Art And Culture

Earliest Qur’an Pages Found in UK University

Earliest Qur’an Pages Found in UK UniversityEarliest Qur’an Pages Found in UK University

What could turn out to be the world’s oldest fragments of the Qur’an have been found at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom’s second-largest city, with a 28% Muslim population.

The manuscripts were brought to England in the late 1920s and were in a drawer next to the diaries of English playwright Noel Coward when doctoral student Alba Fedeli decided to take a closer look, reported.

Radiocarbon dating found that the two weather-beaten parchments, probably made from sheep or goat skins and covered in neat, symmetrical, flowing lines of an early Arabic script, were at least 1,370 years old, making them among the earliest pages from the Qur’an in existence - if not the oldest.

The university’s director of special collections, Susan Worrall, said researchers had not expected “in our wildest dreams” that the documents would be so old.

“Finding out that we had one of the oldest fragments of the Qur’an in the whole world has been fantastically exciting,” she said.

Tests by the Oxford University Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit, show that the parchments were probably from between 568 and 645 AD. David Thomas, professor of Islam and Christianity at the university, said he was stunned when tests came back with such early dates.

“The date, about 20 years after the death of the Prophet Muhammad, is “startlingly early,” he said.

“If the dating is correct, then the person who wrote them might have known the Prophet Muhammad, would have seen him, and maybe heard him preach. He may have known him personally, and that is quite a thought,” Thomas said. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is believed to have received the revelations that form the Qur’an between the years 610 and 632, the year of his death.

The manuscripts were written in the Hijazi script, an early form of Arabic writing. They are part of the Mingana Collection of more than 3,000 Middle Eastern documents gathered in the 1920s by Alphonse Mingana, a Chaldean priest born near Mosul in modern-day Iraq.

Mingana was sponsored to take the trips to the Middle East by Edward Cadbury of the famous chocolate-manufacturing firm.

Members of the local Muslim community of Birmingham are delighted to know their city could become famous as a pilgrimage site.

“When I saw these pages, I was very moved,” said Mohammad Afzal, chairman of Birmingham Central Mosque. “There were tears of joy and emotion in my eyes. And I am sure that people from all over the UK will come to Birmingham to have a glimpse at these pages.”

The University of Birmingham says the fragments will go on display at the Barber Institute in Birmingham in October.