Feb 212012

Yet again, “Koran burning” is in the news:

There is confusion about whether it is always wrong to burn the Koran, (it isn’t), and if not what the principles are.

First, let’s get back to basics. According to Islam, the Koran (or Qur’an) is text from Allah in ( now medieval) Arabic, originally read to Muhammad by the Angel Gabriel. When written in book-form, it is properly called a Mushaf, (there are various spellings), although many Muslims and non-Muslims also call the book-form the Koran. (See The Difference Between “Qur’an” and “Mushaf”. I’ll do so here when the context is clear). A translation into any other language is not formally the Koran and doesn’t have the same significance. It is often termed an “interpretation of the Koran”. But it will still be treated with reverence by Muslims.

Islam does not ban the burning of the Koran. Many Muslims believe it is wrong, or should only be done when there are no alternatives. Many other Muslims believe it is a perfectly respectful, even preferred, way of disposing of an old Koran.

For example, there is an Islamic organisation (Furqaan Recycling – Your one stop for Qur’anic & Scriptural Recycling) that will dispose of Islamic material in a respectful manner:

“Complete Arabic only Musaahif will be burned, following the example of Uthman ibn Affan (RA) …. Copies of the Quran will be handled by Muslims alone and will not go through the same process as the other paper material”.

While even Muslims don’t agree on how to dispose of an old Koran, and whether burning it is OK, they (probably) all agree that disposal must be respectful even in the long term. For example, a Koran must not be recycled as toilet paper or for “Pig Farmer’s Weekly”. Preferably it should be safely returned to the environment, for example by floating it out to sea or letting it decompose into the earth off the popular track. Or by burning it, of course.

For the record, it is not illegal to burn a religious book in the UK.
If it is yours, and you don’t disrupt public order while doing so, or incite hatred on racial or religious grounds, you have the right to burn the book.
And remember that there is no general right not to be offended by others.

Further reading:

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