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A circumcised penis
An uncircumcised penis with foreskin.
Pre-circumcision examination.

Circumcision cuts off the foreskin on the penis of a boy or man. Circumcision can be a religious ritual, or a custom in certain tribes, or a medical practice. There are five kinds of reasons for doing a circumcision:

  1. Religious reasons: Most men who belong to the religions of Judaism and Islam must be circumcised. Jewish boys are circumcised when they are 1 week old. Muslim boys are usually circumcised at any time from soon after birth all the way up to puberty depending on family, region, and country.
  2. In certain tribes, especially in Africa, a teenage boy must be circumcised. Otherwise, his family and the people in his village will not treat him as a man. He will not be able to marry.
  3. Circumcision can cure certain medical problems at any age. A man should pull back his foreskin before washing the end of the penis. If a man cannot do this, a doctor should do a circumcision.
  4. Parents circumcise their sons because it is easier to keep the penis clean and it is more popular in Western culture. Many babies in America are circumcised a few days after they were born.
  5. Many men and teenage boys in Western countries ask for circumcision simply because they like how it looks.

Benefits and criticisms[change | change source]

People disagree about whether circumcision is a good for health and sexual pleasure. Those who believe that the foreskin is important for sexual pleasure are against circumcision. Others do not like circumcision because they believe it has no medical advantage, or that it is easy to clean under the foreskin, or that circumcision harms the penis or the mind, and/or that the penis belongs to its owner to do as with as he wishes when he is older enough to decide for himself. It should not be the choice of the doctors or parents.

Those who prefer circumcision believe that circumcision reduces sexually transmitted diseases like HIV (even though there is no proof of this one way or another), prevents certain kinds of cancer, and gets rid of infections and unpleasant smells under the foreskin. Those who prefer circumcision often believe that the foreskin does not matter for sexual pleasure.

There are 5 large groups of circumcised men:

Traditions[change | change source]

Boys in Turkey wearing traditional circumcision costumes

In Islam and Judaism, male circumcision is commonly done for religious reasons.

Judaism[change | change source]

In Judaism, religious law orders that male infants be circumcised on the 8th day after their birth. This is required even if the 8th day after birth is a Shabbat. In the Jewish faith, circumcision is an important tradition because it represents the newly born baby being included in the covenant (or agreement) which God made with the prophet Abraham.

A mohel is someone who circumcises Jewish baby boys eight days after they are born in accordance with Jewish law. A knife is traditionally used for this, but a clamp is now sometimes used instead. Mohels are traditionally male, but most types of non-orthodox (not fully traditional) types of Judaism allow women to be mohels without restriction.

Islam[change | change source]

In the Quran, no sura or ayat mention male or female circumcision. However, there are some injunctions of the prophet Muhammad that explain and command only male circumcision, as a continuation of Abrahamic/Hebraic tradition. For example, the prophet Muhammad said in a hadith that "Five are the acts which are part of fitrah:[a] Circumcision, clipping or shaving the pubic hair, cutting the nails, plucking or shaving the hair under the armpits and clipping (or shaving) the moustache".[b]

Also, according to the Qur'an, Allah ordered Muhammad to follow the religion of Ibrahim (the Hebrew Abraham): "Then We inspired you: 'Follow the religion of Ibrahim, the upright in Faith'." —(Qur'an 16:123)

Many Islamic scholars say that is an important ritual and a symbolic step of purification along the lines of Abrahamic tradition.[1] Most Shafi Islamic Jurists (judges) say that circumcision is required for men. It is an accepted tradition in almost all Islamic sects and among most Islamic scholars and theologians.[2] Circumcision is also important within Islam because Islam claims to be the 'truth' and the 'continuation' of the old and true message of Ibrahim/Abraham. According to Islam, God's covenant with Abraham was passed on to Muhammad, whose mission was to continue the covenant. The covenant is continued, according to Islam, through several steps, including male circumcision.[1] The Quran discusses this covenant in detail in several places, including sura 14 (Ibrahim – Abraham).

Age of men illustration[change | change source]

There are two hadiths which are linked to the acceptance of male circumcision in Islam. They also show how circumcision may have been used to keep track of dates in tribal Arabia:

Ibn Jubayr Sa'id reported: "Ibn `Abbas was asked the following question: 'How was it with you, [when] the Prophet, peace be upon him, died?,' he said, 'I was circumcised at that particular time because the men were usually only circumcised when they became sexually mature.'" [Sahih al-Bukhari No. 6299]

And further, Ibn `Abbas reported: "When the Prophet, peace be upon him died, I was circumcised at that particular time." [Sahih al-Bukhari No. 6300]

Along with being an important rite of passage, circumcision may have helped people keep track of dates and place events into the correct time and place.

Notes[change | change source]

a. ^ An Arabic word, literally meaning 'nature' or 'natural' – here it signifies doing the right thing or natural thing.
b. ^ Reported in both hadith collections of al-Bukhari and Imam Muslim.

References[change | change source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Nasrallah, M. Islam and Mankind: Muslim Practices in the Light of the Holy Quran, Islami Qutubkhana Press, Lahore and Karachi, 1995, p. 102, 105-106; This volume is a referential handbook for Muslim students approved by both the Sunni and Shia sects of Islam
  2. (Urdu: Fiqah al Islami, Aam Taauruf [An Introduction to Islamic Doctrine], Islamic Welfare Association Press, Lahore, 1976