On disposing of religious materials, in 2009 the Chaplain Center and School at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, published a detailed Information Paper providing guidance for all major religions and denominations. The relevant paragraphs concerning the Quran are reproduced below as published in the Information Paper.
Disposing of Unusable Copies of the Qur’an
As far as old and unusable copies of the Qur’an are concerned, it is not permitted
to burn them unless there is no other way to dispose of them.
The great Hanafi Imam, Imam Ibn Abidin (may Allah have mercy on him) states:
“If a copy of the Mushaf (qur’an) becomes old and it is difficult to read from it, it should not be burnt in fire. This is what Imam Muhammad (m: student of Imam Abu Hanifa) pointed out and this is what we take.
“It will not be disliked to bury it. It should be wrapped in a pure cloth, and a Lahd grave (m: grave that has an incision in the side wall, customary in hot climate countries where the earth is solid) should be dug, because if a Shiq grave (m: grave with a straight opening, common in cold climate countries due to the earth being soft) is dug and the copy of the Qur’an is buried, it will entail the soil falling on top of the Qur’an which is a form of disrespect, unless a slab is placed as a roof. .. ” (Radd al-Muhtar, 5/271)
“In light of the above, there are two methods of disposing of an unusable copy of the Qur’an:
“(1) Wrapping it in a pure piece of cloth and burying it respectfully in a place where people (normally) do not walk about in cold climate countries (such as the UK), one may dig a Shiq grave, but a slab should be placed first and over it the soil.
“(2) Fastening the Qur’an with a heavy object like a stone and then placing it respectfully in flowing water.
“If one is able to implement the above two methods, it would not be permitted to burn the copy of the Qur’an. However, if the above two methods are difficult to carry out, then one may burn the Qur’an and bury or drown the resulting ash.
“If the pages of the Mushaf have become old and worn out and thus torn due to reciting/reading them much, for example, or it becomes non-conducive to benefit from (that particular copy), or if there are found therein mistakes due to negligence when writing it, or printing and/or publishing errors, all of which cannot be corrected; then it is permitted to bury it without burning it. It is also permitted to burn and then bury it in a place that is far removed from rubbish, trash, paths and walkways.
“(Doing this) will safeguard it from any type of degradation and debasement, as well as a protection for the Qur’an so that there does not occur any confusion, distortion or dispute due to the spreading and circulation of copies of the Qur’an that have printing and/or publishing errors. ‘
Source: The Collection of Islamic Verdicts issued by The Permanent Committee of Research & Islamic Rulings.
Director, Center for World Religions
Chaplain Center and School
Fort Jackson, SC 29229