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Fragments of one of oldest Qur’an’s discovered inside British university

Pages from 7th Century to go on display in October in Birmingham

Credit: Associated Press

By Gary Reeds –

One of the oldest fragments of the Qur’an ever discovered is scheduled for display in October at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom. The fragment, discovered at the university, recently underwent radiocarbon dating that revealed the manuscript to be roughly 1,370 years old.

The Guardian newspaper interviewed David Thomas, a professor of Christianity and Islam at the university, who said that the discovery of such an old fragment of the Qur’an supports the idea that the version of the Qur’an accepted by Muslims today has hardly changed from the earliest recorded version.

“They could well take us back to within a few years of the actual founding of Islam,” Thomas said of the two pages that make up the fragment. “According to Muslim tradition, the Prophet Muhammad received the revelations that form the Qur’an, the scripture of Islam, between the years AD610 and AD632, the year of his death.”

The manuscript, stored with a collection of other documents and books about the culture of the Middle East, went unrecognized as one of the earliest fragments of the Qur’an in the world for nearly a century.   The pages include parts of Surah 18 to 20 of the Qur’an and were missed because they were bound with another text which shared very similar qualities in appearance, but was actually written nearly 200 years later.

Credit: Associated Press

Credit: Associated Press

When Alba Fedeli, a PhD researcher, looked closely at the pages, she suggested that a dating test should be done. The results proved startling. In an article featured in The Guardian, the director of exclusive collections at the University, Susan Worrall, said, “At first glance they look identical to the other pages, but once you know you can see that the text does not flow. The script is wonderful, still legible to anyone who can read Arabic today.” Worrall said that researchers had not expected the pages to be as old as they were.

Testing of the documents, which was conducted by the Oxford University Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit, provided the evidence that the fragments, which were written on goat or sheep skin, were one of the very earliest surviving texts of Qur’an. The test results showed a series of possible dates of origin with a more than 95% possibility of the parchment having originated between the years of 568 and 645 AD.

The pages are to be displayed Oct. 2-25 at the university’s Bramall Music Building. The exhibit site was moved from the Barber Institute to allow more room for visitors, according to the university website. More information on attending the exhibit and obtaining tickets is available at:

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