Reporting in the Tribune, February 22, 2012:
“KABUL:At least five Afghans were shot dead and dozens wounded Wednesday in clashes between police and demonstrators protesting over the burning of the Holy Quran at a US-run military base, officials said. In the capital Kabul and in provinces to the east, north and south of the capital, furious Afghans took to the streets screaming “Death to America,” throwing rocks and setting fire to shops and vehicles as gunshots rang out. In the eastern city Jalalabad, students set fire to an effigy of President Barack Obama, while the US embassy in Kabul declared it was on lockdown. In Kabul, hundreds of people poured onto the Jalalabad road, throwing stones at US military base Camp Phoenix, where troops guarding the base fired into the air and black smoke from burning tires rose, an AFP photographer said.”
President Obama is quoted by Bloomberg Businessweek (February 23, 2012), “I wish to express my deep regret for the reported incident in which personnel at the Bagram air base threw copies of the Koran and other books into a burning rubbish pile… I extend to you and the Afghan people my sincere apologies… We will take the appropriate steps to avoid any recurrence, to include holding accountable those responsible.”
General John Allen, head of NATO forces in Afghanistan, explained the burning of the Qur’ans as unintended, along with this apology:
“Those materials were inadvertently given to troops for disposition and that disposition was to burn the materials. It was not a decision that was made because they were religious materials,” Allen told NATO TV. “It was not a decision that was made with respect to the faith of Islam. It was a mistake, it was an error. The moment we found out about it we immediately stopped and we intervened…. This is not who we are. These are very, very isolated incidents,” Allen said. “We’ve been dying alongside the Afghans for a long time because we believe in them, we believe in their country, we want to have every opportunity to give them a bright future.”
It is hard for me to comprehend the reaction of Islam at the unintentional burning of the Qur’an by the United States Military. After all, this is not even close to the situation that Reverend Terry Jones instigated in 2010 when he “self-tried, and convicted” the Qur’an, and then threatened to burn 100 copies of the Qur’an on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on America. The Afghanistan burning incident was followed by an immediate apology on the part of NATO command in Afghanistan as well as the President of the United States, the country whose sons and daughters have died on the rugged slopes of Afghanistan. (Am I wrong, but doesn’t the deaths of our sons and daughters entitle a little “grace” for this inadvertent event? Oops, I forgot. There is no such thing as grace in Islam).
My own confusion led me to research what the Qur’an actually says about its proper disposal. Apparently (at least from what I can find), the Qur’an is silent on the matter. We must go to the instruction of the jurists of Islam to find an answer (see also, Radd al-Muhtar ala al-Durr al-Mukhtar, 5/271 and other classical Fiqh references):
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 [other sources say that before the Qur’an is burned the name of Allah and his angels must be erased or blotted out. In another source, it is stated: “They also said that it is prohibited to burn it with fire, this is reported from Ibrahim al-Nakhai, and was also the view of Qadi al-Hussain from the Shafis, whilst Imam al-Nawawi said it was disliked.”].
And Allah knows best.
The same website states, if a Qur’an has to be burned (because one cannot bury it or drop it into flowing water), then it is acceptable to burn it, but then the ashes must be disposed of properly in flowing water.
I wonder if that would do it? If General Allen took the ashes and tossed them, respectfully, in the nearest flowing water, weighted down with stones?
Not sure that will do much for the lives of the innocent already taken to avenge the honor of Allah!