Muslims see Quran burning threat as targeting the direct word of God

CAIRO (AP) — The Quran is the most sacred object in the daily lives of Muslims and burning it would be considered an offense against God.

Islam teaches that the holy book is the direct word of God, received by the Prophet Muhammad through the angel Gabriel, and it defines the belief and conduct for followers of the religion.

The Quran is so important in the faith that Islamic teaching spells out how it should be handled, including directing anyone who touches it to be in a state of ritual purity. Muslims can only burn or bury Qurans that have been damaged or corrupted to prevent God's word from being defiled.

Concern about Muslim sensitivities has prompted the White House, religious leaders and others to call on the leader of a small Florida church that espouses anti-Islam philosophy, the Rev. Terry Jones, to call off a threat to burn copies of the Quran on Sept. 11.

The Quran was considered a miracle because Muhammad — who was illiterate — was chosen by God to convey his final message to humanity over a period of 23 years, according to Islamic beliefs.

Muhammad's companions memorized the Quran and wrote it down. It was only made in its current form in a collection of 114 Surras, or verses, after the prophet's death in 632.

The Quran to Muslims is the final word of God after a series of revelations, starting with Adam, going through Abraham, Moses and Jesus and ending with Muhammad.

"Muslims believe the Quran is the divine word of God, in letter and meaning," Abdel-Moeti Bayoumi, a religious scholar at Cairo's prominent Islamic Al-Azhar University, said. "If a human burns the revealed word of God, this would be considered the gravest crime for all Muslims."