Pornography and Masturbation In Islam

In today’s episode of Taboo Tuesdays, I’d like to discuss another important issue that I believe is not sufficiently addressed within the Muslim communities and families.

As you can glimpse from the title of this post, it’s a rather sensitive topic to discuss but I promise to keep my words real and as frank as possible.

Before I begin, I would like to assume that if you have clicked on this post, then its subject is something you identify with or you’re struggling with or have come across or dealt with in the past. If I’m wrong, then it simply means you are a loyal reader of mine or your curiosity has led you here, in either case I hope you find the read worth your while at the very least.

So, there are a number of ways that I’d like to begin this conversation, but I’ve decided to hit the nail by the head by responding to some questions that bug the minds of many Muslims:

Is masturbation and the act of watching porn really a sin in Islam?

If it’s a sin, where in the Quran or hadith does it state so?

What is the punishment and how do you atone for the sin?

In Sha Allah I’ll provide an answer to each of these questions.

For the first question I have two responses.

The first being if there is something you do in private (which is not the call of nature) that you find that you cannot do or speak about in public (i.e in the presence of your parents, siblings, kids, uncles and your role models), then the thing you do in private is most likely something that you should not be doing at all. It’s something you know deep within your heart to be wrong and it’s why you try to do it behind closed doors. This is a simple truth that your nafs (soul) recognizes and this recognition is free from all other societal order or religious ruling on the matter.

Have you noticed that as human beings we tend to ask questions to things that we already know the answer to but in an effort to deny, confirm or question its truth, we seek verification from an outside source i.e the holy scripture, a learned person or someone we trust to give the answer we want to hear?

Moving on to my second response, which does well to answer the second question.  

It was narrated from Abu Hurayrah that the Prophet ﷺ said:

“Allah has decreed for every son of Adam his share of adultery, which he will inevitably commit. The two eyes, their adultery is looking (at what is forbidden). The two ears, their adultery is listening. The tongue, its adultery is speaking. The hand, its adultery is the touching, and the foot, its adultery is walking (toward adultery). The heart desires and yearns (for adultery) but the private parts either confirm that or deny it.

Muslim, 2657, Al-Bukhaari, 6238,

It is clear from the hadith cited above where the act of watching porn falls under. Personally, I find this hadith to be very profound but I would not like to deviate from the present issue and dive into the big conversation of decrees/destiny or the so called defence of ‘helplessness’ but if you are interested in this, I suggest you pause this read and take the time to read my earlier post entitled ‘Not My Fault‘.

Something that the above hadith does in a very subtle manner is to highlight the small but significant steps that would lead one to commit the ultimate sin of zina (fornication and adultery). It’s literally a chain of causation that starts from the eyes, to speaking, to touching and to visiting the place where you plan to engage in the sexual activity, and then when you are in the space and time to commit the sexual activity, your heart and desire to commit the sexual act would only strengthen and all that remains is for you to perform the actual deed. Now I’m not here to discuss fornication and adultery but it’s good to have this point at the back of your mind.

When it comes to watching porn and masturbating, it’s your responsibility to protect yourself from this impure, mind polluting and addictive act. This can only be achieved by obeying Allah’s command in the Quran where He stated in suratul Nuh:

“[Prophet] tell believing men to lower their gaze (from looking at forbidden things), and guard their private parts (from illegal sexual acts). That is purer for them. Verily, Allah is All‑Aware of what they do. And tell the believing women to lower their gaze (from looking at forbidden things) and guard their private parts (from illegal sexual acts). “

Surah al-Nuh (24:30)

On the point of lowering gazes, I think its very important for every one of us to lower the gaze inside our minds. The things you visualize in your mind should go through a similar screening process. It really all starts from taking care of what is within because the things that go on in our hearts and our minds often finds a way to manifests itself on the outside one way or the other. Whatever you plant within your heart or mind will only sprout.

Now I know some of you may be thinking If Allah has ordained that you would perform an unlawful act then how is it your fault or a sin upon you if you end up doing it? If you are still thinking this then it means you didn’t take a pause like I advised to read my post ‘Not My fault’.

It’s alright but you’ve left me with no choice but to provide some explanation. If you are thinking the way I described then I would like to give you something else to think about.

Why would Allah the Almighty, the All-Knowing take the time out to warn ‘you’ about doing something He declares to be unlawful (something that your present self does not know if your future self would later do)? If something is decreed or if Allah knows you are going to do something that is unlawful why would He bother to tell you not to do it when He knows the end result except that you could actually change the narrative and save yourself from doing the unlawful thing should you follow His advice and the warning He chose to give you beforehand? I’ll admit its mind boggling but read what I said again if you didn’t understand the first time.

My own understanding of the Hadith above is that yes, Allah might have ordained for you to see a glimpse of the sex scene in a movie you are watching in the cinema with your friends that you did not anticipate you would see. Maktub! He has decreed it, it will happen. Period. It could be you were minding your business and taking a stroll in a park and you catch two people having sex at the back of the tree. Maktub! He has decreed it, it will happen. Period. So yes, He ordained that you would take that route and would be at that place and at that time to bear witness of the couple having sex and to commit Zina of the eyes. That’s Allah’s decree for you. It may be that you burrowed your friend’s laptop and they forgot to close the tab of the porn movie they were watching the night before and you saw naked bodies and still images of people having sex. Maktub! He has decreed it, it will happen. Period. It could be you were nonchalantly scrolling through your Instagram feed or Twitter timeline and you see a gif of a couple having sex or a naked man’s picture. Maktub! He has decreed it, it will happen. Period. That is your share of the adultery that Allah decreed for you. Please do not be misguided.

It’s not exactly the case that Allah deliberately chose for you to commit a sin and He wishes to punish you for the fun or sake of it. Far from it. Remember Allah created you to have free will, everything you do is your choice but it can be influenced by others and even God. We can only pray that Allah guides and inspires us to do things that pleases Him…to do the things that are right in His books. You’ll agree with me that the examples I sighted above if they are things that happened to you, you are innocent to the extent that you don’t continue to look at that unlawful thing which Allah has decreed for you to see or to participate in that which is unlawful. The truth is whatever you do after what has been decreed becomes apparent to you is your decision and your full responsibility.

Tell me how can you differentiate between someone that is virtuous and righteous from someone that isn’t except that one of them knows where to draw the lines? How can you identify someone to be pious and good except that they know when to stop looking or doing things they shouldn’t be doing? In Allah’s perfect wisdom He decreed a share of adultery in our lives to perhaps serve as a test for us all and to determine which category of people we each belong to. Allah’s wisdom and the events He has designed to take place in each of our lives is beyond our comprehension. We can only trust God that the things that happen beyond our control serves a particular purpose and is well under His administration and care.

I know I mentioned I would not get into the whole ‘decree’ and ‘helplessness’ conversation but I felt I had to say something for those of you that may be flirting with the dangerous idea of trying to justify your actions or to attribute your wrongdoings to Allah or to redirect the blame to God  (like shaytan did) for ‘your’ own wrongdoing. Do not make the mistake of thinking the way shaytan did and end up in the same destination. So many things can cause us as humans to slip; shaytan’s arrogance led to his downfall. Don’t let yours be ignorance or your simple failure to learn to admit your faults and to accept responsibility. Now that that’s cleared can we move on with the actual topic at hand?

Masturbation and the act of watching porn is one of the several fitnahs that has plagued the current ummah and its immediate consequence is that it strips people of their haya (shyness) and piety. Let me tell you something of how this indecent act affects your soul outside of the spiritual realm.

If you’ve developed the habit of feeding your eyes, mind and soul with dirt and filth, it does nothing but to pollute your inside and your outside gravely.

I’ll like to think we are all familiar with Maggots; those tiny disgusting white creatures that inhabit rotten places and are quick to multiply by encroaching and feeding on other purer areas until everywhere gets bad? I tell you porn and masturbation have the name nature of maggots; they are things that are rotten to their core and they feed on your good qualities till you no longer have them. Once they sprout within you, it will only spread and invade other areas except you kill it and clean its environment.

You see you cannot masturbate without having a dirty picture in view or in your mind. Your masturbating is the outward manifestation of the things that are cooking up on the inside. It’s all linked; masturbation and the act of watching porn are two separate things but they share the same root problem, which is the zina of the eyes.  

Allah knows the value of the great blessing called sight which he gifted most of us, and as we all know blessings can be quickly abused and Allah can be equally quick to change this great blessing of ours into a curse due to our misuse of it.

Out of His love and care for us Allah instructed every one of us who claim to be believers to lower our gaze for very good reasons. If we choose to go against Allah’s command and use our eyes to watch pornographic content we will live to bear its sad consequence. Some of the consequences I speak of is our lack of control over our bodies and desires, we cannot stop when we want to stop, we become addicted and enslaved to this 2 second pleasure we seek to experience by fondling our sex and feeding our minds and our eyes with filthy images (which I can promise you will only get worse). With time you find that disturbing images of people you shouldn’t even be thinking about starts crossing your mind. Remember the nature of Maggots? Things will only get worse if you have maggots feasting on your mind and soul EXCEPT you find a way to kill them AND clean the environment they inhabited thoroughly.

The biggest cost of masturbating and watching porn is how it greatly affects your spirituality. You find that when you pray, dirty images flash through your mind and you cannot concentrate or attain kushoo in prayer. Also, when you masturbate and climax you release some semen/fluid (janaba) and this causes you to be in a state of impurity and in order to become clean again you have to perform ghusl. When you are in a state of impurity Shaytan likes to seize this opportunity to prey on your weakness and if your spirituality level is low, I’m afraid you won’t be able to save yourself. So, what ends up happening is you keep postponing the time to perform your ghusl bath and you end up missing your prayers or praying them very late. Many of us delay out salat because we haven’t performed wudhu, talk less of those of us that have to perform ghusl. So when you are at home or at work and its time to pray and you don’t get up to pray, people ask why you aren’t praying with them and then your dirty secret causes you to start making up lies and sinning even further. Salat has a direct effect to your overall well being (mental, emotional, spiritual & physical). Once you’ve lost your salat its safe to say you’ve lost everything as a Muslim because salat is literally our lifeline.   

Allah also mentioned in the quran: 

“On that Day We shall seal up their mouths, but their hands will speak to Us, and their feet bear witness to everything they have done.”

Surah Yasin 36:65

This verse is something everyone should remember often especially at moments one contemplates doing something bad or shameful. Whenever I remember some of the bad/shameful things I’ve done in the past, I feel great remorse and a taste of the immense shame I imagine I’ll feel on the Day my deeds would be made visible and clear for the rest of mankind to see. Often times the remembrance of this verse in the Quran deters me from carrying along with a bad thought.

The next question to be answered is what is the punishment for masturbation or pornography? Now I find this question to be simple and tricky to answer. The simple answer is there is no express punishment in the Quran or a corporal punishment for committing the act under the shariah as far as I am aware. However, it is tricky because the act of watching porn and masturbating does so much to directly affect your Iman and your relationship with Allah and that to me is a punishment in and of itself.

You see Allah is At-Tayyib – The Good, The Pure. Everything that is good and pure is brought nearer to Him. All things that are bad and impure has no tie or can ever find its way close to Allah except by His will. These are attributes of Shaytan and everything bad and impure draws only closer to Shaytan. So, the more you engage yourself in this act the more consumed in it you will become and the more distance you draw between yourself and Allah.

Ibn Al-Qayyim  wrote about the sick heart:

This is a heart with both life and an illness. The former sustains it at one moment, the latter at another, and it follows whichever one of the two that manages to dominate it. It has love for Allah, faith in Him, sincerity towards Him, and reliance upon Him, and these are what give it life. It also has a craving for desires and sinful pleasure and strives to experience them. It has envy, arrogance, self-admiration, self-conceit, love of superiority and a tendency to cause corruption on earth, which can lead to its own destruction. It is motivated by two callers: one calling it to Allah and His Messenger and the Hereafter, and the other calling it to the fleeting pleasures of this worldly life. It responds to whichever one of the two happens to have the most influence over it at the time. That sick heart wavers between its safety and its ruin.”

There is really nothing left to add to Ibn Al Qayyims wise words, as they are the reality of the life we live and every one of us have to make the conscious effort to respond only to the call that calls us to Allah, however faint or small that call is.

Finally, if you are someone that is addicted to watching porn and masturbating there is only way you can overcome this and that it is to sincerely repent and seek forgiveness from Allah (for disobeying his command to lower your gaze from seeing unlawful things).

Now I like to be real with my advice and I know ‘repenting’ in this particular circumstance is not easy because addiction and bad habits are difficult to break but I want you to know that it is very possible to overcome this and you CAN do it. Shaytan likes to make your weakness appear bigger and stronger than they really are. Allah’s mercy and assistance which He is ALWAYS ready to render to those who genuinely seek it is greater than your strongest desire, weakness or shaytan’s influence over you. Alhamdulilah.

 Abu Hurayrah narrated that the Prophet (saw) said in a Qudsi Hadeeth, that Allah Says:

A slave committed a sin and then said, ‘O my Lord! I have sinned, please forgive me!’ so Almighty Allah said, ‘My slave committed a sin and he knows that he has a Lord Who forgives sins and punishes because of them.’ Then he (the slave) again committed another sin and said, ‘O my Lord, I have committed another sin, please forgive me,’ and Allah said, ‘My slave committed a sin and he knows that he has a Lord Who forgives sins and punishes because of them.’ Then he committed another sin again (for the third time) and said, ‘O my Lord, I have committed another sin, please forgive me,’ and Allah said, ‘My slave committed a sin and he knows that he has a Lord Who forgives sins and punishes because of them; I therefore have forgiven My slave (his sins), he can do whatever he likes.

Al Bukhari, Muslim

If you fall into this sin again and again do not grieve to the point of despair, so long as you keep turning back to Allah with sincere repentance He will always forgive you. It may be that you’ve repeated this sin 100 times but if you’ve sought forgiveness from Allah each time, Allah will keep forgiving you and in Allah’s eyes you’ve never committed the sin. How great the mercy of your Lord is. Each time you fall into this sin just make sure you run to Allah. Never stop running back. A sign of sincere repentance is if you repeat or remember a sin you feel truly bad about it. We are all sinners but Allah loves the sinner who turns back to him.

Here are a few good tips for my brothers and sisters that are struggling with overcoming their addiction for watching porn and masturbating:

  1. Make Dua. This is your most powerful instrument. Supplicate to Allah to help cleanse and purify your mind and to replace it with the remembrance of Him. To make the act of watching porn and masturbating distasteful and ugly in your eyes that you do not want to be associated with it. Make lots and lots of dua.
  2. Remember the killer of all pleasures: death. Try to frequently remember that death meets people at the time they least expect it. Remind yourself that you may die in the state of watching porn or masturbating. That’s not how you want to go or the state you would like your loved ones to find you.   
  3. Cultivate the habit of fasting. When you fast you are prevented from doing a lot of things that your body desires and know that your rewards and consciousness of God will increase greatly.
  4. Avoid staying alone in the dark and preoccupy yourself with whatever is beneficial to you in this dunya (work) or akhira (worship).
  5. Download and install software and tools that prevent you from accessing adult website and contents. Many of these are available online so just install them on all your mobile devices.
  6. Do not read adult themed books or watch r rated tv-shows and movies. Do your research before watching a movie; most movie trailers would hint to you what scenes the movie would contain.
  7. Change your inner circle of friends and replace them with friends who remind you of Allah. Friends who make you want to be and do much better than you are currently.
  8. Find time to exercise and meditate daily or sign up for Yoga classes.  
  9. Constantly renew your wudhu. Wudhu has so many great benefits, one of which is to purify your body and to shed light to your soul and body.
  10. Keep a journal and track your progress. Write down how you feel and be very transparent; its a conversation between you and God. Think of it as you reporting your progress to God and He’s your Therapist.
  11. Give your phone and other internet devices a bedtime. For example, set a rule that after isha you do not pick up your phone or use your laptop. Limit the response to a few i.e responding to a message you receive from your dad, mum or husband. Be very strict with it.
  12. Develop a strict night ritual. Find time to read quran, or listen to quran, watch the Islamic channel, or simply engage in dhikr.
  13. Remember God as often as you can and the fact that He is watching you from His Magnificent throne. Do you wish for Him to look at you with a smile upon His face or with anger and disgust?
  14. Seek refuge from Shaytan. When you are on your period and feeling a little funny and horny or you are lying in bed and an inappropriate image of someone appears in your mind say astagfurllah and seek refuge in Allah from Shaytan by saying audhubillah min al- shaytan ir rajeem and believe in those words. If the feeling doesn’t leave immediately. Distract yourself by getting up from bed and go to the kitchen to grab a bottle of water. Say bismillah, drink it and head back to bed. You’ll feel much better and refreshed and the thoughts would have cleared.
  15. Forgive and forget your past and embrace and work hard towards attaining the future you want. Nothing good comes easy. Nobody said developing good habits were easy, they require a good amount of effort and consistency on your part.

I really hope you find my tips above useful.

Lastly if there is only one thing you can pick up or remember from this lengthy post I want it to be this: Don’t mix with maggots. Stay clear from maggots. Kill your maggots.

I’ll catch you in my next post In Sha Allah.

Ma salam!

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8 thoughts on “Pornography and Masturbation In Islam

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