IMAM IBRAHIM EL-AMIN: As-Salaam Alaikum Imam Abdulmalik Mohammed, I hope you are doing well and I look forward to working with you in person. I feel in my soul that that day is very soon. I also know that I am speaking for many others when I thank Allah for your leadership. Any sensible person looking at our evolution as a people must conclude that you are in the direct line of Muslim-African-American leadership that began with the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, was completed with his son, Imam W. Deen Mohammed, and now continues with you. All praise belongs to Allah!
My question is regarding the concept and practice of circumcision. As far as the west is concerned, the practice is on a sharp decline in most European countries. It is far more prevalent here in America, but arguments are being made against it, claiming that it is a violent and barbaric practice that serves no real world purpose. What is the Islamic approach to the practice of circumcision? How should we understand the concept behind it and how do we apply it in the context of our effort to establish our life as indigenous Muslim-Americans?
IMAM EARL ABDULMALIK MOHAMMED: As-Salaam Alaikum Imam Ibrahim El-Amin, and thank you for this important question. It is a serious question and it is an insightful question. We stand to waste a lot of time in addressing matters that are frivolous, or the matter being discussed is without any real benefits to the questioner or those listening for answers. I see alot of this with our leaders. They present themselves as scholars, some of them. But, if they were truly scholars in the very strict sense of that term, they wouldn't be trying to impress people by addressing questions with superficial knowledge and hype, by speaking to unimportant matters and making them look like something vital. These leaders are very superficial and they commit a tremendous dis-service to the people by not emphasizing and working for what is useful. They are wasters of resources, space, and time. The Qur'an says that the wasters are the brothers of the devils. Scholars and leaders who are truly following Prophet Muhammed's tradition don't waste their time. Time is a favor from Allah to be involved in productive and good works to contribute to the quality of human life, to solve problems for human communities. Prophet Muhammed, the prayers and the peace be on him, sensitized his own following to the importance of asking questions that result in benefits that aid in understanding and living the best human life. The Prophet was critical of those who asked questions that were of no benefit to anyone, and he likened them to putting heavy and unnecessary burdens on the life of the people.
This question you have asked is very important for many reasons. The question of circumcision is also a question of the legitimacy, and commentary on the quality, of the thinking of people who follow religious traditions and religious teachings. Circumcision is not only the paring of skin, it is most importantly the disciplining of the mind that must be disciplined to deal with the pressures and influences of this world, and navigate those influences to preserve for humanity the life that G'd intends for them to have and enjoy. This is where the real lesson is, and this is why all of the heavenly religions preserve and protect this practice. The knowledge of this ritual practice is not lost, but it has been confused. It has also become disassociated from the proper moral reasoning over time due to the ongoing strategies of the enemy of man who wants man to put aside his relationship with G'd. He wants to make Man and these ancient ritual practices look foolish in the light of modern world technologies and sciences. This is why Imam W. Deen Mohammed referred to it maybe 40 years ago as a circumcision of the mind.
I haven't heard or read the Imam's teaching on this subject in over 25 years, but I do not have to struggle to know what he was teaching. It is in me and us, because its understanding is necessary to bring us to where we must go as a People. All of this teaching is in our people, the most sincere of them who follow Imam W. Deen Mohammed. It is not in the hype-magicians and wizards, who blow on knots, and want to embalm Imam Mohammed's knowledge in a mummified body that they hang on a stick and they maneuver its arms and mouth as if it is a living body of knowledge. They appear to float above the people on the illusion that they were Imam Mohammed's students, but they trip and fall every time they are asked to explain and demonstrate the most fundamental issues in Islamic teaching and Islamic community identity. This is why you will never see them trying to duel with me in public, only in their private magician's workshops or what they call "classes" will you see them denying or attacking what I am saying or twisting and competing with Imam Mohammed's knowledge. They now call Imam Mohammed the "Big Show" because they know that they are the wizards behind the curtain of that show that they are executive producers for. That show they are the 'Producers' for has been attempting to erect a falsified picture of leadership and destiny for our community over the last 10 years, and is the farthest distance from anything we knew to be Imam Mohammed's actual teaching and thinking. It is all a "show" and most of those calling themselves Imams are tied to it in some direct or indirect way. There are only a very few exceptions. They have found crafty ways to challenge Imam Mohammed's knowledge. The newest way is to say they are scholars, or to have others refer to them as scholars.
This is why the circumcision ritual remains an important practice. This is how we identify what is true and false, what is good and not good for our life. The test is what is respecting your nature and common sense. Islam is respect for the purity in the nature. It is the religion of the nature -deen al-fitrah. If what you are eating is making you feel nauseous then don't eat that anymore. Too many people say "Oh, Brother Imam So and So, he is alright. He is a good brother. He means well." But everything you are getting from Brother Imam So and So's teaching you cannot digest without spitting and coughing and choking in your moral nature and rational mind. I refuse to punish my nature or my mind. G'd does not invite us to punishment. He invites us to balance and well-being. He invites us to peace. It is the enemy that invites us to confusion.
I feel very confident that most true scholars in Islam will agree with me that circumcision is considered an obligatory practice in Islam. The people who criticize the practice either don't know how to appreciate its importance, are ignorant of its meaning, or want to interfere with the what it is meant to commemorate in the progress of human development toward the cherished life. The practice as such is not mentioned directly in the Qur'an, but it is alluded to. Allah says in the Qur'an that He chose Adam and Noah and the families of Abraham and that of Mary and her son Jesus, peace be on the all of these Prophets and personalities. Also, Prophet Muhammed is given the name 'Mustafa' which refers to him as also being chosen in this same line of human types. What is this line of human types that Allah chose? It is a direction and precision in the thinking of human communities through time who came to a rational and moral conclusion that they were created by a Merciful, All-Knowing, Redeeming Lord, and designed by the Lord for a specific purpose. It can only be described as direction or consciousness in some of them, like Adam, who represents the first consciousness of this direction in the human nature. In others, we can see it clearly as precision in thinking, like Abraham. Abraham came to rational conclusions about his reality as a human creation, and the purpose for that creation. His thinking was precise, his reasoning was precise, and his language was precise. But, he didn't have the situation for realizing those conclusions in totality, or in completion. That completion came with Al-Mustafa, the chosen one that completes the matter, or completes the aim for purpose of the original choice that Allah made. Allah chose Adam for the purpose of completing him. Adam was perfect but not complete. His completion was in potential. His completion is Muhammed. And Muhammed is both perfect and complete. Only a circumcised mind will see this and come to this conclusion.
Circumcision is a precise process leading to a precise moment in the moral and intellectual tradition of man. As a physical act, it cannot be anything other than a precise act, because if left in the hands of those who are not precise or who don't have command of the precise science, it will cause injury or mutilation. Also, as a physical act it is an act for the male genital area only. Not females. There is no such thing as female circumcision in Islamic teaching. There is trimming of the skin and the hair to discipline the thinking to live productively in the world, but the womb is the perfect situation for development. That womb is heaven and doesn't need anything but devotion to provide for it. The act of physical circumcision as a symbol is for men and women, because all of us are from male and female. No man was ever born, and will ever be born, except from a female -no matter what manipulators of nature cook up in their laboratories. Someone who has bad intentions will say "Adam was not born from a female. He was the first man." Yes, but your perception of sex identity needs an adjustment. Adam was the first human. Adam is an-nafsin wahidah, or the original human personality, that is both male and female. Whatever these scientists manufacture in their laboratories is taken from original elements with properties that were already created, with characteristics already present and operating, inherent within that element. The urge that is described as male is a property that also belongs to women because it is a human urge. But, before the precision came, the urge came. Adam as a mind, or even as a community of minds, represents the process of coming to an awareness that human life is created with a purpose. Man did not will himself into existence. The Lord-Creator willed man and formed him and inspired him. It is a movement or urge in the mind that comes to that awareness. But, man does not yet come to his precision as a creature until he correctly reasons with what all G'd provides for him. It is the perfect urge reaching for the completion of a rational, logical, reasonable, clear language to describe it. It is reaching for precision and exactness in expression. And eventually through many manifestations and over many cycles of progress, it arrives at that precision.
It is reported that Prophet Muhammed said there are certain actions that are considered 'natural', or of the nature. All of these actions are related to the cutting or paring of hair or skin. Clipping of the fingernails is a form of paring the skin. Trimming the hair under the armpits, and in the private area, and on the face, etc. are all part of the 'natural' practices. Human communities came to these moral conclusions, and first expressed them as moral habits, and then as practices justified in moral reasoning or moral logic or moral systems. The Prophet identified circumcision as one of these acts, and by identifying it, made it an obligatory observance in the Islamic systems and tradition of respect for natural excellence.
The reason this practice is more in America than in Europe is because of the American view that our land and its people and its founding ideas are 'exceptional.' There is in America the moral and intellectual tradition referred to as 'exceptionalism.' Essentially, it is saying that the American people think of themselves as a chosen people with a special purpose. That special purpose is the great American experiment with democracy and the democratic idea of social ordering of society where the most important concept is that man is equal. Abraham Lincoln's famous words at Gettysburg say it clearly that his understanding of the Civil War was a conflict to determine if such ideas would be able to "endure." That "a nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal" could endure on the earth. This is the circumcision of the American mind. This is the circumcision of a "new birth of freedom" on the earth in it fourscore and seventh year.
Circumcision is commemoration in the nature of man that identifies the processes and precision of moral disciplines that focus man's thinking and reasoning to bring him to his best state. Islam preserves this process, discipline, and precision and treats it as an obligation. We are free when we have this reasoning and we know how to defend it. This is our Islamic tradition under Imam W. Deen Mohammed's teaching, and the continuation of our excellence after our precise circumcision in the Muslim-African-American mind.