In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.
In this fatwa:
It is highly recommended and very much emphasized that Muslims males and females always read and touch the Quran with wudu. However, according to most of the scholars, a person who is not in a state of wudu may recite the Quran without touching it.
In his answer to the question, Dr. Muzammil H. Siddiqi, former President of the Islamic Society of North America, states:
Criteria of being neat and clean in Islam
For a Muslim the real criteria of being neat and clean is to be pure. Purification is more than being neat and clean.
A person is generally considered neat and clean in the society even if he has passed some urine or stool and then wiped himself and washed his hands.
But according to the Shariah, he is not pure. He has to make wudu to be fully clean and pure.
Purification for reading the Quran
As far as the reading of the Quran is concerned, it is very important that one should touch the Book of Allah with great respect and reverence and should be in a state of purification.
It is forbidden to read the Quran when a person is junub (after sexual intercourse or wet dream) until he/she takes a full bath.
Women in their menses or post-natal bleeding can read the Quran from memory, but should not touch it, except for female teachers and students who are allowed to touch the Quran, as a special case (according to Imam Malik).
It is highly recommended and very much emphasized that Muslims males and females always touch the Quran with wudu. Allah says about the Quran, “None touches it except those who are pure.” (Al-Waqi`ah 56:79)
Although this verse is about the angels, but our jurists say that if the most pure angels touch the Quran, then human beings should also do that in the state of full purity.
In his well-known book, Fiqh As-Sunnah, Sheikh Sayyed Sabiq states:
Abu Bakr ibn Muhammad narrated from his father, on the authority of his grandfather, that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) in the letter he sent to the people of Yemen, said: “No one is to touch the Quran except one who is purified.”
This hadith is related by An-Nasa’i, Ad-Daraqutni, Al-Bayhaqi, and Al-Athram. Of its chain of transmitters, ibn `Abdul-Barr said: ‘It is Mutawatir (having an uninterrupted chain of transmission).’
Abdullah ibn Umar (may Allah be pleased with them both) quoted the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) as saying: “No one is to touch the Quran unless he has purified himself.”( Al-Haythami in Majma` Az-Zawa’id)
Apparently, this hadith has a problem. The word “purify” must have one particular meaning here. Therefore, to say that one who is in state of hadath asghar (a minor impurity for which one needs only to make wudu) may not touch the Quran makes no sense.
Concerning Allah’s statement, “…none touches it except those who are pure.” (Al-Waqi`ah 56:79), actually, the pronoun refers to “the Book kept hidden” (from the preceding verse) and this also referred to as “the well-preserved tablet”, and the word “pure” refers to the angels, which is similar to the verses, “On honored scrolls, exalted, purified, (set down) by scribes, noble and righteous.” (Abasa 80:13-16)
Ibn Abbas, Ash-Shabi, Ad-Dahak, Zayd ibn Ali, Al-Muaiyyad Billah, Dawud, Ibn Hazm, and Hammad ibn Abu Sulayman are of the opinion that one who is in state of hadath asghar may touch the Quran. Most of the scholars, however, agree that a person in that state may recite the Quran without touching it.
Almighty Allah knows best.
Editor’s note: This fatwa is from Ask the Scholar’s archive and was originally published at an earlier date.