Oldest Fragments of the Koran found in Birmingham Library

By , video source University of Birmingham

Retrieved from: The Telegraph

Expert describe the University of Birmingham discovery as ‘startling’ and ‘exciting

Some of the world’s oldest fragments of the Koran have been found by the University of Birmingham.
Radiocarbon analysis found the manuscript, written on sheep or goat skin, dated back to between AD 568 and 645, making it at least 1,370 years old and among the earliest in existence. The pages of the Muslim holy text are said to have been kept with a collection of other Middle Eastern books and documents and remained unrecognised in the university library for almost a century. For many years, they had been mis-bound with leaves of a similar Koran manuscript, which is datable to the late seventh century. But when a PhD researcher studied the two parchment leaves, she concluded that they should be properly examined.

The tests, carried by the Oxford University Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit, placed the leaves close to the time of the Prophet Muhammad, who is generally thought to have lived between AD 570 and 632, with around 95 per cent accuracy. Susan Worrall, the University of Birmingham’s director of special collections, said: “The radiocarbon dating has delivered an exciting result, which contributes significantly to our understanding of the earliest written copies of the Koran. We are thrilled that such an important historical document is here in Birmingham, the most culturally diverse city in the UK.”

Professor David Thomas, professor of Christianity and Islam, added: “The radiocarbon dating of the Birmingham Koran folios 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. According to Muslim tradition, the Prophet Muhammad received the revelations that form the Koran, the scripture of Islam, between the years 610 and 632, the year of his death.”

Dr Muhammad Isa Waley, the British Library’s expert on such manuscripts, said: “This is an exciting discovery.” Researchers said the manuscript was among the earliest written textual evidence of the Koran known to survive. It is part of the university’s Mingana Collection of Middle Eastern manuscripts, held in the Cadbury Research Library.

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