Sky News – Oldest Pages Of The Koran Found In Birmingham

Two pages of the Koran held at the University of Birmingham have been identified as likely belonging to one of the book’s earliest copies.

The pieces of parchment have been carbon dated with 95.4% certainty to have originated between AD 568 and 645; around the time the Prophet Mohammed was alive.

At this time, the divine message was not compiled into the book form in which it appears today but was preserved in “the memories of men”.

But some parts were also written on parchment, stone, palm leaves and the shoulder blades of camels.

The pages found at Birmingham are thought to contain parts of Suras (chapters) 18-20 and are written with ink in an early form of Arabic script known as Hijazi.

For years the parchment had been bound with a similar Koran manuscript until a researcher suggested it should be dated separately by scientists at Oxford University.

It was held in a collection at the university originally put together by philanthropist George Cadbury who also founded Cadbury’s chocolate in the city.

In the 1920s he organised a collection of manuscripts from the Middle East to improve learning in Birmingham.

Professor David Thomas, Professor of Christianity and Islam at the University of Birmingham, said: “This has yielded a startling result and reveals one of the most surprising secrets of the University’s collections.

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

“The tests yield the strong probability that the animal from which it was taken was alive during the lifetime of the Prophet Mohammed or shortly afterwards.

“This means that the parts of the Koran written on this parchment can, with a degree of confidence, be dated to less than two decades after Mohammed’s death.

“These portions must have been in a form that is very close to the form of the Koran read today, supporting the view that the text has undergone little or no alteration.”

The find has been described as “thrilling” by Susan Worrall, Director of Special Collections at the University.

“The radiocarbon dating has delivered an exciting result, which contributes significantly to our understanding of the earliest written copies of the Koran,” she said.

“We are thrilled that such an important historical document is here in Birmingham, the most culturally diverse city in the UK.”

Dr Muhammad Isa Waley, Lead Curator for Persian and Turkish Manuscripts at the British Library, said: “This is indeed an exciting discovery.

“We know now that these two folios, in a beautiful and surprisingly legible Hijazi hand, almost certainly date from the time of the first three Caliphs.

“The Muslim community was not wealthy enough to stockpile animal skins for decades, and to produce a complete Mushaf, or copy, of the Holy Koran required a great many of them.

“The carbon dating evidence, then, indicates that, in view of the Suras included, the pages would once have been at the centre of a Mushaf from that period.

“This – along with the sheer beauty of the content and the surprisingly clear Hijazi script – is news to rejoice Muslim hearts.”

The manuscript will go on public display at the Barber Institute of Fine Arts in Birmingham in October.