father of the monotheistic faiths.

Also, it was practiced and advised in the time of the Prophet Muhammad (upon him be peace), for both men and women.

The official position of the Shafi'i School is that it is obligatory for a woman. There is also a weaker opinion that Imam Nawawi relates in Rawdah 10/180 that it is recommended. This is the opinion maintained by other scholars who considered that it is recommended or simply a noble deed, like Imam Abu Hanifah and Imam Malik. A woman following the Shafi'i School could make taqlid of these opinions. She would thereby be omitting a meritorious act, but not an obligation.

For a Muslim scholar to issue a fatwa against it, that violates the aforementioned consensus, and to violate consensus is impermissible. Such a fatwa would also disregard many experts from the medical community who have expressed the benefits that such procedures have for women.

And Allah knows best.

Answered by: Shaykh Yaqub Abdurrahman