The Islaamic Ruling on Masturbation

The Islaamic Ruling on Masturbation

Shaykh Muhammad bin Ameen

Masturbation (al-istimnaa`) linguistically is: a noun, and it entails the forceful release of ones own semen, and it is also known asalkhadkhadah[1], and it can be by other means too, and it is known today as the secret habit (al’aadatus-siriyya). It is prohibited upon the males and females according to the fuqahaa`, and the following is their evidence:

Firstly: al-Quraan al-KareemImaam Maalik – and al-Imaam ash-Shafi’ee followed in this – used the ayah, “And those who guard their chastity, except from their wives or (the captives and slaves) that their right hands possess, for then, they are free from blame” [23:4-6].Imaam Shafi’ee (and he is a hujjah[2] in the Arabic language) said in his book al-Umm [5/94]: “It is thus clear in mentioning the preservation of the private parts except on the wives or the right-hand possessions, (this implies) the prohibition of other than them. It is also clear that the wives and right-hand possessions are humans, and not animals. Then He affirmed it and said: “But whoever seeks beyond that, then those are the transgressors” [23:7] Hence, it is not permissible to fondle (utilise) the penis except in the wife or the right-hand possession, and masturbation is prohibited”. Some of the Ahnaaf, like az-Zayla’i, followed in this understanding.

Some of the Thaahiriyyah refuse to prohibit it on the basis of qiyaas[3], and say that is it only disliked. Ibn Hazm says in al-Muhallaconcerning masturbation: “We dislike it, for it is not from the virtuous characteristics, nor from the good qualities”. Their refusal to accept the use of the aayah in Soorat al-Mu`mineen, (as evidence) is questionable. For the scholars agree upon the prohibition of bestiality, and the evidence used is this aayah (as for the ahaadeeth on the topic, then they are all weak). And like they prohibit bestiality by that aayah, and arguing that it is not permissible to enjoy ones private part except with the wife or slave girl, then it is binding upon them to prohibit masturbation as well, and there is no difference.  As for masturbating with your wife’s hand, then the scholars have permitted it. A reply to Ibn Hazm in detail will forth come. Some of the people of knowledge quoted as evidence as well, His saying: “And let those who find not the financial means for marriage keep themselves chaste, until Allah enriches them of His Bounty” [24:33]. This passage indicates that the command of being chaste entails being patient on anything other than it.

Secondly: as-Sunnah an-Nabawiyyah: They used as evidence, the hadeeth collected by al-Bukhaari [5/1950] and Muslim [2/1018] in theirSaheehay from ‘Abdullah bin Mas’ood, radiallahu ‘anh, who said: “We were with some youth not finding anything, so the Messenger of Allah, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa salam said: ‘O assembly of youth. Whoever from you is able to get married, then let him do so, for it lowers the gaze and protects the privates. And whoever is unable, then it is (on him) to fast, for it is a protection (from committing the haraam).’” Thus, when one cannot marry, Islaamic law directs him to fasting, with its hardship, and not to masturbation, despite the strong pressure to give in for it and being easier than fasting, yet, despite this, it did not permit it. As for the ahaadeeth on the prohibition of “marrying ones hand” (nikaah al-yad), then they are not authentic.

Thirdly: the health hazards: There are a number of confirmed health hazards that could arise as a result of masturbation. From them: the dispersion of the mind, as it will attempt to recall sexual interactions prior to masturbating, and this leads in the long-term a weakening of the memory. Also, (for the male), the hand is relatively rougher than the vagina, masturbating leads, in the long term, to a weakening of the sensitivity of the male penis. This is a disease widespread amongst Westerners – may Allah protect us from it – where men leave their women, as he is unable to ejaculate during sex with her, and is sufficed with ejaculating by his hand (masturbating), with the aid of pornography. As for the woman, then it leads to an enlargement of the external sexual organs (clitoris and outer labia), and thinness of the vagina, which results in a lack of sexual enjoyment when penetrated by her husband. This is why oral sex is very common amongst Westerners. Likewise, the ease of masturbating compared to sex (as it doesn’t require another person), encourages continuation of doing it, until one becomes addicted. Dr. Anwar al-Hamaadi says that masturbation has much harm, the most important: Weak sexuality, weak sperm, premature ejaculation, a curving of the penis (Peyronie’s Disease), and other things. It is clear from the words of the doctors that engaging in masturbation leads to physical and psychological harms, as it uses body strength, leads to depression, busies its doer from doing the obligations, and could escort him to committing fornication. Shaykh, Dr. Mustafa az-Zarqaa said: “And what is medically harmful, is cautioned from Islaamically, and this is the agreement of the fuqahaa`”.

Fourthly: the psychological harm: It results in a sense of lowness and sinning. It is also against morals and a scar on manliness. al-Qurtubi says: “Masturbation is a shame on a low male, so what of a big man?!”

Those who see it mubaah from the Thaahiriyyah used as evidences athaar, of which hardly any are authentic, and here we will mention them, and their faults:

In the Musannaf of ‘Abdurazzaaq [7/390], “Chapter of Masturbation”: No. 13586: Ibn Jurayj narrated from ‘Ataa`, that he disliked masturbation. I asked: “Is there concerning it a hadeeth?” He said: “I have not heard of one”.

No. 13587: ath-Thawri narrated from ‘Abdullah bin ‘Uthmaan (bin Khaytham, jayyid), from Mujaahid who said: Ibn ‘Umar was asked concerning it, so he said: “It is having sex with oneself”. This is a jayyid (good) chain of narrations, and in it is Ibn ‘Umar’s dislike of masturbation.

No. 13588: ath-Thawri, from Ma’mar, from al-A’mash from Abi Ruzayn (Mas’ood bin Maalik, thiqah), from Abi Yahya (mastoor)[4], from Ibn ‘Abbaas that a man said to him, “I fondle with my penis until I ejaculate”. He replied: “Having sex with a slave-girl is better than it, and it is better than zinaa”.

No. 13590: Ibn ‘Uyaynah narrated from ‘Ammar ad-Dahni (Shee’i thiqah), from Muslim (al-Bateen, thiqah), who said: I saw Sa’eed bin Jubayr meet Abi Yahya (mastoor), so they mentioned the hadeeth of Ibn ‘Abbaas, so Abu Yahya said to him: “Ibn ‘Abbaas was asked about a man who fondles with his penis until he ejaculates?” Ibn ‘Abbaas said: “Having sex with a slave-girl is better than it, and it is better than zinaa”. These two aathaar, have a mastoor individual in them, and in any case, the permissibility is constrained to fear of zinaa here.

No. 13591: ath-Thawri from ‘Ubbaad, from Mansoor from Jaabir bin Zayd Abish-Sha’thaa` (al-Basri, died 103 AH), who said: “It is your fluid, so make use of it.” I say: There is no narration in the nine books[5] for Mansoor from Abish-Sha’thaa`, despite the fact that both narrate a lot. It appears that that the words “’Ubbaad from Mansoor” (‘Ubbaad ‘an Mansoor) is a distortion of “’Ubbaad bin Mansoor”, one of the teachers of Sufyaan ath-Thawri, and he is weak. I do not know of a narration from Abish-Sha’thaa` anyway!

No. 13592: Ibn Jurayj said Ibraaheem bin Abi Bakr (mastoor) informed me from a man (majhool)[6] that Ibn ‘Abbaas said: “It is nothing but the caressing of one of you of his penis, until his fluid is released”. I say: Our religion is not taken from majaaheel.

No. 13593: Ibn Jurayj informed us, Ibraaheem bin Abi Bakr (al-Akhnasi, mastoor) informed me that Mujaahid said: “Those from our predecessors used to command their young to masturbate, and the woman as well to enter something (in her).” We said to ‘Abdurazzaaq: “What’s ‘to enter something’ mean?” He (‘Abdurazzaaq) said: “He means a sihq[7]” Mujaahid says: “To keep her from zinaa”. This athar has a mastoor who was not followed (in narration) by others. It is thus, an unauthentic isnaad. In any case however, it is a constrained permissibility, Mujaahid constrained it to permissibility only if one fears zinaa (if one were to assume the narration is authentic).

No. 13594: Ibn Jurayj (maddallis)[8] said: ‘Amr bin Deenaar (d. 126) said, “I do not see anything (wrong) in masturbation”. The tadlees of Ibn Jurayj is from the worse, as ad-Daaraqutni said, as he does not give false impressions of ahadeeth except from a majrooh. Abu Bakr al-Athram narrated from Ahmad bin Hanbal, “If Ibn Jurayj says ‘So-and-so said’ and ‘I was informed’, he brings manaakeer. If he says, ‘So-and-so informed me’ and ‘I heard’ then stop there”. ‘Abdurazzaaq said that Ibn Jurayj informed me from an unknown person that al-Hasan al-Basri used to see no harm for a woman to enter something in her, to guard her from zinaa. I say: This is da’eef (weak) and in any case, is constrained to having a fear of zinaa. Ibn Hazm said in al-Muhalla [11/393]: “’Abdurazzaaq said: It (the narration) was mentioned from Ma’mar from Ayoob as-Sikhtiyaani, or others (majhool), from Mujaahid from al-Hasan that “He saw no harm with masturbation”. I say: This chain is weak due to the unknown mediate between Ma’mar and Mujaahid. And in any case, I did not find this statement in the Musannaf of ‘Abdurazzaaq nor in other than it, so it might be from the inventions of Ibn Hazm, and Allah knows best.

Ibn Hazm recalls with an authentic chain: “From Qataadah, from a man (majhool), from Ibn ‘Umar, that he said: “Verily, it is a nerve that you fondle”. It is from Qataadah (muddalis), from al’Alaa bin Ziyaad from his father (Ziyaad bin Mattar al’Adawi, a safe worshipper): “They used to do it (masturbate) when they went out for battles; a man would caress his penis until he ejaculated”. Qataadah said: “al-Hasan said about the man who masturbates until he comes, he said: ‘They used to do that in the battles’”. The authenticity of this is also questionable, and even if we were to assume it authentic, then it is constrained in any case.

al-Bayhaqi in as-Sunan al-Kubraa [7/199] relates: Abu Zakariyyah bin Abi Ishaaq al-Mazki conveyed that Abu ‘Abdillah bin Ya’qoob said that Muhammad bin ‘Abdilwahaab (thiqah)[9] conveyed that Ja’far bin ‘Awn (jayyid) conveyed al-Ajlah (weak Shee’i), from Abiz-Zubayr (munqati’) from Ibn ‘Abbaas, radiallahu ‘anh, that a young man came to him, and all the older men stood up, whilst the young man was seated. So some of the people said: “Get up young man”. Ibn ‘Abbaas said: “Allow him, for something has caused him to sit”. When the place was deserted, he said: “O Ibn ‘Abbaas. I am a young man who feels very lustful, (so much so that) I caress my penis until I come?” Ibn ‘Abbaas said: “It is better than zinaa, but having sex with a slave-girl is better than it”.

Some of the scholars, (particularly those of the Ahnaaf and Hanaabilah) permit masturbation only if one fears falling into zinaa (whilst also making sure that he does not do it often, due to what it leads, and so that it does not become a way to achieve desire, instead of putting the fire out), from that it is less evil, and others said that it is prohibited in every case. Imaam al-Mardaawi in al-Insaaf [10/252] said: “Masturbation is not permitted except in the case of necessity. Having sex with a slave-girl is not permitted except in cases of necessity.[10]If necessity comes into place, having sex with a slave-girl precedes. And masturbation is not permitted, as was categorically stated in al-Wajeez and as is known from Imaam Ahmad.” The author of ad-Durr al-Mukhtaar [4/27] said: “Masturbation is prohibited, and (the one who masturbates) is admonished (yu’azzar)[11]. If he allows his wife, or slave to fondle with his penis until he comes, then it is disliked, but there is no sin upon him”. This unconstrained prohibition of masturbation was constrained by Ibn ‘Aabideen al-Hanafi if one is being called to the desire, but he permitted it if one fears falling into zinaa.

As for a response to the words of Ibn Hazm ath-Thaahiri, then Shaykh Abu ‘Abdirahmaan bin ‘Aqeel ath-Thaahiri has sufficed us with this, in his book Ibn Hazm Khilaal Alf ‘Aam [4/120], saying: “Abu Muhammad (Ibn Hazm) based his permissibility for a man to have sex with himself on two foundations: ‘Firstly, that that occurs by a man touching his private part (only). Secondly, that he purposely wants to ejaculate his semen. The first foundation is permitted by consensus. The second is also permitted, as he did not add to the first foundation except that he purposely intended to ejaculate his semen, and that is not prohibited, and we do not know of anything that prohibits it, thus it is halaal, but we dislike it because it is not from the virtues or good qualities that a man possesses.’ Abu ‘Abdirahmaan said: “Abu Muhammad did not utilise the Thaahiri Usool here for two reasons: Firstly, he istashaab[12]the permissibility of having sex with ones hand, and this is a mistake on his behalf, for the asl[13] in sex and in the private parts is prohibition, until the Sharee’ah issues permissibility, due to His saying: “But whoever seeks beyond that, then those are the transgressors” [23:7]. There is no text permitting having sex with ones hands (masturbation), thus, the asl is prohibition. I will elucidate this by saying that: istishaab is of two types: A. The istishaab of innocence[14], due to His saying: “He created for you everything on the earth” [2:29]. B. The istishaab of the Sharee’ah. We do not take with the istishaab of innocence unless there is no istishaab of the Sharee’ah. Therefore, when we found that that the asl in private-parts is prohibition except what is permitted by the Sharee’ah, the “innocence” drops, and it became obligatory upon us to adhere to the Sharee’ah.

Secondly, he held that masturbation is disliked (makrooh), and al-karaahah to Abu Muhammad is of the status of permissibility (ibaahah), except that the one who abstains from it is rewarded for that, and the one who does it, there is no sin on him.

Abu ‘Abdirahmaan said: If the mathhab of Abu Muhammad was correct here, that the asl in masturbation is al-ibaahah, then on that basis, it would have been incumbent upon him to state that it is so, and not that it is disliked, for saying that it is disliked is adding to the Sharee’ah, (and this adding is by) saying that the one who abstains from it is rewarded; this is not permitted to do, unless there is a text (stating so). As for Abu Muhammad’s rationalisation of his statement on its dislike by saying that it is not from the virtues or good qualities of man then this is beyond the principles, because, according to Abu Muhammad, virtuous characteristics are not decided except by (what the) Sharee’ah(says), and we do not find in the Sharee’ah that it is a virtue, nor that it is a vice, hence, the basis of this ruling cannot be on the base of innocence (as Ibn Hazm stated)”.

The Conclusion

Shaykh al-Islaam, Ibn Taymiyyah was asked about masturbation: “Is it prohibited or not?” He answered in Majmoo’ al-Fataawa [35/229]: “As for masturbation with the hand, then it is prohibited according to the majority of scholars, and this is the more correct saying in the mathhabof Ahmad. Its doer is admonished. The other saying is that it is makrooh, and not prohibited. The vast majority (of scholars) do not permit it whether for fear of fornication or otherwise. It is narrated that from a group of the companions and taabi’een that they licensed it due to necessity, like fear of zinaa, if one is not protected from it except by masturbating. Ahmad also said that it is permissible for fear of disease. In other than necessity, I do not know anyone who licensed it.”

Shaykh al-Islaam is from the most knowledgeable of people regarding consensuses. His words have their own weight, particularly when choosing opinions in the Hanbali mathhab, and his selections are no less important than those of Ibn Qudaamah, nevertheless al-Mardaawi, Ibn Muflih and others.

See Also: The Arabic translation of this article.


[1] [T]: It means to rub (something) with pressure applied, see Lisaan al’Arab under its entry.

[2] [T]: Meaning that he can be quoted as evidence of the correctness of a phrase or word. Abu ‘Ubayd (al-Qaasim bin Salaam) said: ash-Shafi’ee was from those whom language was taken from. Imaam Ahmad said: ash-Shafi’ee was from those with the most eloquent of tongues, and Maalik used to be impressed by his reading, because he was very eloquent. (Revise the introduction to ar-Risaalah by Shaykh Ahmad Shaakir for further quotes).

[3] [T]: Analogical deduction.

[4] [T]: Safe-guarded.

[5] [T]: They are:  al-Bukhaari, Muslim, at-Tirmithi, Abi Daawood, Ibn Maajah, an-Nasaa`i, Musnad Ahmad and Muwatta` Maalik.

[6] [T]: Unknown.

[7] [T]: A wooden masher, equivalent to what is known today as a dildo.

[8] [T]: Someone who gives false impressions concerning the narration of the hadeeth.

[9] [T]: Reliable.

[10] [T]: And there is no direct evidence for this.

[11] [T]: Ta’zeer means anything from being admonished orally, to being punished with up to ten floggings.

[12][T]: This is to assume that something is permissible due to its original status of permissibility. Thus it is known in English as the “presumption of continuity”

[13] [T]: Original status.

[14][T]: That is that everything is innocent until proven guilty, i.e. everything is permissible until proven otherwise.