What is the Birmingham Qur'an?


The Birmingham Qur’an Manuscript contains parts of surahs 18-20 of the Islamic holy book, written on parchment in an early form of Arabic script known as Ḥijāzi.

The result of radiocarbon dating of the parchment on which the text is written places the manuscript in the period between 568 and 645 with 95.4% probability. The testing was commissioned from the University of Oxford and carried out in 2014. This result suggests that the manuscript dates back to the first century of Islam, close to the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad (about 570–632) and the rule of the first three Caliphs.

According to Islamic tradition, the Prophet Muhammad received the revelations that form the Qur’an between 610 and 632. It is believed that the Qur’an in its codified form was established under the third Caliph, Uthman, around 650.

The Birmingham manuscript is one of the earliest surviving fragments of the Qur’an and one of only a handful of early manuscripts of the Qur’an in the world to have been radiocarbon dated. It Is part of the Mingana Collection of 3,000 Middle Eastern manuscripts, cared for by the Cadbury Research Library at the University of Birmingham, UK.

The collection was brought together in the 1930s, funded by Quaker philanthropist Edward Cadbury to raise the status of Birmingham as an intellectual centre for religious studies.

Radiocarbon result

The graph of the radiocarbon result for the parchment from the University of Oxford shows the date range of 568-645 with 95.4% probability.


The New York Times

On 23 July 2015, the Birmingham Qur'an made the front page of the New York Times.


Edward Cadbury (1873-1948)

Birmingham Quaker and philanthropist and patron of the Mingana Collection of Middle Eastern Manuscripts.

Portrait of Dr Edward Cadbury in university robes

Alphonse Mingana (1878-1937)

Collector and first curator of the Mingana Collection of Middle Eastern Manuscripts.

Black and white portrait photo of Alphonse Mingana

Reading room, Cadbury Research Library

The Cadbury Research Library is a leading research library supporting learning, teaching and research.

Cadbury Research Library reading room