What Is the Proper Way to Handle an Islamic Book or Paper?

Answered by Shaykh Abdurragmaan Khan

Question: Assalam alaykum,

Can paper containing hadith or Qur’an translations be put on the ground?

Can we put the Qur’an and others Islamic book at the lowest level of a bookshelf?

Can boxes of Islamic books be put on the ground? This is often the case in bookstores.

Answer: Wa alaykum salam

May Allah increase your desire to increase in knowledge.

The necessity to respect the Mushaf

All scholars would agree that the Mushaf (a copy of the Quran), and to a lessor extent Islamic books, must be honored and respected. Our scholars further adopted the position that placing a Mushaf directly on the ground is impermissible.

The 12th century scholar, Muhammad Sulayman al-Bujayrami said, “It is prohibited to place the Mushaf on the ground. It is essential that it be elevated according to the custom (of your society) even if it is a little.”

This stance finds support in the hadith narrated by al-Hakim al-Tirmidhi in Nawadir al-Usul from ‘Umar bin AbduLAziz that the Messenger sallaLlahu alayhi wasallam passed by a book lying on the ground. He sallaLlahu alayhi wasallam then enquired from a young man who was present about the content of the book. The boy responded saying that it is from the book of Allah that was transcribed by a Jew. RasuluLlah sallaLlahu alayhi wasallam responded saying, “Allah curses the individual that does this. Only place the book of Allah in its rightful position”.

The extent to which the Mushaf should be honored thereafter returns to the custom of a society or, in other words, what a particular society deems respectful. This of course would differ from one community to another. By way of example, in the blessed city of Tarim, the Mushaf or religious books may not be placed directly on the ground. However, having religious texts elevated slightly, even by placing it on a thin shawl will be acceptable. In the city of the current writer, Cape Town, the custom of our people is that the Mushaf has to be elevated by having it placed on a floor desk or it’s like. Our community does not necessarily adopt the same stance with regards to religious texts. In short, you should study the practice of your people to determine exactly what is and what is not acceptable.

Islamic literature on the lower shelf

A perfunctory observation of Islamic libraries around the world makes it clear that there is no problem with having religious books, even commentaries on the Quran, on the lower shelf. One should keep in mind, however, that it is preferable to maintain a sequence that has Quranic literature situated higher than others. A preferred sequence, as mentioned by Ibn ‘Abidin, has grammar and language books at the bottom, followed by books dealing with interpretation of dreams, followed by books on theology or creed, followed by books of Islamic Jurisprudence, then Prophetic Traditions, then Quranic exegesis and above all the Mushaf.

Similarly, regarding utensils and jars with verses of the Quran, it’s essential that respect be shown to these jars or utensils, whether the actual text is Arabic or a translation thereof; and that they not be placed on the ground or be dealt with in a disrespectful manner.

Lastly, when dealing with large quantities of religious books and when storing or moving these books around becomes extremely difficult, there will be no problem in having these boxes placed on the ground temporarily. As soon as one is able to elevate them, one should do so. This ruling is adopted from legal maxims such as, “idha daqa al-Amr ittasa’a” when a situation becomes difficult, the ruling is relaxed. And Allah knows best.

Wassalam
[Shaykh] Abdurragmaan Khan

Photo: Jorge Royan