Is circumcision necessary before converting to Islam.

<QUESTION>

I am considering converting to Islam from Catholicism. What I want to know is, is circumcision absolutely compulsory before one can convert to Islam? I have some people here who say it is a must before I can accept Islam.

<ANSWER>
In the name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful,

When one becomes convinced and has strong belief that Islam is the true religion ordained by Allah Almighty for all human beings, then he should go ahead and accept Islam without any delay.

The basic beliefs one is required to accept while entering the fold of Islam are as following:

1) God is one. He has neither a partner, nor a son or daughter. He is One in the true sense of the word that has no room for the concept of trinity, or for any other form of camouflage monotheism (tawhid) or a disguised polytheism (shirk).

2) The Holy Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him & give him peace) is the last Messenger of Allah after whom no Messenger or Prophet of Allah (in any sense of the word) will come.

3) The Holy Qur’an is the last of the divine books revealed upon the blessed Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace), and all its contents are true.

4) The life in the Hereafter (after death) is eternal, where one will face the fate of his good and evil deeds.

5) All the teachings of the Qur’an and the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) in absolute and unambiguous terms are true and acceptable.

When an individual accepts these fundamental beliefs of Islam from the depth of his heart, and rejects those beliefs of his former faith that contradict Islamic beliefs, then he will be considered a Muslim.

As far as the verbal acceptance is concerned, the majority (jumhur) of the scholars of Islamic creed (aqidah) are of the view that verbal confession is a condition in order for one to be called a Muslim in this world, and on which judgments are passed, such as: Marrying, inheriting, being buried in a Muslim graveyard, etc…

Since having a belief in the heart is a hidden thing that must have a sign, therefore whosoever believes with his heart (tasdiq bil qalb) and does not confess with his tongue (iqrar bil lisan) is considered a believer with Allah Almighty, but not according to the judgments of this world (See: Sa’d al-Din al-Taftazani on the creed of Najm al-Din al-Nasafi, P. 190, Dar al-Bayruti, Damascus).

Therefore, if you are convinced of the basic and essential beliefs of Islam, then you are already considered a believer according to Allah Almighty. However, for you to be considered a believer in this world, you must confess and express your beliefs by saying the Shahadah.

Conversion to Islam is very simple and has no particular procedure, like baptism, etc. It is not necessary that one seeks the mediation of a saint or priest, nor is it a pre-requisite to go to a mosque or to an institution for accepting Islam. One can accept Islam on his own. However, it is advisable to go to a learned Muslim (preferably a scholar) who can inform you about the basic beliefs of Islam and can teach you the concise and comprehensive words to express the acceptance of those beliefs.

Normally the following sentences are used for that purpose:

“I bear witness that there is no God but Allah, and I bear witness that Muhammad, (Allah bless him & give peace), is His servant and Messenger.”

“I have believed in Allah and His angels and His book (as they were originally revealed on His prophets) and in His messengers and in the Last Day and in the fact that all the good and bad destinies come from Allah and in being raised alive after death.”

Therefore, you must hasten towards verbally accepting Islam. There are no conditions or pre-requisites for accepting Islam. This is the religion (deen) chosen by the Almighty, and is the only religion which will save one from eternal punishment in the Hereafter. Therefore, go ahead and convert to Islam at once, without any delay, hesitation or thoughts about the practical side of Islam.

Allah Most High says:

“The Religion by Allah is Islam” (Qur'an 3:19).

In another verse of the Holy Qur’an, Allah states:

“If anyone desires a religion other than Islam, never will it be accepted of him; and in the Hereafter he will be in the ranks of those who have lost” (Qur’an 3:85).

Circumcision:

As far as circumcision for males is concerned, it is a highly emphasised way of the Messenger of Allah (Sunnah al-Mu’akkadah), and one of the salient features of Islam (sha’a’ir).

The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give peace) said: “The practices related to Fitrah (natural human ways) are five: Circumcision, shaving the pubic hair, trimming the moustache, cutting the nails and removing the hair of the underarm” (Sahih al-Bukhari, n0. 5550)

He (Allah bless him & give him peace) also said: “Circumcision is Sunnah for men and a source of pleasure (in sexual intercourse) by performing it on women.” (Recorded by Imam Ahmad in his Musnad and Imam al-Bayhaqi in his Sunan with a weak chain of narrators, from Radd al-Muhtar).

In light of the above, newborn males should be circumcised before the child has attained puberty. Failing to do so will amount in leaving out a salient feature of Islam.

Regarding a male who accepts Islam and is above the age of puberty, or a child who was not circumcised for some reason until he reached puberty, there are three possibilities:

1) If the male is able to tolerate the act of circumcision and there is no fear of harm being afflicted on him, and also it is done by oneself as not to expose the nakedness (awra) in front of another person, then circumcision should be carried out.

2) If one is able to bear circumcision without the fear of harm, but at the same time it will mean exposing one’s Awra in front of another person, then there is a difference of opinion between the scholars on whether circumcision should be carried out.

On one hand, we have the order of not exposing your Awra in front of other people except in dire situations, but on the other hand, we have this great salient feature of Islam. Some of the contemporary scholars have said that in this situation circumcision should be carried out for two reasons:

a) Circumcision is a form of treatment, and the Fuqaha have given a dispensation in exposing the Awra for treatment and medication.

b) The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) is reported to have said: “Whoever accepts Islam should have his circumcision performed” (Talkhis al-Habir). In light of the above narration, the scholars have said that if there is no fear of harm and the adult male is able to bear circumcision, then it should be carried out.

3) The third situation is where the grown up male is not in a position to tolerate or bear the pain of circumcision, or there is fear of harm being inflicted on him. In this case, circumcision can be (and should be) avoided.

Islam is a religion of mercy and orders only that which is within the capacity and capability of an individual. It never commands that which is beyond ones capacity.

Allah Most High says:

“On no soul does Allah place a burden greater than it can bear” (Qur’an, 2:286).

The great Hanafi jurist, Imam al-Haskafi (may Allah have mercy on him) states:

“If an old person entered Islam, and (medical) experts were of the view that he won’t be able to bear circumcision, then it should not be carried out” (Durr al-Mukhtar).

One of the great Hadith experts (hafidh), Ibn Hajr al-Asqalani (Allah have mercy on him) states:

“If the child attained puberty, and he is weak to an extent that if circumcision was carried out on him, he will perish, then the necessity of circumcision will no longer remain” (Fath al-Bari, 10/289).

Another Hadith expert and Hanafi scholar, Imam al-Kashmiri (Allah have mercy on him) states in his commentary of Sahih al-Bukhari:

“I don’t recommend circumcision for those that have reached puberty, as it is very painful and could lead to death”. (Faydh al-Bari, 4/413).

However, it should be remembered here, that he who opts not to be circumcised should regularly clean the area underneath the foreskin of his sex organ because, in Islam cleanliness of the body is obligatory for performing prayers.

In conclusion, you must not delay accepting Islam any longer. Explain to the people in your area that in the light of some of the above evidences, it is not required for a grown up person to be circumcised when it is painful for him. Enter this great religion of Allah and you will never be disappointed. May Allah guide to the straight path and keep us all steadfast on it (Ameen).

And Allah Knows Best

[Mufti] Muhammad ibn Adam
Darul Iftaa
Leicester , UK