by NZINGHA SHABAZZ
Reproduced with permission from Islam and Infertility
[Masturbation] becomes an issue [to Muslims, for example, with] the collection of semen. So in order to do this, in most cases one would have to indulge in the act of masturbation.Note: The author told us that this article was written with the issue of sperm collection for semen analysis and ART procedures in mind and not as a general overview on the issue of masturbation as a means of sexual release. So we added two brief editor's comments with that issue in mind at the appropriate places.
Throughout the centuries, the majority of scholars have ruled that masturbation is haram (forbidden). Even with such a ruling there is no set punishment for the act itself. The main argument of making it haram is:
(The Believers) who abstain from sex,It is stated that the only halal [allowable] time to use the sexual organ is outlined in this ayat [verse]. That any use of the organ in any other way sexually is to transgress the boundaries given in Qur'an making one a transgressor.
But those whose desires exceed those limits are transgressors. [Qur'an 23:7]It is important to note at this point, this ruling does not apply when masturbation involves ones wife. Meaning that if a wife is sexually gratifying her husband in such a way, it is permissible. [For example, in the case where the wife is in a very advanced stage of pregnancy, and sexual intercourse with penetration, either fully or partially, is not advisable or practicable, then the wife's hand may be used for gratification of her husband's sexual needs -- Editor] Because the man has a right to receive enjoyment from his wife. [See also the paragraph beginning with "A young husband . . .from al-Ghazzali's 'Ihya Ulum-id-din." -- Ed.]
Now while I personally feel this happens to be a very minute issue of infertility, many Muslims point to this when a couple seeks treatment. They neglect that there is a basic ideal within Islam that if one must do something that is normally haram [forbidden] by necessity, then it becomes permissible. We see this point very clearly in the forbiddance of certain foods, but Allah has also stated along side the prohibition:
...But if one is forced by necessity without wilful disobedience nor transgressing due limits - then is he guiltless. For God is Oft-forgiving Most Merciful. [Qur'an 2:173]This ideal is not limited to only that of food, but is an accepted general rule within shariah (Islamic Law). This general acceptance can also be seen in the actions of Umar (r.a.) who lifted the punishment for theft in the time of famine. This same point has been brought into discussion by Abul Ebrahim, which he states:
"But the question before us now is whether it would be forbidden under Islamic law to masturbate in order to obtain the semen so as to have one's wife impregnated with it through artificial insemination. Support of permitting it should be argued on the basis that engaging in the act is not to derive pleasure but, rather, to obtain semen for the specific purpose of trying to solve the problem of infertility. Permission would come from the purpose oriented concept of the higher goals contained in the juristic principle that 'necessity renders the forbidden permissible." What a couple could choose to do is have the wife "help" the husband collect the semen. Or keep in mind that Allah (swt) does not want Islam to be a hardship for us, but rather an easement. And He is oft forgiving and most Merciful to those committed by necessity.
Imam Ahmed Hanbal is reported to have clearly held that in the legal sense, masturbation (i.e. to produce orgasm in oneself by manipulation of the genitals, erotic fantasies etc. excluding sexual intercourse) ought to be (or is) similar to cupping (i.e. the application of a cup-shaped instrument to the skin to draw blood to the surface for blood-letting).
The obvious similarities are:
a) indulgence into a lesser evil is permissible in order to avoid
a greater evil,
The lesser evil, (namely the acute necessity of resorting to artificial means of releasing the uncontrollable sexual desire for sexual satisfaction) at least greatly diminishes the overt desire, even if not completely suppressing the monster which could lead to greater evils of fornication, adultery, homosexuality and bestiality.
Under “References”: We do not give the citation for this report. If any of our readers comes across this ruling/opinion of Imam Hanbal, we would be grateful if the exact wording of the citation is passed on to us for the benefit of future readers.
 Abortion, Birth Control and Surrogate Parenting An Islamic Perspective, by Abul Fadl Mohsin Ebrahim; American Trust Publications ISBN 0-89259-110-2
Qur'anic Translations by Yusuf Ali