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Is Circumcision (Khatna) Compulsory (Fard) in Islam? By Dr. Zakir Naik

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Published on Feb 20, 2012

Circumcision (Khatna) is a Sunnah of all prophets. Allah ordained upon prophet Ibrahim (A.S.) to circumcise himself and his son Ismael (A.S.) and according to Torah made it obligatory for all his progeny and followers to follow suit. Jews to this day comply with the order. Prophet Issa (Jesus) A.S. was circumcised and there is nothing on record that he absolved his followers of the order. After the Christ's departure, his self-proclaimed disciple (Saul) Paul prevailed upon other disciples to declare the abrogation of this Sunnah of the prophets.

The circumcision is known as the Sunnah of Ibrahim (A.S.) as he was the first prophet on record to have received the order thereof. However, knowing today the medical advantages of circumcision, and considering that all the earlier prophets were pre-historic and their Shariahs are not available, it is more probable that the earlier prophets had also been told to undergo the discipline.

We know that cleanliness of male genitals is almost impossible without circumcision. Besides the problem of maintaining cleanliness for prayers and recitation of Qur'an, the unhygienic state of genitals might cause many a disease not only in the male but to his wife also. A recent survey of nursing homes revealed that almost all the women patients of genital cancer were non-Muslims. More recently the research papers of two Melbourne University obstetrics and scientists Prof. Roger Short Dr. Robert Szabo have announced that circumcision of all male babies is a must for prevention of Aids and sexually transmitted disease. Following are some extracts from the news published in Times of India.

"New evidence suggests that circumcision of all male babies could help to halt the global Aids epidemic... Prof. Roger short and his co-author (of the research paper) are convinced that a high level of receptors - sites to which invading organism attach themselves - on the inside of the foreskin make it responsible for transmission.

Short and Szabo noted a sharp difference in the prevalence of HIV infection in the 'Aids belt' countries in sub-Saharan Africa. In some areas the infection rates are as high as 25%, in other areas as low as 1 percent. The lower infection rates were clearly associated with the practice of male circumcision. "The presence of an intact foreskin", says the Short-Szabo paper, "has consistently been shown to be the single most significant factor associated with the much higher prevalence of HIV in countries of the Asian belt".

The link is stronger than with more familiar indicators such as promiscuity, other sexually transmitted diseases and multiple marriage.

Even more startling evidence came from a recent studying Uganda, reported in February. This showed that among a large group of discordant couples, where one is infected and one not, no circumcised male became infected over 30 months, even though their wives were HIV positive! Short describes these results as startlingly significant.

Outside Africa there is the same pattern. Countries with low circumcision rates such as Thailand, India and Cambodia, have between 10 and 50 times the rates of infection compared with countries with high circumcision rates such as the Philippines, Bangladesh and Indonesia... Shot and Szabo believe that about 80% of male HIV infections in the world happen through the foreskin..." (P. 15 New Delhi edition of Times of India, March 28, 2000)

Fiq'h scholars differ in their opinion about the compulsion of circumcision in Shariah. According to Imam Abu Hanifa, Imam Malik and a majority of others it is a Sunnah while some scholars including Imam Shafa'i, it is Waajib. Looking at its necessity for cleanliness and hygiene and considering that Allah had ordained Hazrat Ibrahim (A.S.) to circumcise himself when he was 80, it seems that Waajib is more likely. Were it not at least next to Fardh (i.e.), prophet Ibrahim would have been spared at his old age. Circumcising his son Ismael would have been sufficient for the initiation or renewal of a Sunnah.

A majority of Ulema are of the opinion that the parents should get a male child circumcised before the age of 10.

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