One of the questions that many people ask is: Why did the third Caliph, `Uthman, burn all copies of the Qur’an during his reign?
Some people may view it as something sacrilegious or indicating that the Qur’an was wrong.
There is cultural misunderstanding here, because from the Islamic tradition when you burn the Qur’an you are not disrespecting it; in fact this is the way to respectfully dispose of it, which is the exact opposite from the Western tradition.
Our religion teaches us that when you have a worn-out copy of the Qur’an and you have to dispose of it, you don’t just throw it in the trash; that is disrespectful. Rather, you disintegrate it.
They didn’t have paper shredders back then so how would they disintegrate the Qur’an respectfully? Simply they would light a fire and burn it because they didn’t want people to trample on it; they didn’t want people to throw it in trash can. They wanted to get rid of the sacredness of the Qur’an in a manner that is not intentionally disrespectful.
So, this is the cultural difference; when Westerners hear about burning books they think of sacrilege; they think of angry mobs chanting. But that was not the mindset behind the burning of the Qur’an.
The purpose of burning of the Qur’an was to respectfully dispose of unofficial copies of the Qur’an.
The Qur’an was compiled within two years after his death. So the official compilation took place when every single one of the major companions of the Prophet was still alive.
But this official recension of the Qur’an was not made obligatory upon the entire Caliphate, upon the entire Islamic nation. People would simply copy with their own hands any copy that they had and obviously human errors occurred.
Therefore, the need arose to have authoritative copies that are free of any errors.
Join Dr. Yasir Qadhi in this video and learn more about the circumstances of `Uthman’s order to burn Qur’an copies and the measures he took to ensure that only accurate and authentic copies of Qur’an are available and circulated.