Circumcision is not prescribed by the Holy Quran and is not a commandment in Islam. However, before Islam, it was practised by the people of Arabia; and being a good practice and a useful hygienic measure, it was allowed by the Rasool ( peace be upon him) to be kept up by the Muslims. Since then it has retained its traditional significance in Islam. Besides being a measure of cleanliness, the prophylactic value of circumcision is great. For example, carcinoma of the penis is very uncommon amongst the circumcised and early circumcision has been a definite deterring factor in this respect.
It is also commonly believed that the incidence of acquired syphilis is lower in the circumcised Jews. Jews, according to an old tradition, carry out circumcision on the eighth day after the birth of a child. Being only a custom for Muslims, there is no such restriction as far as time is concerned, although it is often carried out early, generally before the age of five or six. The festivities attached to circumcision amongst the Muslims, are of a customary nature and are not necessarily carried out in each case.
Jews and Muslims have circumcised newly born male children using different methods at different times. Pictures depicting circumcisions are still in existence, for example: the well-preserved tomb painting at the Egyptian village of Saqqara ( about 2400 B.C. ). Even before the introduction of Christian calendar, circumcision was prescribed by law in Palestine and even today the Catholic Church Calendar records the feast of circumcision (circumcision Domini) 8 days after the birth of Christ.
Besides this circumcision at an early age, there is also a later form of circumcision, especially amongst the tribes of Africa. This is carried out between the age of 8 and 14, a period of development in which western countries celebrate the first Holy Communion or confirmation into the church or the non-religious “youth initiation”. In Africa the act of circumcision is a communal festival, a symbol of attainment of the age of maturity.