World’s Oldest Quran Could Predate Muhammad

Last month, fragments from what is believed to be the world’s oldest Quran were found in a library at the University of Birmingham in England. According to BBC, the manuscript, comprised of two sheets, was discovered bound inside another Quran from the late seventh century. The discovery was “startling” on its own, but now British scholars are suggesting that the manuscript may actually predate Muhammad, the Muslim prophet, as well as the accepted founding date of Islam itself.


The According to Fox News, experts at the University of Oxford used radiocarbon dating to date the manuscript. Based on the tests, the fragments are believed to be at least 1,370 years old, produced between 568 A.D. and 645 A.D. Muhammad, however, is believed to have lived from 570 A.D. and 632 A.D and appropriately, under this timeline, Islam had to be founded sometime during those years, around 610 A.D.

Debate Circulating About The World’s Oldest Quran

Upon learning about the news, Muslim scholars have debated the assertion that the manuscript predates Muhammad. According to the Times, Mustafa Shah, of the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies states, “If anything, the manuscript has consolidated traditional accounts of the Koran’s origins.”

Others, like Keith Small of the Bodleian Library at Oxford, argue the opposite. In speaking with the Times, he has stated that the discovery gives more ground to “peripheral views of the Koran’s genesis.” For example, Muhammad and his followers could have used an existing piece of text, which was later shaped to fit their own needs.

Although the first formal text was not assembled until around 653 A.D., fragments of the Quran have been circulated through word-of-mouth, or written down on leaves, stones, and bones, among other things. Small also notes that the carbon dating was carried out the only the parchment itself and not the ink. If, however, the dates coincide and the ink is found to be old as the manuscript, the history of the Arabic literary culture may possibly need to be reexamined.

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