Question # 164: I have a Christian friend who is 58 years old, he is considering reverting to Islam; he read the Quran 3 times and fully convinced that Islam is the right religion. The only issue that is holding him up from reverting to Islam is “circumcision”, he is scared to do such a procedure at this age. Can you please advise whether circumcision is a must for him to revert to Islam? Or it’s optional?

Bismi-llahi r-raḥmani r-raḥīm,

Assalamu ‘laikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh,

All praise and thanks are due to Allah (سبحانه و تعالى), and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم).

Dear questioner,

First of all, we implore Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) to help us serve His cause and render our work for His sake.

Shorter Answer: Circumcision is obligatory for men according to the majority of scholars, and it is one of the sunan al-fitrah (the actions connected to the sound nature of man). Even, Prophet Ibrahim (عليه السلام) circumcised himself when he was eighty years old.  If, however, when an adult man becomes Muslim and fears that circumcision will harm him or if a respected and authoritative doctor has told him that he will experience profuse bleeding, then the obligation for circumcision is waived. It is not permissible under any circumstance for the issue of circumcision to become a hindrance for a person wanting to accept Islam.  The validity of one’s acceptance of Islam is not dependent on his circumcision and it is valid for him to embrace Islam without it. 

Long Answer: Circumcision is obligatory for men according to the majority of scholars, and it is one of the sunan al-fitrah (the actions connected to the sound nature of man), as the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: “The actions of the fitrah are five: circumcision, shaving the pubic hair, trimming the moustache, clipping the nails and plucking the armpit hairs.” (Narrated by al-Bukhari and Muslim)

Al-Bukhari and Muslim also narrated that Abu Hurayrah (رضي الله عنه) said: The Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: “Ibrahim (عليه السلام) circumcised himself when he was eighty years old.”

But that fuqaha’ have stated that if an adult fears that circumcision may harm him, then it is waived in his case. Abu ‘Abd-Allah (i.e., Imam Ahmad) said: Ibn ‘Abbas was very strict on this issue. It was narrated from him that there is no Hajj and no prayer for one who is not circumcised. But al-Hasan granted a concession with regard to that, and said: If a person becomes Muslim, it does not matter if he is not circumcised. He said: Black and white people became Muslim, and no one examined them, and they did not get circumcised. The evidence that it is obligatory is that covering the ‘awrah[1] is obligatory, and if it were not for the fact that circumcision is obligatory it would not be permissible to transgress the sanctity of the person being circumcised and look at his ‘awrah in order to carry out this procedure. And this is one of the symbols of the Muslims. So it is obligatory, as are all the other symbols of Islam. If an adult man becomes a Muslim and he fears that being circumcised will harm him, it is waived in his case, because ghusl and wudoo’, etc. are also waived if there is the fear that they will cause harm, so it is more appropriate that circumcision be waived (in this case). If a person is sure that he will not be harmed by it, then he has to do it. Hanbal said: I asked Abu ‘Abd-Allah about the dhimmi (Jew or Christian living under Islamic rule) who becomes a Muslim: Do you think that he needs to be circumcised? He said: It is essential. I said: Even if he or she is old? He said: I like for him to be purified by that, because of the hadith:  “Ibrahim (عليه السلام) circumcised himself when he was eighty years old.” And Allah says in the Qur’an: “it is the religion of your father Ibrahim (Abraham)” (Soorah al-Hajj 22:78) (Al-Mughni)

[Therefore,] male circumcision is obligatory for the Muslim male if he is able to do it.  If, however, he is unable, whether due to fear of injury or if a respected and authoritative doctor has told him he will experience profuse bleeding which may make his life miserable, then the obligation for circumcision is waived and he does not commit a sin by not having it done.

It is not permissible under any circumstance for the issue to become a hindrance for a person wanting to accept Islam.  The validity of one’s acceptance of Islam is not dependent on his performance of circumcision and it is valid for one to adopt Islam even if he has not had himself circumcised.

It is said in Fataawa al-Lajnah al-Daa’imah: If circumcision after converting is too difficult, because of his age, then it is OK if he does not get circumcised. Circumcision should not be insisted on, lest it turns him away from Islam.

(The above reply is based on various answers by Shaykh Muhammad Saalih al-Munajjid on the topic)

Allahu A’lam (Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) knows best) and all Perfections belong to Allah, and all mistakes belong to me alone. May Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) forgive me, Ameen.

Wassalaam

[1] For meaning of awrah, please refer http://studentsofknowledge.org/etiquettes-morals/question-57-meaning-of-awrah/