A prominent Egyptian preacher has issued a fatwa, or religious ruling, approving the use of punctuation in copies of the Quran, which has sparked protests by religious scholars who say the meaning can be changed if punctuation is inserted in the wrong place.
News of the fatwa comes after Egyptian poet and preacher, Abdel-Salam al-Basyouni, said he had researched the issue and discovered using punctuation such as commas, colons and semi-colons would make understanding Islam's holy book easier.
Prominent Sunni scholar Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi welcomed the news and said "I personally do this when I cite verses from the Quran in my books and lectures and anything I write," Egyptian daily independent, al-Shorouk al-Gadid, quoted the sheikh as saying.
"I advise everyone to follow suit," he said.
Qaradawi, however, objected to the use of parenthetical dashes as they imply that the sentence between them is not originally in the text and this could cause confusion.
The sheikh explained that in the past scholars had broken away from the traditional Ottoman style text and used punctuation marks in the Quran when citing parts of it in an article or a research paper.
No means no!
Meanwhile scholars in al-Azhar, the world's leading Sunni Islam institution, rejected Qaradawi's fatwa as unacceptable as the meaning could be changed.
Dr. Abdel Fattah al-Sheikh, head of the Jurisprudence Committee at al-Azhar's Center for Islamic Research (CIR), said punctuation was not allowed in copies of the Quran and that only periods can be used to mark the beginning and end of every verse.
"Question and exclamation marks and the like are unacceptable," he said. We have to stick to the use of Ottoman calligraphy that all scholars authorized and this is even more important in scholarly research."
CIR member Dr. Mohamed al-Mukhtar al-Mahdi rejected even the use of periods and stressed that Quranic verses have to be written in the Ottoman calligraphy everywhere.
"No punctuation marks whatsoever should be added," he said. "This changes the way the text looks."
(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid)