Handling and disposal of sacred texts or other religious items can be a problematic issue for the ‘layperson’ (and sometimes a matter of life and death if the text is ‘desecrated’!). In the Muslim tradition, the Koran (Quran) is considered the literal and sacred word of God, the direct link to the divine, the source of the faith, and it is the most important symbol of their religion. But Muslims don’t worship the text of the Koran itself. So, how do Muslims respectfully dispose of a text of the Koran that is no longer usable?
Here are a few opinions and interpretations:
- The proper way to dispose of the Quran is to first soak it in some water for a few days, and then bury it. So the ink comes off.
- Two methods of disposing an unusable Qur’an and Islamic literature:
(1) Wrapping them in a piece of cloth or something pure and burying them respectfully in a place where people normally do not walk upon.
(2) Fastening the items to something heavy such as a stone and placing it respectfully in flowing river.
- Other scholars have mentioned three ways of doing that:
(1) Burning, i.e., burning old copies of the Mus-haf in a careful and respectful manner, in a clean and safe place, whilst ensuring that the words are consumed by the fire and the pages are changed. (It must be done thoroughly until there is nothing left but ashes)
(2) Burying, for which a place that is clean and safe from tampering should be chosen. A deep hole should be dug in which it is thought most likely that the buried copies will disappear for a long time. They may be buried in a clean, pure place where they will not be subject to mishandling in the future, to the best of one’s knowledge.
(3) Shredding. This may be the easiest way nowadays. There are machines into which one inserts papers and they shred them into tiny pieces, so that they are no longer regarded as words of the Qur’aan or even legible letters. This is clean and safe and does not involve a lot of effort, as is the case with burning or burying.
BOTTOM LINE: Burning the Koran is permissible if done respectfully!
- America’s Islamic blind spots / by Naomi Wolf
- When Koran Burnings Incite Riots and a Mass Murder Doesn’t. NY Times. Issue Date: March 15, 2012. Section: International.
- DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE. JOINT TASK FORCE GUANTANAMO
HEADQUARTERS, JOINT DETENTION OPERATION GROUP (JDOG)
GUANTANAMO BAY, CUBA APO AE 09360 [handling the Quran at Guantanamo].