Is masturbation lawful in Islam? – Part 1


“Those who guard their sexual organs except with their spouses; or those whom their right hand possesses, for (with regard to them) they are without blame. But those who crave something beyond that are transgressors.” (Al-Mu’mun: 5-7).

Imaam Qurtubi, one of the revered scholars of Quranic exegesis has posited that since the Almighty has not provided a third alternative to marriage and abstinence then, any other sexual act is unlawful. The same position held by Imam al-Qurtubi has been upheld by ‘Imam Baighawi.

The traditions of the Prophet of Islam compel the conclusion that abstinence from masturbation is better than an indulgence in it. In an hadith reported by Abdullah ibn Masuud the Prophet of Islam (s.a.w) once said: “O group of youth!
Whoever among you who can marry should do so because it keeps the gaze low and protects the private parts. And he who cannot marry should make it compulsory upon himself to fast because fasting attenuates sexual desires’. Here again, the Prophet has not given an alternative different from the one the Almighty has offered in the Quran. Rather, what we see is an encouragement from the Prophet to the youth to marry, to avoid fornication and other illicit sexual acts including masturbation and homosexualism. Perhaps in order to emphasize the prohibition and make it as complete as possible, the Prophet says again: ‘Seven persons are such that the Almighty will not look at them on the Day of resurrection nor will He purify them nor will He include them among those He will favour. They will enter hellfire first except those who repent. These include someone who masturbates, someone who performs the act of sodomy or homosexuality or lesbianism; a person upon whom the act of sodomy, homosexuality or lesbianism is performed; a perpetual drunkard; the person who hits his parents so much that they appeal for help; and the person who harms his neighbors so much so that they curse him and the person who commits adultery with his neighbor’s wife. (Ibn Katheer vol. 5 p. 458).

Thus dear reader, in creating humanity male and female, the Almighty, may His name be exalted, had plans not only for each and every one of us but equally for every organ in our body. The mouth is designed for speech and for consumption of food and drinks. Our genitals are made in such a way that they equally perform dual functions: they are means for the evacuation of our internal extremities and infirmities and for sexual pleasure and procreation. In order words, the creation of the phallus for men was based on divine wisdom. Just as the insertion of the pen in water would render the former invalid the subjection of our organs to purposes or means that they were not naturally meant for would lead to earthly tribulations and eternal damnation.

As for your question whether masturbation is a grievous sin, I guess it should be clear from the above that this is better avoided as it is not sanctioned in Islam. All sexual conducts that do not comply with or are contrary to the intendment of the Creator are infractions of the Will of the Almighty. In a lecture the other day, I asked my audience to imagine how it would feel if an iron rod which has spent hours in a burning oven and has consequently become red is inserted in someone’s private part.

Boys and girls in the hall could only imagine how painful and tortuous it would be for whoever have to suffer such interdiction. I then argued that that is the similitude of the punishment that would result from engagement in sexual practices which run foul of the Will of the Almighty. While you may or may not experience the interdictions and punishments for such infractions here on earth, it is certain that immediately your soul departs your body, you shall be brought face to face with the consequences of the evil life you led while on earth. On that day, the Quran tells us, there shall be no Senior Advocates of Truth (SAT) or Senior Advocates of Corruption (SAC). The Almighty says: On that day we shall set a seal on their mouths; their hands will then speak to us, and their feet shall bear witness, to all that they did (Quran 36:65)

If writing is all about making oneself and the other happy, then the worst form of love is self love; if writing, just like loving is about establishing contact and connection with the other; self-loving, which is all there is to masturbation, is all about self-pleasure: it is narcissism of the worst form.
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Oladosu is a professor of Middle Eastern, North African and Cultural Studies. Dean, Faculty of Arts, University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Nigeria

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