Disposing of Islamic Literature

What is the best way to dispose of literature which contains Islamic terminology, Ahadith or verses of the Qur’an etc? Is it OK to shred them and then throw them away or should we stick them in the recycle pile or burn them?

Answer by Shaykh Salim Ghiza

In the name of Allah the Most Beneficent and Merciful.

All Muslims are unanimous that the Qur’an is no ordinary piece of writing and therefore a person needs to be in ritual purification i.e. ablution to touch the words of Allah. Therefore a process of respect has to be followed when one needs to dispose old pages of the Qur’an. Also, if the pages are not from the Qur’an but contain Islamic writings i.e. Hadith, Fiqh, supplications etc then again they must also be disposed of with respect and honour.

Primarily, there are two methods depending on whether the items to be disposed of are pages from the Qur’an or other Islamic literature and the method differs depending on what they are.

Regarding disposing of unwanted religious and Islamic literature the great classical Hanafi Jurist Allamah Haskafi states:

“Those books that are no longer wanted: One should wipe away the names of Allah, his Angels and His Messengers (peace and blessings be upon them all) and burn the rest. There is nothing wrong with casting them into a flowing river as they are (i.e. without wiping the names away) or burying them and burning them [excluding the Qur’an, see below] is advised.”

Thus, if one decides to get rid of religious literature, the right thing would be to bury them, by wrapping them in something pure first, in a place where people normally would not walk i.e. so not to bury them on walkways and paths etc. A good place would be in a garden in a corner that is used for planting or a small corner in a cemetery, or the side of a river etc.

Similarly, it would be permitted to tie the books and papers with something heavy and cast them into flowing river. You may also burn them, but in this case, ONLY after erasing the names of Allah, his Angels and his Messengers (peace and blessings be upon them all). You can erase the names by scribbling over them or rubbing them out as this prevents the actual words being burnt.

As far the old and unusable Qur’ans are concerned, it is NOT permitted to burn them unless there is no other way to dispose them. Allamah ibn Abidin in Radd ul Mohtar, a great Hanafi Scholar states

“If a copy of the Qur’an becomes old and it is difficult to read it, it should NOT be burnt in fire.”

This is also the view of Imam Mohammed (Student of Imam Abu Hanifah). It is best to bury them after wrapping them into something pure and clean.

So to conclude, there are two methods of disposing an unusable Qur’an and Islamic literature:

  1. Wrapping them in a piece of cloth or something pure and burying them respectfully in a place where people normally do not walk.
  2. Fastening the items to something heavy such as a stone and placing it respectfully in flowing river.

If the above-mentioned two methods are not possible to implement, only then will it be permitted to burn the Holy Scriptures and then bury the resulting ash or drop the ash in a flowing river.

If the process of recycling will involve the removal of ink then this can also be used to dispose of Islamic literature but if the collected paper is going to be burnt then one would have to delete the words first. Shredding before recycling would probably be the best way as the words would be erased if the shredding was in small pieces and then afterwards the ink would be erased due to the recycling process. Finally, one should not dispose of them by shredding and throwing them away in the normal rubbish bin.

Of course Allah knows best.