I wasn’t expecting a package in the mail today, but I was pleasantly surprised to find quite a heavy one in my mailbox. I was even more pleasantly surprised to find that it is a copy of the Holy Quran. You see, way back in October I requested a Quran from the Council on American-Islamic Relations, otherwise known as CAIR. I seem to remember receiving some sort of notice back then that my shipment would be delayed, but until today I had completely forgotten I ordered it.
It is a beautiful copy of the Quran: hard bound, nearly three inches thick, and printed on heavy glossed paper like a college textbook. Each page is divided into two columns. The English translation is on the left with the original Arabic and a transliteration of the Arabic on the right. The bottom third of each page is filled with notes about the text.
The foundation gives these copies of the Quran away for free, apparently to foster understanding and appreciation of Islam among Americans. The letter enclosed with the book states (bold text has been copied exactly as it appears in the letter):
Thank you for requesting your copy of the Holy Quran, Islam’s revealed text. This is an important step toward understanding and coming to appreciate the universal teachings of Islam.
I hope you will take the earliest opportunity to read its verses and reflect on their meaning, thus doing your part to promote mutual understanding and tolerance of religious diversity in America. . . .
I hope you find your Quran both educational and spiritually uplifting. Congratulations on doing your part to encourage greater interfaith understanding and mutual respect at this crucial time in our nation’s history.
I’m slightly baffled, though, as to why they would give away such expensive copies when there must be a more economical paperback edition available. I suspect it may have something to do with the great respect Muslims have for their holy text. To them, it just wouldn’t be enough to send a paperback. If the book is to be respected as it should be, it would only suffice to send a copy like this. The letter continues:
Muslims are taught from an early age to treat the Quran with great care and respect. For example, Muslims avoid placing the Quran on the floor, near the toilet or sink, near the feet, or in dirty or wet areas, as this is considered inappropriate treatment of a holy text.
Many Muslims hold the Quran by taking it in both hands as one would a valuable piece of art and keep themselves in a state of ritual purity, washing before opening the holy book.
Just as Muslims are expected to treat the religious texts of others with the utmost respect and courtesy, so too do we hope that you will take the information above into consideration when handling the Holy Quran.
I happily recommend that you order your own copy of the Quran from CAIR. They seem to be a fine organization and I’m grateful to them for the beautiful volume that now occupies a prominent place on my bookshelf. It won’t just sit on my shelf, though. I intend to read it, and may blog about what I discover in the coming weeks or months.
[Hat tip to Aaron, who encouraged me to order my copy back in October.]