Yusuf al-Qaradawi rules on the permissibility of masturbation in order to avoid adultery

Fatwa, posted 4.22.2010, from Egypt, in:
Religious Authority: 
Yusuf al-Qaradawi
Websites and Institutions: 
Islam Online

[Full Question: I recently got married, but I am in a different town right now, away from my wife because of her job and my studies. As I get sexually frustrated, is masturbation allowed in my case? I do not want to fall into the abyss of sin, but I also want to relieve my sexual tension. Please let me know if masturbation is allowed in Islam. Is there any Islamic cure so that a Muslim could get rid of such a bad habit?]

Answer: An opinion given by Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi allows masturbation under two conditions following the Hanbali school of religious thought: The Hanbali jurists permit masturbation only under two conditions: first, the fear of committing fornication or adultery, and second, not having the means to marry.

We are inclined to accept the opinion of Imam Ahmad in a situation in which there is sexual excitation and danger of committing the haram [adultery]. For example, a young man has gone abroad to study or work, thereby encountering many temptations which he fears he will be unable to resist, may resort to this method of relieving sexual tension provided he does not do it excessively or make it a habit. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) is reported to have said, 'O youth, whoever of you is able to marry, let him marry, for it spares one looking at what one should not, or lapsing in adultery. And if he cannot marry, let him observe fasting, for it is a shield against evil.' (Reported by Muslim.)"

Thus, we do advise you to have your wife with you and not to stay alone. If not, i.e., if there is no way to have her with you and there is a dire necessity to be away from her, then you should make use of the following:

1- Observing fasting, because it bolsters one's faith, preserves chastity, and protects one from evil thoughts.
2- Observing moderation in eating and drinking in order to avoid stimulating your desire.
3- Keeping away from anything that is sexually stimulating, such as pornographic pictures, erotic films and love songs.
4- Choosing good and righteous friends.
5- Keeping yourself busy in worship and spiritual acts.
6- Interacting with activities of the society in such a way that it keeps you away from thinking about sex.
7- Avoiding gatherings and places that bring men and women physically close to each other.
8- Trying to admire natural things such as flowers and beautiful scenery, which do not stimulate one sexually, instead of admiring girls and women.

If you find the previous things useful, then it is forbidden for you to masturbate. However, if you find that you cannot relieve yourself except through masturbation, and you fear you may lapse in adultery if you do not masturbate, then the juristic rule which states that the lesser evil is to be suffered in order to fend off the major one applies to you, as masturbation is deemed to be the lesser of two evils in this case. But, we would like to stress that this may be done only in the case of dire necessity, when all solutions prove to be of no avail.