Are Masturbation and Pornography Viewed Sinful by Different Schools of Thought?

Answered by Shaykh Yusuf Weltch

Question

Can I follow certain positions of other schools of thought in order to prevent my watching of porn and masturbation from being considered sinful?

For instance, according to Imam al-Bayjurmi, It is permissible to view awrah through a mirror (basically digitally as well), even when lustful, and masturbation is makruh or even mubah (according to some scholars).

I am actively trying to stop, and, alhamdulillah, I am considerably reducing both. However, if I relapse, I don’t want to commit the grave sin of masturbation and porn on myself, so I take dispensations.

Answer

In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate

The Ruling of Watching Pornography

Viewing pornographic videos/images is strictly prohibited, unanimously, according to the relied-upon positions of the scholars of both the Hanafi and Shafi’i schools. [al-Mawsu‘a al-Fiqhiyya al-Kuwaitiyya]

Allah Most High says, “(O Prophet!) Tell the believing men to lower their gaze and guard their chastity. That is purer for them. Surely Allah is All-Aware of what they do.” [Quran, 24:30]

The Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Indeed, Allah has decreed upon the child of Adam (Allah bless him), his portion of fornication, which he will certainly reach: the fornication of the eye is the (sinful) glance…” [Bukhari]

The Hanafi School

It is strictly prohibited to look at the nakedness (any portion beside the face, hands, and feet) of a non-relative woman, regardless of the presence or fear of lust or not. [Ibn ‘Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar]

It is, likewise, strictly prohibited to look at any portion of her in the case that there is lust or the fear of lust. [Ibid.]

With the above understood, pornography is unequivocally prohibited in the Hanafi school, and viewing through a screen is irrelevant, especially if there is lust.

The Shafi’i School

The relied-upon position in the Shafi’i school is exactly that of the Hanafi school detailed above. [Nawawi, Minhaj al-Talibin]

As for looking at nakedness through a screen, the relied-upon position in the Shafi’i school is still that it’s prohibited. [Ramli, Nihayat al-Muhtaj Sharh al-Minhaj]

After consulting a well-trained Shafi’i scholar from Darul Mustafa in Tarim, Yemen, the following resulted:

A Foreign Opinion (Qawl Shadh)

Imam al-Bayjurmi (Allah have mercy on him), who you quoted above saying that looking at the nakedness of a woman through a reflection is not prohibited (haram) – is not his opinion. He is actually transmitting this opinion from Imam Qalyubi, in his notes (hashiya) on Imam Nawawi’s Minhaj al-Talibin. Imam Qalyubi’s opinion is considered a foreign (shadhdh) opinion in the Shafi‘i school, and is not permitted to act upon nor to give as a legal verdict (fatwa).

The reason that this opinion was not described as being a foreign opinion is due to that being obvious amongst the Shafi’i scholars.

Regardless, It Is Still Prohibited

Even if, hypothetically, this foreign opinion were a valid opinion – to look at the nakedness of a woman (through a reflection) as a means to masturbation – it is still strictly prohibited (haram). That is because of the agreed upon principle:
“For the means is the ruling of the goal/ends (للوسائل حكم المقاصد).”

Masturbation is strictly prohibited in both the Hanafi and Shafi’i schools, and if looking at illicit images is the means to a prohibited act, it also is considered prohibited.

Summary

One issue is the issue of pornography for which we explained the various positions and the most appropriate approach thereto. However, the other issue is the justification of sin. Allah Most High speaks about the person who seeks to justify his sin and attributes to that person a type of arrogance. He says, “When it is said to them, ‘Fear Allah,’ pride carries them off to sin. Hell will be their proper place. What an evil place to rest!” [Quran, 2:206]

This pride, in reality, can end up being more severe and dangerous to one’s heart than the sin itself and the admission of fault for falling into sin. This is what we call the ‘easy way out’, which in the end is just a way of not dealing with an issue that we must deal with. In this case, that issue is your addiction to pornography and masturbation. As long as the approach of justification carries on, one will never be able to repent, and without repentance one will block themselves from the door of Divine mercy.

Hope this helps
Allah knows best
[Shaykh] Yusuf Weltch
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Shaykh Yusuf Weltch is a teacher of Arabic, Islamic law, and spirituality. After accepting Islam in 2008, he then completed four years at the Darul Uloom seminary in New York where he studied Arabic and the traditional sciences. He then traveled to Tarim, Yemen, where he stayed for three years studying in Dar Al-Mustafa under some of the greatest scholars of our time, including Habib Umar Bin Hafiz, Habib Kadhim al-Saqqaf, and Shaykh Umar al-Khatib. In Tarim, Shaykh Yusuf completed the memorization of the Quran and studied beliefs, legal methodology, hadith methodology, Quranic exegesis, Islamic history, and a number of texts on spirituality. He joined the SeekersGuidance faculty in the summer of 2019.