What the discovery of the Quranic manuscript in Birmingham taught me

At Birmingham University, scientists have dated a Quranic manuscript using radiocarbon analysis. They discovered it is one of the most ancient manuscripts of the Quran. The manuscript, written on a piece of parchment, is said, with an accuracy of 95.4%, to date back sometime between 568 and 645 AD.


The author of this piece of parchment is most likely a Sahabi (a companion of the Prophet), or one of his students at the very least. Apart from the superior quality of the manuscript (Hijazi) – as you can see on the photo, which clearly shows that the author was an experienced writer – this discovery taught me many interesting things.

An untouched Quran

Firstly, it is (again) a confirmation that the Quran as it is to be found on many mosques’ and homes’ bookshelves today, unquestionably has the same contents as it had during the lifetime of the Prophet. Apart from this manuscript there are many other manuscripts supporting this claim. One of these others is the oldest Quranic manuscript discovered so far: the (complete) manuscript of Samarkand, dating back as long ago as 800 AD. Other examples include the pieces of parchment of Sanaa, which even date back around the middle of the 7th century.


How the islamophobes are wrong

The pseudo-argument of many orientalists and islamophobes who claim that the Quran originates from a period far after the death of the Prophet Muhammad gradually becomes more and more ridiculous. It is just one outcome from a polarized Islam debate that has been going on for decades and completely implodes in the current geopolitical climate.

Even the claim that the Quran was written only during the reign of the caliph Othman is now (hypothetically) ruled out. Even better, the manuscript that has been found in Birmingham recently rather shows that the origin lies somewhere around the revelation. (For your information: the Prophet lived from 570 to 632 AD). The scientific dating of the manuscript therefore proves we are talking about an actual copy from that time.

Hadith sciences: a valid science

The Islam has two valid sources from which we can distil the entire religious experience: the Quran (verses) and the Sunna (narrations from the Prophet). This differs from other religions, as the Salaf-as-Saliheen (Pious Predecessors) has created special sciences and methods to guard the authenticity of the religious prescriptions.

In the Hadith sciences, this part is called “Ilmul Hadith Dirayatan”. Several Hadith scientists have developed many advanced methods to organize the writings from “independently authentic” to “very weak”, with several other classifications in between.

Using this heritage, the Muslim society has been sure for centuries that the Quran had already been written on bones, leaves, rocks, wood and so on during the time of the Prophet and therefore is the same as we know it today.. It was just only bound between hard covers during the reign of the caliph Othman.

The Muslim society’s memory

The Muslim society was a society of memorization. Was, because the last few decades have changed this. Before, one text after another was being memorized. Protecting knowledge was one of the main reasons for this trend, next to gaining knowledge. There used to be no possibility to make back-ups of hard drives. The only ways to protect knowledge was to make multiple copies of texts, or (and this was mostly the case) to save it onto the available storage space on the human brain, which has more room than one might think…

Sadly enough, the current educational system focuses less and less on this necessary skill. The brain is replaced by external technology that eventually has the same function: ranging from calculators and hard drives to cameras. We take pictures on our vacations, causing the brain to no longer see the use in remembering even one additional memory of the whole experience next to those many photos.

Muslim heritage in the hands of non-Muslims

Regardless of our collective and intellectual laziness, Allah guaranteed Muslims the safety of the Quran. “Indeed, it is We who sent down the Quran and indeed, We will be its guardian.” (Quran 15:9)

Indeed the Quran is present in abundance all over the world. But why is it that today, much of the Islamic heritage falls in the hands of non-Muslims? I don’t have a clair answer on that, but perhaps because it is currently the most safe option until Muslim societies can once again understand how knowledge has to be honored, cherished, and protected like it was during the time of the Prophet and the Golden centuries after…

Written by Khalid El Jafoufi

Khalid El Jafoufi

Khalid El Jafoufi is a 21-year-old law student with an interest in politics, sociology, ethics and education.

  • Nur Safiah

    Interesting reflections.