In some human rights circles, there is an ongoing intense debate on the topic of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). The practise of FGM is most common in African communities. It is also perceived as associated with Sunni Islam. But, what is the position of Twelver Shiite Islam on FGM?
The answer might come surprising to some!
In Shiism, Female Genital Circumcision (FGC) is permissible -- but not mandatory -- up until menarche. Thereafter, it becomes forbidden. And what's precisely permitted is the removal of only a portion of the clitoris.
The aforementioned is an important distinction as in some societies girls undergo traumatizing FGM experiences that leave them scarred for life.
The information on FGC in Shiism are based on the published rulings of Grand Ayatollah al-Sayyed Ali Sistani. He is considered by many Shiites to be the most knowledgeable living scholar on Shiite Islam.
|Grand Ayatollah al-Sayyed Ali Sistani|
The office of Ayatollah Sistani published the ruling on FGC in response to queries by the general public. This most likely means that there are concerned Shiites seeking solutions to what they perceive as genital problems, probably aesthetic in nature.
These issues, without getting into their details, are not alien to Western and other societies. For instance, in the West, there are numerous women who visit plastic surgeons to receive very costly and quite painful elective genitoplasty, such as clitoral hood reduction and even Labiaplasty. In fact, the level of interest in these beautification surgeries has become a phenomenon known as the "designer vagina craze."
Going back to Shiites, like those in numerous religious communities, they consider their bodies to be the absolute property of God, The Creator. Hence, a devout Shiite feels that he/she is not at liberty to alter his/her body in any fashion unless the desired modification(s) is(are) religiously permissible.
In the opinion of this author, the edict of Ayatollah Sistani is laudable and reflects deep wisdom: For those who desire FGC and meet the specified conditions, he ruled that the performance of partial clitoridectomy, which is the equivalent of, or similar to, clitoral hood reduction, is permissible. Yet, Ayatollah Sistani made it very clear that "only a small portion" of a girl's clitoris may be removed -- guaranteeing that she will grow up to live a normal sexual life, God willing.
Indeed, God is Most Merciful.