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  1. BBC - Religions - Islam: Circumcision of boys
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  3. Religions and circumcision

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Ethics guide. Religions and circumcision.

Festival celebrates Muslim rite of circumcision

Circumcision is an important practice in the Jewish and Islamic religions. Religions and circumcision The prevalence of male circumcision worldwide is primarily due to the role of religion, although cultural and health reasons have also been significant factors. Judaism The book of Genesis mentions that God issues a command to Abraham that every male child shall be circumcised.

It is regarded as a sign of the covenant with God. Islam Islamic scholars differ over whether circumcision is compulsory for Muslim males: some regard it as obligatory, whereas others view it as an act to be recommended. Circumcision is not mentioned in the Qur'an but Prophet Muhammad spoke about the practice. Christianity Although the Old Testament refers to circumcision as a sign of the covenant with God, it is not laid down as a requirement in the New Testament. Find out more Female circumcision Top. See also. Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

The notion of bodily integrity forms an important part of the value-structure of many religions and cultures. In this paper, we explore the notion of bodily integrity in Islam using male circumcision as the focus of the discussion. Our aim is to contribute to a better understanding of the Muslim perspective and of the differences and similarities between Western and Islamic ethical structures, in particular, regarding the concept of bodily integrity. Modern bioethics developed in the s and was mainly based on the principles of autonomy, beneficence, nonmaleficence and distributive justice.

However, contemporary developments in bioethics in the USA and Europe have led to other concepts and principles including dignity, respect for life, solidarity, and bodily integrity.

BBC - Religions - Islam: Circumcision of boys

Because modern bioethics developed in the West, Christianity was quite influential. Principles such as bodily integrity sprang from Western philosophies, such as the thoughts of Thomas Aquinas and Kant, who derived most of their ideas from Christian concepts and teachings. Many peoples and religions, particularly the three Abrahamic religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam consider these principles as key elements in their religious or cultural value system. Both sources are important for our kind of study.

However, these texts are inaccessible to most Western bioethicists because they are written in the Arabic language. The English references chosen for this study are necessary to explore additional ethical concepts and principles. Although it is not a literal translation, the term accords the intended sense.


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This might contribute to bridging the gap between Western and Islamic bioethics. In this paper we focus on male circumcision. The custom of circumcision is a worldwide phenomenon, although it occurs at different rates, depending on prevailing religions and traditions. It is not restricted to Jews and Muslims. Many more nations and peoples practice it at lower rates. Uncircumcised Muslims are rare. The rate of circumcision in Muslim nations is between 90 and percent.

This includes the Christians who form a significant part of some Arab states. It is practiced for medical-therapeutic, medical-preventive, or religious reasons. Some researchers say it is also performed as a social custom. These are done largely to grant the practice scientific legitimacy and a moral foundation. Because drops of urine and smegma gather under that piece of foreskin and may cause impurity to clothes and the body, many Islamic jurists understand the purpose of legislating circumcision as a way to purify the body from urine and smegma.

First, we provide a short overview of the Islamic regulations of male circumcision. Subsequently, we will highlight some central Islamic aspects of bodily integrity and explore relevant applications and guidelines. We thereby focus on the relation between bodily integrity and male circumcision. Our aim is to contribute to a better understanding of the Muslim perspective of the differences and similarities between Western and Islamic ethical structures, particularly regarding the concept of bodily integrity.

Who can be better in religion than one who submits his whole self to Allah, does good, and follows the way of Ibrahim the true in Faith? For Allah did take Ibrahim for a friend. Say: Allah has spoken the truth, therefore follow the religion of Ibrahim, the upright one; and he was not one of the polytheists. Among Sunni Muslim jurists, there are some differences in religious rulings on male circumcision. The scholars agree that circumcision entails the removal of all or the majority of the foreskin that covers the glans only.

Rare voices, such as Sami Awad Aldeeb Abu-Sahlieh, a Swiss writer of Palestinian Christian origin, have recently called for Muslims to put an end to the practice of circumcision and consider it a violation of the sacred human body. Such activists believe that circumcision is in conflict with physical nature and constitutes the amputation of a healthy and functional part of the body. Islam expresses a remarkable interest in the honor and preservation of the body. Many Quranic verses and Prophetic traditions set out the restrictions and instructions for its care. Islam views the body as a divine miracle, one that points to the existence of the Creator and the greatness of His creation.

And on the earth are signs for those who have Faith with certainty. And also in their own selves. Will you not then see? And indeed We have honored the Children of Adam. The honor bestowed by Almighty Allah is the reason for the restrictions and practices set upon human beings.

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These restrictions are boundaries set to guard human dignity and bodily integrity. Islamic law honors the body even after death. Islamic law forbids defacing or maiming a corpse. Breaking the bone of a corpse is equivalent to breaking the bone of a living being.

Your body has a right on you. Each individual is responsible to preserve, care for, and respect the integrity of his or her body before God. A human being is not just responsible for maintaining moral accountability with the body, but also its physical body as the body is a trust from God. Moreover, in Islam care of the body becomes a legal responsibility and religious duty, one with correlating rewards and punishments. Diseases and calamities that befall the human body have a moral dimension, one related to the will of God.

This dimension is the foundation both for bodily and moral integrity. It is for this reason that righteous Muslims who are sick or wounded or have lost part of their bodies have been asked not to feel deficient. They believe that their ordeals are the will of God. No fatigue, nor disease, nor sorrow, nor sadness, nor hurt, nor distress befalls a Muslim, even if it were the prick he receives from a thorn, but that Allah expiates some of his sins for that. Verily, We created man in the best stature mould.

Who made everything He has created good and He began the creation of man from clay. All actions that would deface or maim the body are forbidden in Islam. The body must remain in its original form unless specific permission is given from the Creator to make a change.

Any change in the original creation of the body is considered one of the great sins in Islam. Verily, I will mislead them, and surely, I will arouse in them false desires; and certainly, I will order them to slit the ears of cattle, and indeed I will order them to change the nature created by Allah.

Consequently, cosmetic changes of the body are not lawful because aesthetic reasons are not considered moral justifications for violating bodily integrity. Tattoos, cleaved teeth, plucked eyebrows, and other procedures are absolutely forbidden. A hadith states:.


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  • Islam and circumcision.

Although women are the direct subject of this hadith, the prohibition covers both men and women. Moreover, the ruling concerning bodily integrity also encompasses animal bodies, so it is unlawful to violate their integrity. Do not mutilate the animal bodies. Accordingly, physical interventions that are forbidden become permissible when performing indicated surgery. Islamic jurisprudence distinguishes between various types of surgery and divides them into categories: necessary surgeries for preserving life , required surgeries for treating diseases that usually do not lead to death, such as tonsillectomy , and cosmetic surgeries such as face lift and breast augmentation.

Religions and circumcision

Islamic law allows the first two types while the third type, cosmetic surgery, is forbidden. It says that legalizing any forbidden procedure, such as violating bodily integrity, must be within the narrowest limits and in accordance with only that which is absolutely necessary. Therefore, there must be a good reason for an intervention into the human body.

In terms of circumcision, this rule means only removing the part of the skin that covers the glans. Many bioethicists, both Muslims and non-Muslims, see a greater moral value in the treatment of living bodies than in the treatment of corpses. They believe that violating a dead body is less serious than violating a living body, as the living body belongs to someone who is aware of his or her surroundings, in contrast to when he or she is dead.

As such, Muslims avoid cutting, maiming or anatomizing the body, except in a case where there is a considerable necessity, for example, studying anatomy in medical schools or autopsy to determine the cause of death. The concept of bodily integrity is deeply rooted in religious and philosophical considerations. For example, a child fears blood flowing from a wound in a finger. The same is true for surgeons in their early days of surgical experience, forming a memory that will never leave them.

In the same way, a person witnessing for the first time a circumcision performed on a small child might consider the procedure a violation of bodily integrity and an unjustified aggression. However this strong instinctive feeling may diminish gradually, day after day, by experience and practice.

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The surgeons remain the best example for that. While there is general agreement among Muslims that the principle of bodily integrity is something natural and instinctive, a correlation between circumcision and the violation of bodily integrity does not exist.


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