Pharaonic Circumcision (infibulation)
Al-Amin Dawood, Ph.D


    Before dealing with what is known as Pharaonic circumcision (infibulation) in its Islamic legal aspect, I would like to quote Dr Anwar Ahmad, Professor at the School of Medicine, Khartoum University, who writes in an article in Al- sahafa newspaper, no.1488, of26 December 1967:
    I would like to discuss Pharaonic circumcision in a frank and scientific manner. May I seek my readers' forbearance if I use scientific language, in an attempt to make the question properly understood.
    Pharaonic circumcision is a very old custom in Sudan. It was first introduced with the Ancient Egyptian conquest, and is still practised today. It is also practised in Somalia, Kenya, and certain parts of Indonesia. The old concept that female genitals are offensive to virtue appears to be still accepted. Before dealing with the problems which this kind of circumcision involves, I want to explain the anatomy of the external female sexual organs, so that readers may un<;lerstand better what exactly goes on.

Female genitals

The female sexual organs consist of the following:

How infibulation is performed

    Let us now look at what may happen when infibulation is performed. The operation calls for cutting off most of the labia majora and the complete removal of the labia minora and the clitoris. When this is done, a match is placed in the labia majora aperture. After the wound has healed, a small opening is left, from which urine comes out. At the age of puberty, menstrual blood is let out of the same opening. At the end of this operation, when the match is already placed, the girl's legs are tied together for forty days to make sure that the wound heals well.
    Thus, quite simply, a woman is deprived of her genitals and denied the most basic element of life. Her life becomes one complex on top of another, and the house is filled with needless problems. Denying a woman the ability to share the pleasure makes her more negative. Denying her the relaxation of nerves which accompanies proper sexual intercourse creates in her feelings of great anxiety and loss. In turn, such negativity and such feelings of loss give rise to psychological, physical, and sexual disorders. An inferiority complex, a feeling of negativity, and an awareness that the man is the dominant master, the one who feeds with a spoon of gold, combine to gradually cancel her role in society. At the same time, feelings of weakness, negativity, and pain in the marital bed are certain to make her experience various sexual problems, such as sexual frigidity, which is nowadays a real crisis and the root of many domestic problems.

Harmful effects of infibulation

    The above is a brief account of the indirect problems. The direct effects of infibulation are the following:-

Pharaonic circumcision as viewed in Islamic law.

This form of female circumcision is an Ancient Egyptian habit, which was common in particular in the age of Ramses, more than 1000 years before Christ. It was introduced into the Sudan with the Egyptian conquests of the Nuba country . The kings of Nuba in turn conquered Egypt, and the custom of infibulation spread throughout the Nile Valley .
    The custom obviously does not exist in other countries. Female circumcision, whether in the form of infibulation or any other form, is not known at all in the countries of north-west Africa, the countries of Greater Syria, Iraq, India, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, or Yemen.
    There is nothing in Islamic law that prevents the abandoning of the simple form of female circumcision. As for Pharaonic circumcision (infibulation), it is a major crime, and if performed, full blood money has to be paid in compensation. It is a cardinal sin, and any person who performs it is damned.

Dr Mahmoud Ahmad Fora

Last Updated February 25, 2005