World’s oldest Qur’an manuscript found at Birmingham Uni

The author could have known the Prophet Muhammad personally

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The world’s oldest Qur’an manuscript has been found at the University of Birmingham.

After at least 1,350 years, a PhD researcher has stumbled upon original fragments of the seminal religious text in university vaults.

Quran

The fragments, which are written on sheep or goat skin, found their way to the Midlands in the 1920s along with over 3,000 other documents gathered from the Middle East by Chaldean priest Alphonse Mingana.

The priceless extracts have since been sitting unnoticed in the university’s Cadbury Research Library for over 100 years, where they would have remained had PhD researcher Alba Fedeli not decided to carry out a radiocarbon dating test.

Researchers were startled by the age of the text, and date its origins at between 568 and 645 AD.

Professor David Thomas, the university’s professor of Christianity and Islam, suggests this means the author could well have been alive at the time of Prophet Muhammad, who is believed to have lived from 570- 632 AD.

He said: “The person who actually wrote it could well have known the Prophet Muhammad.

“He would have seen him probably, he would maybe have heard him preach. He may have known him personally – and that really is quite a thought to conjure with.

“They could well take us back to within a few years of the actual founding of Islam.”

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He added that the portions of the Qur’an discovered “must have been in a form that is very close to the form of the Qur’an read today, supporting the view that the text has undergone little or no alteration and that it can be dated to a point very close to the time it was believed to be revealed.”

Susan Worrall, the director of the university’s special collections, said: “We are thrilled that such an important historical document is here in Birmingham, the most culturally diverse city in the UK.”

Birmingham’s Muslim community has also expressed its excitement about the discovery. Chairman of Birmingham Central Mosque Muhammad Afzal said: “When I saw these pages I was very moved.

“There were tears of joy and emotion in my eyes. And I’m sure people from all over the UK will come to Birmingham to have a glimpse of these pages.”

The Qur’an fragments will be displayed at the Barber Institute of Fine Arts on campus from 2nd October.