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Origin of FGM in Somali culture and Islamic Perspectives (Produced by: Amplifying civil society voice on GBV coalition members in Somaliland)

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a harmful traditional practice that involves the cutting or removal of the external genitals.  It is typically found in the traditional group or community cultures with patriarchal social structures.  The reasons for the practice are complex and the origins are often lost in the mists of time. So within this article, we will emphasize to know about the originality of FGM, although the origin is difficult to understand, there has been anthropological and historical research to help us understand how the practice of FGM comes about. Whoever FGM has practiced in some communities in the belief that it’s a religious requirement, but some research shows that FGM predates Islam and Christianity.

In the history, there are some researchers who have traced the practice of Egypt in the 15 century BC argued that the geographical distribution of FGM suggests it is originated from the west coast of red seas.

Somali history of FGM practice goes back to 1609,  Dos Santos Reported that a group near Mogadishu, Somalia had the custom to sew up their females, especially young slaves to make them unable for conception which makes their price higher and creates confidence for buying masters due to chastity situation of the young female slaves.  The practice is supported by traditional beliefs, value, and attitudes that it is a means of preserving girl’s virginity until marriage. FGM is a pre-requisite to marriage and marriage is vital to women’s social and economic survival and they believe, that if their daughters are not circumcised would not get a husband and this harmful traditional has been guided by taboos from generation to generation.

In the Somali community, they generally believe and agree upon that FGM practice is culturally rooted, there are others who do it for religious reasons, however, female circumcision has not been thoroughly confirmed as a religious obligation, but there are some religious Sheikhs who refer hadith and refer female circumcision as Sunnah. There are some reasons why FGM is practiced today is a mix of culture, religious and social factors within families and communities. Moreover, FGM is often considered a necessary part of raising a girl child properly and preparing her for marriage and adulthood associated with cultural ideals of feminist and modesty. Although there is no religious scripts prescribe the practices, practitioners often believe the practice has religious support divine with reference to Hadith, While Religious leaders take varying positions with regard to FGM, Some promote it while some consider it irrelevant and others contribute to its elimination.

However, it’s needed for an accurate scientific and social understanding for FGM that is based on cultural norms and inherited misconceptions, and they should have knowledge of the following, the scientific definition of the FGM practice, the natural functions for which the organs were created, the physical and psychological consequence of the FGM practice on the girl child or the mature women, the social reasons behind the FGM practice, for example what motivates Somali family to circumcise their daughters, likewise we will emphasize Somali people have previous relations with Egyptian and there was interaction of cultural and religious, and the originality of the FGM practice in Somali community.

First, the scientific definition of the FGM is the total or partial cutting or Excision of the external genitalia. In the Medical view of the natural functions for which these organs were created are, They protect other genital organs, the natural secretions facilitate sexual intercourse and increase, the close relationship between the two parties, they facilitate the attainment of sexual satisfaction by the female, which is a legitimate human right, They help direct expulsion of urine away from the body, thereby maintaining cleanliness of the organs, in the physical, its expose the girl child and later the women to numerous health consequence and risks that persist for their lives, while in the psychological and social consequences, the circumcision is a painful experience for any girl child and has numerous psychological consequences such as fear, depression, and mistrust of parents and loss of self-confidence.

The main Islamic principles refuting this ancient practice; there is no evidence in Islamic law that necessitates female circumcisions nor is it part of the Sunnah (Prophetic traditions) nor an honorable act, the value and sanctity of the body as well as the rights of the human being, male or female to enjoy physical and psychological health are among the precepts of all divine religions and are advocated by the authentic prophetic hadith “Do not Harm yourself or Others[1]”. This hadith urges every Muslim to avoid any practice that would harm him or others’. Both modern science and human experience corroborate the fact that FGM definitely leads to the harm of the girl child and, later the mature women as a result of removing vital organs from her body and depriving her for their natural functions, and exposes her to lifelong health risks and psychological consequence, Allah Almighty said: “Do not kill yourself”[2] and “Do not cast yourself into perdition[3]The precepts of Islam call for the respect of the sexual relationship between a Husband and his wife and emphasize that each party is entitled to a successful and happy relationship. It would, therefore, be considered selfish and egotistical, a matter interdicted by Islam, should one party, and not the other, attain satisfaction.

The Sunnah does not stipulate any form of female circumcision and the Prophet’s biography which has recorded the details of the prophet’s life and that of his household does not mention that the Prophet circumcised his daughters, wives or any female member of his household.

According to the health consequences of the FGM practice on the women and girl health, if there is an obligation and not mentioned in the Quran, its needed to abandon FGM and leave the girls as Allah Created them.

Finally, Allah Almighty says in the Holy Quran “ We have Created man in the best form[4] People are of the view that FGM is meant to beautify the female, it’s as IF Allah created her physique with a flaw and they are repairing it!!!!


[1] Narrated by Al Dar Qutny on the authority of Abu Said Al Khidri of whom Al Hakem said: authentic on

the condition of Muslim; Sunnan Ibn Majeh, 2/784 No. 2340; Mawta Malik: 2/745; Al Sunnan Al Kobra by

Bahiqi: 6/69; Al Mostadrak by Al Hakim, 2/58; Sunnan Al Dar Qutny, 4/227; Majma’Al (13) Zawa’id, 4/110.

[2] Surat Al-Nessa’a (The Women), Verse 29.

[3] Surat Al Bakara (The Cow), Verse 195.

[4] Chapter (95) sūrat l-tīn (The Fig)