With Sarjo Camara-Singateh
Dr. Omar Jah, the deputy Vice –Chancellor at the University of the Gambia (UTG) and a member of the Supreme Islamic Council, on Saturday, 30 January, 2016 addressed an audience at a local hotel on the hotly debated issue of female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) following its banning in The Gambia. The gathering was meant for Islamic leaders to dialogue around the issue.
“I support the idea of the prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM) and Permissibility of Female Circumcision and would recommend the following; continuous education to those who practice it to the same cultural wings to religious to putting a firm penalty on those who conduct it on their granddaughters without the permission of their parents,” said Dr. Jah.
He stated that in Islam, it is highly reported that judges in Islam are three categories; two of them are on the part of hell and one is on the part of Paradise. “The one who does not know and adjudicate is going to hell”.
Dr. Jah added that the one who knows and sight with falsehood is going to hell. “The one who knows and adjudicate the truth is going to paradise likewise the scholars or any individual that speaks in the name of Allah”.
He said he was born in Fass Chaho in Niumi district of the North Bank region but did not hear about the practice of FGM when he was young. “I have seen boys taken for circumcision but I did not hear of female genital mutilation,” he said. He added that he also did not hear it in countries he visited at the time such as Senegal.
“I started learning in the book of jurisprudence about circumcision when I was told that 95% of women in Egypt are circumcised,” he said. This, he noted, was when he knew about it.
“If you want to talk about a particular thing, you have to know what that thing is all about. What are we talking about here? Is it Female Genital Mutilation, Female Genital Cutting, or Female Circumcision?” he asked.
Dr. Jah said Islam is a complete way of life revealed by Allah, the intelligent designer and sustainer of the universe, adding that what is Islamic and not Islamic is decided by Allah in the Islamic sources and not by scholars.
He said the role of our scholars is to struggle to discover Allah’s opinion in the sources with humility.
He said according to the sunnah of the principles of Islamic jurisprudence, there are two main sources which are the holy Quran and the authentic tradition of the prophet (SAW) and rational sources known as secondary which ranges from consensus to equity and public interest.
Dr. Jah noted that the holy Quran does not address the issue of FGM directly. The tradition of the prophet has addressed the issue of FGM in different instances. He said in another hadith it is stated that circumcision is a law for men and a preservation of honour for women. He added that in another hadith it is stated that a woman use to perform circumcision in Mecca and the prophet said to her don’t cut severely as that is better for a woman and more desirable for her husband.
The UTG deputy vice chancellor said scholars of the science of hadith have categorized the tradition of the prophet Muhammad into different categories of authenticity depending on the change of narrators and the value of the text. He said if the act is truly FGM, he will refer them to hadith where the prophet is reported to have said “do not cut severely”.
“I believe that like male genital mutilation, if a male genital is also amputated, we will not like it. If male genital mutilation is not allowed, then I will also believe that female genital mutilation will be forbidden,” he argued.
He added “I strongly believe that if the term is (FC) female circumcision, we all know and I believe that it is Sunnah and it is clearly stated in the principle to the verbal Sunnah because the prophet has said it.” He stated that even if the term is Female circumcision I believe that it belongs to the optional Sunnah. Female circumcision is not mandatory in Islam; it is under the category of permissible.
“My position is further supported by the fact that in addition of the absence of the practice from my own birth place which was known to be traditionally attached to Islamic values, I have never seen in any tradition to the fact that the prophets own daughters were subjected to the practice.”
Dr. Jah said they concluded with the last fact to carry home which is the fact that most of the Quranic and Sunnah injunctions are not definitive in nature but rather speculative and that means it is open to different interpretations and that no particular interpretative opinion is mandatory upon others.
He said like other speculative issues, the misconception and arguments with regards to FGM and Islam will continue forever. “There is no need for arguments or fighting with regards to FGM. What is important is for each of us to take what we believe in,” he said.
Dr. Jah said in the book he wrote, the issue of FGM is addressed. “I don’t call it FGM, I call it Female Circumcision,” he added.
He said that he also mentioned in the book that as far as the Gambia experience is concerned, there are two extreme schools; extremely anti FC, so much so that the entire practice is prohibited, and extreme pro FC, so much so that for them the practice is mandatory and some of whom have been trapped into the cultural Arabic and religious mindset.