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Koran fragments reveal date to founding of Islam

It was found in a University of Birmingham, England, library.

By Ed Adamczyk
Koran fragments reveal date to founding of Islam
The discovery of fragments of a Koran written near the start of Islam were found at the library of University of Birmingham, England. Photo courtesy of asia.si.edu

BIRMINGHAM , England, July 22 (UPI) -- Two pages of a Koran, the primary religious text of Islam, was found in an English university library and dates to the time of the Prophet Mohammad, the school announced Wednesday.

The parchment manuscript, with elaborate calligraphy, was carbon-dated with 94.5 percent certainty they were hand-lettered between 568 A.D. and 645 A.D., when the Prophet Mohammad was alive. They were part of the collection of the University of Birmingham, England, and were examined after a student noticed their unusual script.

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The manuscript is thus likely to be 1,370 years old and dating to within several years of the founding of Islam. David Thomas, a professor of Christianity and Islam at the school, suggested it may have been written by a person who actually knew the Prophet Mohammad, who, according to Muslim tradition, began receiving the revelations which comprise the Koran in 610, until his death in 632.

"This 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. The tests yield the strong probability that the animal from which it was taken was alive during the lifetime of the Prophet Mohammed or shortly afterwards. This means that the parts of the Koran written on this parchment can, with a degree of confidence, be dated to less than two decades after Mohammed's death. These portions must have been in a form that is very close to the form of the Koran read today, supporting the view that the text has undergone little or no alteration."

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The manuscript is believed to contain Suras, or chapters, 18 to 20 of the Koran, written in a form of Arabic script known as Hijazi. It was found in a collection of books, organized nearly 100 years ago by chocolate magnate and philanthropist George Cadbury.

The manuscript will be displayed, beginning in October, at Birmingham's Barber Institute of Fine Arts.

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