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Masturbation and sex in the Baha'i Faith 
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Joined: Mon Nov 17, 2008 4:00 am
Posts: 11
Location: Bay Area, CA
Allah'u'Abha friends,

After living most of my life following whatever impulses came to me, about two years ago I decided to embrace my faith. Since then I have become active in my community in many ways and feel as though I have grown significantly. However, although I feel like I have conquered my bad habits of drug use, lying, smoking, backbiting, passing judgment and apathy, I am still struggling in one area: my sexual impulses.

I fornicated many times outside of marriage (and understand that I owe a hefty sum of money to the Universal House of Justice for this), and have developed a very strong libido. Today I no longer have sex outside of marriage, but I struggle daily with masturbation. While I have cut hardcore pornography out of my life, I still battle daily to abstain from masturbation.

After researching the topic, I found very little information regarding masturbation in relation to the Baha'i Faith. I have found only a few references stating that it is discouraged and a misuse of the sexual impulse. Are there any other writings that deal with this subject? Does anyone have any techniques, words of wisdom or special prayers which might help me out?

I know this is very personal, and might make some people uncomfortable to discuss, but it is something I really have been struggling with for awhile and feel like I really could use some support with.

Also, I didn't realize fornication was such a big deal in the faith, but I would welcome any insight people have to share on that subject.

_________________
"Love me, that I may love thee. If thou lovest me not, my love can in no wise reach thee. Know this O servant." -The Baha'i Faith


Mon Dec 01, 2008 5:23 am
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Joined: Fri Jan 02, 2004 4:55 am
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Dear FJR,

I don’t know what advice any of us can give you about such things. Of course we can share with you various quotations from the writings, which I will do too, but ultimately, how you choose to enact these teachings, and the means you employ to struggle against your own vices, are personal, as they are for all of us. I don’t know you, and I am not a counselor or a psychologist, so I have no qualifications to give you advice. I can only share with you my thoughts on the matter as a Baha’i who has reflected on the teachings concerning these things. Hopefully, this way, you will similarly reflect and then decide for yourself how to best confront this problem.

After having read the following passages, it seems that the best solution is to find a healthy way to express, what, is in actuality, a very natural impulse. As I have understood it, there is really only one way to accomplish this! It is something much better than trying to fight natural instinct. I won’t tell you what it is. But, I think if you read these passages, you will draw the same wonderful conclusion. This one thing will require serious work! You know, it’s not really true that the best things in life are free. The best things in life may not require money, but all the best things I can think of require hard work and effort.

"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 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" (Compilations, Lights of Guidance, 344).

“We are not ascetics in any sense of the word. On the contrary, Bahá'u'lláh says God has created all the good things in the world for us to enjoy and partake. But we must not become attached to them and put them before the spiritual things. Chastity in the strict sense means not to have sexual intercourse, or sexual intimacies, before marriage. In the general sense it means not to be licentious. This does not mean we Bahá'ís believe sexual relations to be impure or wrong. On the contrary they are natural and should be considered one of God's many blessings. He does not know anything about whether albumen and delicious food affect sex; this is a medical question. Sex is a very individual matter, some people are more passionate by nature than others, and might consequently suffer more if forced to be continent. But when the world becomes more spiritual there will not be such an exaggerated emphasis on sex, as there is today, and consequently it will be easier for young people to be chaste and control their passions. A man of noble character and strong willpower, could certainly remain faithful to his wife during a long absence!” (Shoghi Effendi, The Light of Divine Guidance v II, 69).

“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. It calls for the abandonment of a frivolous conduct, with its excessive attachment to trivial and often misdirected pleasures. It requires total abstinence from all alcoholic drinks, from opium, and from similar habit-forming drugs. It condemns the prostitution of art and of literature, the practices of nudism and of companionate marriage, infidelity in marital relationships, and all manner of promiscuity, of easy familiarity, and of sexual vices. It can tolerate no compromise with the theories, the standards, the habits, and the excesses of a decadent age. Nay rather it seeks to demonstrate, through the dynamic force of its example, the pernicious character of such theories, the falsity of such standards, the hollowness of such claims, the perversity of such habits, and the sacrilegious character of such excesses” (Shoghi Effendi, The Advent of Divine Justice, 30).

“Bahá'u'lláh, like all the other Prophets and Messengers of God, preaches abstinence, and condemns, in vehement language, all forms of sexual laxity, unbridled licence and lust. The Bahá'í standard of sex morality is thus very high, but it is by no means unreasonably rigid. While free love is condemned, yet marriage is considered as a holy act which every human being should be encouraged, though not forced, to perform. Sex instinct, like all other human instincts, is not necessarily evil. It is a power which, if properly directed, can bring joy and satisfaction to the individual. If misused or abused it brings, of course, incalculable harm not only to the individual but also to the society in which he lives. While the Bahá'ís condemn asceticism and all extreme forms of self-mortification they at the same time view with disfavour the current theories of sex ethics which cannot but bring ruin to human society” (Shoghi Effendi, The Unfolding Destiny of the British Baha'i Community, 434).

These are the teachings which govern us, and it is a difficult path to walk, when it goes upstream against every social current. You know, if you are healthy, you can do it. If you are not healthy, and I might have put this first, since I don't know anything about you:

"Resort ye, in times of sickness, to competent physicians; We have not set aside the use of material means, rather have We confirmed it through this Pen, which God hath made to be the Dawning-place of His shining and glorious Cause" (Baha'u'llah, The Kitab-i-Aqdas, 60).

If you have a serious problem, please do seek professional help, and guidance. Of course, also rely on God. It's not a contradiction to do both.

"Thy name is my healing, O my God, and remembrance of Thee is my remedy. Nearness to Thee is my hope, and love for Thee is my companion. Thy  263  mercy to me is my healing and my succor in both this world and the world to come. Thou, verily, art the All-Bountiful, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise" (Baha'u'llah, Prayers and Meditations by Baha'u'llah, 262).

I know all of our prayers are with you and we wish for your healing and happiness.


Loren

_________________
"Thus doth the Nightingale utter His call unto you from this prison. He hath but to deliver this clear message. Whosoever desireth, let him turn aside from this counsel and whosoever desireth let him choose the path to his Lord." - Baha'u'llah


Mon Dec 01, 2008 9:24 pm
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Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2003 12:12 pm
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Hello FJR,

I think Loren has given an excellent response here. As he mentioned, we cannot take the place of counselors, close and trusted friends, or, possibly doctors.

I'd also like to add a few quotations to the discussion, however, again, without knowing your exact circumstances, but hoping you may find something within them helpful to your situation.

I'll first cover some of the issues that may be involved within the marriage (which I know may not necessarily be the case), and then add a few related simply to the practical issues of our trying to more effectively struggle with excess desires we may have.

The following quotation brings up the concept that the physical aspect of marriage can in fact be important, and that there is no reason to think that some concern for the quality of it within a marriage is inherently a selfish thing--as martial problems can be a "very involved and subtle" topic. It also brings up the point about the potential to seek doctor's advice.

Quote:
He was sorry to hear of the inharmony and unhappiness which has arisen in your home, and he assures you he will pray for its removal.

He suggests to you that perhaps you are not giving your husband enough of your love, physically and spiritually, to keep his interest centred in you. Marriage problems are often very involved and subtle, and we Baha'is, being enlightened and progressive people, should not hesitate, if it seems necessary or desirable, to turn to science for help in such matters. If you and your husband talked over your problems--together or separately--with a good physician you might find that you can cure your own husband, or at least try to do so. It is a great pity that two believers, united in this glorious Cause, and blessed with a family, should not be able to live together really harmoniously, and he feels you should take constructive action and not allow the situation to get worse. When the shadow of separation hangs over a husband and wife they should leave no stone unturned in their effort to avert its becoming a reality.

He urges you both to devote more of your time to teaching the Cause and to pray together that Baha'u'llah may give you a real and lasting love for each other.

(On behalf of Shoghi Effendi, Preserving Baha'i Marriages, 5 July 1949, at http://bahai-library.com/compilations/m ... .html#2329 )


Needless to say, this should not be taken to mean there should be any kind of pressure of one spouse to the other, but it does not preclude (and indeed seems to encourage) communication between partners.

Not knowing whether you are still married (and for those reading who are not married), there is this quotation which seems to encourage re-marriage (as well as marriage):

Quote:
As regards your question whether it would be advisable and useful for you to marry again: he feels unable to give you any definite answer on that point, as this is essentially a private affair about which you, and the friends around you or your Local Assembly, are in a much better position to judge. Of course, under normal circumstances, every person should consider it his moral duty to marry. And this is what Bahá'u'lláh has encouraged the believers to do. But marriage is by no means an obligation. In the last resort it is for the individual to decide whether he wishes to lead a family life or live in a state of celibacy.

(On behalf of Shoghi Effendi, From a letter dated 3 May 1936, to an individual believer, cited in Messages from the Universal House of Justice 1963-1986, p. 234)


Moreover, Baha'u'llah Himself seems to point to marriage being even a proof of fidelity:

Quote:
Enter ye into wedlock, that after you someone may fill your place. We have forbidden you perfidious acts, and not that which will demonstrate fidelity.

(Baha'u'llah, cited in Promised Day Is Come, par. 256)


or for another translation of this passage in a different work:

Quote:
Enter ye into wedlock, that after you another may arise in your stead. We, verily, have forbidden you lechery, and not that which is conducive to fidelity.

(Baha'u'llah, cited in Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 49)


The next quotation brings up some practical suggestions:

1) Struggle, be determined and pray, but also don't overemphasize the issue
2) Concentrate instead on virtues, service, God, living a full Baha'i life

Quote:
"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 with a letter dated March 8, 1981 in Lights of Guidance, no. 1220)


You might wish to read the full quotation above (see the link for the section number), as it is, to my knowledge, the only quotation explicitly dealing with this topic.

Here's some more practical advice, from Shoghi Effendi, but when we was still in college (before becoming the Guardian):

Quote:
...when a student is busy with athletics during recess time his ideas do not deviate any more to the path of impurity, to think of such trivial things, and the health and strength which he acquires will help him in overcoming such temptations. Generally a healthy person is endowed with a will stronger than that of a weak person.

(Shoghi Effendi, The Function of Sport in Life, at http://bahai-library.com/?file=shoghief ... ports_life )


By the way, as far as a punishment for adultery, the exact FUTURE law for this has not been determined. The law in the Kitab-i-Aqdas, as the note for this entry make clear, refers to fornication between unmarried persons.

As far as the rational for fornication being a "big deal", although it is certainly not the biggest deal, notice that the quotation refers also to the purpose being for "a happy and successful marital life".

Quote:
Briefly stated the Bahá'í conception of sex is based on the belief that chastity should be strictly practiced by both sexes, not only because it is in itself highly commendable ethically, but also due to its being the only way to a happy and successful marital life. Sex relationships of any form, outside marriage, are not permissible therefore, and whoso violates this rule will not only be responsible to God, but will incur the necessary punishment from society.

(On behalf of Shoghi Effendi, from a letter dated 5 September 1938, to an individual believer, cited in Messages from the Universal House of Justice, 1963-1986, p. 233)


The extent to which we focus our attention and love on our spouse, from past and present distractions, brings happiness to each other--our attentions are not divided, and the other person is not made to feel inadequate or unappreciated. This is nothing to speak of the benefits for our fidelity to God. That being said, as in other areas of life, Baha'is may fail.

Quote:
"As you readily understand, Bahá'ís are exhorted to lead a chaste and holy life, and, according to Bahá'í Law, sexual intercourse is permissible only between a man and the woman who is his wife. In sexual morality, as in other realms of behaviour, people often stumble and fall short of the ideal. It is the task of Spiritual Assemblies to ensure that the friends are deepened in their understanding of the teachings, and are exhorted to apply them in their lives. In caring for its community, a Spiritual Assembly should act as a loving father rather than as a stern judge in such matters. Nevertheless, if a believer's behaviour is blatantly and flagrantly immoral and, therefore, is harmful to the good name of the Faith, the Assembly must counsel him (or her), urge him to reform his conduct, warn him of the consequences if he does not mend his ways and, ultimately, if the believer persists in misbehaviour, the Assembly must deprive him of his administrative rights. This deprivation remains in force until such time as the believer repents of his actions and is able to satisfy the Spiritual Assembly that he has rectified his behaviour."

(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly, June 5, 1986)


and as one of the quotations Loren supplied sympathetically pointed out:

Quote:
"Sex is a very individual matter, some people are more passionate by nature than others, and might consequently suffer more if forced to be continent."

(Shoghi Effendi, The Light of Divine Guidance, vol II, 71)


best wishes,
Brett


Tue Dec 02, 2008 2:13 am
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Dear FJR,

First, there is no particular need to proclaim any failings. No one here wishes to see your abasement, to see you put down. Once you have confessed to God, who are we to say anything?

Second, there is one particular quote from Baha'u'llah which I feel bears directly on your question of masturbation. It helps differ Baha'u'llah's dispensation from previous ones.

God hath decreed, in token of His mercy unto His
creatures, that semen is not unclean. (Baha'u'llah, The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 46)

A token of mercy. I am not going to expand further on this but simply rely on the fact that God grants insight to whom He pleases.

He is the most Gracious, the most Powerful, the All-Knowing.


Wed Dec 03, 2008 5:15 pm
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Hello Photon and all,

I don't think there is anything wrong with FJR or anyone asking for advice, especially in an anonymous forum, and indeed our Writings advise us that it is a good thing to "consult in all things", no less for attempting to better adhere to the laws of Baha'u'llah, taking into account, as you suggest, the need for preserving one's dignity. But I didn't see anything FJR said to give the impression he was looking for forgiveness or to beat himself up over it. Just looking for advice...

As far as semen not being unclean, this was, as the notes to the Aqdas indicate, about ritual uncleanliness. For example, in Leviticus 15:16 (Hebrew Bible), it stated: "If a man has an emission of semen, he shall bathe his whole body in water, and be unclean until the evening." Baha'u'llah has abolished such laws of ritual uncleanliness of things and persons as existed in prior religions.

As to this topic, however, the infallible Universal House of Justice which Baha'u'llah ordained has made clear to us that "Masturbation is clearly not a proper use of the sex instinct".

But as I think you were getting at, Photon, adherence to the law (as with other purely personal matters) is ultimately that--a personal matter. And, no doubt, no one can claim to have attained to the very high standard of chastity set by Baha'u'llah (e.g., p. 32 of the Advent of Divine Justice). But in saying so, we should not obscure what the standard in fact clearly is, nor fail to tackle the issue of chastity in the community as well as in our personal lives---and holiness too for that matter (see this interesting letter from the House about the latter topic), as we are advised to do so:

Quote:
"As to a chaste and holy life, it should be regarded as no less essential a factor that must contribute its proper share to the strengthening and vitalization of the Bahá'í community, upon which must in turn depend the success of any Bahá'í plan or enterprise....All of them, be they men or women, must, at this threatening hour when the lights of religion are fading out, and its restraints are one by one being abolished, pause to examine themselves, scrutinize their conduct, and with characteristic resolution arise to purge the life of their community of every trace of moral laxity that might stain the name, or impair the integrity, of so holy and precious a Faith."

(Shoghi Effendi, The Advent of Divine Justice, p. 29)


Brett


Wed Dec 03, 2008 6:42 pm
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in Leviticus 15:16 (Hebrew Bible),

And yet when I quote the same source you said that it is not entirely authentic and should not be used by itself.

Certainly the truth is one point which the foolish have multiplied.

-------------------------

Thank you for the opportunity to share my thoughts here. I have enjoyed it. I wish you much success with what you have done and are doing.


Wed Dec 03, 2008 11:47 pm
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Dear Photon,

I guess you are talking about this post?

After stating there that you made some good points, in order to come to a more definitive answer according to what our Writings indicate about authenticity of Scriptures*, I raised some points which could in fact confirm your points or perhaps add further nuance to them. And although it is certainly ideal to find common ground, even if one of us had completely contradicted the other, I hope each of us will be willing to embrace the idea of 'Abdu'l-Baha that "The shining spark of truth cometh forth only after the clash of differing opinions" (Compilation compilation, at http://bahai-library.org/compilations/c ... ion.html#9 ).

(Incidentally, for our other readers, the points in our Writings about the Bible do not mean it is invalid. On the contrary, we believe in its basic Divine Inspiration.)

My purpose for bringing up the verse in Leviticus (beyond respecting the Bible, as I respect the verses you cited, though with the caveat given) was simply to give an indication about prior religious practices (whether the practice was transmitted fully accurately or even if not).

The note from the Kitab-i-Aqdas to which I linked gave the authentic explanation (on behalf of the Universal House of Justice which prepared the notes) of the fact that these verses related to prior practices. Here is the link again if you missed it because of the color contrast: http://bahai-library.com/writings/bahau ... ml#note103

You have made some fine contributions here, Photon, and I hope you feel very welcome to continue... I certainly did not mean to say anything to offend...

best wishes,
Brett

* "The Bible is not wholly authentic, and in this respect is not to be compared with the Qur'an, and should be wholly subordinated to the authentic writings of Baha'u'llah"
(On behalf of the Guardian, 28 July 1936 to a National Spiritual Assembly, in Directives From the Guardian, at http://www.bahai-library.com/writings/s ... ec-33.html)

"The Baha'is believe what is in the Bible to be true in substance. This does not mean that every word recorded in that Book is to be taken literally and treated as the authentic saying of a Prophet. A striking example is given in the account of the sacrifice which Abraham was called upon to make...Thus, although the account in the Torah is inaccurate in detail, it is true in substance...."

(at http://bahai-library.com/uhj/resurrection.bible.html)


Thu Dec 04, 2008 2:06 am
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Hey all,

Thanks for the responses, it has really been uplifting to see the responses to my post. I know that there is ultimately no substitute for close personal relationships, and I was more so just looking for any tips or advice from the community here. Also, I was hoping to stimulate a discussion on a topic which I feel like isn't discussed nearly enough in the Baha'i community (at least not out here in Northern California).

I'm doing fairly well with my struggle as of now. Every day is a battle, but I've gotten a lot of helpful advice from THIS site. Keeping your thoughts under regulation and stopping impure thoughts before they start to breed more or grow stronger is extremely important. I'm pretty sure the author of this blog has been introduced to some Baha'i principles or maybe he has just found the route to the truth on his own, but it's a good post.

I hope that there is no division over any issue which I have brought up, or any disunity as a result of this forum... Even if we feel very strongly about something, 'Abdu'l-Baha said that the belief one person is completely right is the greatest barrier to unity.

Honestly, my first post painted the problem as something serious and severe, but ultimately I recognize that, like Brett and Loren said, the real key is to focus on developing virtues in ALL areas in my life, and if I don't place some special emphasis on my libido, eventually I will develop better habits in controlling it.

Thanks for discussing the issue. I am to understand though that fornication results in a penalty of 9 mithqals of gold, a punishment which is to be doubled upon the second offense... Has anyone else heard anything about that?

_________________
"Love me, that I may love thee. If thou lovest me not, my love can in no wise reach thee. Know this O servant." -The Baha'i Faith


Fri Dec 05, 2008 3:54 am
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Hello FJR,

In my first post I added some links which answer this question.

The punishment is to be applied in the future, not now...

See the first note about IV.D.1.y at http://bahai-library.com/file.php?file= ... ot_binding . It says "adultery", but again, so does the text of the Aqdas: http://bahai-library.com/writings/bahau ... html#par49 , and here the note for the paragraph explains that it actually refers here to fornication between unmarried people: http://bahai-library.com/writings/bahau ... tml#note77

Brett


Fri Dec 05, 2008 10:21 pm
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hi FJR; I am new here, so please bear with me if
I am a little confused about the subject.

In my understanding, a more appropriate activity, during
the social part of the feast, is to enjoy light conversation,
have a cup of coffee, some cake and perhaps munch on
some broccoli and celery sticks.

Even if you are not the host, do your best to be hospitable
to the other guests and avoid doing anything which will
make them feel uncomfortable.

In all the religions of the world, the "Golden Rule" is taught
beautifully. Basically, it says to do unto others as you would
have them do unto you. But remember, this only works if
your likes and dislikes are similar to the others.

So, take your time to figure out what the other people like and
don't like. Then you will all get along very nicely.

Take care; Peter


Mon Dec 08, 2008 5:46 pm
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