Khitan (Arabic: ختان) or Khatna (Arabic: ختنة) is the Arabic term for circumcision,[1][2] and the Islamic term for the recommended practice of male circumcision in Islamic culture.[3] Male circumcision is widespread in the Muslim world,[3] and accepted as an established practice by all Islamic schools of jurisprudence.[2][4][5] It is considered a sign of belonging to the wider Muslim community (Ummah).[6]

Islamic male circumcision is analogous but not identical to Jewish circumcision.[2] Muslims are currently the largest single religious group in which the practice is widespread,[3][6] although circumcision is never mentioned in the Quran itself but is mentioned in the ḥadīth literature and sunnah (accounts of the sayings and living habits attributed to the Islamic prophet Muhammad during his lifetime).[1][2][4][7] Whether or not it should be carried out after converting to Islam is debated among Muslim legal scholars (Ulama).[8][9][10][11]

Religious sources

See also: Religious male circumcision

Circumcision being performed in central Asia (probably Turkestan), c. 1865–1872. Restored albumen print.
Circumcision being performed in central Asia (probably Turkestan), c. 1865–1872. Restored albumen print.

The Quran itself does not mention circumcision explicitly in any verse.[1][4][2][7] In the time of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, both male and female circumcision were carried out by Pagan Arabian tribes,[1][2][7] and male circumcision by the Jewish tribes of Arabia for religious reasons.[2][12] This has also been attested by the classical Muslim scholar al-Jāḥiẓ,[7][13] as well as by the Roman-Jewish historian Flavius Josephus.[2][7][14]

According to some ḥadīth reports, Muhammad was born without a foreskin (a birth defect and medical condition known as aposthia),[1][2][7] while others maintain that his grandfather, ʿAbd al-Muṭṭalib, circumcised him when he was seven days old.[6][15] Some ḥadīth report that Heraclius, Emperor of the Byzantine Empire, had referred to Muhammad as "the king of the circumcised".[1][16]

Some ḥadīth reports mention circumcision in a list of practices known as fitra[1] (acts considered to be of a refined person). Abū Hurayra, one of the companions of Muhammad, was quoted saying: "five things are fitra: circumcision, shaving pubic hair with a razor, trimming the mustache, paring one's nails and plucking the hair from one's armpits" (reported in the ḥadīth of Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim).[1] However, there are other ḥadīth which don't name circumcision as part of the characteristics of fitra,[2][17] and yet another ḥadīth which names ten characteristics, again without naming circumcision;[2] in Sahih Muslim, Aisha, one of Muhammad's wives, is quoted with saying: "The Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said: Ten are the acts according to fitra: clipping the mustache, letting the beard grow, using toothpicks, snuffing water in the nose, cutting the nails, washing the finger joints, plucking the hair under the armpits, shaving pubic hair and cleaning one's private parts with water. The narrator said: I have forgotten the tenth, but it may have been rinsing the mouth."[18] Hence, the different hadiths do not agree on whether circumcision is part of fitra or not.[2]

Muhammad's wife Aisha supposedly quoted Muhammad as saying that "if the two circumcised parts have been in touch with one another, ghusl is necessary".[1][7][19][20] According to some other ḥadīth reports, Muhammad supposedly circumcised his grandsons, Ḥasan ibn ʿAlī and Ḥusayn ibn ʿAlī, on the seventh day after their birth.[21] Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim also quote from Muhammad that Abraham allegedly performed his own circumcision at the age of eighty.[2][22] It is also reported by Abū Dāwūd and Aḥmad ibn Ḥanbal that Muhammad stated that circumcision was a "law for men and a preservation of honor for women".[1][23]

Circumcision was introduced to many lands of the Middle East and North Africa for the first time through Islam itself following the early Muslim conquests under the Rāshidūn Caliphate, whose commanders were the companions and contemporaries of Muhammad. An example are the Persians, which practiced neither male nor female circumcision before the advent of Islam.[7] Post-Islamic converts such as Afshin were found guilty in trials of remaining uncircumcised.[7][24]

Despite its common practice in Muslim-majority nations, circumcision is considered to be sunnah (tradition) and not required for a life directed by Allah. According to historians of religion and scholars of Religious studies, the Islamic tradition of circumcision was derived from the Pagan practices and rituals of pre-Islamic Arabia,[7] and is never mentioned in the Quran.[1][2][4] Shīʿīte traditions, however, such as those practised in Iran, have the most stringent requirements for male circumcision, since it is seen as a ritual of purification akin to Christian baptism rather than an initiation to adulthood.[25]

Sunnī Islam

In the Sunnī branch of Islam, the four schools of Islamic jurisprudence have different opinions and attitudes towards circumcision:[1] some state that it's recommendable, others that it's permissible but not binding, while others regard it as a legal obligation.[2] Amongst Muslim legal scholars (Ulama), there are differing opinions about the compulsory or non-obligatory status of circumcision in accordance with the Islamic law (sharīʿa).[4][2] Aḥmad ibn Ḥanbal (founder of the Ḥanbalī school), Abū Ḥanīfa al-Nuʿmān (founder of the Ḥanafī school), and Mālik ibn Anas (founder of the Mālikī school) all maintain that circumcision is not obligatory. The Shāfiʿī school instead regards it as binding on all Muslims, both males and females.[1][2] According to Shāfiʿī and Ḥanbalī jurists both male and female circumcision are legally obligatory for Muslims,[1][2] while Ḥanafī jurists consider circumcision to be recommendable exclusively for Muslim males on the seventh day after birth.[2] Some Salafis have argued that circumcision is required in Islam to provide ritual cleanliness based on the covenant with Abraham, while the purpose of female circumcision for Muslim women is to "regulate" and reduce their sexual desires.[26]

Shīʿa Islam

Within the Shīʿīte branch of Islam, most Shīʿīte denominations regard the practice as obligatory. They rely on sayings that come from classical Shīʿīte Muslim scholars.[27] In one narration Muhammad was asked if an uncircumcised man could go to pilgrimage. He answered "not as long as he is not circumcised". They quote ʿAlī ibn Abī Ṭālib as saying: "If a man becomes Muslim, he must submit to circumcision even if he is 80 years old."[28] Another narration from Jaʿfar al-Ṣādiq, the 6th Shīʿīte Imam, says: "Circumcise your sons when they are seven days old as it is cleaner (athar) and the flesh grows faster and because the earth hates the urine of the uncircumcised."[29] It is also believed that the urine of the uncircumcised is impure, while if one prays with unclean genitals their prayer may not be considered as acceptable, even of those who have been circumcised, meaning that it may have to be repeated again at a time when the believer has purified themselves and removed the impurity. Another hadith attributed to Muhammad states: "the earth cries out to God in anguish because of the urine of the uncircumcised", and that "the earth becomes defiled from the urine of the uncircumcised for forty days".[30]

Time for circumcision

Traditional procession after circumcision of a child in Dutch East Indies, 1915–1918.
Traditional procession after circumcision of a child in Dutch East Indies, 1915–1918.

Islamic sources do not fix a particular time for circumcision.[2][3][4][7] Therefore, there is a wide variation in practice among Muslim communities, with children often being circumcised in late childhood or early adolescence.[3] It depends on family, region, and country.[3] The preferred age is usually seven, although some Muslims are circumcised as early as on the seventh day after birth and as late as at the commencement of puberty.[2][4][6]


There is no fixed age for circumcision in Islam,[2][3][4][7] and the age when boys get circumcised, and the procedures used, tends to change across countries, cultures, families, and time.[3] In some Muslim-majority countries, circumcision is performed on Muslim boys after they have learned to recite the whole Quran from start to finish.[6]

Circumcisions are usually carried out in health facilities or hospitals, and performed by trained medical practitioners.[3] The circumciser can be either male or female,[3] and is not required to be a Muslim.[6]


The occasion is widely celebrated in Turkey and called "Sünnet Töreni", which marks the child's transition to adulthood. The custom is also done in Muslim areas in the Balkans where the celebration is called "Synet".[31]

Confusion with female circumcision

See also: Prevalence of female genital mutilation and Religious views on female genital mutilation

Due to the dual gender use of the word khitan in Arabic, Female genital mutilation (FGM) is sometimes referred to as khitan by its proponents in an effort to seek justification for the practice in Islamic scripture. This interpretation is incorrect, however, as the Islamic use of terminology is restricted to male circumcision.[a][5][33][34] The more precise Arabic term for specifically 'female circumcision' or FGM is Khafḍ.[2][4][5][33] In many communities, khafd is a rite of passage and refers to excision of the female genital organs.[35] According to UNICEF, over 200 million women in Africa, the Middle East and North Africa, and Southeast Asia have been subjected to the practice and are living with FGM.[36] It is not in the Quran,[37]: 1004–1005  and the Islamic position on it was historically unclear, with a few 'weak' hadith encouraging it, and others discouraging it.[38][b]

In 2007, in a landmark ruling on the practice, the authoritative Al-Azhar Supreme Council of Islamic Research in Cairo declared that FGM has "no basis in core Islamic law or any of its partial provisions".[39][c]

See also



  1. ^ Asmani and Abdi (USAID, 2008): "Proponents of FGM/C have translated the Arabic word khitaan, which appears in several religious texts, to refer to both male circumcision and FGM/C. In reality, however, the word only describes male circumcision; FGM/C is actually called khifaadh. However, whenever khitaan appears in a religious text it is used by the proponents to justify an Islamic basis for FGM/C."[32]
  2. ^ Gerry Mackie, 1996: "The Koran is silent on FGM, but several hadith (sayings attributed to Mohammed) recommend attenuating the practice for the woman's sake, praise it as noble but not commanded, or advise that female converts refrain from mutilation because even if pleasing to the husband it is painful to the wife."[37]: 1004–1005 
  3. ^ Maggie Michael, Associated Press, 2007: "[Egypt's] supreme religious authorities stressed that Islam is against female circumcision. It's prohibited, prohibited, prohibited," Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa said on the privately owned al-Mahwar network."[40]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Wensinck, A. J. (2012) [1986]. "K̲h̲itān". In Bosworth, C. E.; van Donzel, E. J.; Lewis, B.; Heinrichs, W. P.; Pellat, Ch. (eds.). Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition. Vol. 5. Leiden and Boston: Brill Publishers. pp. 20–22. doi:10.1163/1573-3912_islam_SIM_4296. ISBN 978-90-04-07819-2. Archived from the original on 2021-09-30. Retrieved 2020-02-07.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w Kueny, Kathryn (2004). "Abraham's Test: Islamic Male Circumcision as Anti/Ante-Covenantal Practice". In Reeves, John C. (ed.). Bible and Qurʼān: Essays in Scriptural Intertextuality. Symposium Series (Society of Biblical Literature). Vol. 24. Leiden: Brill Publishers. pp. 161–173. ISBN 90-04-12726-7. ISSN 1569-3627. Archived from the original on 2021-09-30. Retrieved 2020-02-06.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Anwer, Abdul Wahid; Samad, Lubna; Baig-Ansari, Naila; Iftikhar, Sundus (January 2017). "Reported Male Circumcision Practices in a Muslim-Majority Setting". BioMed Research International. Hindawi Publishing Corporation. 2017: 1–8. doi:10.1155/2017/4957348. PMC 5282422. PMID 28194416.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i Aldeeb Abu-Sahlieh, Sami A. (1994). "To Mutilate in the Name of Jehovah or Allah: Legitimization of Male and Female Circumcision". Medicine and Law. World Association for Medical Law. 13 (7–8): 575–622. PMID 7731348.; Aldeeb Abu-Sahlieh, Sami A. (1995). "Islamic Law and the Issue of Male and Female Circumcision". Third World Legal Studies. Valparaiso University School of Law. 13: 73–101. Archived from the original on 12 November 2019. Retrieved 13 February 2020.
  5. ^ a b c "Khitān". Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. 2014. Archived from the original on 27 January 2020. Retrieved 27 May 2020.
  6. ^ a b c d e f "Islam: Circumcision of boys". Religion & ethics—Islam. 13 August 2009. Archived from the original on 12 November 2012. Retrieved 27 May 2020.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Šakūrzāda, Ebrāhīm; Omidsalar, Mahmoud (October 2011). "Circumcision". Encyclopædia Iranica. Vol. V/6. New York: Columbia University. pp. 596–600. doi:10.1163/2330-4804_EIRO_COM_7731. ISSN 2330-4804. Archived from the original on 19 January 2020. Retrieved 7 February 2020.
  8. ^ "Male circumcision - the Islamic View". Converting to Islam. Archived from the original on 2015-12-17. Retrieved 2013-02-04.
  9. ^ "Is Circumcision obligatory after conversion?". Archived from the original on 2010-12-27. Retrieved 2012-05-20.
  10. ^ "Considering Converting: Is it necessary to be circumcised?". 2005-07-03. Archived from the original on 2012-07-16. Retrieved 2012-05-20.
  11. ^ "Circumcision for Converts". 2007-03-21. Archived from the original on 2012-07-16. Retrieved 2012-05-20.
  12. ^ W. La Barre, The Ghost Dance, London, 1972
  13. ^ Volume II of al-Hayawan by Jahiz, ed. A. M. Harun, 7 vols., Cairo, 1938
  14. ^ The Works of Flavius Josephus, translated by W. Whiston, 2 vols., London, 1858
  15. ^ Al-Halabi, Ali Ibn-Burhan-al-Din. Alsirah al-halabiyyah. Vol.1 Beirut: Al-maktabah al-islamiyyah. (n.d.): 54–55
  16. ^ Sahih al-Bukhari, Vol. 1, Book 1, No. 6.
  17. ^ "Hadith – Book of Dress – Sahih al-Bukhari – Sayings and Teachings of Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه و سلم)". Archived from the original on 2013-09-16. Retrieved 2013-08-24.
  18. ^ "Hadith – The Book of Purification – Sahih Muslim – Sayings and Teachings of Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه و سلم)". Archived from the original on 2013-10-18. Retrieved 2013-08-24.
  19. ^ Malik ibn Anas, Ketab al-mowatta, Volume I, pages 45-47, traditions 70-75. ed. M.F. Abd-al-Baqi, Cairo
  20. ^ Ibn Majah, Kitab Sunan, ed. M. F. Abd-al-Baqi, Cairo, 1972, Page 199 Volume I
  21. ^ Al-Amili, Muhammad Ibn Hasan Al-Hur. Wasa'il al-shi'ah ila tahsil masa'il al-shariah. Vol 15. Tehran, Al-Maktabah al-Islamiyyah, 1982
  22. ^ Sahih Bukhari Hadith No. 575, and Muslim's anthology of authentic hadith, IV, item 2370.
  23. ^ Ahmad Ibn Hanbal 5:75; Abu Dawud, Adab 167
  24. ^ Page 766 of the Volume II of Al-Basaer wa al-Dhakha'ir, Abu Hayyan Tawhidi, Kaylānī, Damascus, 1964
  25. ^ Price, Massoume (December 2001) "Rituals of Circumcision" Archived 2021-05-11 at the Wayback Machine. Culture of Iran. Iran Chamber Society. Retrieved 11 May 2021.
  26. ^ Gauvain, Richard (2013). Salafi Ritual Purity: In the Presence of God. Routledge Islamic studies series. Abingdon, Oxfordshire: Routledge. p. 335. ISBN 978-0-7103-1356-0. Archived from the original on 2021-09-30. Retrieved 2020-10-18.
  27. ^ Book 90 of Hilyat ul-muttaqeen
  28. ^ Al-Kalini, Abu-Ja'afar Muhammad Ibn-Yaqub. Al-furu'min al-kafi. Vol. 6 Tehran: Dar al-kutub al-islamiyyah. 1981:35
  29. ^ Al-Kalini, Abu-Ja'afar Muhammad Ibn-Yaqub. Al-furu'min al-kafi. Vol. 6 Tehran: Dar al-kutub al-islamiyyah. 1981:34
  30. ^ DS Hellsten. Male and Female Circumcision: Medical, Legal and Ethical Considerations in Pediatric Practice. Page 147
  31. ^ "What Do You Do at a Turkish Sunnet Festival?". Travel Tips - USA Today. Archived from the original on 4 May 2021. Retrieved 4 May 2021.
  32. ^ Ibrahim Lethome Asmani, Maryam Sheikh Abdi, De-linking Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting from Islam Archived 2017-02-21 at the Wayback Machine, Washington: Frontiers in Reproductive Health, USAID, 2008, 3–5.
  33. ^ a b Bearman, P. J.; Bianquis, Th.; Bosworth, C. E.; van Donzel, E. J.; Heinrichs, W. P., eds. (2012) [1993]. "Khafḍ". Encyclopaedia of Islam (2nd ed.). Leiden: Brill Publishers. doi:10.1163/1573-3912_islam_SIM_4132. ISBN 978-90-04-16121-4.
  34. ^ van Donzel, E. J. (1994). Islamic Desk Reference: Compiled from The Encyclopedia of Islam. Leiden: Brill Publishers. p. 69. ISBN 978-90-0409-738-4.
  35. ^ Gerald R. Hawting (2006), The Development of Islamic Ritual, ISBN 978-0860787129, pp. 358–361.
  36. ^ "Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: A Global Concern" Archived 2017-11-26 at the Wayback Machine, New York: UNICEF, February 2016.
  37. ^ a b Mackie, Gerry (December 1996). "Ending Footbinding and Infibulation: A Convention Account" (PDF). American Sociological Review. 61 (6): 999–1017. doi:10.2307/2096305. JSTOR 2096305. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2019-07-20. Retrieved 2020-03-29.
  38. ^ See e.g.:
    • Roald, Ann-Sofie (2003). Women in Islam: The Western Experience. London: Routledge. p. 224.
    • Asmani, Ibrahim Lethome; Abdi, Maryam Sheikh (2008). De-linking Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting from Islam (PDF). Washington: Frontiers in Reproductive Health, USAID. pp. 6–13. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2017-02-21. Retrieved 2017-10-10.
  39. ^ * "Fresh progress toward the elimination of female genital mutilation and cutting in Egypt" Archived 2020-03-29 at the Wayback Machine. UNICEF press release. 2 July 2007.
  40. ^ Michael, Maggie (29 June 2007). "Egypt Officials Ban Female Circumcision" Archived 2017-12-14 at the Wayback Machine. Associated Press. p. 2.