In January, the U.S. government released 49 new documents seized in 2011 from Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
Among the items — the fourth and final batch of bin Laden documents made public since 2012 — is a letter addressed to a senior colleague in North Africa in which the now-deceased al Qaeda leader raises “a very special and top secret matter”:
It pertains to the problem of the brothers who are with you in their unfortunate celibacy and lack of availability of wives for them in the conditions that have been imposed on them. We pray to God to release them. I wrote to Shaykh/Doctor ((Ayman)), [al-Zawahiri], and I consulted with Shaykh ((Abu Yahya)) [al-Libbi].
Dr. Ayman has written us his opinion … As we see it, we have no objection to clarifying to the brothers that they may, in such conditions, masturbate, since this is an extreme case. The ancestors approved this for the community. They advised the young men at the time of the conquest to do so. It has also been prescribed by the legists when needed, and there is no doubt that the brothers are in a state of extreme need.
It is well-known that bin Laden was a fastidious and overbearing micromanager. But few would have suspected that it extended this far. And although it has been widely reported that he was in possession of a porn stash at his Abbottabad compound, it will no doubt come as a surprise that bin Laden, the foremost jihadi of his generation, had thought long and hard (no pun intended) on the issue of masturbation, as has current al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri.
Bin Laden’s edict, though, raises more questions than it clarifies: If knocking one out in times of “extreme need” is permitted, how does one define the emergency of “extreme need”: Is it a week, a month, or a mere day of celibacy? Alas, bin Laden’s letter doesn’t shed any light on these burning questions.
All of this is good, harmless fun, of course. But the sexual torment of jihadis is no laughing matter, and may even help explain the genesis of their violence.