Europe History Middle East

Oldest Quran found in Birmingham

Written by Shoaib

Birmingham University have found fragments of potentially the world’s oldest Quran, which was completed at the very latest 20 years after the death of the Prophet Muhammad (). The ancient fragments of the nearly 1400 year old Quran was very likely transcribed by one of the the Prophet’s companions, possibly under the supervision of the Prophet himself. Despite being so old, upon examination it has been found to be identical to the in print Quran today.

The ancient Quran is part of the Mingana Collection which is a collection of Arabian manuscripts collected in the 1920s. This collection was funded by Edward Cadbury, of the Birmingham based Cadbury chocolate empire. A Chaldean Priest Alphonse Mingana was responsible for collecting these manuscripts.

READ the ancient full HD scans of the Quran by clicking here or see below

However no one could have guessed that the manuscript of the Quran was one from the time of the Prophet Muhammad () and his companions, especially the startled PhD researcher who conducted the tests. Susan Worrall, special collection’s director, explained that they did not expect such a discovery even in their wildest dreams. She said “Finding out we had one of the oldest fragments of the Quran in the whole world has been fantastically exciting.”

Dr Muhammad Isa Waley who is an expert at the British Library said this is an “exciting discovery”.

How Old is it Actually?

The Prophet Muhammad’s () prophethood was from 610 to 632 C.E. Oxford University’s carbon dating places the date of transcription was 568 – 645 C.E. The latest of those dates means it was finished only 13 years after the Prophet Muhammad’s () death. This raises the possibility that this could have been written by one of the Prophet’s companions.

The Quran was compiled and checked thoroughly by the Prophet Muhammad () and these standard checked copies survived the Caliphates of Abu Bakr and Umar. By the time of Uthman, who was the third Caliph of the Prophet Muhammad (), the Quran’s transcribed in the life of the Prophet () were beginning to deteriorate because of the material they were transcribed on. Due to lack of resources the scribes wrote them down on parchment, stone, palm leaves and the shoulder blades of camel bones.

Uthman's standard which survives in the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul

Uthman’s standard which survives in the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul

As the wealth of the young Muslim nation had grown, Uthman could afford to authorise a compilation of a standard copy from which others could be copied. This meant undertaking the massive task of bringing together the living companions of the Prophet who had memorised the Quran or written it from him, in order to write the standard.

Uthman ruled from 644 – 656, whereas the Quran found in Birmingham is dated between 568 – 645 making it likely to either be from the standard authorised by Uthman or even before that, potentially written under the supervision of the Prophet Muhammad () himself.

“The person who actually wrote it could well have known the Prophet Muhammad. He would have seen him probably, he would maybe have heard him preach. He may have known him personally – and that really is quite a thought to conjure with”
– Professor Thomas

It is Unchanged

When the ancient Quran was compared to the Quran printed today, the words were found to be identical and there had been no change. This was foretold in the Quran itself that unlike previous revelations from God which were corrupted, the Quran would be preserved word-for-word by God

إِنَّا نَحْنُ نَزَّلْنَا الذِّكْرَ وَإِنَّا لَهُ لَحَافِظُونَ

“Indeed, it is We who sent down the Quran and indeed, We will be it’s guardian.”
– Quran: God promises He will protect the Quran from man-made alteration

The non-Muslim Professor Thomas explained “These portions must have been in a form that is very close to the form of the Quran read today, supporting the view that the text has undergone little or no alteration and that it can be dated to a point very close to the time it was believed to be revealed.”

Prof Thomas believes it was written by the companions of the Prophet who directly heard the revelation from the Prophet

Prof Thomas believes it was written by the companions of the Prophet who directly heard the revelation from the Prophet

“When I saw these pages I was very moved. There were tears of joy and emotion in my eyes. And I’m sure people from all over the UK will come to Birmingham to have a glimpse of these pages,”
– Chairman of Birmingham Central Mosque

Questions Arise

A Quran of such significance is surely not owned by Birmingham University? The Muslim World would surely want back that which was only made possible by British colonialism? To what level would Muslims be allowed access?

These are questions and debates which are likely to arise, but for now excuse me as a wipe away the tear in my eye.

What do you think? Share your comments and feelings below

About the author

Shoaib

Writing is my passion. Pharmacy is my career. The truth is my resolve. My kids are my life. You can catch me on Facebook and Twitter!

41 Comments

  • ‘The Muslim World would surely want back that which was only made possible by British colonialism? ‘

    Ah! So you’re in favour of returning Constantinople and other places taken by Muslim colonialism back to the Christian World. Good!

  • Dear Alex you still remember about Constantinople which was conquired 6 centuries ago?
    Recently by the help of especially British a country called Israel appeared in the hurt of Muslim world. And that is not an only thing Europe has done to Muslim world.
    I’m not talking about the things that US has done to Muslim world.

  • Subhanallah!!! By seeing the scanned pages, I feel highly inspired and emotional. Indeed, the pages look very, very, very old.

  • It couldnt have been supervised by the prophet (S.A.W) or written down during his time.there must be a problem with the method of dating, but truly a remarkable discovery.

    • Actually the Quran was written during the prophet (saws) time. This is an undisputed fact. Many Saheeh Hadeeth explain which sahaba wrote Qurans in his time and how they would quickly write a Surah down as soon as it was revealed.

      The prophet (saws) used to get the sahaba to read what they had written down back to him and they would do this in groups writing their own Qurans.

      Then Abu Bakr (ra) combined these into a standard version from the memory of those who memorised it from the prophet (saws). Then they compared this against those written in the time of the Prophet (saws).

      This exact process was repeated by Uthman (ra) and then compared to Abu Bakr (ra) standard and those from the time of the Prophet (saws) time and found to not have any discrepancies.

      • @ Mr. Shoaib //// As i know during the time of prophet Muhammad pbuh), arabs didn’t use the Dotting of letters (تنقيط الحروف) Contrary to this Manuscripts.
        can you clarify that please?

          • @ Shoaib /// thanks for the clarification
            Yes, from the first time when i read it, i said that this Manuscripts are not from the time of prophet Muhammad because of dooting, only if muslims added them in the time after.

    • perhaps the prophet ( saw) did supervised it …but never the less to muslims ALLAH ( AWJ) promised to guide the Quran … i am just glad this old quran was found in the heart of western world

  • This is truly an amazing finding. I couldn’t believe my eyes at first and my wife broke dawn in tears on the as she watched the BBC report.

    I wonder what the critics like jay smith and others would use as an augment now that there only argument is put in the bin.

  • Asalamualaikumwarahmatullahe wa barakatuhu
    BROTHER best of my thought is that Quran just not belongs to moslems but all of the creation of Allah all Mighty. So basically it does not matter if these coppies are accesed by us muslims rather it would better it stays with british people plus there might be a chance that they understand the word of Allah insha Allah. Jazakumullahkheir.

  • This discovery only testify what has already been written in quran, but the most interesting fact is that the people behind all this discovery and it’s funding were non-Muslims and it is quite a shame that Muslims have to pay their gratitude to non Muslims for proving one of the fundamental sayings of Islam. There might be not as many as 1000 in Saudi Arabia who know what this radioactive decay test is!! Still a long way to go for the Muslim.

    • While we appreciate Western science and agree that more needs to be done in the Middle East after the end of the 1,000 year golden age of Muslims being ahead in science…I don’t think we need racism/self-hate.

  • If it is to be returned, then to whom is it returned: Any decision would offend a competing group. Perhaps it should be left where it is, in Birmingham, as an ‘honest broker’, but anyone, muslim or not, be allowed access to see or study it. Don’t let future ownership cause more antagonism.

    • My personal opinion is that it should stay put where it is. There is already many manuscripts in the Muslim world so another one wouldn’t change much. But for extracts of a manuscript to be found in the West, in Birmingham (where I live) makes it very exciting.

    • In fact Muslims should not give very big important for these Manuscripts, Especially if it is unknown origin, unknown writer.
      For example, Muslims does not accept even a HADITH without knowing its original or the person who heard it from the prophet ( pbuh).
      In islam we must be sure about everything and every word…, because if someone wrote this Quran from his memory without any Revision, he Could make mistakes such as what happened in the manuscript of Samarkand.
      Also, Muslims recorded Quran by the memory generation after generation.
      and we don’t need any manuscript to prove that the Quran is still the same.

  • Sorry to burst this magical bubble, but the findings prove that if Muslims do indeed believe in Mohammed, it is not possible he was the intended prophet. It does prove that Mohammed must have ‘copied’ or borrowed the text. The above article is sadly a lie…..and sadly this will become shortly very apparent for followers of Islam.

    • The Carbon dating is based on testing the date margin of the leather used from when the animal died. It takes years to gather enough leather parchements for a whole book and it was a costly and lengthy procedure in those days. From what I’ve read in other articles. So when scribers deciide to make a copy of the Quran or even in the case of the bible they had to collect 100’s of leather parchements. Every one or few of them belong to a different animal. That takes 100’s of animals expected in a small town like Madina or Mecca. Some most likely have been stock for years before being sold then used by scribers. There is nothing there to suggest that these were written before the Prophet Muhammad (SAW). In the cpntrary the dates of the parchements are estimated to have belonged to animals that lived between 568-645 AD the Prophet Muhammad was born in 570 and died in 632. Which is right within the estimated margine. This fortifies the Islamic historic claim not against it as angry and bias Christian wishful thinking suggests.

  • Historian Tom Holland, told the Times: “It destabilises, to put it mildly, the idea that we can know anything with certainty about how the Koran emerged – and that in turn has implications for the history of Muhammad and the Companions.”

    Keith Small, from the University of Oxford’s Bodleian Library, added: “This gives more ground to what have been peripheral views of the Koran’s genesis, like that Muhammad and his early followers used a text that was already in existence and shaped it to fit their own political and theological agenda, rather than Muhammad receiving a revelation from heaven.”

    He went to suggest that if the dates are correct, “then the Koran, or at least portions of it, predates Muhammad”.

    • As I said on Sky News, exciting as it may be, we need to have Muslim scholars and experts take a look at it.

      Carbon dating came back with a range over many years. Just because the beginning of the ESTIMATED date is a few years before the Prophet Muhammad (saws) doesn’t mean a thing.

  • Couldnt the whole quran be a copy from the bible. I mean for the number of years Prophet lived , he didnt show any divine powers except for the mesmering of the quran? These dates dont match at all. The translation must have been done from a version of the bible then and was later interpreted here and there. Else how can you find a manusrcript of Quran even before the birth of Quran.

    • The research does not say the Qur’an was before the Prophet Muhammad (saws), rather it gives us a date range of the possible dates where it was written with a large degree of inaccuracy within that range.

      I have studied the Bible and Qur’an at length. Anyone who has even read two pages of the Qur’an and then two pages of the Bible know that they are very different. I would advise you check an English translation of the Qur’an out to before you finalise any conclusion of your personal belief.

      The prophet Muhammad (saws) was illiterate. He could not read or write. And in Makkah there were no Christians. Furthermore the Bible and the Qur’an are very different. The bible has been changed and in places contradicts itself however the Qur’an has never been changed from when it was revealed – which is even shown in the above scans.

      • Do you have any proof that Muhammad was illiterate? Otherwise pointless bringing that up as an argument.

      • They are so different that both books have Adam and EVE in them! Just based on this, how could you as a rational human believe in such non sense. We all came from 2 people. One of those came from a rib from the other person.

        Just like we see in REAL life right. People just being born form a rib, see it all the time. My god you people are deluded!

        Not only that the quran is a rip off of the bible, it has a ton of similarities, to say that they are completely different is stupid. If the bible was not the real word of god but just random BS, then why would the quran have so many similarities?

        • The Quran was revealed from God, the bible was revealed from God

          They have similarities but disagree so much too. The Quran has no contradictions but the bible does.

    • Please read your bible when it talks about creation, it does not match scientific proof and evidence and then read the Quran on creation , science compliments it.

  • How did the oldest koran got here in Birmingham. Who brought it here and when? It is the biggest question.

  • Assalamu-Aleykum, I’ve read in other articles that these 2 parchements are part of a bigger collection of parchements held in France for a long time. The question is why researchers in France are keeping quiet about what they have and why are they not being carbon tested to match them with the Brimingham discovery? Why nobody is makingthe effort to get the whole collection together and may be more parchements of the same manuscript could lead to gathering a bigger portion of the Quran together and study it as a whole.

    • My dad reads an Urdu news paper without a single vowel.
      Arabs read Arabic newspapers without any vowels.

      In fact most books don’t have vowels and I don’t mean to show off but I can read the pages which are scanned in and I’m not even an Arab!

  • Intresting findings for sure, but your headline is incorrect. They did not find the oldest Quran, but fragments of it. Two pages. Waiting for further research.

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