The Circumcision Chamber

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
The minor concerned surgery is an initiation or religious ceremony among Muslims and Jews. I knew that much until I searched to find that mythology and history interrelated with reality as always.

Submitted: June 12, 2019

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Submitted: June 12, 2019



The Circumcision Chamber

 The Circumcision Chamber in the Topkap? Palace Museum in Istanbul is a rectangular place with a small attachment at the back, built in the time of Sultan Suleiman (nicknamed the Magnificent or Al-Kanuni) who reigned in 1520-1566. It later underwent various restorations, acquiring its current exterior in the time of Sultan Ibrahim II (1640-1648).

The name Circumcision Chamber was not given until later when the room was used for the Circumcision of the sons of Sultan Ahmed III (1703-1730). The space was also tagged as Summer Pavilion because the sultan used it to sleep in the summertime. It is unique in its marble window basins and the 17th-century blue-white ceramics on its inner and outer surfaces.

When my friend Ahmed and I reached this spot through our tour in the impressive Museum, he stood still as if one of his feet nailed to the floor. When I asked him if he is alright, he said yes, "I was temporarily possessed by a personal familiarity in the time past."

"How do you mean? I asked

 "This remembrance spot connected me to a related story from my childhood that I will tell you about," Ahmed replied.


As for me, I knew later that Circumcision has ancient roots among several ethnic groups in sub-equatorial Africa, and is still performed on adolescent boys to symbolize coming of age ritual and their transition to warrior status or adulthood. The earliest literary evidence of the practice of Circumcision goes back to ancient Egypt.

For the same reason, some Indigenous cultures in Amazon, in Pacific Samoa, and Hawaii practice Circumcision or Subincision. The Latter is a brutal form of Circumcision as it is a Urethrotomy of varying length. It was a common practice among Australian Aborigines living in the central desert of Australia such as the Arrernte tribe in Alice Springs. The Arrernte word for Subincision is arilta.

According to the Australian Aboriginal mythology, arilta was given to the Arrernte people by Mangar-Kunjer-Kunja, a lizard-man spirit who created humans and being from the Dreamtime. Everywhen during this Dreamtime, the land was inhabited by ancestral heroic figures, but they did not control the material world in the "time out of time."

Many Indigenous Australians refer to the Creation time as "The Dreaming." The Dreamtime laid down the patterns of life for them.

During a trip to the north of Queensland State in Australia, I might have seen a practicing hour in one of the parks in Mornington Island performed by a group from the Lardil tribe. As it was from a distance, I wasn’t sure whether it was Circumcision or Subincision. I was late at that hour inside the time, but I was wiser.

I any case, Subincision is nasty as Castration of young boys to maintain their voices as church singers in the middle ages. In 1878 the then Pope Leo XIII prohibited the hiring of new castrati in the Sistine Chapel Choir which is one of the oldest choirs in the world.


When we left the Museum, Ahmed told me why he was lost for a moment in that Museum chamber and the story behind it.

He said: "You know in Circumcision, the foreskin is removed to expose the tip of the organ. The procedure is simple using a scalpel, scissors, or a surgical clamp under local anesthesia. Any bleeding is cauterized, and the remaining edges of the skin are sutured together. In babies, who are circumcised, the foreskin usually takes about 7-10 days to heal. However, in older boys, the healing process can take weeks."

"In Judaism and Islam, Circumcision has traditionally been practiced among males as from the seventh or eighth day after birth or as soon as possible after," I commented.

Ahmed said, "In my case, I fall into the longer healing recovery group. When I asked my parents why I wasn’t subjected to the procedure until I was in the first grade of school, they said they took pity on me. They couldn’t stand my suffering as their only baby, so they kept postponing it.

When they eventually took the decision, the doctor of the small Al-Qadisya County near Babylon where we lived did a fine job, but he bandaged the wound tight enough to cause painful urine passing and sequestration for a couple of days.

The doctor had to pay for that minor technical mistake in the second visit to the GP clinic where he worked. Once he released the bandage, I showered him with urine retention. He was splashed to the extent that he would never tighten things again".

"It is hardly funny," I responded

"Anyway, this was my familiarity with the subject which my mind reviewed in that Museum Chamber. Although I was relieved by wearing loose clothing for a while, I was not allowed to ride my bike until the swelling has completely gone down," he added.

"Swelling is the inflammation representing the body's response to infection, irritation, or injury, which causes redness, and pain. Within a week you would be able to return to school", I explained

"That took longer because of such minor error" Ahmed concluded.


The origin of Circumcision is not known with certainty. It has been proposed that it began as a religious sacrifice, a rite of passage marking a boy's entrance into adulthood, and as an aid to hygiene to minimize contraction of venereal diseases. Scientific evidences indicate that circumcised men are at lower risk of inflammation and venereal diseases.

Religiously, Circumcision was considered as "a token of the covenant" concluded with the father of the Prophets; thus, it is commonly observed by the two Abrahamic religions. In this respect, some explained it as a suppressor of materialism and "perfect what is defective morally." Many of the New Testament references to circumcision have to do with being circumcised in the heart. Such reference may be a justification to avoid doing it physically!

Islam is currently the largest single religious group in which the practice is widespread, although Circumcision is not mentioned in the holy Quran (like in the Bible) but is mentioned in the Hadith and the Sunnah or sunnet (sayings of the Prophet Muhammad and the habitual practice or path of his followers). 

Interestingly, I could recognize the Turkish word “sünnet,” referring to Circumcision on the billboard of the Chamber. It is similar to habitual practice word rather than the Arabic word for the procedure, which is Khitan. That was unexpected. Anyway, some Muslims in the Arab region call the procedure Tuhoor, which means purity.

© Copyright 2019 Ali Al-Zaak. All rights reserved.

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