One of the world’s oldest manuscripts of the Quran dating back to at least 1,370 years and written on parchment that was possibly made around the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad today went on display in Birmingham.
Around 2,000 tickets to see the script have already been taken up and the University of Birmingham expects a lot more to be used before the exhibition ends on October 25.
“When I saw these pages I was very moved. There were tears of joy and emotion in my eyes. I’m sure people from all over the UK will come to Birmingham to have a glimpse of these pages,” said Muhammad Afzal, chairman of Birmingham Central Mosque.
The university had announced the discovery in July and revealed the manuscript is at least 1,370 years old.
Radiocarbon analysis dated the parchment, held by the Cadbury Research Library at the University of Birmingham, to the period between AD 568 and 645 with 95.4 per cent accuracy.
Prophet Muhammad is generally thought to have lived between AD 570 and 632.
“The radiocarbon dating has delivered an exciting result, which contributes significantly to our understanding of the earliest written copies of the Quran. We are thrilled that such an important historical document is here in Birmingham, the most culturally diverse city in the UK,” said Susan Worrall, director of special collections at the Cadbury Research Library.
The manuscript is part of the University’s Mingana Collection of Middle Eastern manuscripts held in the Cadbury Research Library,.
Funded by Quaker philanthropist Edward Cadbury, the collection was acquired to raise the status of Birmingham as an intellectual centre for religious studies and attract prominent theological scholars.
The parchment is on free public display at the university’s Barber Institute of Fine Arts with timed tickets so each group can spend time looking at the exhibit.
Consisting of two parchment leaves, the manuscript contains parts of Suras (chapters) 18 to 20, written with ink in an early form of Arabic script known as Hijazi.
For many years, the manuscript, had been mis-bound with leaves of a similar Quran manuscript, which is datable to the late 17th century.
Quranic materials were at first held in memory or written down on materials including parchment, stone, palm leaves and the shoulder blades of camels.
It was Caliph Abu Bakr, the first leader of the Muslim community after Muhammad, who ordered their compilation into a book with the final, authoritative written form completed and fixed under the direction of the third leader, Caliph Uthman, in about AD 650.
“Muslims believe that the Quran they read today is the same text that was standardised under Uthman and regard it as the exact record of the revelations that were delivered to Muhammad,” David Thomas, professor of Christianity and Islam at the university, had said.