Photo Credit: University of Birmingham / YouTube screen capture
University of Birmingham Qur'an may be the world's oldest.

Radiocarbon dating on the parchment of what is believed to be the world’s oldest Qur’an may totally change the course of Islamic history.

University of Oxford scientists tested in July a fragment of a Qur’an that may pre-date the birth of the prophet Mohammed.

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The Islamic text, which consists of two parchment leaves, contains parts of Suras (chapters) 18 to 20. It was written with ink in Hijazi, an early form of Arabic script.

The text, written on sheep or goat skin parchment, lay unrecognized in the Cadbury Research Library at the University of Birmingham, England for nearly 100 years, according to The Independent. The parchment was part of the Mingana Collection of Middle Eastern documents gathered in the 1920s, and is believed to be the oldest in the world.

If the Oxford University testing is correct, the text could predate the birth of Mohammed, or could have been written during the prophet’s childhood.

Radiocarbon dating performed in July by the University of Birmingham indicated the parchment was at least 1,370.

But radiocarbon testing performed by Oxford University produced different results, dating the text back farther, to between 1, 371 and 1,448 years ago. Scholars have been careful to point out that the ink was not tested.

If the latter findings are correct, this Qur’an was written between 568 CE and 645 CE.

Islam’s prophet Mohammed is believed to have lived between 570 CE and 632 CE.

“It destabilizes, to put it mildly, the idea that we can know anything with certainty about how the Qur’an emerged – and that in turn has implications for the history of Mohammed and the Companions,” historian Tom Holland, told The Times of London on Tuesday.

His colleague at Oxford University, Dr. Keith Small, said it also “gives more ground to what have been peripheral views of the Qur’an’s genesis, like that Mohammed and his early followers used a text already in existence and shaped it to fit their own political and theological agenda.”

Professor David Thomas of Birmingham University, a professor of Islam and Christianity, told The Independent, however, the radiocarbon dating seems to “support a traditional view.”

Thomas noted the testing also reveals which kind of animal was used to create the parchment. This indicates which animal was sacrificed for the holy task, and therefore at which period it was written.

According to Islamic tradition, the prophet continued to receive revelations from the year 610 until his death. “If we were to take the early dating [as fact] then it overthrows Islamic history as it is understood,” the professor said.

“It would mean that the Qur’an existed substantially as it has been passed down, before Mohammed – before the traditional date of the beginnings of his revelations, or maybe even before he was born.”

“On one of the four surfaces of our fragments we have a chapter division, which would seem to suggest that we we have was once a fully-formed Qur’an, possibly as early as the sixth century,” Thomas said.

“In the middle of the seventh century there was a great expansion out of Arabian peninsula, and while there were a number of factors involved it is often explained at least in part as a religious movement.

“If that is the case, why would there be such a time lapse between a religious text coming into being in, say, 570, and a movement 60 years later? It doesn’t add up.”

The Birmingham manuscript will go on public display at the university exclusively to ticket-holders for a month in October, with plans for an academic workshop to discuss questions over the text.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.

16 COMMENTS

  1. Don't get your hopes up about this changing the course of Islamic history. All of Islam is based on believing that Muhammad came out of a cave one day and said that he was chosen by Allah to be the new and final Messenger. Either you believe it, or you don't. All Moslems believe it, and their faith will scarcely be shaken by this latest find.

  2. This issue forms part of a much more complex field of scholarship on Islamic origins, with contrinbutions mainly or only from secular Western scholars. This new discovery may well prove another key to solving some problems, in conjunction with other material from Yemen. But even as it stands, the Qur'an does not seem to be the work of one man (or God), with vast differences between early Meccan suras and later Medinan ones. Musims will never accept such theories unless some emerge who adopt the position of critical Christian writers on the Gospels, something that started in the 19th century. And Muslim scholars who do try to investigate and publish radical ideas are either killed or imprisoned.

  3. PEOPLE SHOULD KNOW THAT THE KORAN IS FULL OF MISTAKES, FOR EX: IT STATES THAT AVRAHAM AVINOU, AND ALL THE PATRIARCH ARE BARRIED IN SCHEM, IN ANOTHER PLACE IT SAYS THAT THE VIRGIN MARIE IS MOSEE MOTHER, THEY ONLY FORGOT THAT G. OD KNOWS HOW TO COUNT AND THERE OVER 1000 YEARS OF DIFFERENCE, THE KORAN ALSO SAID THAT THE TORA IS THE WORD OF G. OD AND THE JEWISH PEOPLE THE CHOSEN PEOPLE, YET THEY DO EVERYTHING THEY CAN TO KILL THE JEWS, AND GUESS WHAT? HOW MANY THOUSAND OF VERSION THERE IS TO THE KORAN, WELL I LET YOU DO THE SEARCHING

  4. So, who wrote The Old Testament? It is a work that evolved and was added to as time went on. Somebody found a new person to follow, and later decided that G-d came and mated with a mortal again and followed him. They wrote The New Testament and made up some fantastic stories. Later still, but still based on what had been written before, another prophit appeared. He too espoused words from our original bible, and he too added his own part. So, these "books" evolved over time. Jesus wasn't god till the church came along. But, before him, there was Norse, and Roman, and Egyptian gods. They were all the son of gods and humans. True believers will not care about science or actual history. They don't have to, because they already know.

  5. Radio carbon dating is not 100% reliable, so don't expect hard facts as to the exact date it was written. Given that the fragments do seem to date back to around that period, the first thing I would ask would be, how much does this version differ from the version we have now?

  6. Wayne Rockman, John probably thinks if someone doesn't agree with the Koran s/he is Islamophobic – in the term's politically correct sense.

    But Myriam is wrong as well. The Koran is not full of mistakes, it is full of crazy stuff, which a schizofrenic Mohamed imagined to himself during his episodes.
    We know he changed his "visions" quite frequently, which indicates he was insincere, too. But I think at first he was mighty sick in the head.

  7. Professor David Thomas of Birmingham University,
    a professor of Islam and Christianity,
    “In the middle of the seventh century there was a great expansion out of Arabian peninsula, and while there were a number of factors involved it is often explained at least in part as a religious movement.
    “If that is the case, why would there be such a time lapse between a religious text coming into being in, say, 570, and a movement 60 years later? It doesn’t add up.”

    In the begining of the 21st century there is a great (ISIS) expansion out of Arabian peninsula, and while there are a number of factors involved it is often explained at least in part as a religious movement.
    If that is the case, No wonder then the very short time lapse between ISIS expansion based on a religious text coming into being in, say, 570, and a ISIS emerging as movement within a few years during the ongoing the Arab Spring! It does add up !

    The technologies back than during the 5th, 6th, 7th century were not as developed & sophisticated as they are today.

    In other words, Mohamed, muslims, Islam today use Iphone to be up to date within a changing world Though the Iphone is not a Mohamed, muslims, Islam invention.

    Likewise Mohamed, muslims, Islam used back than, to keep up to date within a changing world, during the 5th, 6th, 7th century AD a existing up to date in vogue version of that time main school of thought, belief, faith which was Christianity over large parts of the Middle East .
    Alexandria-Egypt bordering Yemen, in which the Sana'a Koranic codex was discovered in the Hijazi script, was already one of the most important ecclesiastical centers of ancient Christian learning and, along with Rome and Antioch, one of the original three sees. Much literary and ongoing archeological evidence attest to the fact that Christianity permeated the whole of Egypt.

    Writing around the year 400—roughly two-and-a-half centuries before the Arab invasion—John Cassian, a Christian monk from the region of modern day Romania, observed that
    the traveler from Alexandria in the north to Luxor in the south, would have in his ears along the whole journey, the sounds of prayers and hymns of the monks, scattered in the desert, from the monasteries and from the caves, from monks, hermits, and anchorites.

    Consequently, same as during the 4th, 5th & 6th century AD, Christianism was the main school of thought, belief, faith in the Middle East & in Egypt in particular, so some christian monks of Egypt, Sinaii & Yemen may have well adapted or contributed to the translation of Christianism into the arab language (Hijazi), same as today Iphones comes also in the arab language, so to update arabs to christianism which at that time was in vogue (so to speak) or to turn arabs into christian compliants, up to convert arabs to christianism.

    It turned out that Islam swept christian-Egypt and turned it into
    Arab compliant, mohamed compliant, shariah compliant, Islamized Egypt .

    The descendants of those christians-Egyptian of those centuries could today be the ISIS that persecute the today christians, same as Islam back than that swept Egypt, persecuted christians-Egypt.

  8. Another answer to
    Professor David Thomas of Birmingham University,
    a professor of Islam and Christianity,
    “In the middle of the seventh century there was a great expansion out of Arabian peninsula, and while there were a number of factors involved it is often explained at least in part as a religious movement.
    “If that is the case, why would there be such a time lapse between a religious text coming into being in, say, 570, and a movement 60 years later? It doesn’t add up.”

    In the 7th century, when Mohamed, Muslim, Islam, Arabs overran Egypt, and on into the medieval era, religion was not something to be casually adhered to or changed as it is today in the West.
    People of that era were true believers; there was no no so-called alternative narrative claims.

    Whatever religion a person was born into was accepted with absolute conviction

    In Medieval Europe, the truths of Christianity were etched into the minds of all, from youth on up. There was no doubt—because there was no alternative. As historian of Medieval Europe and the Crusades Thomas Madden puts it:

    [T]he medieval world was not the modern world. For medieval people, religion was not something one just did at church. It was their science, their philosophy, their politics, their identity, and their hope for salvation. It was not a personal preference but an abiding and universal truth.

    In this context, to apostatize, to leave the Christian faith, especially for another creed, was the most unthinkable of all transgressions against one’s own soul—a sin that would lead to eternal damnation.

    It was of course the same with Muslims. The point here is that pre-modern man took the religion of his people, his tribe, his world, very seriously—especially when such religions taught that failure to do so, or worse, to willingly apostatize, would lead to eternal hell.

    Put differently,…the idea that pre-modern Christians were “free” to choose to convert—free of guilt, free of fear, free of existential trauma—is anachronistic and thus implausible.

    Again, Western man, who lives in an era when people change religions as often as they change shoes, may have great difficulty in fully appreciating this idea. But it is true nonetheless.
    =
    This talk back was, with some omission, extracted, copied & pasted from
    HOW THE ISLAMIC WORLD WAS FORGED: AN EXERCISE IN COMMON SENSE
    How most of the non-Muslim ancestors of today’s Muslims were converted to Islam.
    August 31, 2015 Raymond Ibrahim
    For front page mag

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