What is the opinion of scholars about recycling paper with sacred text written on it? Recycling is an environmently- friendly way of reusing paper and is becoming very common in UK. The process erases and removes the ink and leaves behind clear and blank paper which can be reused. Can we put sacred texts including worn-torn Qurans in clean recycling bins? Is this not sacrilegious and disrespectful?
A: Scholars have recommended FOUR different methods of disposing of sacred texts whether there are books of fiqh or seerah or old worn-torn copies of Quran:
1) To bury them in the ground
2) To throw them in the river or the sea
3) To erase the sacred writing and recycle the paper
4) To burn them
In England, the first three options are not feasible in public and in fact legally not possible. However, you could bury them in your back garden. See below. The preferred option is to recycle. This is not only environmentally friendly but religiously more respectful. It is important to respect the sacred papers with sacred text written on them. Imam Qushari tells the story of a great Sufi saint Mansoor ibn Ammar. One day he found a piece of paper with Bismillah written on it lieing on the ground, he could not find a suitable place to put it so he swallowed it. That night in a dream he heard someone saying to him, “you displayed respect for the sacred text therefore the Lord has opened for you doors of wisdom.” (Risale- Qushariya Daral Kutb Beirut)
Before we answer the question let us examine what is sacred? Is it the paper or the words? The sacredness is in the letters not the paper, Maulana Ahmed Raza Khan Brailvi (d;1921) said, “Our scholars have explained that it is the letters per se that are sacred even if they are written separately including the names of Pharoa and Abu Jahil- letters and writing is to be respected.” (Fatawa Rizviya vol. 23 p.336 Markaz auliya Lahore). Quoting another Fatawa he said,” It is not permissible to use papers with sacred text (Fiqh etc) written on them as wrapping papers… and if it has the name of Allah almighty or the blessed Messenger it is permissible to erase it so that it can be used as a wrapping paper.” (Fatawa Hindia vol. 5 p 322 Quetta). Scholars recommend that if the sacred text can be removed or erased from the papers then there is nothing wrong in reusing those papers. (Fatawa rizwiya:vol 23 p.400) Markaz auliya. This fatawa recommends recycling of papers with sacred texts.
Let us see what the scholars say about how to bury sacred texts? Maulana Amjad Ali said, “When a copy of glorious Quran becomes old and unsuitable for reading and there is danger of it falling to pieces then it is best to wrap it up in a clean cloth and bury it. A hole should be dug up with a side tunnel such that the Quran can be placed inside it….” (Bahar-e-shariat part 16 p.138 Maktaba Madina)
Disposing of sacred texts in the river or sea:
Fill a bag or a sack with old sacred texts or copies of the Quran, tie it firmly and then make holes so that water can get into it. If it is not heavy then add few stones to weigh it down. So it will sink. Otherwise there is the danger of it floating on the surface and then being washed on the shore where it will be exposed.