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Customs and Culture >
Does Islam require circumcision?

As in Judaism, circumcision for males is required in Islam according to both tradition and Muhammad's example (Sunnah). Many Muslims believe that circumcision is required for male converts to Islam. Symbolically, circumcision represents the religious process of submission to God's will and commands and the submission of base passions to the higher spiritual requirements of Islam. In other words, the physical modification of the male organ symbolizes submission of even sexual matters to God.

Socially, circumcision is an important rite of passage for boys and, when carried out at the age of ten or twelve, marks the transition to adulthood and the assumption of male responsibilities, including regular attendance at public prayer. Furthermore, a male who is circumcised at an older age is no longer permitted to mingle as freely with unrelated women.

In the Middle East, the ritual of circumcision is typically carried out somewhere between the ages of two and twelve. In many Muslim countries, the occasion of circumcision is a celebratory event paralleling wedding rituals, including the bringing of gifts and feasting. In Europe and the United States, circumcisions are typically done in the hospital immediately after birth.

Female circumcision is neither an Islamic practice nor widespread among Muslims. Rather, it appears to be an African tradition that remains in practice in countries like Sudan and Egypt, among Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

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