Experts doubt oldest Qur’an claim

Quran BirminghamHistorians and manuscript experts have cast doubt on the credibility of the recent Birmingham University claim that it had discovered the oldest copy of the Qur’an.
The university recently showed two leaves of parchment with Qur’anic verses from chapter 18-20 in legible Hijazi script. It said the verses could have be scribbled somewhere between 568 AD and 645 AD.
The university’s claims mean that the verses were written close to the time of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) who was widely believed to have lived between 570 AD and 632 AD.
Quoting the experts, Makkah daily said on Sunday that the manuscript might have possibly been written after the time of the Prophet (pbuh) due to several factors.
Experts contend that during the time of the Prophet (pbuh) there was no separation between the Surahs (chapters) in red colors, no red ink was used in writing “Bismillah Al-Rahman Al-Raheem” with which a Surah begins and that the holy book itself was not put in its today’s order.
Abdul Sattar Al-Halouji, a manuscript expert, said the university’s claim at this particular time might just be a ploy to seek publicity.
“It is not possible to ascertain that the parchments were written close to the  time of the Prophet (pbuh). The university should have examined the ink not the hide on which it was written,” he said.
Halouji said the hide or the animal skin might be old but the verses may have been written later.
“The manuscript might possibly be from the time of Othman Bin Affan who became Caliph many years after the death of the Prophet (pbuh). During the time of the Prophet (pbuh), the Qur’an was not organized or put in its present day form. Also there were no colors used,” an archeologist said.
Adnan Al-Sharif, who is the dean of libraries at Umm Al-Qura University, said there were many observations which cast doubt on the claims that the Birmingham manuscript was the oldest copy of the Qur’an.
“One of these is the red-color separation between the Bismillah and the two Surahs of Mariam and Taha. It was not customary during the Prophet’s time to separate between the Surahs. This copy seems to be organized and in order which was not so during the time of the Prophet (pbuh),” he said.
Al-Sharif said radiocarbon examination of a manuscript can only point to the century not the year.
“There are copies of the Qur’an in Turkey, Egypt and Yemen dating back to the first Hijra century. This means that they are concurrent to the Birmingham’s manuscript,” he said.
Abbas Tashkandi, another manuscript expert, said it was clear that the university examined the hide not the writing. “The hide may be old but the writing may be new,” he said.
Tahskandi said the manuscript might be from the time of Caliph Othman Bin Affan and not the Prophet (pbuh). He also said the manuscript might have been written in Makkah which was famous for its tanneries.
Abdullah Al-Sharif, a historian, said the coloring and the dotting were not known at the time of the Prophet (pbuh) or the rightly-guided caliphs. “They belong to the Umayyad era between Hijra years 41-132,” he said.

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