Circumcision: a matter of the covenant

Image result for circumcision

As more of the Children of Israel begin to wake up and accept their identity the implications of their responsibility becomes ever more apparent. The Children of Israel are defined by their covenant which has been passed down through the generations all the way from our forefather Ibrahim (as). Allah (swt) made a covenant with Ibrahim (as) which had a number of clauses that if not fulfilled would mean we were sinful and liable to punishment this side of life as well as being held accountable in the hereafter.

Ibrahim (as) was ordered, as a condition of the covenant, to circumcise the flesh of his foreskin and all the males who resided in his home, even his servants although not blood related.

“God said to Abraham, “and as for you, you shall keep My covenant – you and your offspring after you throughout the generations. This is My covenant which you shall keep between Me and you and your offspring after you; every male among you shall be circumcised. You shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin, and that shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and you.”

“An uncircumcised male who will not circumcise the flesh of his foreskin- that soul shall be cut off from its people; he has invalidated My covenant.”

Circumcision was not just an obligation of the covenant, it was made a sign of the covenant itself being evidenced in the flesh of all the males. Rejecting circumcision would amount to a rejection of the covenant.

The Islamic position, for non-Israelites, is represented by the different schools of thought which have differing positions even within one school of thought. Imam shafii (may Allah be pleased with him) considered that circumcision was a fard (obligation) while imam Malik (may Allah be pleased with him) considered it to be Sunnah mu’akkada (confirmed Sunnah not missed). Within the Maliki School the views ranged from fard to mustahab (preferable).The different schools have derived their opinions based upon their understanding of Quran and the Sunnah. May Allah reward those esteemed ulema (scholars) for their efforts in trying to expound the intention of the Lawgiver (swt). The position of the Israelite who is Muslim is clearer in regards whether it is something which he must do or something he can choose to do. Allah (swt) has ordered the Children of Israel to fulfil the Abrahamic covenant and this covenant is not optional, it is something which must be fulfilled by every generation until judgement day. So, this would make circumcision fard upon every Israelite and would cut across all schools of thought. As those who are non-Israelite would follow the opinion of their school of thought the Israelite is bound by his covenant and would have to fulfil his covenant regardless of the position of his school of thought. The covenant supersedes the sharia as Allah (swt) has demanded that the covenant be fulfilled even though the new sharia has emerged with Muhammed (saw). There is no conflict between the shariah as given to today and the Abrahamic-Israelite covenant. The covenant requires that the Israelite adheres to the sharia and where there is an abrogation he or she can enjoy the change as a mercy from Allah (swt). Where the shariah does not abrogate the previous shariah it will still apply especially if the previous parts have been carried over by the Quran and the authentic Sunnah.

As many of the Children of Israel have come to Islam and are continuing to come to Islam the issue of circumcision becomes urgent. There are brothers who have come to Islam but remain after many years uncircumcised either due to following the opinion of the school of thought he chose or because he has ascribed to a school of thought but finds the message confusing since there are differing opinions from the classical ulema. This situation is a disaster because of the implications in not fulfilling his covenant. Circumcision is not optional for the Israelite he must fulfil his covenant and therefore he must be circumcised. So, it becomes incumbent upon the Israelite, no matter what age he comes to Islam, to obey the command of Allah (swt) whether he is an adult or not. Some ulema have even given the ruling that when people come to Islam in their 20’s and 30’s, or older, then it is not upon them to get circumcised because they are older. If your school of thought follows the opinion that it is not fard then it is consistent that it should not be something you have to do if you come to Islam as an adult. This would remove a barrier for some adults who find this concerning.

There is a difference of opinion among the ulema as to what time one should circumcise their child. The Torah mentions seven days after the birth of the child but Malik said that this was the practice of the yehood and this is not applicable to Muslims. Abraham (Ibrahim (as)) was 80 years when he circumcised himself as a result of Allah’s command. Ismaeel (as) was circumcised when he was 13 years old. The majority of the ulema have said that Ishaq (as) was seven days old when he was circumcised but Malik disputes this. Malik (ra) has stated that the time of circumcision should be between 7 and 10 years in line with the obligation to pray and fast.

Within the Maliki School the one who is not circumcised without a shariah excuse can neither be an Imam nor can he be a witness to give evidence. It is reported that Ibn Abbas (ra) considered that those who were not circumcised, their salaat would not be accepted and any meat that they slaughtered could not be eaten by other Muslims. If in the case there was a medical reason why it was not possible to receive circumcision then this would be a shariah excuse. With no shariah excuse the divine covenant imperative remains.

Ulema from the four schools of thought never considered the implications of the Israelite covenant and how it would impact their fatawa in regards to this issue but there is evidence that at least one of the schools did consider the implications in other issues. There is no blame on them for not doing so because they would have been dealing with their own people’s issues at their time.

As we awake within Islam our issues will have to be looked at and reassessed to see how our covenant accurately impacts us and how we live with that in our everyday lives.