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This was a rather difficult question for me to answer. Suppose you came from a culture that accords respect to elders (grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles, older siblings etc… you get the picture), teachers and bosses (they are always 30 feet taller than us mere mortals!). Now imagine holding something that is considered to be the direct word of God— you cannot hold it unless you have conducted ablutions, covered your head appropriately etc. My grandmother would never sit with the Quran lower than her when reciting from it, and we were taught never to sit with our feet pointing toward it.
Then, there are those who pick it up and read through it as a reference book, no ceremony involved. I have often seen people use it as a headrest during my visits to the Prophet’s mosque in Medina; it is placed on the ground while the reader, exhausted by the rigors of pilgrimage, grabs a quick nap using the Quran as a pillow, ensuring his place holder isn’t lost and he will be able to continue his recitation from where he stopped before his nap.
After talking to several people who are Muslim, and from different parts of the world, the conclusion I came to is that the Quran is a respected book, a holy book, and therefore, you would treat it with respect. My son came up with this analogy of the American flag— if you respect the American flag, you take pains to follow the rules and protocol associated with hoisting it. You don’t disrespect it, don’t let it touch the ground, don’t go out of your way to be disrespectful toward it. Culture plays a large part in rituals and representations. The Quran is the physical representation of the Muslim faith.
While many consider it to be just a book, there are others who, out of respect, do not allow it to touch the ground. It is up to the individual how they choose to handle the concept, but there is no decree that specifies that the Quran cannot touch the ground.