How many times have we seen this on TV, violent demonstrations in the Middle East with the almost routine burning of the American flag. How does that make you feel when you see it? If you love your country, then the obvious answer...you'll feel outraged! "How dare these people desecrate our flag by burning it"!
Consider this question, what exactly is it that inflames your anger more...is it seeing the flag burning? Or is the spirit of malice in which the act of burning the flag is done?
If that seems like an odd question, then you've probably never been a member of the Boy Scouts of America!
To quote from Cub Scout Pack 167 (East Bethel):
"When a United States Flag becomes torn, soiled or out of date, it should be retired with dignity and respect. The United States Federal Law directs us in this way: When a flag is in such condition that it is no longer a fit emblem for displaying, it should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning".
The key point here is when the flag "becomes torn, soiled or out of date". Clearly, when the American flag is being burnt in demonstrations, it is neither torn or soiled. This is clearly an act of malice.
This got me thinking, why exactly do we Muslims get so outraged when we see someone burning The Qu'ran? Is it because someone has set fire to it? Or is it the spirit of malice in which the individual is burning The Qu'ran?
So, I did a little research to find out how exactly we dispose of a copy of The Qu'ran when it is damaged or soiled. Interestingly, The Qu'ran says nothing on this particular issue. Hadeiths say nothing regarding the issue of how to dispose of an old Qu'ran either. Islamic history tells us that Uthman ibn `Affan (one of the very early Caliphs), who compiled the Qu'ran as we know it today, had ALL earlier copies of The Qu'ran which differed from his "authorized version" burned. Huh? What? Yes, he burned them!
So that's a historical account. What about now? Interestingly, Muslim scholars seem somewhat divided over the issue...and its something we don't like to talk about. Our dirty little secret. In many countries, there are whole organizations established for collecting old soiled Qu'rans. But what do these guys do with them? They never say!
I simply had to find out!
The three main methods used for "retiring" an old Qu'ran are:
1. Erase or cut out any of the names of God, the Angels, and Prophets. Wrap in silk and bury it deep in the earth so that it will not be disturbed.
This seems to be the preferred option in many countries. The only problem is, because we as Muslims should hold The Qu'ran with great reverence, we're always cautious not to allow The Qu'ran to touch the floor or ground. When in a bookshelf, we make sure that nothing sits above it.
So, how exactly can we bury it underground? That doesn't seem to make much sense.
2. Erase or cut out any of the names of God, the Angels, and Prophets. Emerse in a body of water (e.g. lake, river, or ocean) and allow to be consumed by time and fish.
OK, that sounds easy...so long as one is near such a large body of water. But what if one isn't readily available?
3. Burn it! Yep, this is surprisingly the most commonly employed method for disposing of "retired" Qu'rans. From my research, although this method is only endorsed by a handful of contemporary scholars, it is also the dominant method of disposal in the Middle East! And I suppose with Uthman ibn `Affan, there is precidence for this methof of disposal.
So, if WE burn Qu'rans...why exactly do we get so peeved when someone else does it?
Probably for the same reasons people get upset over flag burning. Its the spirit of malice in which the act is performed.
Burning flags, burning Holy books...two wrongs don't make a right! But they are very effective ways of making other people angry and provoking an already bad situation.
So maybe its time for a bit of tolerance and understanding.
- Peace...its Worth working for.
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