Birmingham Qur'an: digital exhibition in UAE for the first time

Hijazi Qur'an -Birmingham Qur'an, MS1572A, Cadbury Research Library University of Birmingham

The University of Birmingham is bringing a major interactive digital exhibition telling the fascinating story of the Birmingham Qur’an to the UAE for the first time.

One of the oldest surviving Islamic manuscripts, the Birmingham Qur’an is considered a global treasure. Exhibition visitors will be able to explore the manuscript in digital form as well as viewing a detailed replica of the holy script.

Working closely with the British Council and the Ministry of Culture and Knowledge Development as strategic partner, the University is bringing the unique exhibition to Sharjah, Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

The exhibition will form a highlight of the UK/UAE 2017 Year of Creative Collaboration, held under the patronage of HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, and HRH The Prince of Wales.

And people can also discover the story behind the treasured manuscript, thanks to an innovative and free online course developed by the team looking after the manuscript at the University’s Cadbury Research Library.

The exhibition opens at the Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF) 2017, from 1 to 11 November 2017, before moving to Umm Al Emarat Park, Abu Dhabi, from 20 to 29 November and Dubai in spring, 2018 – dates and venue to be announced.

At each venue, the exhibition will feature a range of Birmingham Qur’an-related education activities for young people, including exhibition tours.

In Abu Dhabi, there will be free creative workshops for students from local schools - young visitors, aged eight to 18, can join calligraphy workshops led by Narjes Nourreddine and Bassem Zbeeb from Gallery Arabesque. Schools should email to book places.

Susan Worrall, Director of Special Collections at the Cadbury Research Library, said: “This excellent free workshop will allow children to learn how to produce calligraphy similar to that found in the Birmingham Qur’an and other ancient manuscripts.

“Students will also learn more about the University’s Mingana collection of Middle Eastern manuscripts and their relevance to the 21st century. The workshops promise to be a valuable complement to a fascinating and ‘hands-on’ exhibition.”

The UK is the designated Country of Honour for SIBF 2017, as part of the UK/UAE 2017 Year of Creative Collaboration between the United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates. SIBF is the largest Book Fair in the Arab Region and the fourth largest in the world.

University of Birmingham Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir David Eastwood said: “The Birmingham Qur’an manuscript is of huge significance to Muslim heritage and the academic study of Islam. We are immensely proud to host such a treasure at the University of Birmingham.

“By bringing this interactive digital exhibition to the UAE for the first time, we are privileged to offer an opportunity for people to celebrate this holy work. Together with the development of our campus in Dubai, this exhibition symbolizes the University’s deep commitment to working with partners in UAE to enhance academic opportunities and cultural understanding.”

Accompanying the exhibition, a four-week course, ‘The Birmingham Qur'an: Its Journey from the Islamic Heartlands’ is now open for registration and begins on 20 November 2017. More information can be found at Future Learn website

The course explores the origins and journey of the Birmingham Qur’an from the Islamic heartlands, its significance and the methods used to determine its age and how it is cared for at the University of Birmingham.

Susan Worrall, Director of Special Collections at the Cadbury Research Library, said: “This excellent free course will allow participants to learn how to identify features of Qur’an manuscripts and how they influenced the arts of the book in Islamic manuscript culture. Students will also learn more about the University’s Mingana collection of Middle Eastern manuscripts and their relevance to the 21st century.”

Topics covered by the course include:

  • How the manuscript came to the University of Birmingham.
  • How the Birmingham Qur’an relates to development of the Arabic written tradition
  • The Arts of Qur’an manuscripts and Islamic manuscript culture
  • Conservation and care of historic manuscripts
  • The value of primary historic sources as a valuable resource for research
  • Other historic manuscripts of the Mingana collection
  • The ethics of collecting from different cultures

This course is designed for anyone who has an interest in the history of religious texts, the study of Islam, manuscript culture, Islamic arts, how historic collections are cared for, and their value for research.

Participants will learn with experts including Susan Worrall, Director of Special Collections; Neelam Hussain, Curator of The Mingana Collection of Islamic Arabic Manuscripts; Sarah Kilroy, Head of Conservation; Robin Johnson, Education Consultant and Honorary Lecturer at the University of Birmingham.

The digital exhibition was a key feature of the launch of the UK/UAE 2017 Year of Cultural Collaboration, in November 2017, when their Royal Highnesses the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall visited Al Jahili Fort, Al Ain.
In support of the exhibition of the Birmingham Qur’an, the University of Birmingham, the British Council and The London Book Fair will present a discussion at SIBF about the history and science of the Birmingham Qur’an amongst leading academics.

ENDS

For more information, please contact: Samantha Dancy, Footstep Communications on 055 5711006.

Notes to Editors

  • The University of Birmingham is ranked amongst the world’s top 100 institutions, its work brings people from across the world to Birmingham, including researchers and teachers and more than 5,000 international students from over 150 countries. Founded in 1900, the University of Birmingham was England’s first civic university, where students from all religions and backgrounds were accepted on an equal basis.
  • The Birmingham Qur’an manuscript is a remarkable fragment of history. Part of the University’s Mingana Collection of Middle Eastern manuscripts, it consists of two leaves containing parts of Suras (chapters) 18 to 20 and dates back to the seventh century. It is written in Hijazi, an early form of Arabic script.
  • UK/UAE 2017 is a year of creative collaboration and cultural exchange between the United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates, organised by the British Council, the UK’s international organisation for education and culture, under the patronage of HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, and HRH The Prince of Wales. The purpose of UK/UAE 2017 is to celebrate the long-standing relationship between the UK and the UAE, giving it greater focus, depth and contemporary relevance.
  • The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. It works with over 100 countries in the fields of arts and culture, English language, education and civil society. Last year it reached over 65 million people directly and 731 million people overall including online, broadcasts and publications. It makes a positive contribution to the countries it works with – changing lives by creating opportunities, building connections and engendering trust. Founded in 1934 it is a UK charity governed by Royal Charter and a UK public body. It receives 15 per cent core funding grant from the UK government.