Are There Special Rules for Handling the Quran?

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Muslims regard the Quran as the literal word of God, as revealed by the Angel Gabriel to the Prophet Muhammad. According to Islamic tradition, the revelation was made in the Arabic language, and the recorded text in Arabic has not changed since the time of its revelation, more than 1400 years ago. Although modern printing presses are used to distribute the Quran worldwide, the printed Arabic text of the Quran is still regarded as holy and has never been changed in any way. 

"The Pages"

The Arabic text of the holy Quran, when printed in a book, is known as the mus-haf (literally, "the pages"). There are special rules that Muslims follow when handling, touching, or reading from the mus-haf.

The Quran itself states that only those who are clean and pure should touch the sacred text:

This is indeed a Holy Quran, 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—in other words, that only Muslim believers should handle the Quran. 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 Quran.

The "Rules"

As a result of this general understanding, the following "rules" are usually followed when handling the Qur'an:

  • One should make formal ablutions before handling the Quran or reading from its text.
  • One who is in need of a formal bath (after intercourse or menstrual bleeding) should not touch the Quran until after bathing.
  • A non-Muslim should not handle the sacred text when printed in Arabic, but may listen to tapes of the Quran or handle a non-Arabic translation or exegesis.
  • Those who are unable to handle the Quran based on these reasons should either avoid handling the Quran completely, or, if absolutely necessary, 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 Quran, 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 copying it by hand should use clear, elegant handwriting, and those who are reciting from it should use clear, beautiful voices.

A worn-out copy of the Quran, with broken binding or missing pages, should not be disposed of as ordinary household trash. Acceptable ways of disposing of a damaged copy of the Quran include wrapping in cloth and burying in a deep hole, placing it in flowing water so the ink dissolves, or, as a last resort, burning it so that it is completely consumed. 

In summary, Muslims believe that the Holy Quan should be handled with the deepest respect. However, God is All-Merciful and we cannot be held responsible for what we do in ignorance or by mistake. The Quran itself says:

Our Lord! Punish us not if we forget or fall into error (2:286).

Therefore, there is no sin in Islam on the person who mishandles the Qu'an by accident or without the realization of wrongdoing.

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Huda. "Are There Special Rules for Handling the Quran?" Learn Religions, Aug. 26, 2020, Huda. (2020, August 26). Are There Special Rules for Handling the Quran? Retrieved from Huda. "Are There Special Rules for Handling the Quran?" Learn Religions. (accessed June 9, 2023).