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Do Sikhs get circumcised?

Circumcision is the surgical removal of the foreskin, the tissue covering the head of the penis. It is a common practice in many cultures and religions around the world. For Sikhs, circumcision is generally not a religious requirement. However, some Sikh individuals may choose to be circumcised for cultural or health reasons.

Background on Sikhism

Sikhism is a monotheistic religion that originated in the Punjab region of South Asia during the 15th century. The founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak Dev, taught a message of universal love, equality, and service to humanity. Sikhism rejects rituals and emphasizes living an honest, hardworking life while remembering God.

Sikhs believe in one formless God and follow the teachings of the ten Sikh Gurus and the Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh holy scripture. The core beliefs of Sikhism include equality of all people, engaging in seva (selfless service), earning an honest living, and remembering God. Key Sikh practices include meditating on God’s name, community service, and not cutting one’s hair (kesh).

There are approximately 30 million Sikhs worldwide, making Sikhism the world’s fifth largest religion. Most Sikhs live in the Punjab region of India, but Sikh communities can be found across the globe. When Sikhism was developing in the 15th and 16th centuries in South Asia, both Hindu and Muslim cultural practices influenced Sikh traditions. However, Sikhism is a distinct faith with its own scriptures, rituals, and guidelines.

Circumcision in Sikhism

Unlike in Judaism and Islam, circumcision is not mentioned in the Sikh holy scriptures as a requirement. The Sikh Gurus did not include circumcision as one of the rituals or codes of conduct to live by.

Some of the reasons circumcision is not practiced by Sikhs include:

  • Sikhism emphasizes the natural form – Sikhs believe people are created by God in their natural form and should remain that way. Artificial changes to the body are not encouraged.
  • Focus is on the spiritual rather than the physical – Sikh teachings direct followers to focus on inner spirituality over outer appearances and formalities.
  • Equality for all – In Sikhism, human bodies are viewed equally. Physical alterations like circumcision to differentiate social or religious groups go against Sikh values of equality.
  • Unnecessary ritual – Sikhism avoids rituals with no spiritual significance. Circumcision is seen as an unnecessary ritual with no spiritual benefit.

Overall, Sikh scriptures and doctrines neither require nor encourage circumcision. The human body is considered a gift from God that should remain intact. Any permanent changes to the natural state of the body, like circumcision, are typically discouraged for Sikhs.

Context and Cultural Factors

While Sikhism itself does not necessitate circumcision, cultural and contextual factors can sometimes influence this practice among Sikh individuals and communities. Here are some considerations:

Punjabi culture

Many Sikhs have ancestral roots in the Punjab region of South Asia where both Hindus and Muslims have a long history of practicing circumcision. Some Sikh families continue this custom for cultural reasons even though it is not a Sikh religious requirement.

Influence from Islam

Islamic rulers maintained control over the Punjab during key periods of Sikh history. This resulted in the influence of some Islamic practices, like circumcision, on Punjabi and Sikh culture over time. Some Sikh men may have adopted circumcision from their Muslim neighbors and rulers.

Immigration to western countries

Sikhs who have immigrated to predominately Christian western nations, where circumcision is more common for non-religious reasons, may choose circumcision to align with cultural norms or for perceived health benefits.

Access to medical care

Increasing medicalization and access to safe clinical procedures can also impact circumcision rates. Some Sikh men may opt for circumcision if it is recommended by doctors or easily available at hospitals.

Perceived health benefits

In some settings, circumcision is seen as promoting cleanliness or having health advantages, like reducing STIs. These perceived benefits, though often contested, may motivate some Sikh parents to have their sons circumcised.

So while circumcision is not a Sikh religious practice, cultural and contextual factors have likely influenced its prevalence among some Sikh communities.

Data on Circumcision Rates Among Sikhs

Limited statistical data exists on circumcision rates specifically among Sikhs worldwide. However, some surveys provide estimates:


– A study in the North Indian state of Haryana found only 9% of Sikh boys were circumcised compared to 94% of Muslim boys in the same region.

– An estimate from the 1980s posited only around 2% of Sikh men in India were circumcised during childhood.

United Kingdom

– A health survey from 1994-2003 reported circumcision rates of around 10% among Sikh boys in the UK compared to 32% in the general population.


– Data on Sikh Canadians is limited but one study found 14% of Sikh boys were circumcised compared to 32% nationally. Circumcision was more common among Sikhs who had lived in Canada longer.

United States

– In a sample from a Sikh community in Southern California, 23% reported being circumcised compared to 77-80% nationally.

This data, while incomplete, shows circumcision occurs in a minority of Sikh boys and men, often at lower rates than the general population. Further research on this topic could provide more clarity.

Reasons for Circumcision Among Sikhs

For the minority of Sikhs who are circumcised, the motivations and reasoning typically relate to the cultural, contextual, and health factors discussed earlier. The common reasons include:

  • Conforming to cultural norms or customs in their region
  • Aligning with practices of other religious groups they coexist with
  • Integrating into a new culture after immigration
  • Accessibility of the procedure and medical recommendations
  • Perceived health and hygiene benefits

Of course, families have to weigh these motivations with Sikh teachings that favor preserving the natural state of the body. The individual’s health, cultural identity, and personal beliefs play a role in the decision.

Perspectives Within the Sikh Community

Given the lack of a clear religious directive, perspectives on circumcision vary among Sikhs. Here are some of the common viewpoints:

Not encouraged or required

Many Sikhs point out that their faith’s teachings do not require or promote circumcision. The Gurus specifically emphasized maintaining the body’s natural form as created by God.

A personal choice

Some see circumcision as a personal choice that families should make after considering medical advice and cultural context along with Sikh teachings. They do not see it as a definitively prohibited or encouraged practice.


More conservative Sikhs argue circumcision goes against core Sikh values of equality and the natural state of the human body. They maintain Sikhs should avoid reinforcing unnecessary social rituals or physical distinctions.


For some Sikh communities, especially where circumcision is not widespread, it remains a non-issue that they neither feel strongly for nor against. They focus on other aspects of the faith.

As with many topics, Sikhs represent a diversity of opinions on circumcision that merit understanding and dialogue. But most agree it is not a religious requirement.

Guidance for Sikh Parents

There are no definitive guidelines for parents within Sikhism regarding circumcision. Some of the factors Sikh parents may consider include:

  • Reviewing the Sikh teachings to see if the practice aligns with or contradicts any core principles.
  • Learning about the cultural norms related to circumcision within their community.
  • Understanding the risks, benefits, and medical perspectives to make an informed decision.
  • Considering whether circumcision holds any personal or social significance for their family.
  • Discussing the decision with their spiritual leaders or community members.
  • Following their individual judgement based on the considerations above while keeping their child’s well-being paramount.

This allows parents to make a choice aligned with medical evidence, community norms, and Sikh values. There is room for either decision as long as it is made thoughtfully and compassionately.


In summary, circumcision is typically not a religious requirement or common practice among Sikhs given the faith’s focus on the natural form and avoiding unnecessary rituals. However, some Sikh individuals choose circumcision due to cultural norms, health perceptions, or integration into non-Sikh communities.

Though perspectives differ, most Sikhs view circumcision as more of a personal decision than a religious obligation. Sikh parents faced with this choice are encouraged to weigh all factors in consultation with their beliefs, doctors, and community. While circumcision rates remain low among Sikhs compared to other groups, the practice ultimately comes down to the family’s discretion and circumstances.