His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales has presented an exclusive copy of the Birmingham Qur’an manuscript to His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi.
The gift, printed on vellum, was presented to His Highness at the launch of the UK/UAE 2017 Year of Cultural Collaboration at Al Jahili Fort, Al Ain, on Monday 7 November 2016.
In a written foreword for The Ancient Qur’anic Leaves exhibition catalogue, the Prince of Wales, said: “As the British Patron of UK/UAE 2017, I could not be more delighted that a digital version of the extraordinary Birmingham Qur’an manuscript is being exhibited in the United Arab Emirates as a centrepiece of the year’s events.
“These remarkable leaves, which are amongst the world’s oldest Qur’anic fragments, represent a sacred document of immense religious and cultural significance to people across the globe.
“At a time when so much of mankind’s cultural heritage is being deliberately destroyed or threatened, we can only be heartened by the discovery of a previously unrecognised treasure.”
The original was revealed last year to be among the earliest surviving records of the Qur’an, written in Hijazi, an early form of Arabic script, which evolved in the Hijaz region of the Arabian Peninsula, an area that encompasses the Islamic holy cities of Mecca and Medina.
The manuscript contains verses from surahs (chapters) 18 Al-Kahf, 19 Maryam and 20 Ta-Ha. The decorative red wavy lines denote the end of Maryam and the beginning of Ta-Ha. The choice of parchment as the writing material, over the more readily available papyrus, indicates the importance of the manuscript.
The Birmingham Qur’an manuscript is part of a collection of more than 3,000 Middle Eastern manuscripts held at the University of Birmingham’s Cadbury Research Library. Together, the works comprise the Mingana Collection, named after Alphonse Mingana, the man who collated the extraordinary library.
Professor Sir David Eastwood, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Birmingham, said: “It is clear that the manuscript is of huge significance to Muslim heritage and the academic study of Islam, as well as being of international importance, and we are immensely proud to host such a treasure at the University of Birmingham. It is most fitting that His Highness should present such a gift to the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi.
“Universities remain at the heart of cultural activity, acting as stewards of some of the world’s most significant collections and offering opportunities for research that can illuminate, enrich and enhance our knowledge of these great cultural assets.
“It is my great pleasure to be supporting the UK-UAE 2017 Year of Creative Collaboration by curating the first digital exhibition of the Birmingham Qur’an manuscript.”
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