SULAIMANI, Iraqi Kurdistan: The Imam of Hajji Osman Alaf Mosque in Iraqi Kurdistan’s second largest city, Sulaimani, has told his followers that anyone who believes female circumcision is not a recommendation from the prophet Mohammed is “ignorant.”
During his Friday sermon on December 3rd, Imam Mala Yassin Hakim Piskandi said female circumcision was a “Sunnah," a term used to refer to the practices carried out or recommended by Mohammed, the prophet of Islam.
He said, the Sunni Shafeyi, a school of jurisprudence which most Kurds follow, took a tougher stance regarding female circumcision, considering it an “obligation," but that the other three Sunni schools of jurisprudence regarded it merely as a Sunnah, meaning it was recommended, but not compulsory.
The Islamic practice of female circumcision, known among rights groups as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), has a deep history dating back to the prophet Abraham. Prophet Mohammed followed in Abraham’s footsteps by remaining silent about the prevalence of the practice in the city of Medina, where he established the first Islamic system of law, said Piskandi.
“When men and women have intercourse, their sexual organs should be circumcised and clean,” he quoted Prophet Mohammed as saying.
He added that practicing a Sunnah act is “good,” but that not practicing it is “not sinful.” But in some cultures, including among some Kurds, uncircumcised women are regarded as unclean and are not allowed to cook.
Piskandi’s remarks come at a time when a recent gathering of Islamic scholars in Egypt has ruled that female circumcision is not necessary, because it endangers women’s health.
Also, Ali Qaradakhi, a Kurd who is secretary general of the International Union for Muslim Scholars (IUMS), recently told a local newspaper that female circumcision is not an obligation in Islam.
“Female circumcision is an old issue that keeps resurfacing,” said Qaradakhi. “Islamic scholars have several opinions on it. To me the most appropriate opinion is that female circumcision is not necessary in Islam.”
Female circumcision has been practiced in Iraqi Kurdistan for years, mostly in rural areas. According to statistics published by Kurdistan’s Ministry of Health last week, 41 percent of Kurdish women had been circumcised. The data points to a decline in the number in recent years.
Imam Piskandil, who holds a master’s degree in Islamic jurisprudence, said Islam does not condone the killing of women, adding that men “should not be blamed so much for women who burn themselves to death.”