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Disposal of Quran

What is the correct and respectful way to dispose of the Quran?

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The Quran

David Silverman / Getty Images

David Silverman / Getty Images
Muslims believe that the Quran contains the exact words of Allah; therefore the printed text itself is treated with a great deal of respect. Proper handling of the Quran requires one to be in a state of purity and cleanliness, and it should be placed or stored in a clean, respectable way.

Inevitably, there are times when a Quran needs to be disposed of. Children's schoolbooks or other materials often contain sections or verses. The entire Quran itself may be old, faded, or have broken binding. These need to be discarded, but it is not proper to just throw it into the trash with other items. The words of Allah must be disposed of in a way which shows reverence to the holiness of the text.

Islamic teachings about the disposal of Quran largely falls into three main options, which are all ways of returning the material naturally to the earth: burying, placing it into flowing water, or burning.

Burying

With this method of disposal, the Quran is to be wrapped in cloth to protect it from the soil, and buried in a deep hole. This should be done in a place where people would not normally walk, often on the grounds of a mosque or even a graveyard. According to most scholars, this is the preferred method.

Placing in Flowing Water

It is also accepted to place the Quran in flowing water so that the ink is removed from the page. This will wipe away the words, and disintegrate the paper naturally. Some scholars recommend weighing down the book or papers (tying them to a heavy object like a stone) and casting them into a flowing river or sea. One should check into local regulations before following this method.

Burning

Most Islamic scholars agree that burning old copies of the Quran, in a respectful manner in a clean place, is acceptable as a last resort. In this case, one must ensure that the burning is complete, meaning that no words are left legible and the pages have been fully destroyed. At no time should a Quran be burned with the regular trash. Some add that the ashes should then be buried or scattered in running water (see above).

The permission for this practice comes from the early Muslims, at the time of Caliph Uthman bin Affan. After the official, agreed-upon version of the Quran had been compiled in a consistent dialect of Arabic, the official version was copied while the old or nonconforming Qurans were burned.

Other Alternatives

Other alternatives include:
  • Shredding: This is increasingly common in modern times, as long as the letters are shredded finely and the text is unrecognizable as Quran. Some recommend that the shredded material should be buried or put in water afterwards.
  • Storage: One can avoid the issue altogether by putting the Quran into permanent storage rather than disposing of it. Some prefer to wrap the book in a cloth, and hide it away in a safe place. In Pakistan, wrapped Qurans are often stored in caves. In Yemen, Syria, and Tunisia, ancient swaddled Qurans have been found during the renovation of old mosques. Some of these have dated to the seventh century C.E.
  • E-books: One can also avoid the issue by using electronic versions of the Quran. These can be stored without worry about damage, and simply deleted if necessary.
There is no set ritual or procedure for either burying or burning the Quran to dispose of it. There are no prescribed words, actions, or special people who need to be involved. Disposing of the Quran may be done by anyone, but should be done with an intention of respect.

In many Muslim countries, local mosques take charge of collecting such materials for disposal. Mosques often have a bin in which anyone can drop off old Qurans or other materials upon which Quran verses or Allah's name have been written. In some non-Muslim countries, nonprofit organizations or companies will arrange for disposal. Furqaan Recycling is one such organization in the Chicago area.

It should be noted that all of the above pertain only to the original, Arabic text of the Quran. Translations into other languages are not considered to be Allah's words, but rather an interpretation of their meaning. Therefore it is not necessary to discard translations in the same way, unless they also contain the Arabic text. It is recommended to treat them respectfully nevertheless.

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