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Ethics

Masturbation

In Islam terminology, masturbation (istimna') means self-stimulation of sexual organ till one achieves emission of semen or orgasm.

Masturbation in form of self-stimulation is forbidden is Shi'ah fiqh. While describing the believers, the Qur'an says, "The believers ... those who protect their sexual organs except from their spouses ... Therefore, whosoever seeks more beyond that [in sexual gratification], then they are the transgressors." (23:5-6) The last sentence makes it very clear that any sexual gratification outside marriage is considered a transgression of the law of God. And this verse also implies that sex is an act in which two people are involved. Once when Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq was asked about masturbation, he recited this very verse and mentioned masturbation as one of its example.1 In another, the Imam was asked about masturbation; he said, "It is an indecent act ..."2

Masturbation is a sin for which a person can also be punished by the Islamic court. Of course, the nature of the punishment is upon the judge's discretion. Once a person was caught masturbating and was brought to Imam 'Ali. The Imam punished him by beating on his hands until it turned red; then he made arrangement for his marriage on government's expenses.3

These days some scientists are telling us that there is no harm in masturbation, rather it is a natural act. To prove that it is natural, they give examples of some wild animals, like monkey. Actually they represent those who have gone to the other extreme of sexual morality. They have degraded human beings to the level of wild animals, and then justify their deeds by finding examples in the animal world. They are, in Qur'anic expression, "like cattle, nay they are more astray; they are the heedless ones." (7:179) The irony is that when we talk about following Islam which came just 1400 years ago, we are labelled as 'reactionaries', 'those who want to turn the clock backwards', 'anti-progress', and now these very people are going millions of years back (according to their own counting) and following the wild animals or the primitive societies to determine what is natural for us and what is not natural!

Sometimes the scientists justify masturbation by saying that many people do it! But if a majority does something, it does not automatically prove that it is right. Otherwise, drugs should also be declared 'normal' because the majority of Americans, at one time or another, took drugs. The surveys made by sexologists like Kinsey, Masters and Johnsons, and the Hite Report just reveal what the American people do in the privacy of their bedroom; it does not necessarily prove that what they do is natural and right!

Many different types of sexual behaviour could be found in primitive societies, but that does not automatically make it natural or right. On the contrary, in some cases, masturbation was considered an abnormal and abhorrent act! For example, Lewis Cutlow, in his The Twilight of the Primitive writes about the Amazon Indians that:

... Xinguanos are deeply disturbed by civillizados who are sexually frustrated; they cannot understand how a man can become aroused at the sight of a nude woman. In his 25 years of daily life with Indians, Orlando told me, he had never seen an Indian with an erection. It would be absurd to them. Nor has Orlando seen or heard any instances of sexual deviation among the Indians. They did know what masturbation was until they saw a civilizado telegraph operator doing it. From then on the telegraph operator was a problem to Orlando and his colleagues at the Park. The Indians despised him because, in their eyes, he had done something reprehensible. There was nothing to do but remove him from the Park.

Many modern psychologists say that masturbation is just like normal sexual intercourse, rather even better because you are master of yourself, you don't have to worry about your partner's feelings! This is an example of how low the materialist society has sunk into its self-centered and selfish attitude that even in sex it prefers to seek self-gratification with the exclusion of the spouse. "They seem to forget that in sexual intercourse all the senses contribute to the stimulation and orgasm: Man and woman see their partner, touch each other, say endearing words to each other and hear the stimulating sounds; and even the senses of smell and taste are utilized. And the penetration of male organ into the female leads to the final excitement and orgasm. But in masturbation the only source of stimulation is imagination, in which no other sense takes any part. The whole burden is loaded upon mind; and, as a result, while the normal sexual intercourse causes happiness and joy, masturbation creates emotional and psychological depression."4

This is not just an opinion of a Muslim scholar. Even The Hite Report on Male Sexuality, says: "Similarly, many men said that they enjoyed masturbating physically, but the emotionally it was depressing."5 In one of the replies, a man writes: "It is physically enjoyable, but it can leave one emotionally empty or lonely for the real thing. You can do it when you feel like it, come when you want, bring up your own images, but there is no warmth or closeness, no one to share pleasure with, no companionship ..."6 After saying that the physical effects of masturbation are negligible, Leslie D. Weatherhead in The Mastery of Sex writes: "Psychologically the results are more serious. Masturbation in the adult is nearly always due to a maladjustment ..."7

The Cure for Masturbation:

It is easy to stay away from adultery because it involves another person. But the danger of getting into the habit of masturbation is always there, therefore it is necessary to know how to combat against this perverted sexual behaviour. The following is a guide-line for releasing a person from the habit of masturbating. This has been taken from Weatherhead's The Mastery of Sex and 'Allamah Rizvi's Your Questions Answered.

1. Strengthening will-power. This is possible only if one honestly and sincerely want to get rid of this habit. Pray to Allah to help you over-come this habit, concentrate on religious teachings, and build up the spirit of taqwa, piety.

2. More and more stay in company of other persons: If in the day-time you feel like masturbating, get up from your bed or chair and get into the presence of other people and talk to them. If it happens at bed-time, sit up in bed, write a letter or read a book. Do something to switch your mind on to other things.

3. Adopt some hobby or sports which will provide you with an outlet for energies of your body.

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1. Wasa'il, vol.18, pp.575.

2. Ibid, vol.14, p.267; vol.18, pp.574-5.

3. Ibid, vol.14, p.267; vol.18, pp.574-5.

4. Rizvi, S.S.A., Your Questions Answered, vol.3, p.40-1.

5. The Hite Report on Male Sexuality, p.489.

6. Ibid.

7. The Mastery of Sex, p.103.

Adapted from: "Marriage & Morals in Islam" by: "Sayyid Muhammad Rizvi"