Abu Bakr ibn Muhammad related from his father on the authority of his grandfather that the Prophet, upon whom be peace, sent a letter to the people of Yemen which stated, “No one is to touch the Qur’an except one who is purified.”
This hadith is related by an-Nasa’i, ad-Daraqutni, al-Baihaqi and al-Athram. Of its chain, Ibn ‘Abdul-Barr says, “It appears to be a continuous transmission.” ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar reported that the Prophet, upon whom be peace, said, “No one is to touch the Qur’an unless he has purified himself.” (Al-Haithami mentioned it in Majma’ az-Zawaid and said its narrators are trustworthy.) Apparently, this hadith has a problem. The word “purify” must have one particular meaning here. Therefore, to say that one who has a minor defilement may not touch the Qur’an makes no sense. Concerning Allah’s statement, “…which none touches save the purified,” (alWaqi’ah 79), apparently the pronoun refers to “the Book kept hidden” (from the preceding verse) and that is “the well-preserved tablet” and the “purified” refers to the angels, which is similar to the verses, “On honoured scrolls, exalted, purified, (set down) by scribes, noble and righteous” (Abasah 13-16). Ibn ‘Abbas, ashSha’bi, azh-Zhahak, Zaid ibn ‘Ali, al-Mu’aiyad Billah, Dawud, Ibn Hazm and Hammad ibn Abu Sulaiman are of the opinion that one who has a minor defilement may touch the Qur’an. Most of the scholars, however, agree that such people may recite the Qur’an without touching it.