Islamic Response to ISIS/ Daesh’s Book Burning

According to an article by the National Post, Daesh has massacred a significant quantity of books they deemed to be “unIslamic”:

BAGHDAD — When Islamic State group militants invaded the Central Library of Mosul earlier this month, they were on a mission to destroy a familiar enemy: other people’s ideas. Residents say the extremists smashed the locks that had protected the biggest repository of learning in the northern Iraq town, and loaded around 2,000 books — including children’s stories, poetry, philosophy and tomes on sports, health, culture and science — into six pickup trucks. They left only Islamic texts.

Mideast Iraq Libraries In Danger

I have a great disgust for those people who burn literature, whether they agree with its contents or not. The hallmark of an intellectual society is one that can harbour ideas and beliefs they don’t agree with. As a Muslim, I study Christianity and Judaism, I don’t agree with everything those faiths teach but it is my job to entertain differing arguments and to approach them in a sensible manner. Acts like these seem more Christian to me than Islamic, as book burning is something condoned by the New Testament:

Large numbers of those who had practiced magic (περίεργα, περίεργος) collected their books and burned them up in the presence of everyone. When the value of the books was added up, it was found to total fifty thousand silver coins. – Acts 19:19 (NET).

Most New Testaments carry the translation of magic, but the primary meaning of “περίεργος” according to Strong’s Lexicon is:

of persons: over-careful; curious, meddling, a busy-body; of things: over-wrought; superfluous; curious, uncanny; subst: curious arts

A more English friendly translation according to Helps Ministries Word Studies is:

spending excessive time (effort) where it doesn’t belong (or should not happen).

Dr. James Dunn explains this term a bit more concretely, he says:

‘not doing any work but meddling/ being busy bodies’ (BDAG 800). The inference is probably that the individuals referred to were so caught up with their convictions that they spent time disrupting the work of other believers by their continual attempts to propagate their views. – ‘Beginning from Jerusalem: Christianity in the Making’, p. 717.

In other words, not sorcery or magic, but whatever Christians found to be challenging of their own views. Which is exactly what Daesh/ ISIS is doing, burning books which challenge their rhetoric. In response to this, Ibn Hazm states:

دعوني من إحراق رق و كاغد
و قولوا بعلم كي يرى الناس من يدري

Leave this (ridiculous) burning of books and texts,
Articulate your arguments and let the people decide (who is upon falsehood). – Ibn Hazm as quoted by Mufti Abu Layth al Maliki.

and Allah knows best.


  • Why can you not quote the Strong’s Lexicon truthfully? What is actually says is:

    “of persons: over-careful; curious, meddling, a busy-body; of things: over-wrought; superfluous; curious, uncanny; subst: curious arts, magic.”

    You are edited out the “magic” because it did not fit with your point. You are inventing your own evidence.

    The burning of the scrolls in Acts 19:19 was not the burning of other people’s scrolls but of their own scrolls as they repented from their past life to now follow God. Christians still do it today when they repent and get rid of all their inappropriate material.

  • @Samuel,

    I did quote Strong’s truthfully, heck I even linked it in the post so that anyone can read more about the word and its meanings…..which is how you saw the page I retrieved the information from in the first place.

    Please re-read my article. My quote is in relation to its primary meaning of which 10 are not magic. The secondary or minor meaning, less occasional, rarely used meaning is magic. I’m sure you know what “primary” means….right? If so, don’t accuse others of dishonesty if you can’t read what’s written properly.

    I agree that Christianity encourages burning of literature which disagrees with the faith.

  • The moment Christianity came into power in the fourth century, books that do not conform to its teaching were ferociously destroyed. Around 363-364, the Christian emperor Jovian, ordered the pagan library in Antioch to be burnt, leaving the helpless citizens watching the books go up in flames. [1]

    Continuing this trend, around the year 372, the Christian emperor Valens (d.378), as part of his persecution of pagans, ordered the burning of non-Christian books in Antioch. (The main target were pagan books on divination and magic but most of the books burned were mainly on liberal arts and law). Fearful of the emperor, many provinces of the eastern empire burned their own libraries to avoid his wrath. [2]

    Perhaps the greatest single intellectual loss of the classical world was the destruction of the library of Alexandria. At one time, it was reputed to house about 700,000 books on subjects ranging from literature and history to science and philosophy. In the year 391, the bishop of Alexandria, Theophilus (d.412), in his quest to destroy paganism, lead a group of crazed monks and laymen, destroyed all the books in the great library.

    No other great libraries were spared by the Christians. Up to the fifth century many Greco Roman cities had libraries which housed more than 100,000 books. These were all destroyed by the Christians. Pope Gregory The Great (c.540-604) was the person responsible for destroying the last collection of older Roman works in the city. [3]

    When the crusaders captured Tripoli in 1109, apart from butchering the defeated Muslims, they destroyed the Banu Ammar library, at that time, the finest Muslim library in the world. About 100,000 books of Muslim learning were cast into the flames. In the sack of Constantinople in 1204, the western crusaders destroyed the last surviving copies of classical works in Europe. [4]

    The Inquisition was as equally devoted to destroying books as it was in destroying heretics. In one single auto de fe at Salamanca, towards the end of the fifteenth century, around 6000 books were burned. The official reason was that these books contained Judaic errors, witchcraft and magic. Doubtless many other types of books were among those thrown into the flames. The destruction of books was persistent. At Grenada, in the early sixteenth century, a total of 24,000 books were burned at the order of Cardinal Ximinez (1436-1517). [5] Ironically, Ximinez has gone down in Christian history as a “great patron of learning.” [6]

    This mindless destruction of books of not confined only to Europe. Christian missionaries exported this holy culture everywhere they went. That was the case when the Spanish conquered Mexico. The Mayas, who were natives of what is now part of southern Mexico, Guatemala and British Honduras, had a highly developed culture. They had great achievements in astronomy, mathematics and the calender. Their form of writing was also the most highly developed among the natives nations of the Americas. Their knowledge, culture and science were written into codices. After the conquest, the Christian bishop of Yucatan, Diego de Landa, ordered the destruction of all extant Mayan codices in 1562. The bishop was convinced of the rightness of his actions, as we can see from what he wrote: “We found a large number of books … and they contained nothing in which there was not to be seen superstition and lies of the devil, so we burned them all …” Today there are only three surviving Mayan codices. The reason why archaeologists know so little about the Mayas and their history is very largely due to the work of one man in the sixteenth century: Bishop Diego de Landa. [7]

    Due to all this hatred of secular books, for a period of more than one thousand years, from the fifth to the fifteenth centuries, there was not a single library in Christian Europe that had more than 10,000 books. By comparison pagan Alexandria in the fourth century had a collection of 700,000 books and Muslim Cordoba, in the tenth century, had a collection of more than half a million books. [8]

    Book burning, being a Christian cultural heritage, still occurs today. [9] However, the fundamentalist have also evolved more subtle methods of handling what to them are “undesirable” books. In 1988 a group of fundamentalists filed a lawsuit challenging the right of a school in Hawkins County, Tennessee to require their children to read such “undesirable books”. The disputed books included The Diary of Anne Frank and The Wizard of Oz. The only thing the fundamentalist could see in the former book is the statement in it that all religions are equal. It is not important to them that the book should serve as an important reminder of the Jewish holocaust and the evils of racial and religious hatred. As for The Wizard of Oz, the basis of their lawsuit was that the book contradicts the teaching of the Bible which states that all witches are bad. Luckily their lawsuit was finally thrown out by the U.S. Supreme Court. [10] This did not deter the fundamentalists however and further lawsuits on undesirable books followed. [11]

    1. Forbes, C. “Books for the Burning”Transactions of the American Philological Society 67 (1936): p114-25
    2. Beckmann, History of Pi: p80
    Forbes: p114-125
    3. McCabe, Social Record of Christianity: p29,32
    4. Beckmann, History of Pi: p80
    Robertson, History of Christianity: p176
    Johnson, A History of Christianity: p246
    5. Ibid: p80
    6. Livingstone, Dictionary of the Church: p562
    7. Benet, The Reader’s Encyclopedia: p632
    von Hagen, The Ancient Sun Kingdoms of the Americas: p220-222
    8. McCabe, Social Record of Christianity: p33
    9. Gilbert, Casting the First Stone: p5-6
    10. Reuter, published in The Straits Times (Singapore) 24th February 1988
    11. Gilbert, Casting the First Stone: p69

  • I forgot this:

    Christian pastor burning the Qur’aan

    Wasalaam! (by the way, great wesbite! Jazakallah!)

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