Fragments of a Quran manuscript found in a British university library are from one of the world's oldest surviving copies of the Islamic text, and may even have been written by someone who knew Prophet Mohammad, researchers said on Wednesday.
Radiocarbon dating indicated that the parchment folios held by the University of Birmingham in central England were at least 1,370 years old, which would make them one of the earliest written forms of the Islamic holy book in existence.
"They could well take us back to within a few years of the actual founding of Islam," said David Thomas, Professor of Christianity and Islam at the university.Researchers said the manuscript consisted of two parchment leaves and contained parts of Suras (chapters) 18 to 20, and was written with ink in an early form of Arabic script known as Hijazi.
The university said for years it had been misbound with leaves of a similar Quran manuscript which dated from the late seventh century.The radiocarbon dating, said to have a 95.4 percent accuracy, found the parchment dated from between 568 and 645. Mohammad(SAW) is believed to have lived between 570 and 632.
"The discovery of the written Quran dating back to the time of Mohammad may serve as an opportunity to make us reconsider the scholarly paradigm that Islamic culture is more oral-aural rather than visual," said Hatsuki Aishima, a lecturer in Modern Islam at the University of Manchester.
The University of Birmingham said it would put the manuscript on public display in October, and Muhammad Afzal, chairman of Birmingham Central Mosque, said he expected it to attract people from all over Britain."When I saw these pages I was very moved. There were tears of joy and emotion in my eyes," he told the BBC.
Whilst some manuscripts are major attractions elsewhere in the world, their appeal to visitors is determined more by the status of the person who is understood to have recorded them."The problem with this particular fragment is that we don't actually know where it comes from," Rizvi said.
However, he said that the fragments would be studied worldwide if, in line with the recent trend for such finds, digital images were published on the internet, and that there was potential for other significant discoveries in Britain.
"The catalogues of which were in collections in Britain are not complete in most cases. It's quite possible we might find some further things - even in the British Library itself."
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