June 12, 2005

Holy books treated with respect in nearly all religions

These are excerpts from an article in the Arizona Daily Star (Tucson) that I think are important to read with regard to the recent controversy over the desecration of various Qur'ans at Guantanamo Bay. The comparison with the burning of a US flag is a valid one, and I'm a little surprised that this is the first time I've heard someone make this particular comparison. I also like how the writer (Stephanie Innes) got the comparisons from the Rabbi and Bishop to show that our (Muslim) handling of the Qur'an is similar to the way in which Jews and Roman Catholics treat the Torah and Bible, respectively.

The Quran is a book with special sensitivity to Muslims, and there are certain rules that need to be followed, Ahmed said.

"It is also about personal perception. Some people get upset if someone burns a U.S. flag - it will enrage them to no end. Others will say it's just a piece of cloth," said Deedra Abboud, executive director of the Muslim American Society's Arizona office, based in Phoenix.


"The Quran is considered divine speech and mentions that only those purified should touch it," said abdul Wali, whose institute educates both Muslims and non-Muslims about Islam. "It is not simply ink on paper - it is a crystallization of divine speech."

When one of his children drops the Quran on the floor, abdul Wali says to kiss it as a way of apologizing. Muslims keep their Qurans on the highest level of bookshelves out of respect, he said.

"The Quran will bear witness for or against you on the day of judgment," he said. "It's not just a book."


Other religions also have traditions about handling their holy books. In Judaism, the Torah scroll is stored in the center of the sanctuary in an "aron kodesh," Hebrew for holy ark.

"You don't just put it in a box and put it in the corner," said Rabbi Robert Eisen of Congregation Anshei Israel, 5550 E. Fifth St., a Conservative Jewish congregation. "It also has to be dressed in an appropriate manner - a mantle over it and very often ornaments."

If a Torah wears out, it cannot simply be thrown away, he said. It is buried either with the rabbi or with a prominent member of the congregation.

"If a Torah scroll falls on the ground, some counsel that we are to fast for 40 days as a community, or give to charity," Eisen said.

He said any other Jewish text with God's name in it should be kissed if it's dropped and should never be left open. When the texts wear out, they cannot be thrown into the garbage but must be buried in a "genizah" - a burial site for sacred Jewish objects, including texts.

"I think you will find in all religious traditions a way of maintaining respect and structure within community and life," Eisen said. "If something is going to be considered sacred and holy in and of itself, it has to be treated in a consistent way."

Roman Catholic Diocese of Tucson Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas said the Bible holds a place of reverence in Catholicism that's often referenced by the deacon or priest when he kisses it. The Bible is held high during the procession at the beginning of church services.

"Sacred books of any religion are to be respected, to be held as special and not to be tossed. Oftentimes even a Catholic in private prayer will read the Bible and kiss it as respect to the word of God," Kicanas said. "Clearly, it's the responsibility of any culture to respect the sacred books of any religion."


be said...


apples4me said...

salaam, just dropping by:)