The Abrahamic Covenant of Circumcision


Abraham and his men begin to circumcise themselves. (Wellcome Library, London)

Kornelius Kuku Palete Masiku challenged the Muslims to produce a verse of the Quran commanding believers to circumcise. He also stated that Jesus was circumcised and fasted. We believe he did, just as every prophet did. However, it must be pointed out that the Gospel accounts are third party – reports of the events, rather than statements by Jesus.

The Quran, on the other hand,  is directly from God through his medium, Muhammed, and therefore contains no third person statements about Muhammed, may Allah praise him. The best I can do here is to quote direct commandments of God and back those up by Authentic Hadeeth.

  1. Although circumcision is not mentioned directly in the Qur’an, it is mentioned indirectly in verse 16:123:

“Then We inspired you: ‘Follow the religion of Ibrahim, the upright in Faith’.”

We know his religion included circumcision partly because of the Torah, which the Quran upholds except where it corrects it, and partly through hadiyth which confirm the covenant of Abraham.

  1. Genesis 17

Now when Abram was ninety-nine years old, He (Who) Is (Yahweh) appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God (El) Almighty. Walk before Me, and be blameless. I will establish My covenant between Me and you, and I will multiply you exceedingly.”

Abram fell on his face, and God (Elohim) talked with him, saying, “As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, and you will be the father of a multitude of nations.  No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; For I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make nations of you, and kings will come forth from you. I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God (Elohim) to you and to your descendants after you. I will give to you and to your descendants after you, the land of your wherein you dwell, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God (Elohim).”

God (Elohim) said further to Abraham, “Now as for you, you shall keep My covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout their generations. This is My covenant, which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: every male among you shall be circumcised. And you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskin, and it shall be the sign of the covenant between Me and you. And every male among you who is eight days old shall be circumcised throughout your generations, a servant who is born in the house or who is bought with money from any foreigner, who is not of your descendants. A servant who is born in your house or who is bought with your money shall surely be circumcised; thus, shall My covenant be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. But an uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant.”

Then Abraham took Ishmael his son, and all the servants who were born in his house and all who were bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham’s household, and circumcised the flesh of their foreskin in the very same day, as God (Elohim) had said to him. Now Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. And Ishmael his son was thirteen years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. In the very same day Abraham was circumcised, and Ishmael his son. All the men of his household, who were born in the house or bought with money from a foreigner, were circumcised with him.

  1. From authentic hadiyth we know, concerning the covenant, The Prophet Muhammad (may Allah praise him) said:

“The Prophet Ibrahim circumcised himself when he was eighty years old and he circumcised himself with an axe.” (Related by Bukhari, Muslim & Ahmad.)

4. As for the legal ruling, The Messenger of Allah (may Allah praise him) said,

“Five are the acts quite akin to fitrah: Circumcision, clipping or shaving the pubes, cutting the nails, plucking or shaving the hair under the armpits and clipping (or shaving) the moustache.” (Bukhari & Muslim)

And, as reported by Abdullah Ibn Jabir (r.a.) and his wife Aisha (r.a.), he set an example by

“performing the Aqiqah (birth sacrifice) of al-Hasan and al-Hussein (the prophets grandsons) and circumcising them on the 7th. Day.” (al-Bayhaq & Tabarani)

5. As for Jesus, it is related by the synoptic gospels that

when the eight days until His circumcision had passed, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given Him before He had been conceived.

(this contradicts Matthew, who said he would be called Immanuel)

And when the time of purification according to the Law of Moses was complete, his parents brought him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord and to offer the sacrifice specified in the Law of the Lord. (Luke 2:21-24).

  1. Ibn Al-Qayyim (may Allah have mercy on him) mentioned three opinions in Tuhfat al-Mawlood concerning the circumcision of the Prophet (may Allah praise him). He said that there are different opinions on this matter:

1 – That he was born circumcised

2 – That Jibreel circumcised him when he split open his chest

3 – That his grandfather ‘Abd al-Muttaalib circumcised him according to the Arab custom of circumcising their sons.

  • Support for the first opinion is only from weak hadiyth and goes against nature. Being born that way would be a defect and. if Allah gave our prophet attributes of physical perfection and made him of fine lineage, how can we entertain the idea that he was born circumcised?
  • The second opinion is supported by what is termed a hidden witness hadiyth – that is, the author is unknown. As such, it should be thrown out forthwith.
  • The third opinion is supported by known custom. Ibn Qayyim reported in Zaad al-Ma’aad that the historian, Ibn al-Adeem said in refuting Kamaal al-Deen ibn Talhah, who was of the first opinion:

“It says in some reports that his grandfather ‘Abd al-Muttalib circumcised him on the seventh day.”

He also opined that this seems to be the correct view and closest to reality as this was the custom of all of the Arabs in accordance with the covenant of Abraham.


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