A Brief Compilation on Masturbation

Mark A. Foster

"God forgiveth you your nocturnal emissions and masturbation. But know ye the value of your seed, for your seed is the cause of the creation of one who worshippeth God. Keep your seed in the exquisite place. The purpose of this command is that perhaps the fruit of your existence will come to the aid of the religion of God. When semen cometh out by your own free will, make the ablutions, prostrate yourself and say this verse nineteen times: 'Thou art the Most Pure and Sublime, O my God! Thou art free from error and lack. There is none other God save Thee! I proclaim Thy sublimity, and I am of those who know that Thou art the Pure.'"

-- The Báb, Arabic Bayán, Váhid 8, Báb 10 (posted by William Collins, former librarian at the Bahá'í World Centre)

"We have found in the Holy Writings no explicit references to masturbation, but there are a number of principles and teachings which can guide a Bahá'í to the correct attitude towards it. In a letter to an individual believer, written by the Guardian's secretary on his behalf, it is pointed out that:

`The Bahá'í Faith recognizes the value of the sex impulse, but condemns its illegitimate and improper expressions such as free love, companionate marriage and others, all of which it considers positively harmful to man and to the society in which he lives. The proper use of the sex instinct is the natural right of every individual, and it is precisely for this very purpose that the institution of marriage has been established. The Bahá'ís do not believe in the suppression of the sex impulse but in its regulation and control.'

"In response to another letter enquiring if there were any legitimate way in which a person could express the sex instinct if, for some reason, he were unable to marry or if outer circumstances such as economic factors were to cause him to delay marriage, the Guardian's secretary wrote on his behalf:

`Concerning your question whether there are any legitimate forms of expression of the sex instinct outside of marriage: According to the Bahá'í Teachings no sexual act can be considered lawful unless performed between lawfully married persons. Outside of marital life there can be no lawful or healthy use of the sex impulse. The Bahá'í youth should, on the one hand, be taught the lesson of self-control which, when exercised, undoubtedly has a salutary effect on the development of character and of personality in general, and on the other should be advised, nay even encouraged, to contract marriage while still young and in full possession of their physical vigour. Economic factors, no doubt, are often a serious hindrance to early marriage but in most cases are only an excuse, and as such should not be over stressed.'

"In another letter on the Guardian's behalf, also to an individual believer, the secretary writes:

`Amongst the many other evils afflicting society in this spiritual low water mark in history is the question of immorality, and over-emphasis of sex...' "This indicates how the whole matter of sex and the problems related to it have assumed far too great an importance in the thinking of present-day society. "Masturbation is clearly not a proper use of the sex instinct, as this is understood in the Faith. Moreover it involves, as you have pointed out, mental fantasies, while Bahá'u'lláh, in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, has exhorted us not to indulge our passions and in one of His well-known Tablets `Abdu'l-Bahá encourages us to keep our `secret thoughts pure'. Of course many wayward thoughts come involuntarily to the mind and these are merely a result of weakness and are not blameworthy unless they become fixed or even worse, are expressed in improper acts. In `The Advent of Divine Justice', when describing the moral standards that Bahá'ís must uphold both individually and in their community life, the Guardian wrote:

`Such a chaste and holy life, with its implications of modesty, purity, temperance, decency, and clean-mindedness, involves no less than the exercise of moderation in all that pertains to dress, language, amusements, and all artistic and literary avocations. It demands daily vigilance in the control of one's carnal desires and corrupt inclinations.'

"Your problem, therefore, is one against which you should continue to struggle, with determination and with the aid of prayer. You should remember, however, that it is only one of the many temptations and faults that a human being must strive to overcome during his lifetime, and you should not increase the difficulty you have by over-emphasising its importance. We suggest you try to see it within the whole spectrum of the qualities that a Bahá'í must develop in his character. Be vigilant against temptation, but do not allow it to claim too great a share of your attention. You should concentrate, rather, on the virtues that you should develop, the services you should strive to render, and, above all, on God and His attributes, and devote your energies to living a full Bahá'í life in all its many aspects."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, a copy of which was sent to the compiler of Lights of Guidance with a letter dated March 8, 1981)

-- Lights of Guidance, pp.364-365