A Qur’an manuscript held by the University of Birmingham has been placed among the oldest in the world after being dated using modern scientific methods.

Radiocarbon analysis has put the parchment on which the text is written to between AD 568 and 645 with 95.4 per cent accuracy.

Radiocarbon dating

The test was carried out in a laboratory at the University of Oxford. The result places the leaves close to the time of the Prophet Muhammad, who is generally thought to have lived between AD 570 and 632.

Researchers say the Qur’an manuscript is among the earliest known written textual evidence of the Islamic holy book, giving the manuscript global significance to Muslim heritage.

Cultural significance

Susan Worrall, Director of Special Collections (Cadbury Research Library), said: ‘We are thrilled that such an important historical document is here in Birmingham, the most culturally diverse city in the UK.’

Dr Alba Fedeli, who studied the leaves as part of her PhD research, said: ‘The two leaves, which were radiocarbon dated to the early part of the seventh century, come from the same codex as a manuscript kept in the Bibliothèque Nationale de France in Paris.’

Professor David Thomas, Professor of Christianity and Islam and Nadir Dinshaw Professor of Interreligious Relations at the University, said: ‘This is a startling result and reveals one of the most surprising secrets of the University’s collections.’

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