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Current Page: World | Wednesday, December 23, 2015
World's Oldest Quran Supports Claim That Muhammad Changed Text Already in Existence

World's Oldest Quran Supports Claim That Muhammad Changed Text Already in Existence

Conservator, Marie Sviergula holds a fragment of a Quran manuscript in the library at the University of Birmingham in Britain, July 22, 2015. A British university said on Wednesday that fragments of a Quran manuscript found in its library were from one of the oldest surviving copies of the Islamic text in the world, possibly written by someone who might have known the Islamic prophet Muhammad. 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. | (Photo: Reuters/Peter Nicholls)

New information surrounding the oldest discovered written version of the Quran, the Islamic holy text, has led some scholars to believe it was compiled for Egypt's first mosque.

"It's the most important discovery ever for the Muslim world," declared Jamal bin Huwareib, managing director of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation, in a BBC News report on Wednesday.

The story concerns 1,370-year-old fragments of the world's oldest Quran uncovered by the University of Birmingham in the U.K. earlier this year, which made international news.

Researchers like Huwareib are now claiming there is evidence that the written work was commissioned by Abu Bakr, a companion of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, for Egypt's oldest mosque, the Mosque of Amr ibn al-As in Fustat.

A fragment of a Quran manuscript is seen in the library at the University of Birmingham in Britain July 22, 2015. A British university said on Wednesday that fragments of a Koran manuscript found in its library were from one of the oldest surviving copies of the Islamic text in the world, possibly written by someone who might have known the Islamic prophet Mohammad. 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. | (Photo: Reuters/Peter Nicholls)

The BBC report noted that academics were able to determine that the Birmingham manuscript is an exact match of other Quran fragments held at the National Library of France, which are known to have been kept at the Mosque of Amr ibn al-As.

There has been some dispute over the exact dating of the Birmingham fragments, however, with some British scholars suggesting that the written work actually predates the founding of Islam by Muhammad.

"This gives more ground to what have been peripheral views of the Quran'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," Keith Small of Oxford's Bodleian Library said back in August.

Mustafa Shah of the University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies disputed the allegation, however.

"If anything, the manuscript has consolidated traditional accounts of the Quran's origins," Shah said.

Radiocarbon testing is placing the date of the manuscript somewhere between 568 and 645, which leaves the question up for debate – as the recorded death of Muhammad is in 632.

David Thomas, Birmingham University's professor of Christianity and Islam, suggested it is possible the writer of the oldest Quran might have known the Islamic prophet.

Huwareib, who has visited Birmingham to examine the manuscript, said that he believes Abu Bakr commissioned the Quran that the fragments belong to.

"This version, this collection, this manuscript is the root of Islam, it's the root of the Quran," he said. "This will be a revolution in studying Islam."

Huwaireb added that the discovery of the "priceless manuscript" in the U.K. rather than in a Muslim country suggests it is a sign of a call for tolerance between religions.

"We need to respect each other, work together, we don't need conflict," he said.

Thomas argued that the discussion and research will continue, however, as academics will seek to narrow down the possible date of the manuscript even further.

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