Dear Fatima, I am a 18 year old male about to head to college. Since reaching my teenage years, masturbation has been a struggle for me. Until now it had been a normal, daily thing. Recently I have learned that it is a terrible sin. It has also affected me physically, leading to abdominal pains. I tried going cold turkey for a week, but in that week, the urges were driving me to start making plans with my romantic interests with the opposite gender. After I engaged in the sin again did I come to reality and the urges stopped. I can quit this, but I need a way to stop the urges. I wrote to this website before and it sent me to this Muslim program called Purify my Gaze, but apparently this program requires money that I dont have to spend. Im worried because I am a soon to be college freshman, and there are a plethora of options and significantly accessible ways to haram means to relive urges.
As salaamu alaykum
I commend you for your courage to write in about this and for the clarity you have regarding your situation. You are very wise to try and tackle this issue before going to college, as you are right that it will be a great challenge there. The first step is always recognizing the problem and having the resolve to work toward a resolution. In this case the answer to your problem is relatively simple. In short, I can sum it up in two words; fasting and exercise.
While the path toward your goal of stopping the urges is clear, the road to get there is not necessarily easy. It takes commitment and discipline but if you have these two things you can rest assured that there is a solution. This solution comes directly form the teachings of our Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him. He instructed young men who are not ready or able to get married to fast and exercise as the remedy to the very common, natural urges that young men have.
It is a physiological fact that young men have a significant sexual drive that is a force to reckon with when it comes to physical urges in the body. These urges, while often sexual in nature, are more than just perverted impulses. They come from an energy that is connected to your life force and when channeled correctly can become a positive, constructive power. It takes disciplining the use of this energy and controlling it toward a higher, more spiritual end. While sexuality has its place in life and within Islam, it is best reserved for procreation and for intimacy to strengthen the bond of marriage. Until you are ready and able to use this energy in that prescribed and constructive way, in order to remain pure and gain the most benefit for your life and for your soul, you will need to train yourself to control it and to strengthen your will power.
An added benefit to committing your efforts to controlling this energy, aside from the fact that it is prescribed in Islam and therefore what is best for your development, is that it can give you increased power and stamina. Instead of draining that life force out of you every time the urge comes over you, you can instead save that energy and redirect it toward building up power and strength within. This power comes from increased will power and physical stamina, through fasting and exercise.
The urges that you feel are energetic forces that run through your veins. They manifest physically in endorphins in your nervous system and at the same time are a spiritual reality affecting your soul. The strategy for taming this energy to work for you is twofold; one is to restrict or cut off the destructive, lower urges and the other is to build power by channeling that same energy. Fasting actively works to cut off the destructive urge by suffocating out the evil inclination in it. It is as if this base part of yourself (that is defined by urges such as hunger and sex) is trying to bring you down to a level of your animalistic nature. Exercise works to take that physical energy and redirect it toward building stamina and reclaiming your physical body to work for you instead of against you. So instead of being a slave to your body’s physical urges you are being proactive by taking charge of your body’s impulses and whipping them into shape to submit to your higher self purpose.
For this purpose, unlike fasting in Ramadan, it is recommended to fast intermittently; not every day consecutively. This is uncoincidentally now what all of the new science in the field of physiology says as sports magazines are now recommending that people fast at different times throughout the week and work out while fasting. While fasting intermittently does something to your body that shifts things up and benefits your metabolism etc. , it also helps to increase the aspect of strengthening the will, as your body doesn’t get used to fasting and thus assures that you are having to stay mentally alert to choose not to eat and thus flex your will power. This type of fasting throughout the year was the sunnah of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, way before any of this sports science. The Prophet fasted regularly on Mondays and Thursdays, so that is the recommended times to do it, but anytime is acceptable. The way that you will see the most benefit is if you keep it constant- meaning that whatever you do you keep it up. So its better that you fast once a week consistently than if you fast several times a week but stop for long periods of time or don’t keep a regular pattern of fasting. The way to fast is the same as we do in Ramadan; from before fajr to after maghrib, refraining from bad thoughts, bad words, smoking, etc.
For exercising it is recommended that you commit to a regimen of minimum 3 days a week for a minimum of at least 30 minutes of increased heart rate per exercise session. And that you also keep it as a constant routine from week to week, making sure to only do what is realistic to keep up with it consistently. The more you can sweat and bring up your heart rate the better, as this will increase endorphins, and in releasing toxins from your body will also release the toxic forces that create those urges. Think of it as sweating out the evil inclination. So the more intensity in your work outs the better. For maximum effect to this end you should aim to be out of breath to the point where you couldn’t carry on a normal conversation. This is extremely effective for releasing excess energy and building internal strength for fighting the urges.
With these two prescriptions you have all that you need to fight this battle. This is the most righteous battle as it is al jihad an nafs; the struggle of the self. As I said, the path forward toward your goal is clear, as it is a tried and true one. The only part that you will have to work on is the commitment to the regimen and the discipline of the self to strengthen your will power. But this is the most worthwhile of tasks you can have and will benefit you in great many ways much more than just with masturbation. This can help you throughout your life, and is recommended even after you are married. But at the very least you should try to commit to this regimen until you are married. As it is something that will only have real effect over time, you should think of it as a long term thing and therefore build in a mental allowance for falling off, being inconsistent, or slipping up. While you want to push yourself to do more and go beyond what is easy, you do not want to be so strict that you don’t allow for mercy. Always be merciful with yourself and always continue on even when you slip up. It is important that you not get discouraged or too disappointed in yourself to the point that you give up. We all make mistakes and in your case, you have a very significant force of nature working against you, within you. You should recognize that these urges are a real force to reckon with AND that you can control them and tame them and make them work for you instead of against you.
sending you strength, power and resolve in your struggle to overcome
your brother in Islam,
Assalamu Alaikum Dear Brother,
First and foremost I would check with your primary care physician and make sure your abdominal pains are not the result or indication of other physical ailments. Also, I would recommend fasting and engaging in aerobic exercises as weightlifting will only increase the amount of testosterone produced in your body which will also increase your sexual urges. Avoiding sexually stimulating activities, environments, pictures, movies or people may help curb your desires. Realize that these are natural urges so seeking to get rid of them is not the answer. If you find this habit is causing significant distress or dysfunction in your school, work, family or any other important aspect of your life than you may be struggling with a sexual addiction. Any kind of behavioral change or addiction recovery should involve taking baby steps. If your body has become accustomed to a certain amount of Dopamine levels and other endorphins it will be extremely hard to cut it out entirely. Our scholars remind us that if you have to pick between two evils and masturbating prevents you from a greater evil then choose the lesser evil.
If stopping cold turkey is not an option for you and only leading you to other haraam behaviors than try reducing the number of times you masturbate a week or day while simultaneously increasing the number of activities that provide you with halaal means of endorphin stimulating activities. Such activities can include joining a sports team, playing basketball with friends, or just doing something else you really enjoy. Keeping yourself (meaningfully) occupied and channeling your creative energy towards other productive activities is key. If you struggle to find your passions or interests consider relief or charity work. If you have ever experienced any kind of sexual abuse of violation consider speaking to someone you trust or a therapist. Our body and soul crave meaningful, close connections that are healing, and if we are void of those type of connections then our body seeks it in sometimes destructive ways. Remember, that Allah is Merciful and ready to help you if you reach out to Him.
Your sister in Islam