The Interplay of Technology and Sacredness in Islam: Discussions of Muslim Scholars on Printing the Qur'an


In the midst of available studies on the relation between technology or science and religion, one of the vital and early episodes of this relation within the Islamic tradition did not receive the due attention from modern researchers. This episode has to do with the discussions of Muslim scholars (‘Ulama) on using the then emerging technology of printing to reproduce the sacred scripture of Muslims, namely, the Qur'an. The main discussions among the ‘ulama on this issue took place in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries when the Ottoman Empire was an important power in the Islamic world. The main question raised here is: what are the juristic arguments used by the ‘Ulama to justify their objection to print the Qur'an? At the end, this article argues that these arguments have not been the sole agent in this issue. Social reality also played an important role and was ultimately, at least partially, responsible for a considerable shift in the standpoints of the ‘Ulama towards this issue especially from the nineteenth century onwards.