B'HAM: Fragments of the world's oldest Koran, found in Birmingham last month could rewrite the early history of Islam, scholars are speculating. The pages that are believed to be almost 1400 years old, were discovered bound within the pages of another Koran from the late 7th century at the library of University of Birmingham.
Written in ink in an early form of Arabic script on parchment made from animal skin, the pages contain parts of chapters 18-20, which may have been written by someone believed to have actually known Prophet Muhammad, the founder of the faith.
Several historians think the parchment appears to be so old that it contradicts most accounts of the Prophet’s life and legacy.
Scholars have claimed that the Birmingham Koran was produced between 568 AD and 645 AD, while the dates usually given for the Prophet are 570 AD to 632 AD. It was supposedly made before the formal text of Koran was put together in 653. It is believes this could even date back to Mohammed’s childhood, or possibly even before his birth.
Historian Tom Holland, told the Times: 'It de-stabilises, to put it mildly, the idea that we can know anything with certainty about how the Koran emerged - and that in turn has implications for the history of Muhammad and the Companions.'
Keith Small, from the University of Oxford's Bodleian Library, added: 'This gives more ground to what have been peripheral views of the Koran'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.
Professor Nadir Dinshaw, who studies inter-religious relations at the University of Birmingham, described the discovery as 'startling'.
However these dates have been strongly refuted by Muslim scholars.