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Handling the disposal of religious texts

Scriptural religions based on text have different rules for when and how those texts can be discarded

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Source: Wikimedia Commons

Guidelines on how religious books should be handled once they are worn out vary by religion and sect

A perfect Quran should not be destroyed. Jews may bury Torah scrolls in graves or a special storage room. Roman Catholics can bury Bibles while Evangelical Protestants do not have specific guidelines.

The three major Abrahamic faiths have different rules for when and how their religious texts can be discarded. Here are some of the traditions:
  • Islam: A Quran may be discarded if there is an error in the text or if the volume is worn out. In that case, religious scholars say there are two preferred ways of doing it – wrapping it in cloth and burying it, or washing away the text with water.
  • Roman Catholicism: Catholics can bury a Bible when it needs to be disposed of, though there have been instances in the Middle Ages of incineration done in the form of a burnt offering.
  • Protestantism: Protestants do not have special prescriptions about disposing of religious texts, since they view the inspired message and not the physical text as divine.
  • Judaism: In Judaism, any text that contains God’s name should be buried when it is no longer usable, or placed in a dedicated room known as a “Geniza“. Jewish cemeteries often have special graves for sacred texts. Some American rabbis recently ruled that recycling is also appropriate.

Scriptural religions, based on texts are believed to be the word of God – have different rules for when and how those texts can be discarded. But what they have in common is a reverence shown for such texts, with practices such as kissing it or never placing another book on top of it.

In Afghanistan, a deadly violence broke out after U.S. military servicemen disposed off several copies of the Quran by burning them.

Also Read: Dharma Shastras: Ancient texts that surpass modern notions of liberty and social harmony
Rizwan Jaka of the All Dulles Area Muslim Society near Washington says he accepts U.S. explanations that the burning was inadvertent. He notes that the Quran itself teaches Muslims to “repel bad with good.”

Sarah Thomson, spokeswoman for the Islamic Society of North America , says the proper way of responding to the desecration of Qurans is by donating new ones or teaching how to respect the religious text.

The only reason a Quran may be destroyed is if there are errors like misspellings, missing pages or inaccurate translations in a language other than Arabic, she says.

“You wouldn’t destroy them because they are old,” she says.

In those cases, Thomson says the consensus among Muslim religious scholars is that the proper methods for disposal are wrapping it in clean cloth and burying it, or immersion in water.

However, some scholars say if those methods are not possible, a Quran may be burned if done in a respectful way, preferably at a mosque.

Afghans jointly read Islam's holy book "Quran" during a celebration to mark the anniversary Image: VOA
Afghans jointly read Islam’s holy book “Quran” during a celebration to mark the anniversary
Image: VOA

Many Jewish cemeteries have special graves for Torah scrolls and other documents as anything that contains God’s name should be buried when it is no longer usable. It can also be placed in a dedicated room known as a geniza. In 1896, a geniza was found in Cairo, Egypt, with hundreds of thousands of Jewish texts dating back to before the ninth century including marriage contracts and legal and financial documents.

Rabbi Paul Drazen of the United Synagogue for Conservative Judaism says that several years ago the movement’s rabbis ruled that recycling is also an appropriate means of disposal.

Drazen says the burning of Torahs has an emotional component in Judaism. “Throughout generations Jewish texts were burned as part of the torture of individuals and it also preceded the Holocaust,” he says.

Muslims and Jews have ways of showing respect for holy texts. Muslims will wash themselves before reading from a Quran, while Jews read with a silver pointer so as not to touch the parchment of a Torah scroll.

Hindu texts can be disposed off in water- by burning them or by burial. However, Arumuga Swami, managing editor of Hinduism Today says, often “the issue doesn’t come up” because a whole category of Hindu scriptures, the Vedas is memorized.

Christian guidelines vary according to denomination. For Roman Catholics, “the bottom line is that Bibles should be buried out of reverence for the sacred text,” says Monsignor Kevin Irwin, who teaches liturgical studies at the Catholic University of America.

On the other hand, Evangelical Protestants don’t have specific guidelines. This is largely because it is the inspired message rather than the physical artifact that is considered divine, according to Greg Wills of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

“Paper and ink is perishable but the word of God lives forever,” says Wills. (VOA News)

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The Exclusivism of Religion Terrorizing The Humanity

Acknowledging, respecting other faiths, and mingling together in their celebrations doubtlessly awaken our dormant godliness. This will certainly help purify our mind and steady our devotion. 

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humanity
At least to allow the grand idea of “humanity” to survive? Amidst of technological advances and luxuries we are fast getting away from basic realities of life!

BY: Salil Gewali 

The terror bombings that ripped through three churches and four luxury hotels on Easter Sunday in Sri Lanka have left 359 people dead and 500 others injured. World-wide condemnation has been expressed against the perpetrators. This is nothing more than the usual “ritual”. Almost all such deadly explosions are followed by strong denunciation and the offering of condolences and prayers. But will mere hollow condemnations and condolences enough? How many such cold-blooded blasts have happened at scared place of worship like Church, Mosques, Temples, Synagogue in past three years? Could we not rather find out the core causes leading to the incidents? At least to allow the grand idea of “humanity” to survive? Amidst of technological advances and luxuries we are fast getting away from basic realities of life! The frequent terror bombings have made us more worried and apprehensive than ever before. Should this not bring the world leaders — spiritual, political and also thinkers, to one table and find the solution? But that will not happen, and the innocent people will continue to die at the hand of such bloodthirsty people.

What a big irony that the evils of intolerance, dogmatism and hatred explosively originate from the holy altar of religions! Now the world should fear the religious fanatics more than humane atheists. Moreover, if we dig deeper, we shall find the causes of such bloody hostility lies in the misinterpretation of GOD and the holy books we are following. We have foolishly cut the “inconceivable” GOD to our size. We have regarded others as “non-believers” if they worship HIM in a little different way. We undermine them, we belittle their holy scriptures, we sniff at their culture and mock their tradition and rituals. Not just that, we even find our own ways to misinterpret their scriptures and thereby defame their whole culture and ethos. This has often become a sort of “hubby” among a certain class of people. They are no less than terror bombers, I say this with conviction. Their works insidiously contribute to bring the “division and hatred” among people, communities and their faiths. Such people literally hurt the heart and soul of the people, which is far worse than the “hurt” of those killed in the bomb blasts.

Bombing
So, the nonsense bickering, hatred and inhuman cruelty that originates from our “religious exclusivism” has only kept us away from the tenets of humanity.

Indoctrination of exclusivity of one’s practiced religion is doubtlessly one of the prime causes that has driven many to this blind extremism. So much so — they even dedicate that evil acts to the Supreme Almighty and their sacred scriptures!

Why can’t we love our neighbor and fellow others? Is it not the most COMMON and FUNDAMENTAL teaching of the holy scriptures of all religions? Let other notions and handed down beliefs that are “potential” to cause division and disruptive be just set aside. One believes, God will never punish us if we get together and work towards mutual love and brotherhood than being fanatic and hurting others and then hurt oneself. After all we are from one fountain source of His divinity.

deaths
Indoctrination of exclusivity of one’s practiced religion is doubtlessly one of the prime causes that has driven many to this blind extremism.

Of course, the more we go deeper and more we “understand” His “CREATION”, the more we “laugh” at ourselves. We regret our own stupidity too. For instance — in HIS limitless and infinite number of galaxies (just “one” galaxy spreading out in a span of 150000 -200000 light-years) there consists an infinite number of “earths” having their own religions as ours here. Is not their God and our God same? Should we call them heathen because they don’t follow our religion?  Our idea of religious “exclusivism” in the UNIVERSE is not just narrow but it is utterly “childish”. It is exactly like a small kid crying and insisting that her doll is the most expensive and most beautiful on earth! So, the nonsense bickering, hatred and inhuman cruelty that originates from our “religious exclusivism” has only kept us away from the tenets of humanity. Our cruelty arising from the extremism just chases away the divinity from within.

Also Read: Eating Comfort Food in Stress Will Add Extra Kilos, Says Study

So, let’s learn first to make peace with other believers and their cultural values. Our paths may be different but the goal is the same. Acknowledging, respecting other faiths, and mingling together in their celebrations doubtlessly awaken our dormant godliness. This will certainly help purify our mind and steady our devotion.  No one’s devotion to Him should ever end up in blasts and human degeneration.

Salil Gewali is a well-known writer and author of ‘Great minds on India’. Twitter: @SGewali.