Bismillahi Al-Rahmani Al-Rahim

A Touchy Question About Not Being Married

Asalaamu 'Aleykum,

Shaykh Yusuf Qaradawi in "The Lawful and the Prohibited in Islam" writes that Imam Ahmad (Allah be well pleased with him) regarded semen as an excretion of the body like other excreta and permitted its expulsion as blood letting is permitted. However, Shaykh Yusuf then goes on to say that Hanbali jurists permit masturbation only under two conditions: first, the fear of committing fornication or adultery, and second, not having the means to marry.

This begs the question...Is masturbation permissable in the Hanbali madhhab, and if so, is it qualified by any conditions?

wa `alaykum al-salam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu

Before talking about the issue of masturbation, it is appropriate to first mention the rulings regarding people getting married.

[Marriage in general]
In general, people fall under three categories:
(1) recommended (sunna)-- for those who feel sexual desire (shahwah) but do not fear that this will drive them to fornicate. This is applies to males and females alike, and even to men too poor to be able to provide for maintenance and upkeep. This is an opinion stated by Imam Ahmad (Allah be pleased with him). It is better for someone who has sexual desire to be busy with marriage than seeking seclusion for works of worship.

(2) obligatory (wajib)-- for those who fear that they will fornicate if they do not marry, whether male or female. The person does not have to be certain that they will fornicate, rather it suffices that they fear that they may if they do not marry. When someone in this situation must choose between making Hajj or marriage, marriage is given precedence to the Hajj because of the fear that by one will commit the unlawful by delaying marriage.

(3) permissible (mubah)-- for someone who does not feel sexual desire, whether this has always been the case or their desire has left due to
sickness or old age.
[Dar Al-Harb]
In addition, marriage is haram in Dar Al-Harb unless there is legal necessity (durura).

Legal necessity is defined as that the one's religion, life, mind, family & reputation, or property require it. It does not include that which removes difficulty from the above, which is called need (hajja), or that which makes the above nicer, which is luxury (tahsini).

In Dar Al-Harb it is permissible to marry when there is legal necessity.

If someone marries in Dar Al-Harb while it is unlawful for him to do so, it is obligatory for to use some form of birth control; otherwise, it is recommended to do so.

Regarding the position of the Hanbali madhhab regarding masturbation, Kashshaf Al-Qina` (6:125) indicates that whoever masturbates out of fear of committing fornication or fear for their body has done nothing wrong and is not punished if (and only if) he is unable to marry--even a slave girl--and if he was able to marry it is unlawful and he is entitled to punishment. This applies to men and women equally. The reason given is out of necessity (durara), which was mentioned above.

Please note that one of the conditions is that the person in question not even be able to marry a slave girl who is someone else's property, which means that any children would be born into slavery. What is significant here is that having your children born slaves is better than masturbation. This is not a light matter.

Also please note that provided there is someone that one could marry, masturbation is unlawful. No where does it say that the spouse has to be from the same culture, has to be a perfect match, or anything like that. As long as there is an upright marriageable Muslim it is unlawful, and if not punished in this world it surely is in the next. It goes back to availability, not economic stability, diploma, beauty, hair color, nationality, ethnicity or cultural origins. There are a lot of people who mix up necessity, need and luxury. This ruling is about necessity.

In closing, we know that divorce is the most despicable of lawful things to Allah, whereas fornication is haram. Parents should keep this in mind before putting so many conditions that must be met before marriage, especially since anything that leads to the unlawful is itself unlawful.

And Allah knows best.

wa al-salamu `alaykum