Tag Archives: acts 19:19

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.