Under Jewish law, male circumcision and Brit Milah, the Jewish circumcision ceremony, is mandated by the Hebrew Bible and regarded as one of Judaism’smost fundamental commandments. There is however no mention of female circumcision or FGC in Jewish doctrine. The Oxford Dictionary of the Jewish Religion states that female circumcision has never been permitted in Judaism. Leviticus 19:28 instructs Jews and Christians alike:
You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor imprint any marks upon you. (Leviticus 19:28, New Living Translation)
Christianity and female genital cutting
FGC is not discussed in the Bible, nor is it part of the Christian faith system. Christians believe that the human body is made in the image of God and a vehicle for the Holy Spirit. They believe the body is not to be altered or mutilated.
The following quotation is taken from Reliance of the Traveller, Revised edition, amana publications, Beltsville, 1997. The title page informs us that this book is
The Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law ‘Umdat al-Salik
by Ahmad ibn Naqib al-Misri (d. 769/1368) in Arabic with
Facing English Text, Commentary, and Appendices
Edited and Translated by Nuh Ha Mim Keller
In this book, in the section titled "THE BODY", we find on page 59 the following entry:
Nuh Hah Mim Keller's Translation
e4.3 Circumcision is obligatory (O: for both men and women. For men it consists of removing the prepuce from the penis, and for women, removing the prepuce (Ar. Bazr) of the clitoris (n: not the clitoris itself, as some mistakenly assert). (A: Hanbalis hold that circumcision of women is not obligatory but sunna, while Hanafis consider it a mere courtesy to the husband.)"
Although female circumcision is not mandated, one tradition of disputed authenticity permits (but does not encourage) the removal of a minuscule segment of skin from the female prepuce, provided no harm is done:
A woman used to perform circumcision in Medina [Madîna]. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said to her: 'Do not cut severely as that is better for a woman and more desirable for a husband.'–Sunan Abu Dawûd, Book 41, #5251.
One does not want to make too much of this tradition, as it is classified as "weak" by Abu Dawud (the compiler) himself. Nonetheless, it clearly forbids severity in circumcision and bases such limitation on both the potential to harm the woman and the potential to make her less desirable to her husband. Yet, despite the restriction against severity, the Prophet did not here prohibit circumcision completely.
Permitting such a ritual constitutes an act of tolerance by Islamic law for pre-Islamic practices, and may be overruled by the Islamic prohibition against harmful acts.