The oldest Quranic manuscript in the world was discovered in 2015 at the University of Birmingham
The revelation of the Prophet Muhammad, may God bless him and grant him peace, continued for more than 20 years until his death. The Qur’an at that period was preserved in the chests and written on parchments until it began to be collected in one Qur’an after that during the era of Abu Bakr Al-Siddiq with a sign from Omar Ibn Al-Khattab and extended until the era of Othman Ibn Affan (may God be pleased with them).
When Abu Bakr feared that the Qur’an would be forgotten or lost due to the many martyrdom of its memorizers in the wars of apostasy, as more than 70 companions of the memorizers were martyred in the Battle of Al-Yamamah alone. Abu Bakr, may God be pleased with him, commissioned the companion Zaid bin Thabit to compile the Qur’an, and that was the beginning.
The Companions dispersed in the cities, reciting the Qur’an to the people. The readings varied according to the multiplicity of dialects and regions, until the people of Levant and the people of Iraq differed over the method of recitation and reading of the texts.
So the companion Hudhayfa bin Al-Yaman decided to return the matter to Othman bin Affan (the Caliph of the Muslims at the time), who decided to transcribe the Qur’an in one Qur’an based on the language of the Quraish people, arguing that the Qur’an was revealed in their language, and it was called the Mushaf of Othman or the Mushaf of the Imam. Since then, the process of copying, writing and publishing has continued.
Today, there are more than 4,000 Qur’an manuscripts around the world, some of which date back to the early years of the Prophet Muhammad’s migration, peace and blessings be upon him. The manuscripts differ among themselves in terms of date, type of calligraphy, and the fabrics or tools used. Each type of manuscript has its own historical significance and religious and aesthetic symbolism.
The oldest Quran manuscript in the world
The world’s oldest Quranic manuscript was discovered in 2015 at the University of Birmingham. This manuscript was brought to the university by Hormuz Mingna, famous for Alphonse Mingna (1878-1937), a Chaldean theologian, scholar, and orientalist.
This manuscript contains two pages of the Noble Qur’an, from Suras Al-Kahf and Taha, written in Hijazi script. Experts in manuscript science used radiocarbon dating, and it was found that it is about 1,370 years old. Scholars concluded that the manuscript was written between 568 and 645 AD.
The mission of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, was between 610 and 632 AD, and this means that the manuscript was written by someone who was a contemporary of the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, and lived with him, or during 70 years of the mission at the latest. Which makes it one of the oldest copies of the Qur’an in the world. The manuscript is part of the Mingana Collection of Middle Eastern Manuscripts and is held by the University’s Cadbury Research Library.
Professor David Thomas, Professor of Religions at the University of Birmingham, told The Wall Street Journal that the Qur’anic manuscripts, especially those owned by the University of Birmingham, the oldest in the entire world, are compelling evidence that the Qur’an in its current version is the same. Which the companions of the Prophet Muhammad, may God bless him and grant him peace, used to circulate and memorize, and that he was not subjected to distortion.
connotations of hijazi
The fonts in which the manuscripts were written vary, as well as their dates and places of writing. So far, there are two main types of scripts, under which most manuscripts fall, namely the Hijazi script and the Kufic script. The Hijazi script had a share in being what transcribed it in the first centuries of hijra.
The reason for this is that it is considered an unofficial font, as it was written in the Qur’an that is most used among people, and is characterized by being an oblique font in which the long columns of the letters tend to the right, and the rest of the letters extend vertically. It is the script used in the Sana’a manuscripts, the Paris-French Petropolitanos manuscripts, and the Tübingen manuscripts.
The Sana’a manuscripts, one of the oldest Qur’an manuscripts in existence today, were found in Yemen in 1972 during the restoration of the Great Mosque of Sana’a, and are written on parchment. It appeared that it dates back to before 671 AD, with an accuracy of nearly 99%, after examining it using radiocarbon.
As for the manuscripts of the Parisian Petropolitanus (Le Codex Parisino-petropolitanus), they were kept in several separate libraries, the largest part of which is preserved in the French National Library, part in the Russian National Library, and one in the Vatican Library. It is written on the grass and palm newspapers.
This collection was originally housed in the Qur’an manuscript store at the Amr ibn al-Aas Mosque in Fustat, Cairo, and was then purchased by the French orientalist Jean-Louis Asselin de Cherville (1772-1822) when he served as the French consul in Cairo from 1806 to 1816.
As for the Tübingen manuscripts, they were unveiled in November 2014, when the University of Tübingen in Germany announced that two parts of the Qur’an were in its possession, and that they had been radiocarbon-dated (with an accuracy of nearly 95%) to the period between 649 and 675 AD. The two parts are written in Hijazi script, and the Qur’an is written in them from verse 36 of Surat Taha to verse 57 of Surah Yasin (and part of verse 35 of Surat Taha).
The Qur’an of Othman or the Qur’an al-Imam, the aforementioned, is the oldest Qur’an on the face of the earth. Although the Birmingham manuscript is considered antecedent in history, it is considered the oldest Qur’an because it is a complete Qur’an. It is currently known as “The Ottoman Qur’an, the Ottoman Reading, the Samarkand Qur’an, or the Tashkent Qur’an”, and all of these names are attributed to the third Caliph Othman bin Affan, and because it is preserved in the Hast Imam Library in Tashkent in Uzbekistan. It is written in Kufic script, which is considered an official script.
The Kufic script is one of the oldest Arabic scripts, and it was inspired by the ancient Nabataean letters in the late seventh century AD, at the beginning of the emergence of Islam in the city of Kufa in Iraq.
The kufi is written with a reed with a unified cat, and its types are: oblique, flowered, knotted, leafy, confined, interlaced, braided, and beveled. It started spontaneously, and craftsmanship and embellishment entered upon it, then it developed and became soft and crusty, or dry and flat, or an intermediate between them, like the Qur’an.