British university says its Quran manuscript is among world's oldest

Radiocarbon dating shows that the parchment folios held by the University of Birmingham were at least 1,370 years old

Reuters July 22, 2015
one of the oldest fragments of the Quran have been found by the University of Birmingham. PHOTO: BBC

LONDON: A British university said on Wednesday that fragments of a Quran manuscript found in its library were from one of the oldest surviving copies of the Islamic text in the world, possibly written by someone who might have known Prophet Muhammad(pbuh).

Radiocarbon dating indicated that the parchment folios held by the University of Birmingham in central England were at least 1,370 years old, which would make them one of the earliest written forms of the Islamic holy book in existence.

Researchers said the manuscript consisted of two parchment leaves and contained parts of Suras (chapters) 18 to 20, and was written with ink in an early form of Arabic script known as Hijazi.

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The University of Birmingham's manuscript was in a collection brought back from the Middle East. PHOTO: BBC

The radiocarbon dating, said to have a 95.4 per cent accuracy, found the parchment dated from between 568 and 645.

Tears of joy

The manuscript was part of the university's collection of 3,000 Middle Eastern documents which was acquired in the 1920s by Alphonse Mingana, a Chaldean priest born near Mosul in Iraq.

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His trips to acquire the manuscripts were funded by philanthropist Edward Cadbury to raise the status of Birmingham as an intellectual centre for religious studies.

"The parts of the Quran that are contained in those fragments are very similar indeed to the Quran as we have it today," Thomas said. "So this tends to support the view that the Quran that we now have is more or less very close indeed to the Quran as it was brought together in the early years of Islam."

The university said it will put the manuscript on public display in October, and Muhammad Afzal, chairman of Birmingham Central Mosque, said he expected it to attract people from all over Britain.

"When I saw these pages I was very moved. There were tears of joy and emotion in my eyes," he told the BBC.


Hugh Slaman | 7 years ago | Reply To the previous posters: textual analysis was never disallowed on the Sana'a manuscripts. Academic articles have been published on the results of such manuscripts. many of these manuscripts are available in the form of digital images for you to carry out your own analysis if you like.
Khurram | 7 years ago | Reply Textual analysis is the only way to authenticate that no alternation in the holy text was ever made. It was rather unfortunate that textual analysis was disallowed on the manuscripts found in Sana'a after some discrepancies were found.
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