Pod People: Burning Korans, killing people

In the most recent Crossroads podcast, host Todd Wilken and I discuss media coverage of the Koran burning, changing funeral practices and Confession.

Since then, our discussions of media coverage of Koran burning and its response have expanded greatly.

One thing I really wish the media would cover is Muslim teaching about burning of Korans. I was digging around for the actual prohibitions and how they’re interpreted by various scholars, and I was unsuccessful. I did find an instance of previous Koran burning — by Muslims:

Hudhaifa bin Al-Yaman came to Uthman at the time when the people of Sham and the people of Iraq were Waging war to conquer Arminya and Adharbijan. Hudhaifa was afraid of their (the people of Sham and Iraq) differences in the recitation of the Qur’an, so he said to ‘Uthman, “O chief of the Believers! Save this nation before they differ about the Book (Quran) as Jews and the Christians did before.” So ‘Uthman sent a message to Hafsa saying, “Send us the manuscripts of the Qur’an so that we may compile the Qur’anic materials in perfect copies and return the manuscripts to you.” Hafsa sent it to ‘Uthman. ‘Uthman then ordered Zaid bin Thabit, ‘Abdullah bin AzZubair, Said bin Al-As and ‘AbdurRahman bin Harith bin Hisham to rewrite the manuscripts in perfect copies. ‘Uthman said to the three Quraishi men, “In case you disagree with Zaid bin Thabit on any point in the Qur’an, then write it in the dialect of Quraish, the Qur’an was revealed in their tongue.” They did so, and when they had written many copies, ‘Uthman returned the original manuscripts to Hafsa. ‘Uthman sent to every Muslim province one copy of what they had copied, and ordered that all the other Qur’anic materials, whether written in fragmentary manuscripts or whole copies, be burnt. Said bin Thabit added, “A Verse from Surat Ahzab was missed by me when we copied the Qur’an and I used to hear Allah’s Apostle reciting it. So we searched for it and found it with Khuzaima bin Thabit Al-Ansari. (That Verse was): ‘Among the Believers are men who have been true in their covenant with Allah.’ (33.23)

This was during Uthman’s caliphate in the 7th century and was done in response to the multiple recitations available at that time. But wouldn’t it be nice to have more information about why burning provokes different responses among different Muslims?

Once again, there is no one Islam. We could use a lot more basic information in these early reports.

Print Friendly

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com Steve Martin

    I wish the press would focus a bit more on the punishment for the “crime”. Murdering completely innocent people because someone else (totally unrelated) burned a book?

    Worthy of focus, I believe.

  • Jerry

    I turned your question about handling the Quran around a bit Mollie and found this based on the search proper way of handling the quran:

    The Qur’an itself states that only those who are clean and pure should touch the sacred text: “This is indeed a Holy Qur’an, in a book well-guarded, which none shall touch but those who are clean…” (56:77-79). The Arabic word translated here as “clean” is mutahiroon, a word that is also sometimes translated as “purified”.

    Some argue that this purity or cleanliness is of the heart, i.e. that only Muslim believers should handle the Qur’an. However, the majority of Islamic scholars interpret these verses to also refer to a physical cleanliness or purity, which is attained by making formal ablutions (wudu). Therefore, most Muslims believe that only those who are physically clean through formal ablutions should touch the pages of the Qur’an.

    As a result of this general understanding, the following “rules” are usually followed when handling the Qur’an:

    1) One should make formal ablutions before handling the Qur’an or reading from its text.
    2) One who is in need of a formal bath (after intercourse or menstrual bleeding) should not touch the Qur’an until after bathing.
    3) A non-Muslim should not handle the sacred text, but may listen to tapes of the Qur’an or handle a translation or exegesis.
    4) Those who are unable to handle the Qur’an based on these reasons should either avoid handling the Qur’an completely, or in necessity hold it while using some sort of barrier covering the hand, such as a cloth or a glove.

    In addition, when one is not reading or reciting from the Qur’an, it should be closed and stored a clean, respectable place. Nothing should be placed on top of it, nor should it ever be placed on the floor or in a bathroom. To further show respect for the sacred text, those who are writing it should use clear, elegant handwriting, and those who are reading from it should use clear, beautiful voices.


    There are other sites with those points and more. They don’t speak to the particular point about burning the Quran, but given that one site had this to say I think it is obvious: “Not to enter the lavatory carrying the Noble Qur’an. This is a great sin, and if done so on purpose, it is Kufr (blasphemy).”