QUESTION: Can the Holy Quran be recited without ablution (wadhu)?
ANSWER: The Holy Quran has directed the believers to be in the state of `wadhu' when they pray. They are not asked to be in that condition for any other purpose, although it encourages its readers to remember Allah as much as is possible. We cannot, therefore, escape from concluding that the condition of `wadhu' as a binding necessity is applicable only for prayers and not for other forms of remembering Allah, including recitation of the Holy Quran.
It should not be construed from the above conclusion that `wadhu' has no role in religious activities other than prayers. By formally washing one's self in the `wadhu', one gets a feeling of spiritual purification which puts one in an ideal frame of mind to remember Allah and to ward off evil suggestions of the devil. It is, therefore, highly preferable to attain that feeling on all occasions of remembering the Almighty---more significantly while reciting the Holy Quran. To declare it a binding obligation, however, we need a clear guidance from the Book of Allah or the Sunnah of the Prophet (sws).
The verse of the Holy Quran normally presented to prove that `wadhu' is a binding pre-condition for touching the Holy Book can be translated thus: `Only they can touch it who are pure' (56:79). A casual but objective look at its context, however, would suffice to reveal that the verse is meant to dispel the doubts raised by the disbelievers that the Quran was inspired by the devil's army of jinns. The verse very firmly shrugs off the charge---as has been done on several occasions elsewhere in the Quran---by informing the reader that none from the satanic gang was allowed entry to anywhere near the place of its revelation and that those who were made responsible to discharge the extremely important job of carrying the revelation to the Prophet (sws) were purified angels. How can the pre-condition of `wadhu' for touching the Quran be accomodated in this context without completely disregarding the existence of coherence in its verses as has been unfortunately done by most people.