A debatable question about handling the holy Quran “mus-haf” (specifically during the binding and conservation process) has been posted on one of the bookbinding and conservation Facebook groups the question was
“Hi! I am about to restore a tiny Coran and was just wondering if there were any "forbidden" stuff or techniques for this kind of sacred texts? (In terms of glue or paper) - Sorry for the weird question I just would not like to offend anybody! ”
Many of the group members start to comment giving answers or recommendations from their own point of view or from other different interpretations. Moreover, some members start writing in a racist manner.
Thanks to my dear Facebook friend Göran Nilsson who mention me in such an important post, writing “Why not ask someone who works with this daily - Sherif Afifi?” And many thanks for who wrote the post to open the discussion.
First of all, I would like to clarify that I am not an Emam, so I would try to answer from a Muslim point of view who lives in Egypt, which is a Muslim country.
I have read all the comments which some of it show that a lot of deceptive answers are given to others who are not Muslims regarding handling the holy Quran. There is no doubt that handling and conserving any sacred text should be done with care and respect, this is a major ethic that all conservators should respect and follow. In addition, it adds value if conservators understand more about a specific sacred text from the point of view of their adherents.
I will try to answer (or comment) according to the comments order in the mentioned post
Using Klucel-G which is an alcohol base adhesive, I would like to make it clear that Alcohol is forbidden for Muslims to drink due to its effect on the mind and health as well, not to the paper :) Otherwise, for instance, if we get wounded we will not use Alcohol to clean the wound. Hence, all adhesives are allowed unless it contains sinful or profane (deemed unclean) materials, from a respect point of view which is applied to every and any sacred text or book.
As some explained here -and it is completely true - that the old Quran are written on parchment, so, it is un-logic to be asked to just steer clear of any animal products or using materials that don't come from an animal that we eat or animal skin; unless it is only the customer requirement and needs from his own point of interest. Pigs meats and products are not allowed to Muslims to eat (not Halal), as a respect to the holy Quran book and Muslims it is required not to bind or write the Quran using materials comes from pigs. However, it is OK to use such materials if it is the ONLY materials available with no other alternatives, or these materials are the only recommended solution according to scientific researches to be used to conserve and preserve it.
Muslims wouldn’t be offended if a non-Muslim restored holy Quran books if they have the required knowledge and skills to restore and conserve it. Furthermore, if Muslim and non-Muslim, for instance, are working at the same conservation lab and the non-Muslim is more expert in such conservation case, the conservation process will be assigned to the non-Muslim. However, knowing more about the history, traditions and culture of the conserved objects area and race, gives the conservator more clear idea about what should and shouldn't do. as an example, when I was conserving one of the Byzantine manuscripts I have learnt that some kindle drops on some Bibles or books of psalms represent some historical evidence and value and it wouldn't be treated in the conservation process as a drop of stain.
I agree to keep any object under conservation covered with special polyester sheets especially if not actually working on it, but this is only from a preventive conservation point of view, and it is not related to whatever it is Quran or not.
For the point of using gloves all the time during handling (not only conserving or restoring) Quraan I would like to make this point more clear. Basically, wearing gloves is not recommended during restoring books (you can read my article about this issue), washed clean hands are preferred. However, it is written in the Holy Quran that
"لَّا يَمَسُّهُ إِلَّا الْمُطَهَّرُونَ"
There is much English translation for this Quranic verse, I will list some here
"Which none shall touch but those who are clean"
"None shall touch it save the purified ones"
"Which none touched save the purified"
It is true that different Muslims may have different interpretations for this verse, some argue that this purity or cleanliness is of the heart. However, the majority of Islamic scholars interpret these verses to also refer to a physical cleanliness or purity. Generally, Muslims are not holding the Quran book to read it unless they are physically cleanliness or purity (washed and clean), for instance after intercourse or during menstrual bleeding, Muslims shouldn't be able to pray or hold and read the holy Quran unless they get washed in a specific way which we called "Purity" and make formal ablutions. For sure if non-Muslim could understand and respect this, it would be appreciated. Otherwise, as a respect to this, wearing a gloves acts as a barrier between the conservator-restorer skin and the book (this is from the interpretation point of view of those who recommends that).
Respect should be given to all sacred texts not only according to the code of conduct but also according to its followers' beliefs.
I hope that I make it clear now - as much as I can - Sorry English is not my native language, so I tried to do my best writing this.
- The verse translation source (http://quranopedia.com/quran/56vs79).
- Main image credit to (https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1348479/Rare-copy-Koran-published-online.html)